Home  |  Contact Us  |  @GiantsBlogger Twitter  |  Giants Blog Instagram  |  GBB Facebook 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

NL Central Preview

The NL Central is one of the more evenly matched divisions in baseball. The top three teams in the division have a legit shot at reaching the playoffs, which should make for an exciting regular season.

1st Place, Chicago Cubs
LF Alfonso Soriano
SS Ryan Theriot
1B Derek Lee
RF Milton Bradley
3B Aramis Ramirez
C Geovany Soto
CF Kosuke Fukudome
2B Mike Fontenot

RHP Carlos Zambrano
RHP Rich Harden
LHP Ted Lilly
RHP Ryan Dempster
LHP Sean Marshall
SU: Carlos Marmol
CL: Kevin Gregg

The Cubs are once again loaded with talent, top to bottom. The problem they've had over the last couple of years though is keeping everybody healthy, especially their starting pitching. Zambrano and Harden are a potentially great 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, but it's really anyones guess as to whether or not these guys will last the whole season. Their bullpen should be a strength as they have two guys who can close in Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg. Pinella has hinted that Gregg could open the year in the closers seat as Marmol has struggled this spring, but they could flip-flop at some point in the year, depending on performance. The lineup got a nice addition in Milton Bradley, but he has health issues of his own to worry about. Now, if the Cubbies can keep these guys off the disabled list in 2009, they have the talent on paper to win over 100 ballgames, but we know that injuries happen in baseball and chances of them staying healthy are slim. They'll need to minimize their health problems and get strong, complete seasons from Harden, Zambrano and Soriano, or else they'll lose their grasp of this division.

2nd Place, St. Louis Cardinals
2B Skip Schumaker
CF Rick Ankiel
1B Albert Pujols
RF Ryan Ludwick
LF Chris Duncan
SS Khalil Green
C Yadier Molina
3B David Freese

DL: 3B Troy Glaus (June)

RHP Adam Wainwright
RHP Chris Carpenter
RHP Kyle Lohse
RHP Todd Wellemeyer
RHP Joel Pineiro
SU: Ryan Franklin
CL: Jason Motte

The Cardinals are led by Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa and I've learned to never count those guys out, even when they may not have the best talent in the division. That's the case here as the Brewers might have more all-around talent than the Cards, but having a %100 healthy Pujols in the lineup and a healthy Chris Carpenter in the rotation should be enough to overcome some of their other weaknesses. Losing Troy Glaus until at least May hurts, but he'll be back at %100 in June and even in a shortened 4 month season, he'll still give the Cards 25 (hr) and 90 (RBI). I really like how they've constructed their lineup as they have one of the most powerful offensive lineups in baseball, consisting of at least 6 guys who should hit 20+ home runs this season (Ankiel, Pujols, Ludwick, Green, Glaus and Duncan). Their starting rotation is a lot better than people give them credit for as well. Wainwright, Wellemeyer and Lohse were rock-solid last year and the addition of Carpentar will only help. They do have some questions in the bullpen, where they don't have a sure thing at closer, but they're hoping Jason Motte and Chris Perez take the initiative there.

3rd Place, Milwaukee Brewers
2B Rickie Weeks
SS J.J. Hardy
LF Ryan Braun
1B Prince Fielder
RF Corey Hart
CF Mike Cameron
3B Bill Hall
C Jason Kendal

RHP Jeff Suppan
RHP Yovani Gallardo
LHP Manny Parra
RHP Braden Looper
RHP Dave Bush
SU: Seth McClung
CL: Trevor Hoffman

The Brewers could have been one of the NL favorites had they figured out a way to retain CC Sabathia, but unfortunately for them, it was never going to happen. What I don't understand, is why they didn't try and replace him or Ben Sheets with someone else, and there were options (Derek Lowe, A.J. Burnett, Randy Johnson, Oliver Perez, just to name a few). They did add the ancient Trevor Hoffman to the back-end of their bullpen and although he's ancient, Hoffman is still a decent pitcher and a better than average closer. I think Rickie Weeks is primed for a big year and the four guys following him are all-star caliber hitters, so offense won't be an issue. But every other facet of the game will be. They lack both the starting pitching, and the relief help to be able to match up with the Cubs and Cards, and they aren't the best defensive bunch in the league. If they make another mid-season blockbuster acquisition this July though, all bets are off, but as they sit now, they're a nice team, but not quite a playoff one. They do have the chips to make that move though as shortstop Alcides Escobar is a 5-star prospect and either he or J.J. Hardy (plus someone like Tony Gwynn Jr.) could probably get the Brewers some a pitcher or two and certainly improve their chances.

