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Friday, March 23, 2018

2018 MLB Previews/Predictions: NL Central

After the tough pill to swallow that is the Madison Bumgarner injury (more on that in this post), we have to tread forward and we're going to try and get our minds off it for a few minutes by continuing our season previews. Last week we started with the NL East and today we'll be dissecting the NL Central. Without further ado, let's get to it.

1st Place, Chicago Cubs

Lineup:
CF Ian Happ (S)
3B Kris Bryant (R)
1B Anthony Rizzo (L)
C Wilson Contreras (R)
MVP Candidate Kris Bryant
LF Kyle Schwarber (L)
SS Adison Russell (R)
RF Jason Heyward (L)
2B Javier Baez (R)

Key Reserves:
UT Ben Zobrist (S)
OF Albert Almora (R)

Rotation:
LHP Jon Lester
RHP Yu Darvish
RHP Kyle Hendricks
LHP Jose Quintana
RHP Tyler Chatwood

Key Relievers:
CL Brandon Morrow RH
SU Pedro Strop RH

The Cubs should skate to a relatively easy division tittle as they have the talent and experience others in this division do not, but they aren't quite the powerhouse they were a couple years ago. They were able to replace the loss of Jake Arrieta with Yu Darvish, which is essentially a wash, but they lost Wade Davis and are heading into the season with Brandon Morrow as their closer, a guy who's never closed on a regular basis. They have enough bullpen depth though to where they should be successful no matter who's getting their last three outs. The lineup should be just as strong as ever, although they are a little top heavy. As dangerous as Baez, Heyword and Russell can be, they also are guys who won't hit much higher than .250 and all three will strike out over 150 times if given 500+ at-bats. Still though, they have enough talent and depth in their rotation to be major players once again in National League and if any need arises in season, you can bet that they'll address it before the trade deadline as they have in recent seasons.

2nd Place, Milwaukee Brewers

Lineup:
RF Christian Yelich (L)
CF Lorenzo Cain (R)
LF Ryan Braun (R)
3B Travis Shaw (L)
1B Eric Thames (L)
C Manny Pina (R)
CF Lorenzo Cain
2B Jonathan Villar (S)
SS Orlando Arcia (R)

Key Reserves:
OF Domingo Santana
OF Keon Broxton
UT Eric Sogard

Rotation:
RHP Chase Anderson
RHP Zach Davies
RHP Jhoulys Chacin
LHP Brent Suter
RHP Junior Guerra
* RHP Jimmy Nelson expected back mid-season

Key Relievers:
CL Corey Knebel RHP
SU Josh Hader LHP
SU Jacob Barnes RHP

The Brewers have the most outfield depth in the game, as Broxton and Santana would be starters on most teams yet will begin the year, at least, as backups. Due to that fact, it's a little surprising they went after both Yelich and Cain this winter, but they ended up with both and now have a very imposing front-5 of their batting order. Their rotation isn't great, but it's solid, and they will be getting last years ace, Jimmy Nelson, back sometime around mid-season which will essentially be like trading for a front of the rotation starter without giving up anything. They have the proven closer, but their bullpen has a lot of young arms, but they are live arms and seem to be up to the task. The Brew crew should very much be in the wild card hunt and in my opinion have more talent than the Cardinals. They gave the Cubs a late season push there in the Central last September and they've now added Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yellich to a team that won 86 games last season and came just short of a Wild Card birth. They'll again be on the Cubbies heels in 2018, although not quite at the point to overtake them atop this division although I expect them ahead of St. Louis for the second straight season.

3rd Place, St. Louis Cardinals

Lineup:
CF Dexter Fowler (S)
RF Tommy Pham (R)
1B Matt Carperntar (L)
LF Marcell Ozuna (R)
3B Jedd Gyorko (R)
C Yadier Molina (R)
SS Paul Dejong (R)
2B Kolton Wong (L)

Key Reserves:
OF Tyler O'Neill (R)
UT Jose Martinez (R)

Rotation:
Ace Carlos Martinez
RHP Carlos Martinez
RHP Adam Wainwright
RHP Michael Wacha
RHP Luke Weaver
RHP Mike Mikolas

