We simply cannot wait for the new MLB season to start, and we are counting down the days until that very first pitch is thrown. If you are like us and love the MLB, then you definitely need to have a read on below, as we take a look at each and every team from the NL Central and analyze their chances for success in this brand new season.
The Chicago Cubs went through a transition year in 2021 that saw Theo Epstein step down and many members (Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez) of their 2016 World Series team get moved to different clubs. It’s the beginning of a new era led by mainly prospects so Cubs fans will have to get familiar with a lot of new faces. Theo most notable addition was Seiya Suzuki, formerly of the Nippon Professional Baseball League.
Final: #Cubs 15, White Sox 9. pic.twitter.com/dsPDsseXqk
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 4, 2022
He’s known as a five-tool player and is expected to make his debut in the outfield. Andrelton Simmons was also brought in to fill the hole at shortstop and provide some depth. In the middle of the lineup will be 2nd year first baseman Frank Schwindel, who is getting a lot of hype after hitting .344 with 6 homers and 18 RBIs in the final month of the season, taking home the NL Rookie of the month.
On the pitching side, Marcus Stroman was brought in on a 3-year deal and will serve as the team’s ace. As a ground ball pitcher, he may see a dip in production moving to the Cubs who have a much weaker defense behind him than he did with the New York Mets. It’s overall a middle of the pack staff and this team as a whole is the same, which is why I predict them finishing 3rd in the division. Not a bad year but not a good one by any means.
On August 28, the Cincinnati Reds were in second-place in the NL Central with a record of 71-59, which was good for fourth-best in the league at the time. They also had a 1.5 game lead over the Padres for the second Wild Card spot but then everything went downhill. The Reds proceeded to go just 12-20 the rest of the way, which was the fifth-worst mark in the league and it just so happened to coincide with the Cardinals 17-game winning streak.
One W closer to Opening Day! #ATOBTTR #RedsST pic.twitter.com/egge9btueL
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) April 4, 2022
The disappointing end to the season was bad enough, but then came the offseason when the Reds seemed to part ways with all of their most important pieces. Tucker Barnhart, Nick Castellanos, and Wade Miley were the first three to go followed by Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker after the lockout. This sets the Reds up as a team that is looking towards the future and has no plans on competing for anything in 2022. It will be a tussle between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh at the bottom of the NL Central all year.
The Milwaukee Brewers took advantage of a weak NL Central in 2021 and rose to the top. The Brew Crew had the fourth-best record in all of baseball from June 18 on were hoping for a deep playoff run but ran into the eventual World Series champion Braves and fell 3-1 in the NLDS. It was a relatively quiet offseason for them, but they did end up trading away Jackie Bradley Jr. after a down season, to the Red Sox in exchange for Hunter Renfroe.
The final Power Rankings before #OpeningDay.
Full rankings: https://t.co/mpdF1dg5TV pic.twitter.com/qRq48lIivr
— MLB (@MLB) April 4, 2022
Avisail Garcia also decided to leave and sign with the Miami Marlins but he was replaced with Andrew McCutchen, the veteran and former Pirates legend who had a very productive 2021 campaign with the Phillies. If former two-time NL MVP Christian Yelich can break out of his slump he’s been in the past two seasons, this lineup will once again be very productive and enough to carry them back to another division title. Many runs may not be needed if the pitching staff performs anywhere near their level of 2021.
This rotation posted top 5 numbers in almost every metric, led by the reigning NL Cy Young awardee Corbin Burnes. He’s joined by fellow all-stars Freddy Peraulta and Brandon Woodruff, forming arguably the best 1-2-3 punch in the entire league. I think this team has what it takes to repeat in the division but their sights are set on bigger goals like the World Series, which isn’t out of the question. The Brewers are on my shortlist to be one of the possible teams lifting the championship at the end of the year.
2021 saw the Pittsburgh Pirates finish at the bottom of the NL Central for the third consecutive season. The roster has been torn apart and restocked with young talent and their farm system is actually rated as one of the best in the league, but it’s most likely to be another struggling season for the Pirates. 27-year old Center fielder Bryan Reynolds is probably their best player and made the all-star team in 2021.
┻┳| •.•) We play baseball this week.
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) April 4, 2022
Fans wanted him to get a new contract to be with the team long term but the organization doesn’t think he’s young enough to be in the future plans so he may be a prime candidate to get moved for assets at the trade deadline. This team is going nowhere in 2022 but hope is on the horizon. If they can develop their young guys and make the right moves to get more talent in the door, this team will be a force to be reckoned with in a few years.
St. Louis Cardinals
There are a lot of question marks with every team in this division except the Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals. It is very clear that anything short of a division title and playoff run will be deemed a failure, and that’s why the team brought back most of the roster that won them 90 games last season. There will be a new manager in place this year though, as Oliver Marmol will take over for Mike Shildt after three years on the job.
Shildt led the Cardinals to the postseason in all of his years and one division title, so it came as a bit of surprise but the organization did not like how he wasn’t open to having a collaborative relationship with the front office. It’s not a dominant team but they are solid at every position and are going to be in the mix for the division title. Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Tyler O’Neill form a fearsome trio of power in the lineup that should feast on the mediocre pitching they will see in the NL Central outside of the Brewers staff.
✨ field prep ✨ pic.twitter.com/Y0CVqD8QlD
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) April 4, 2022
The team also brought Albert Pujols back after over a decade away and he could bring an emotional spark as well as some timely offense. Long time Cardinal Adam Wainwright is back and at times in 2021 looked better than ever. Jack Flaherty serves as the team’s ace though, and when healthy will contend for the Cy Young.
The 2021 team became the first in history with five Gold Glove winners and brought all of them back in addition to still having rock-solid Cardinals legend Yadier Molina behind the dish at catcher. I like the Cardinals to give the Brewers a run for the money for the division crown but even if they aren’t able to capture it, they will be apart of the postseason as a Wild Card for sure.
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