2013 National League Central Predictions
The National League Central was long considered the weakest division in baseball but with the movement of the Houston Astros--coupled with the improvements of just about every team--the division has gotten much more competitive.
Without the Astros to 'kick around', it might cause a shakeup in the division which could result in an interesting race come summertime.
The Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals have spent the past few seasons battling for divisional supremacy; I doubt that will change in 2013. The Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates will try to sneak into the top half but may be destined to occupy the middle as usual.
Now that the Astros have moved to the American League West, the cellar now belongs to the Chicago Cubs. General Manager Theo Epstein still has much work to do to turn the Cubs into a contender again. They have a shot to have a decent season, but regardless the teams above them are just so much better.
Though the Reds shouldn't be the the runaway favorite for division champion, the other three contenders may have a few more questions within their roster than Cincinnati does.
Below is my all-NL Central team with the following slides laying out how the organizations will finish 2013:
1B- Allen Craig, St. Louis
2B- Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati
3B- Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee
SS- Starlin Castro, Chicago
C- Yadier Molina, St. Louis
OF- Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
OF- Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
OF- Jay Bruce, Cincinnati
SP- Adam Wainwright, St. Louis
SP- Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee
SP- Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati
MR- Carlos Marmol, Chicago
SU- Sean Marshall, Cincinnati
CL- Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati
5- Chicago Cubs
High- A determined team pushes for 70-plus wins as a sign of things to come breeds positivity for a team that's been negative for several years.
Low- Key injuries and listlessness throughout the team pushes losses over 100.
4- Pittsburgh Pirates
High- Pittsburgh gets major offense and great pitching throughout the year as they fight for the division title.
Low- Not even calling up Garrit Cole mid-season can fix the mediocre pitching as the team still cannot break .500.
3- Milwaukee Brewers
High- The Brewers rotation carries the team to a fight for the wild card regardless of the offensive output.
Low- A down year for the rotation and an anemic offense plague a team trying to keep its head above .500.
2- St. Louis Cardinals
High- The Cardinals repeat as a top offense and a great pitching staff cruise the team to a division title.
Low- Injury worries become a reality and St. Louis has its worst season in a decade.
1- Cincinnati Reds
High- The bullpen is the best in the NL and the Reds hitters have a major impact on the team running away with the division early.
Low- A team ill-afforded to handle any injuries has no suitable replacements to make up for the loss of production.