Key Relievers:
RHP Luke Gregorson
RHP Bud Norris

The Cardinals are definitely a flawed team. While they will run out a pretty strong everyday lineup, their rotation is relatively mediocre. Their bullpen though, has as many question marks as any bullpen in the game. They have no set closer and will likely use a few people in the role until they find someone who sticks out and is their best option. Luke Gregorson seems to be the most logical fit but has some injury issues heading into the season. I see them as the epitome of a .500 team. Certainly some talent there but not a lot of depth in any area of their roster. For instance, if Carlos Martinez goes down, they're about as worse off as the Giants are without Bumgarner, and they really can't afford to lose any of the veterans in that lineup for any length of time. If some of their younger players breakout though, and their bullpen rounds into form, they could be in the hunt for a wild card spot, but it would take a lot in Chicago to go wrong and even Milwaukee, as well as a lot in St. Louis to go right in order for them to even think about taking the division. I could be wrong about them but there;s just nothing about this team that jumps out at me. They're kind of a similarly built team to SF, though the Giants are a little more experienced and, if were healthy, I'd bet on them over St. Louis.

4th Place Cincinnati Reds

Lineup:
CF Billy Hamilton (R)
All-Star Joey Votto
SS Jose Peraza (R)
1B Joey Votto (L)
2B Scooter Gennett (L)
3B Eugenio Suarez (R)
LF Adam Duvall (R)
RF Travis Schebier (L)
C Tucker Branhardt (S)

Key Reserves:
C Devin Mosoraco (R)
OF Jesse Winkley (L)

Rotation
RHP Homer Bailey
RHP Anthony DeSclafani
RHP Luis Castillo
LHP Brandon Finnegan
RHP Sal Romero

Key Relievers:
CL Raisel Inglesias RHP
SU Michael Lorenzan RHP

The Reds are still rebuilding, and have a lot of young players composing their 25-man roster. However, with a lot of youth comes a lot of potential, and the potential is there for the Reds to surprise some people in 2018. I still think there a few notches below the Cardinals heading in, but growth in the rotation and bullpen could help eliminate that space. We all know they can hit and will score plenty of runs, it's them keeping the other team off the board is what the real challenge will be. They're still a year or two away I think from really being competitive though, and will likely use 2018 as hopefully their last stepping stone before being competitive once again. I really like young closer Raisel Inglesias but they have too many unproven guys or question marks in the rotation and bullpen still. Again though, they're young, so if things click, they could be decent, but if they don't, they also could be very bad.

5th Place, Pittsburgh Pirates

Lineup:
2B Josh Harrison (R)
1B Josh Bell
CF Starling Marte (R)
1B Josh Bell (S)
RF Gregory Polanco (L)
3B David Freese (R)
LF Jose Osuna (R)
C Francisco Cervelli (R)
SS Jordy Mercer (R)

Key Reserves:
IF Colin Moran (L)
UT Adam Frazier (L)

Rotation:
RHP Jameson Taillon
RHP Ivan Nova
RHP Chad Kuhl
RHP Trevor Williams
RHP Joe Musgrove

Key Relievers:
CL Felipe Rivero LHP
SU Daniel Hudson RHP

Unlike the two teams ahead of them, the Pirates are in their first full year of rebuild mode, dealing away their two most valuable assets this offseason, sending Gerrit Cole to Houston and Andrew McCutchen to the Giants. Needless to say, they are left without a lot of recognizable names, although they certainly have some young bright spots on their roster already, led by closer Felipe Rivero. Their rotation is full of unproven guys and led by someone who's a back-end starter on most squads, although like with any young team, there's a lot of room for growth. The Pirates aren't contenders though and it's likely going to be a few years before they are back in the mix.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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2 Comments:

  • At 5:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Brewers have a really good lineup, but I'd always go with pitching over a batting order so IMO I think it's gonna be the Cards in 2nd place and the ones in the wild card hunt. THey have a stronger rotation, but not by that much. They also have a lot of guys who've won before and know what it takes.

     
  • At 9:08 PM, Anonymous CarlsBad said…

    LOL I didn't even know Lorezno Cain signed w/brewers, thought him and Moustakas went back to KC?! Wowww... shows how out of the loop i been actually having to work 6 days a friggen week. But that's crazy, Remember the Giants were looking at like Broxton and Santana weren't they? Wonder why they couldn't get one looking at all the outfielders the brewers have? Broxton just got demoted to AAA too. I wonder if the Giants would still go after him, but now they have Jackson so i guess it's moot anyway. Thanks for the update though, I had no idea what other teams in the division were looking like besides the cubs. Brewers look stacked it's goin to be a 4 team race for 2 wild card spots- the brewers, cardinals, d-backs and rockies. Giants or Mets could factor in but they aren't as good as those other 4 teams so they need trades or a lot of guys to have big years. Actually it could be a 5 team race realistically cuz the Mets have a chance to have really sick starting pitchers and a good closer and pitching wins. Look at LA last year.

     

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