MLB

NL Central Predictions For 2014 MLB Season

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National League Central Divisional Predictions for 2014 Season

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Jeff Curry - USA Today Sports

Last season, the National League Central was one of the best in baseball with three teams winning over 90 games. All three of those teams reached the postseason, but things have changed significantly since the offseason began. Some teams got better and some teams got worse and that will change the makeup of the division going forward.

The Cardinals, 2013 division winners, lost a few key players, but also added a few more to make up for that. In the middle of the division, the Pirates, Reds and Brewers changed pretty significantly over the offseason. Where the Pirates and Reds, the two wild card teams in the National League a season ago, lost some key pieces, the Brewers added some potential difference makers. While the Cubs are still a year or two away from competing, their improved bullpen should turn them into a decent team in 2014.

Many of the moves within the division and within each individual organization should change the divisional results between this season and last. While things may play out differently than expected, with some players disappointing and some overachieving, as presently constructed, there is an increasingly clear picture of where this division seems headed in 2014. With other teams around the National League improving over the offseason, winning this division is more important than ever with wild card spots hard to come by.

Aside from maybe the Cardinals, most teams in this division are a bit unpredictable. With so much change going on, how players on these teams mesh could be the difference between playing and watching in October. Despite the unpredictability of the division, here's a prediction of how the National League Central will play out in 2014.

Jacob Kornhauser is a baseball writer for RantSports.com. "Like" him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or add him to your Google+ network.

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5. Chicago Cubs

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Christian Petersen - Getty Images

As the rebuild continues, they're making steady improvements, but the Cubs still aren't a team that can compete in this division as of right now. Their much improved bullpen should account for quite a few more wins, but we're talking about the difference between 66 wins a year ago and anywhere from 72-78 this season. They're still at least a year off from competing and will likely finish in the basement of the division once again.

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4. Cincinnati Reds

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Joe Camporeale - USA Today Sports

Where the Brewers are set up to be the most surprising team in the National League, the Reds are set up to be the most disappointing. They lost Shin-Soo Choo who was an expert at getting on base and scoring runs while still providing a power upside. Additionally, they lost pitcher Bronson Arroyo who has been a key piece within the organization for some time. Nobody on the team, besides perhaps Joey Votto gets on base a whole lot and this team could have some trouble generating runs on a consistent basis.

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3. Milwaukee Brewers

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Rick Scuteri - USA Today Sports

Primed to be the most surprising team in the National League is the Milwaukee Brewers. Their lineup is underrated with guys like Jean Segura and Carolos Gomez contributing and they are getting back their former MVP in Ryan Braun. Top to bottom, their pitching staff is very deep and if their bullpen holds up, the Brewers have all the makings of a team that can compete for a wild card spot in the National League.

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2. Pittsburgh Pirates

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Kim Klement - USA Today Sports

The Pirates lost some key pieces from last season. Guys like Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd that they added at the deadline have moved on and most notably, ace A.J. Burnett left for Philadelphia despite the fact that he said he would stay in Pittsburgh or retire. Those losses don't look good for Pittsburgh moving forward, but they still have a young and talented lineup and they will hope Gerrit Cole can come into his own in the rotation this season.

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1. St. Louis Cardinals

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Joel Auerbach - Getty Images

The reigning division champs may actually get better in 2014. They lost Carolos Beltran and David Freese from their lineup, but they added Mark Ellis and Jhonny Peralta to their infield, which covers up their middle in-fielding concerns. Power hitter Matt Adams will move to first base full time and Allen Craig will make the move to the outfield. With a young, dominant pitching staff, expect the Cards to repeat in 2014.