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Thursday, March 28, 2013

2013 MLB Previews: NL Central

1st Place, Cincinnati Reds

RF Shin-Soo Choo
2B Brandon Phillips
1B Joey Votto
RF Jay Bruce
LF Ryan Ludwick
3B Todd Frazier
SS Zach Cozart
C Ryan Hannigan

RHP Johnny Cueto
RHP Mat Latos
RHP Bronson Arroyo
RHP Homer Bailey
RHP Mike Leake
SU: Jonathan Broxton
CL: Aroldis Chapman

The Reds have improved the team that came without outs of knocking off the eventual World Champion Giants in last seasons NLDS, so they should once again be a force in the central. They added Choo to the top of the order to give them a dynamic hitter who will get on base and run. The real big change though should be with Joey Votto, who should return to MVP-caliber form if healthy and teams with Jay Bruce as one of the best 3-4 hitters in the game. The young pitching staff is finally getting their feet under them, as we've seen growth out of Bailey, Cueto and Chapman and all should just keep getting better.

2nd Place, St. Louis Cardinals

CF Jon Jay
RF Carlos Beltran
LF Matt Holliday
1B Allen Craig
3B David Freese
 C Yadier Molina
2B Danial Descalso
SS Pete Kozma

RHP Adam Wainwright
LHP Jaime Garcia
RHP Lance Lynn
RHP Jake Westbrook
LHP Shelby Miller
SU: Mitchell Boggs
CL: Jason Motte

The Cards are getting a little bit older, and their starting pitching isn't nearly as strong as it was at the start of last season. That being said, they have some gritty vets (Holliday, Beltran, Molina) and some up-and-comers (Craig, Freese, Jay) in that lineup that will ensure they keep runs on the board. Their bullpen should again be a strength, led by the underrated Jason Motte. I just don't like the bottom of their order too much and can't see that pitching staff staying strong all season and carrying them into October.

3rd Place, Pittsburgh Pirates

CF Starling Marte
2B Neil Walker
CF Andrew McCutchen
3B Pedro Alvarez
1B Garrett Jones
C Russell Marin
LF Travis Snider
SS Clint Barmes

RHP A.J. Burnett
LHP Wandy Rodriguez
RHP Jason McDonald
RHP Jeff Karstans
LHP Francisco Liriano*
SU: Mark Melancon
CL: Jason Grilli

Now, the Pirates are a team that surprised everyone with their 5-month run before tailing off in September last season, and I don't think it was an entire fluke. This team has some talented young players they're building around, most notably the runner up in last years batting tittle race (Andrew McCutchen). I also like Starling Marte at the top of the order and Pedro Alvarez has legit, 35+ home run power. Their pitching staff isn't great, but it's solid, led by Burnett and Rodriguez, two sturdy vets who can still shut down any given lineup when they're on. They have some questions in the bullpen, but further growth out of their youngsters should lead to another successful season.

*ETA early May

4th Place, Milwaukee Brewers

RF Norichika Aoki
2B Rickie Weeks
LF Ryan Braun
3B Aramis Ramirez
C Jonathan Lucroy
CF Carlos Gomez
1B Alex Gonzalez
SS Jean Segura

RHP Yovani Gallardo
RHP Marco Estrada
RHP Wily Peralta
LHP Chris Naverson
RHP Mike Fiers
SU: Jim Henderson
CL: John Axford

The Brewers haven't quite been the same since losing Prince Fielder, and I don't see things getting a whole lot better in year two. I mean, they're counting on Alex Gonzalez, a .240 hitting shortstop to play first base for them after all. I do like Carlos Gomez though, and think he can be a 30-30 guy, and like him or hate him, Ryan Braun will always hit. As far as their pitching goes, I'm not overly impressed with anyone after Gallardo and to a certain extent, Estrada, so those guys will have to prove themselves. Bullpen isn't a strength either, where they're returning a closer who had a 4.67 ERA in 2012.

5th Place, Chicago Cubs

CF David DeJesus
SS Starlin Castro
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Welington Castillo
3B Ian Stewart*
2B Darwin Barney

RHP Matt Garza*
RHP Jeff Samardzija
RHP Edwin Jackson
LHP Travis Wood
RHP Scott Feldman
SU: Kyuji Fujikawa
CL: Carlos Marmol

At last, the Cubbies. There really isn't much to say about the Cubs that hasn't been said in the last 4-5 season previews. They'll again struggle and again likely finish at the bottom of the division. This time the Astros aren't around though, so the Cubs are the new worst team in the division. Castro and Rizzo have legit talent, everyone else in that lineup (save for Soriano) could be out of baseball in 3 years. Their pitching staff is banged up and thin. Garza has solid talent, but can't stay healthy, and Samardzija and Jackson will give solid efforts but they're hardly elite. The bullpen has been all sorts of messy since Carlos Marmol took over as closer, which is why the Cubs are trying to deal him, but right now, it looks like it will be another crap-shoot for Chicago out there.

*Will Begin Year on DL
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2 Comments:

  • At 5:28 PM, Blogger TheHitKing said…

    The Reds' skill is without question, it's all about health this season - no knee injuries, no back spasm, and a little help from Choo in leadoff and we are good to go. The club also has the deepest pen of skilled hurlers I have ever seen... Simon, Arredondo, LeCure, Ondrusek, Marshall, Big Brox, and Aroldis to turn off the lights - bottom line, when our starter gets 6 IP in and with the lead or and aught game - we can't lose. I've been there all OD and I was at game three of NLDS, it hurt, but a good hurt, I knew next year was going to be a blood thirsty rage for the WS

     
  • At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I like Cinci this year too. I mean, they really should have beaten the Giants, who swept the World SEries, so who knows what woulda happened if Cueto never got hurt?

     

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