Division Preview: NL Central

The NL Central, for the past few years, has been the worst division in baseball. This year is no different but the new players entering give the division hope for the future. The NL Central is what I follow, so it will give me something to watch, rather than consistent losing to the other divisions. They have three craptastic teams in the Astros, the Cardinals, and the Pirates, but they also have three decent teams on the brink with the Brewers, Cubs, and Reds. Read more for predictions.


1. Chicago Cubs (2007: 85-77, 1st)

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Fuks-K

The Chicago Cubs in 2008 have the best roster build in the NL Cenral, with some new emergences in badass and Pacific Coast League batting champion catcher Geovany Soto. I think he will have much more impact in how the Cubs do than their other big acquisition, OF Kosuke Fukudome (who projects to be Matt Murton with more speed, basically). Their other big guys in 1B Derrek Lee, 3B Aramis Ramirez and CF Alfonso Soriano are such a good, big time core (even if Aramis cannot field or run the bases). They also have developed homegrown talent in their pitching in SP Carlos Zambrano of course, but also SPs Rich Hill and Sean Marshall and future closer Carlos Marmol. Acquisitions such as Ted Lilly were successful and should be again. Of course, if someone gets injured, the Cubs have Major League ready talent in their depth chart like OFs Sam Fuld and Felix Pie, as well as 1B Micah Hoffpauir (who deserves a chance in the Major League level due to his great hitting in the minors). It seems like, for some reason, year in and year out, that the Cubs always have some great bench talent in their minors that they never use, moreso than other teams (although you can’t fault for the Cubs not using Hoffpauir as he went down with a knee injury midseason). I like the chances for the Cubs in 2008.

2. Cincinnati Reds (2007: 72-90, 5th)

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Johnny Cueto

I’m not being a Reds homer here, but I really think the Brewers will have the worse record. More about that later. The Reds have a great amount of talent coming up and they have also made a lot of moves. But here is one name that you will be looking at by the end of the season: Johnny Cueto. They say it is all about Homer Bailey, but he has not reached his peak yet, and it appears he won’t until maybe later in his career. Cueto is amazing and everyone in spring training loves him. Scouts have already said that he is the future ace on this Reds team. Edinson Volquez, acquired from the Josh Hamilton trade, has had a decent spring as well, may not even make the team, although I really want him to. Anyways, the Reds have a great amount of pitching depth and it is a nice problem to have. They also have the number one prospect in all of baseball in Jay Bruce, and even though he won’t start the year in the Majors (I don’t think) due to Corey Patterson, he will contribute later in the year. They made many other offseason moves, like signing CL Francisco Cordero to a multi-year deal, as well as RP Jeremy Affeldt and SP Josh Fogg as a stopgap for the starting rotation. They also have their core parts intact, like LF Adam Dunn, 2B and 30-30 player Brandon Phillips (who I don’t think will repeat), RF Ken “Mr. Glass” Griffey Jr., 1B Joey Votto ( and 3B Edwin Encarnacion. Other players like SS Jeff Keppinger whose OPS+ was at an insane 123 this year will contribute. Also, don’t ever count out the top two guys in SPs Aaron Harang, who finished 4th in Cy Young voting, and Bronson Arroyo, who had an unlucky year more than a bad year. This Reds team, if Dusty does not favor the veterans and completely ruin the clubhouse, will be a fun team to watch. Most of their wins will come from an improved bullpen, as they would have been at .500 if they did not blow so many games in the 8th inning so early in the season.

3. Milwaukee Brewers (2007: 83-79, 2nd)

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Manny Parra (wow, he’s white?)

The Brewers and the Reds will duke it out for second place, as the Cubs, minus a Lou Pinella meltdown, seems poised to win the division. The Brewers have a chance too, as they have a star vegetarian in 1B Prince Fielder, as well as RF Corey Hart, SS VaJJ Hardy, and 2B Rickie Weeks, who is coming off a bad year. They have signed Mike Cameron to a deal, as well as catcher Jason Kendall, who I think they realize he sucks and he’s batting ninth. They signed Gabe Kapler as well, to a guaranteed deal… yeah. Wonder if he’ll prove to be anything. The biggest factor here is the pitching, and they have some great young pitching in Yorvani Gallardo and top prospect Manny Parra. They also have to bank on Ben Sheets, as well as Dave Bush, who has been very inconsistent during spring training, just like last year. Chris Capuano will probably have a season in between his great 2006 campaign and his mediocre 2007 campaign, and the bullpen regressed after the loss of Francisco Cordero to the Reds. That is where they will lose some of the wins. One player to watch is LF Matt Laporta, who seems to be Major League ready, but the Brewers.

4. Houston Astros (2007: 73-89, 4th)

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Miguel Tejada

The Astros acquired some great players in CL Jose Valverde, 2B Kaz Matsui, and SS Miguel Tejada. They also have a budding player in CF Hunter Pence (whose name sounds like “Underpants” when you say it too fast), and two great players in the underrated, God-fearing Lance Berkman, and Carlos RBI Baseball Lee. They have no starting pitching whatsoever past Oswalt (an aging Woody Williams? Shawn “I wear number one on my jersey even though I really suck” Chacon?). When players like SP Jack Cassel (brother of backup Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel) have chances to be #2 starters even, then you probably will not win, even with the decent offense that the Astros have. Basically, the Astros are probably going to go 72-90 or something.

5. St. Louis Cardinals (2007: 78-84, 3rd)

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Colby Rasmus
I do not like the Cardinals roster this year as they do not really have anyone. They traded 3Bs with Toronto by getting Troy Glaus, and they also lost David Eckstein. There is brilliant story with Rick Ankiel, and I think he should be good. I also think the Cardinals are playing Greed (remember that game show?) with Albert Pujols and his ego, as Pujols’ elbow might screw himself over sometime in the near future.. what an idiot. There are lots of players coming off injury, like SP Chris Carpenter, Matt Clement, and Mark Mulder. They also have lots of bad players, like 2B Adam Kennedy, SS Cesar Izturis, C Jason LaRue (although decent backup) etc. Whoever predicts the Cards to finish second in the division is out of their minds. Colby Rasmus in his first year will be a treat to watch though, as well as Juan Gone, in his comeback, who I think will make the team.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates (2007: 68-94, 6th)

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Steve Pearce and Nyjer Morgan

Ever since their last playoff appearance in 1992, the Pirates have endured a lot of losing, and even more losing. This season projects to be no different, and even though they have immediate help in RF Steve Pearce, as well as some good young players in RP MATT CAPPS LOCK (thank The Dugout), and SPs Tom Gorzelanny and Ian Snell, they probably will endure another losing season. Hopefully, LF Jason Bay gets his rhythm back, as something seems to have happened to him. They have a new manager in John Russell, and a new general manager in Neal Huntington. Hopefully they do something rather than draft Daniel Moskos in the 2007 draft (Daniel Moskos? seriously?), and that roster has some very mediocre players and Doug Mientkiekeckiecwcz, who will probably make the team as a backup. Like Derek Bell, they’ll be in Operation Shutdown by summer.

Maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates should sign Barry Bonds as a reunion kind of thing.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals

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