Today we look at the pretenders and the contenders in the NL Central. Let’s break it down.
The bad news is 2014 will be a long year for the Cubs in terms of wins and losses. The good news is the Cubs are coming and in a big way. They already have Starlin Castro (expect a bounce back year) and Anthony Rizzo on the big club (both opening day ages under 25). But the Cubs have a lot of top prospects coming to Wrigley this summer and by sometime in 2015. In fact according to the Baseball America 2014 Top 100 Prospects list the Cubs have 7 in the top 100, 5 in the top 41 and 2 in the top 8. You very well could see Javier Baez (3B,SS) and Kris Bryant (OF,3B) in Chicago sometime this summer. Not far behind is CJ Edwards (SP), Albert Almora (OF), Jorge Soler (OF), Pierce Johnson (SP) & Arismendy Alcantara (2B). Unless the Cubs get a contract extension done soon with starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija expect him to get trading during the season.
Unlike the Cubs who have a lot of talented young players coming soon we cannot say the same about the Brew crew. That’s not a good state of affairs when you are not a prime time contender. In fact going back to Baseball America top 100 Prospect list the Brewers only have 1 prospect on the list and that’s starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson at #96. Unless everyone hits this year for the Brewers which would include Yovani Gallardo having a big bounce back year and Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza pitching like front line starters it’s hard for me to see them being in the mix for a wild card spot. The Brewers future core as of now is Braun, Segura, Lucroy and Matt Garza with his new 4 year deal. If the Brewers are a sub .500 team it would be smart to shop their other players to build up one of MLB’s worst farm systems.
Last year it came down to the wire in a 3 team race between the Cardinals, Pirates and the Reds. The Cardinals just snuck the division out with the Reds and Pirates landing the wild cards. All three teams look like possible playoff teams again however all have question marks. Lets have a look at each teams question marks.
Carlos Beltran is gone to the Yankees and Trevor Rosenthal the young phenom is the closer come opening day. When will Jason Motte be ready from last years Tommy John surgery to help out the bullpen? Is Matt Adams ready for everyday duty? Can Peter Bourjos stay healthy? Will top prospect Oscar Taveras be ready to help this year?
Will the loss of AJ Burnett really hurt the Pirates? Will the Pirates get the all-star 1st half Jeff Locke or Jeff Locke of the 2nd half? Is Gerrit Cole ready to be a front line starter? Do the Pirates have enough offense? Will top prospects Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon help this season? Is Jason Grilli over his lat season injury woes from last year?
Will the Reds miss the veteran presence of Bronson Arroyo? We know Billy Hamilton can run and one can’t expect him to be as good as Shin-Soo Choo was last season (.423 OBP) but can he get on base enough? Is Johnny Cueto over his injury woes form last year as he had 3 DL stints in 2014. Will Homer Bailey continue to develop into a front line starter? Will the recent signing of 100+ million dollar contract effect his performance in a negative way? Is Devin Mesoraco ready to be a #1 catcher for a potential division winning team?
It’s a tough call who is going to win this division. I am going to go with the Cardinals because of the front of their rotation will be just enough to edge out the division again. I expect the Pirates and Reds to be in the division race to the very end and both should be in the race for the wild card as well.
Next up the NL West.
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