2016 National League Central Preview

As part of our ongoing week of baseball coverage we will continue to breakdown each division, talking about what teams have done to improve on last season, what we think the standings will be, and if we think any of the teams are a serious contender for the World Series.

National League Central

St. Louis Cardinals

cards

2015 Record: 100-62

Key Acquisitions: none

Key Departures: Jason Heyward, John Lackey

W2W4: The Cardinals have had an extremely quiet offeason which screams confidence, and why not, they are coming off of a 100-win season and another division title. The losses of Jayson Heyward and John Lackey are going to be big in my opinion, and with the uncertainty of the strength of Wainwright, who knows how good this team is going to be this season.  For the first time in close to 10 years they are not the favorite in the division, which means they have nothing to lose this year.  They could be a surprise victor of the division come October, but really, would that be all that surprising?  I like Molina and Holliday to have big years this season for the red birds.

Pittsburgh Pirates

MLB: NLDS-St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates

2015 Record: 98-64

Key Acquisitions: Jon Niese, Neftali Feliz, John Jaso, Ryan Vogelsong

Key Departures: none

W2W4: The Pirates have been the surprise feel good team of the NL the past few years, playing in the same division as the powerhouse Cardinals and still making the playoffs is something to be proud of. However just making the playoffs soon won’t be good enough as expectations begin to grow.  They made a few small acquisitions this offseason and did not lose anyone big, but without making a splash in free agency, did they do enough to make the jump to contender?  I don’t believe so.  I think they have another solid season, but not getting better when others in the division have, put the Buccos behind the eight ball.

Chicago Cubs

cubs

2015 Record: 97-65, NL Champs

Key Acquisitions: Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, John Lackey, Adam Warren

Key Departures: Starlin Castro

W2W4: The Cubs coming off of their World Series appearance are overwhelming favorites in Vegas to win the series this season, starting the year with 4-1 odds.  With their activity in the offseason, they look to be building a bully on both sides of the ball.  They bring in Lackey to give another veteran presence in the rotation, Warren bolsters the back end of the rotation or a good pen guy, and Ben Zobrist is a solid infielder with a ton of experience.  They are everyone’s favorites to win the division and the World Series and they are mine too. They can win games in so many different ways: they’ll out-pitch you, out-hit you and out-field you, add that talent to the “genius” coaching of Maddon and they are primed for greatness.

Milwaukee Brewers

brewers

2015 Record: 68-94

Key Acquisitions: Aaron Hill, Chris Carter

Key Departures: Khris Davis, Jean Segura

W2W4: There’s no denying that the Milwaukee Brewers are completely in rebuild mode. They are working to bolster their farm system, which is one of the best in the MLB, but that doesn’t help an aging star names Ryan Braun get back to the playoffs.  The Brewers pretty much held a fire sale of their top talent this offseason, showing that they know they aren’t going to compete in a division as good as the NL Central in the 2016 season.  I think in the long run, they are making the right call entering into rebuild mode, but the division is only getting better and Milwaukee is going the opposite direction.  The Brew Crew will be in “rebuilding mode” for a few years.

Cincinnati Reds

reds.jpg

2015 Record: 64-98

Key Acquisitions: none

Key Departures: Todd Frazier, Aroldis Chapman, Mat Latos

W2W4: The Reds didn’t get any better this year, and in this division, that means they got worse. Letting Chapman go before getting the outcome from both the legal system and Major League Baseball will prove to be a big mistake as he is now in pinstripes, cleared of charges legally, and appealing the 50 game suspension handed down from the MLB.  Also allowing Todd Frazier to walk and Mat Latos to go to another team will be big losses they will feel come the dog days of July and August, especially since Joey Votto hasn’t been the same player he was when he was an MVP candiate a few years ago. The Big Red Machine is no more, and so are the chances this team has of finishing over .500.  They’ll be in the basement again this season.

 

Projected Final Standings:

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Cincinnati Reds

 


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