NL Central: A Summer of Red?

Good morning Nats and baseball fans alike!

Well, we have arrived in February, the ultimate month. Spring training begins, teams begin to form final rosters, and the offseason pretty much ends. Today, we will be looking at a division that is normally pretty top-heavy, essentially because of the fact that the top teams could beat up on the bottom dwellers of the division. The Astros are gone, so the only Faisal team is really the Cubs, at least in my opinion. Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Cincinnati Reds: 2012 Record/Finish- 97-65, NL Central Champions, lost to Giants 3-2 in NLDS.

Moves:
11/26/12: Signed RHP Jonathan Broxton (3 yr/$21M)
12/10/12: Signed OF Ryan Ludwick (2 yr/$15M)
12 11/12: Acquired OF Shin-Soo Choo and IF Jason Donald from CLE for OF Drew Stubbs and SS Didi Gregorious.
12/12/12: Signed IF Jack Hannahan (2 yrs)

The Reds are going to be very good again this year. The questions are: will Joey Votto stay healthy all year? Can Shin-Soo Choo handle center field? How will Aroldis Chapman handle being a starter after multiple years of relieving and closing? If i were Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker, i would put Chapman on an innings limit, probably around 140-150 innings, around double his innings from 2012. It may behoove the Reds to sign a Kyle Lohse to eat up innings and perhaps go with a 6 man rotation, because Chapman will be the second coming of Neftali Feliz, not being able to handle the load and needing Tommy John Surgery. Todd Frazier hit 19 homers playing part time in 2012. I don’t believe the Reds need Scott Rolen back and should move on. The Reds are easily the front runner here, and most likely repeat as NL Central Champions.

Prediction: 95-67, NL Central Champions

St. Louis Cardinals
2012 Record/Result- 88-74, 2nd in NL Central

Moves:
12/14/12: Signed IF Ty Wigginton (2yr/$5M)
12/15/12: Signed LHP Randy Choate (3yr/$7.5M)
1/28/13: Signed SS Ronny Cedeno (1yr/$1.15M)

The Cardinals didn’t have many holes to fill, as most of their team is young or under contract. The team that took my heart and stomped on it mercilessly looks to be good again this year. I think the biggest question is going to be: when does Mike Matheny make his mark on this team? I don’t mean to undermine him, but i just wonder how much of last year was his managing, and how much of it was the players he had just doing their thing, because it’s not like he inherited the Cubs here. Also, this team needs to win more games early on, because the Brewers are right there, the Pirates are getting better, and eventually, even this year, winning 88 games may not get you the second wild card. The Cardinals are a very solid, very dangerous team. They just can’t keep sneaking into the playoffs.

Prediction- 87-75, 2nd in NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers
2012 Record/Results: 83-79, 3rd in NL Central

Moves:
12/6/12: Signed OF Reed Johnson (1yr/$1.75M)
12/12/12: Signed LHP Tom Gorzelanny (2yr/$5.7M)
1/7/13: Signed LHP Mike Gonzalez (1yr/$2.25M)
1/29/13: Signed SS Alex Gonzalez (1yr/$1.5M)

The Brewers finished hot last year, riding their young pitching. I don’t see their rotation pitching well enough to be much more than competitive. John Axford has shown he can be an All-Star caliber, shutdown Closer. He’s also shown he can throw batting practice and walk the ballpark. They’ll hit, that’s always a guarantee. The fact is, offense is their only guarantee. They don’t field well, nor will they pitch well enough. They will be competitive, though.

Prediction- 81-81, 4th in NL Central.

Pittsburgh Piratesu
2012 Record/Results: 79-83, 4th in NL Central.

Moves:
10/31/12: Exercised option on 3B Pedro Alvarez (1yr/$700K)
11/30/12: Signed C Russell Martin (2yr/$17M)
12/12/12: Signed RHP Jason Grilli (2yr/$6.75M)
12/26/12: Acquired OF Jerry Sands and RHP Mark Melancon from BOS for RHP Joel Hanrahan and prospects.
1/14/13: Signed RHP Jeff Karstens (1yr/$2.5M)
1/21/13: Signed LHP Francisco Liriano (2yr/$12.75M)

The Pirates have been hanging around for years, getting close to the playoffs, and finishing above .500. They’ll have a full year of Wandy Rodriguez, a newcomer in Francisco Liriano, joining James McDonald Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton and AJ Burnett. They have a surplus of starters and a nice bullpen that should improve with the addition of Melancon. All in all, this is a big year for the Bucs. I think they finally rise to the occasion.

Prediction- 87-75, 3rd in NL Central.

Chicago Cubs
2012 Result: 61-101, 6th in NL Central

Moves:
11/13/12: Signed RHP Scott Baker (1yr/$5.5M)
11/16/12: Signed C Dioner Navarro (1yr/$1.75)
11/19/12: Signed RHP Shawn Camp
11/27/12: Signed P Scott Feldman (1yr/$6M)
12/6/12: Signed IF Ian Stewart (1yr/$2M)
12/21/12: Signed OF Nate Schierholtz (1yr/$2.25M)
1/2/13: Signed RHP Edwin Jackson (4yr/$52M)
1/26/13: Signed RHP Carlos Villanueva (2yr/$10M)
1/29/13: Signed OF Scott Hairston (2yr/$5M)

Needless to say, the Cubs marked what their winter centered around, and that’s pitching. There will be many new faces joining Jeff Samardzjia in the Cubs rotation, but it still will be a rebuilding year at Wrigley this season. The Jackson signing surprised me, mostly because of the lack of a no trade clause. For a guy who has been moved as much as Jackson, one wouls think he would want the security. Anthony Rizzo is going to be a staple in that lineup for years to come, though they are still a few years away. Unfortunately, it probably will be another long year at Wrigley.
Prediction: 70-92, Fifth in NL Central

Final Results
1.) Reds 95-67 —
2) Cardinals 88-74 7.0 GB
3) Pirates 87-75 8.0 GB
4) Brewers 81-81 14.0 GB
5) Cubs 70-92 25.0 GB

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