4th Place, Cincinatti Reds
CF Chris Dickerson
LF Jerry Hairston Jr.
RJ Jay Bruce
2B Brandon Phillips
1B Joey Votto
3B Edwin Encarnacion
C Ramon Hernandez
SS Alex Gonzalez

RHP Edison Volqeuz
RHP Aaron Harang
RHP Bronson Arroyo
RHP Johnny Cueto
RHP Micah Owings
SU: David Weathers
CL: Francisco Cordero

The Reds are starting to fill their roster out with home grown talent, and they're still a few years away from being legit contenders. Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips are both potential all-stars and Jay Bruce and Chris Dickerson look like they have bright futures as well but this lineup lost 40 home runs and 100 RBI with when they dealt Adam Dunn away, and the offense will feel the loss. Surprisingly, the spot where the Reds do have an advantage on some of the other teams in the division is in the rotation. They have put together a nice array of veterans and youth with Arroyo and Harrang providing leadership and Cueto, Volquez and Bailey providing the young power arms of the future (assuming Bailey can take that next step this season). They also have stability in their bullpen, which is more than a lot of teams can say. I just don't see them scoring quite enough runs to keep up with the teams I have ahead of them here.

5th Place, Houston Astros

2B Kaz Matsui
CF Michael Bourn
1B Lance Berkman
LF Carlos Lee
RF Hunter Pence
SS Miguel Tejada
C Ivan Rodriguez
3B Geoff Blum

RHP Roy Oswalt
LHP Wandy Rodriguez
RHP Brian Moehler
LHP Mike Hampton
RHP Russ Ortiz
SU: LaTroy Hawkins
CL: Jose Valverde

Like seemingly every other team in the division, offense won't be a problem for the Astros. The addition of Pudge gives them a veteran heavy squad who shouldn't hesitate to put up runs. However, when you move down the roster to the pitching department, you see their gaping holes. Outside of Oswalt and Rodriguez, their rotation is made up of castoffs and wash-ups. Brian Moehler and Mike Hampton would have been great adds....8 years ago. The bullpen is rock solid though as Jose Valverde is one of the more underrated closers in baseball, but their starting pitching won't keep them close enough for that to matter much.

6th Place, Pittsburgh Pirates
LF Nyjer Morgan
2B Freddy Sanchez
CF Nate McLouth
C Ryan Doumit
1B Adam LaRoche
3B Andy LaRoche
RF Brandon Moss
SS Jack Wilson

LHP Paul Maholm
RHP Ian Snell
LHP Zack Duke
RHP Ross Olendorf
RHP Jeff Karstens
SU: John Grabow
CL: Matt Capps

The Pirates are one of the least talented teams in the National League, no two ways about it. Their everyday lineup lacks power and run production. They also have very little team speed to speak of and they don't have many hitters who hit for particularly high averages. I like Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit but those guys aren't nearly good enough to carry this offense by themselves. The bullpen is probably the strength of their team heading into the season, and even that isn't a very strong group. They have major questions surrounding their starting rotation. Their top 3 (Maholm, Snell and Duke) are solid when they're on, but they've all been very inconsistent in their careers. Snell (7-12, 5.42 era) and Duke (5-14, 4.82 era) both need to rebound in a big way if the Pirates are going to avoid being rearded the #1 pick in June 2010's Amateur draft.

Giants Notes: As was expected, the Giants traded reliever Jack Taschner this Friday, and actually got something halfway decent in return for him. At first they got Ronny Paulino and it looked like he was going to be Bengie Molina's back-up, but then they flipped Paulino to the Marlins for 21 year-old right-hander, Hector Correa. Now, Correa isn't a premiere prospect by any stretch, but he's had some success as a pro and only turned 21 a week ago. The 6'4", 175 pounder struggled in 2008 as he battled an arm injury for most of the year, but really showed his potential when healthy in 2006/07. He's a tall, hard thrower, who averages 91-93 mph on the fastball with a big hook, but his secondary pitches need work. In the rookie league in '06, he carried a 1.76 era through 41 innings in his brief stint after being drafted in the 4th round of the amateur draft. The following year, in low-A ball for Florida in '07 (the same level Madison Bumgarner pitched at for the Giants in 2008), Correa made 11 starts, going 6-2 with a 3.22 era, striking out 83 batters in just 58 innings of work. Last year he only threw a combined 12.2 innings in the low minors in Florida's system as he didn't really get healthy all year. I would expect to see the Giants start Correa off in either low-A Augusta or high-A San Jose and he should be an intriguing arm to follow in 2009.
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 6:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Jack Taschner got traded? I didn't ever hear. Shows how on top of it I've been this spring. Who's going to replace him though?

  • At 12:04 AM, Anonymous Who's-On-First said…

    The Cardinals in 2nd above the Brewers? I don't know about that. I agree with Chicago at the top and pretty much the rest of the division, but the Brewers are good and will challenge for the NLWC. I have to swap them with Stl.

  • At 9:46 PM, Anonymous J-Bill said…

    The picture of Correa reminds me a helluva lot of a young Russ Ortiz... Are you sure that's not his younger bro?


Post a Comment

<< Home