2013 MLB Preview: National League Central

joey votto

NL Central At A Glance

Chicago Cubs: If you think it can’t get worse than where the Mets were – take a look at the Cubs. However, they are getting to a point of respectability. Jeff Samardzija went from that guy who played tight end for Notre Dame to a potential ace. He has some serious talent, but is he an ace for a good team or does he just happened to be the best pitcher on a bad team? There’s really no denying that the Cubs are relying on Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo to take them to the top in the future. Are they for real? They are still pretty young, but this year is a huge year for them. Can Castro turn the corner, and can Rizzo burst out onto the scene? The most exciting closer in baseball is Carlos Marmol. Now, remember I said “exciting.” He’s exciting because you never really know what you’re going to get, and if most Cubs fans get what they want – Marmol will be heading out of Chicago before July 31st.

Milwaukee Brewers:: When I saw the Brewers agreed with Kyle Lohse, I thought to myself, “self, will this move matter?” The answer is no. He will provide some quality innings, there’s no doubt about that but I am sensing the calm before the storm for Milwaukee. I do not think Major League Baseball is going to let this Miami-PED scandal die without exhausting every possible Ryan Braun connection. I believe Braun will get suspended during this season, and if that happens – it will solidify their 4th place finish for me. Aramis Ramirez is a player that will suffer from anything that happens to Braun if my prediction comes through. He’s not getting any younger, and I think he’s going to start declining.

Pittsburgh Pirates:: Their offseason changes really aren’t too impactful if you ask me. If Liriano stays healthy, then obviously he can make a huge difference but that is a huge “if.” The chip that was on A.J. Burnett’s shoulder could be gone, and I wonder if that will have a negative effect on his performance? I am a big James McDonald fan. In 29 starts he threw 171 innings, gave up 147 hits and struck out 151. His issue has been the long ball. He gave up 21 HR, and that has held him back. If he lessens the mistakes, and keeps the ball inside PNC – he could become an All-Star. This team really centers around Andrew McCutchen and his rising star quality. Can he take the next step to becoming an elite player in the game or will he just be a nice player on an average team? Can he take Pittsburgh to the next level?

St. Louis Cardinals:: No matter how many things go wrong for this team, they always seem to be in the mix. Recently, Jason Motte hit the DL with an elbow issue but let’s be serious, they always find a way to bounce back. They have Mitchell Boggs who will step in, but for all we know there is a kid in their system who will get a shot and be lights out. There are two players on this roster I really am excited to watch. Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter. We’ll start with Carpenter. To me, he is what we all want Daniel Murphy to be. He, along with guys like Ben Zobrist are becoming these versatile players that everybody loves to watch. Carpenter will be their second basemen after serving in the utility role last year. Allen Craig to me is amazing because he takes over for Pujols, and if he stays healthy he can be one of the elite power hitters in the game. The outfield is lead by Holliday and Beltran, and I am a tad curious to see how Beltran does this year. His second half was actually pretty terrible last year, was that just a slump or is he breaking down? Adam Wainwright just cashed in a major payday, so now the pressure is on for him to be a Cy Young contender.

Cincinnati Reds:: You’re probably not going to find a more complete team in baseball than the Reds. They aren’t as star driven as some other teams, but I think they are the most talented top to bottom. The biggest concern I have here is the potential for ruining Aroldis Chapman. I get the value of a starting pitcher, but if I had to ask the Reds management one question this is what I’d ask. After 1997, would you have tried to convert Mariano Rivera to a starter if you were the Yankees? That’s how good Chapman can be. And while I do think a closer can be overrated, they aren’t overrated when they are special. As of now, the Reds say he is back to the bullpen, but will they hit the panic button if they have an injury in the rotation? The Reds were very fortunate and very healthy in the rotation last year, are the baseball Gods that kind in consecutive years? They don’t have a Cy Young winner in the mix, but they have 4 extremely solid starters and one in Arroyo whom you never know what you’ll get. Their lineup has everything you need, they have some speed, power, and an ability to exhaust the opposition. I hate the phrase “if healthy,” because I think it applies to everybody – but seriously, if healthy they will be the number 1 seed in the National League.

Projected Standings

XtreemIcon: Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, Cubs
Jessep: Reds, Cardinals, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs
Joe D: Cardinals, Reds, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs

Top Sleeper

XtreemIcon: Allen Craig, St. Louis
Jessep: Matt Carpenter , St. Louis
Joe D: Anthony Rizzo, Chicago  

Top Rookie

XtreemIcon: Oscar Taveras, St. Louis
Jessep: Shelby Miller, St. Louis
Joe D: Oscar Taveras, St. Louis

Top Pitcher

XtreemIcon: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis
Jessep: Johnny Cueto, St. Louis
Joe D: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis

Top Hitter

XtreemIcon: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
Jessep: Joey Votto, Cincinnati
Joe D: Joey Votto, Cincinnati

Next up will be the NL East.

About Michael Branda 267 Articles
Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.