PREDICTION TIME-NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
It is almost time for baseball season to begin for real. It is an annual rite of passage that predictions are to be made for the upcoming season. Every team starts equal and hope springs eternal. At least it does for a few days, weeks and months for various teams. The United Cardinal Bloggers have done the predictions blog for several years and now is the time to make mine. If you don’t like mine, then go to the UCB website and find one you do.
#1-St Louis Cardinals (98-64) Last Season: 97-65
When a team wins their division and losing in the World Series they are a good team and have very few needs. Not so fast. GM John Mozeliak mastered the off-season by making his team appear to be better on defense and running speed while hanging on to the pitching depth that brought them success.
Peter Bourjos, Jhonny Peralta and Mark Ellis were brought in for those reasons. Now Matt Carpenter can move to third base with David Freese dispatched to the Angels allowing prospect Kolten Wong to play second base. Add Matt Holiday, Allen Craig and Yadier Molina and you have a top notch lineup. Possibly, Oscar Taveras will lose his prospect tag and get the the major leagues along with Randall Grichuk and Joey Butler.
Adam Wainwright, a 19 game winner, leads the staff with Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and division MVP Michael Wacha each getting starts with the possibility of Carlos Martinez being added. Then going to the bullpen we find Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist and flamethrower Trevor Rosenthal.
#2- Pittsburgh Pirates (91-71) Last Season: 94-68
Many players had career years and that is hard to repeat. Andrew McCutchen will lead the way to many wins. Neil Walker, Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez will be offensive pluses for the Pirates. The addition of Edinson Volquez could help this team if they can work with him. Francisco Liriano had a tremendous season and Gerrit Cole and Jeff Locke will be starters this season. Veteran Wandy Rodriguez is back in the Central Division and may be a helpful addition.
#3- Milwaukee Brewers (84-78) Last Season: 74-88
The addition of Matt Garza moves this team up in the standings as Garza is a very good ERA pitcher. Ryan Braun returning will solidify the team. Aramis Ramirez is aging and the Brewers may look to bring in a prospect or two this season. Youngsters Scooter Gennett along with Khris Davis, Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez gives a good nucleus to this team. Other pitchers that can help will be Kyle Lohse and Yovanni Gallardo and then one of the prospects will get the fifth spot.
#4-Cincinnati Reds (81-81) Last Season: 90-72
A GM (Walt Jocketty) that sits on his butt and just adds Skip Schumaker (who is now hurt and will be out for awhile) and loses Bronson Arroyo and Shin-Soo Choo has not had much to do this winter. Oh, he did fire manager Dusty Baker.
I considered moving this team up in the standings until the horrible incident with Aroldis Chapman getting hit by a line drive and now he is out for a period of time swayed my opinion. Walt Jocketty is banking a sppedster Billy Hamilton to man the outfield and steal bases. Problem is, Hamilton has trouble hitting the ball. Now Jay Bruce and Joey Votto are mashers and Brandon Phillips has the knack of driving in runs. Todd Frazier and Ryan Ludwick just take up space. The rotation of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey and Tony Cigrani are very good quality starts but it ends there. With Chapman out, the Reds have no reliable bullpen help.
#5- Chicago Cubs (69-93) Last Season:66-96
The Cubs basically did nothing this off-season. This is a team that has been last for several years and are now banking on playing prospects until they get good. Starlin Castro was bad last year and will be asked to step it up as other prospects are banging on the door. Nate Schierholtz was good in 2013 and Anthony Rizzo has a lot of promise in his bat.
The rotation was the worst in the National League and didn’t get better. Travis Wood, Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson return to start games again this season. The Cubs will be relying on rapid development of unproven talent in Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta. The youngsters have potential but this is the Cubs. The Cubs brass is saying 2016.