MLB

MLB Spring Training Preview: National League Central


Written by: Coleman Bahr – Staff Writer (@ColemanBahr)

The Chicago Cubs are early favorites to retain their World Series crown, 2017 is weird. The division title should hardly be a race, but the St. Louis Cardinals should be the only team that can compete with the Cubs while the rest are rebuilding. Let’s take an inside look at the National League Central.

| Chicago Cubs

2016 Record: 103-58

2017 Projected: 101-61

Theo Epstein plays chess, the rest of the league plays checkers. The combination of Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon is a tough one to beat in all aspects of the game. The Cubs lost Aroldis Chapman to the New York Yankees, but Wade Davis is a more than capable replacement, and he probably won’t give up game-tying homeruns to Rajai Davis in the most important game of the year. With all of the youth talent on this team, dominance is an expectation, and anything short of another trip to the World Series would be a failure.

 

| St. Louis Cardinals

2016 Record: 86-76

2017 Projected: 89-73

You have to love the signing of Dexter Fowler, but it will still be hard to compete with the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals have a starting lineup that will get the job done offensively, but the pitching is just mediocre. However, the Cardinals have a winning culture, so they will be successful one way or another. They have only had three losing seasons in the past 20 years, and they have had no less than 86 wins since 2008, so the Cardinals will get the job done.

 

| Pittsburgh Pirates

2016 Record: 78-83

2017 Projected: 81-81

The Pittsburgh Pirates will be heavily relying on the combination of Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte offensively this season. Although, Josh Bell is coming along nicely and could contribute in a huge way if he takes advantage of the opportunity. The pitching staff also added Ivan Nova, but they will still struggle to hang with the juggernauts of the NL central.

 

| Milwaukee Brewers

2016 Record: 73-89

2017 Projected: 70-92

The Milwaukee Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds will be in a tight race for last place, but I give the Brew Crew the edge when it’s all said and done. Ryan Braun has carried this team year in and year out, and he will be their go-to-guy once again. However, they just lost one of their better hitters in Scooter Gennett, and their lineup looks pretty ugly outside of Braun and Jonathan Villar. The pitching staff won’t give them much support either, and things could go downhill in a hurry. On the bright side, they have one of the youngest teams in the entire league, so they could be a force to be reckoned with in a couple of years.

 

 

| Cincinnati Reds

2016 Record: 68-94

2017 Projected: 67-95

If you are a Cincinnati Reds fan, you should probably just keep focusing on basketball season. The Reds lost Brandon Phillips in the offseason, and they made no significant offseason acquisitions. Sure, Billy Hamilton, Joey Votto, and Adam Duvall will be fun to watch, but that’s about it. The Reds are going to be one of the worst teams in the majors, and their division surely won’t cut them any slack.

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