Saturday, April 2, 2016

2016 Predictions - NL Central

     We are so close to the start of the 2016 season I can almost taste it! Now that we have established who our NL East winner is, Washington, it's time to dive into the Central Division. In 2015, we saw three teens represent the National League in the post season, Pittsburgh, Chicago and St. Louis. Will Pittsburgh continue their one and done appearance streak in the post season of 2016, as they have two out of the last three seasons? What will happen to the injury plagued Cardinals? Is it the Cubs year, finally? Let's get going.

5. Cincinnati Reds

     As I wrote about the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves, it appears as though Cincinnati has followed suit and done everything to completely overhaul their roster. It began last season by shipping off Johnny Cueto to Kansas City, Mike Leake to San Fransisco, and continued through this past winter when they sent Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox in a three team deal. The Reds even attempted to trade both Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce during the off-season, but were unsuccessful for various reasons. Cincinnati could not get a deal done for their second baseman, and, medicals got in the way of the Jay Bruce deal getting completed. The boys from the Queen City will have a very tough time competing this year with what little starting pitching they have. One of their few bright spots in the rotation is Brandon Finnigan, the main piece in the return package from Kansas City for Johnny Cueto. The bullpen is in rebuild mode as well. Even though they still have the likes of Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips in their batting order, it's hard to see them placing any higher then last in their division.

4. Mill walkie Brewers

    Similar to Cincinnati. The Brew Crew also did some major retooling of their own, beginning with the firing of their manager and hiring former Brewers star Craig Counsell to take over the reins. At the deadline last year, they began their  rebuilding process by sending Gerrardo Parra to Baltimore and Carlos Gomez and Mike Feirs to Houston. They've continued through this off-season by moving Adam Lind to Seattle, Francisco Rodriguez to Detroit and Jean Segura to Arizona. By moving the shortstop to the desert, Milwaukee has afforded the opportunity for one of their star prospects, Orlando Arcia, to make the team this spring training. Sending KRod to Motown has opened up the seemingly perennial question mark in the bullpen. Having Wily Peralta, Matt Garza, Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson in the rotation will help, but, not enough to help this team compete for anything higher than fourth place.

3. St. Louis Cardinals

     It must have been an extremely difficult off-season for any fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, and even more so difficult for the organization itself. To start off, the team announced that one of their most effective starting pitchers, Lance Lynn, will miss the entire 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery. Based on this knowledge, the Cardinals attempted to get in on the David Price sweepstakes, but lost out to Boston. To make matters worse, they saw their division rivals, the Cubs, acquire both former Cardinals John Lackey and Jayson Heyward. They even moved one of their better outfielders, Jon Jay, to San Diego in attempts to improve their infield depth. One year after the tragic loss of their star prospect, Oscar Tavarez, the Red Birds find themselves lacking in outfield depth yet again. They did sign Mike Leake to aid in the starting pitching department. Randall Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty are two players that saw a lot of time in the big leagues last year with all of the Cardinals injuries. And, that experience could help them to become solid Major League contributors this year, as they showed last season. Despite the fact that this team has been in contention perennially, I don't believe they have the make-up to get it done this year.

2. Chicago Cubs

     This is one of the few National League teams that is built like an American League team, based on the slew of sluggers they have in their lineup and on their bench. As previously mentioned, they stole two major pieces from the rival Cardinals to help bolster their rotation and lineup in Lackey and Heyward.  By signing the Jay-Hey Kid and re-signing Dexter Fowler to go along with the young studs Kyle Shwarber and Jorge Soler, the North-Siders have created somewhat of a logjam in their outfield. The cubbies signed one of Joe Maddon's all-time favorite players, Ben Zobrist, who could contribute in either the outfield or the infield. If he does, in fact, play second base, the Cubs will have one of the best infields in all of baseball. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are superstars,  and Addison Russell is one of the better shortstops in all of baseball, already and his second season. The acquisition of Zobrist allowed Chicago to send Castro to the Bronx for Adam Warren, who will be of service for either their rotation or their bullpen.  The Cubs addition of Lackey to a rotation that already includes last year's Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arieta, and Jon Lester will add some much welcomed depth to their rotation. They have one of the best lineups in baseball and a pretty good rotation, but, I believe their bullpen will be there Achilles' Heel in the 2016 season.

1. Pittsburg Pirates

    This is one of the best all-around teams in the entire National League. Whenever your lineup revolves around a superstar like Andrew McCutchen, good things are bound to happen.  Unlike the Angels, the Pirates have built successfully around there centerfielder. The other two outfielders, Starlin Marte and Gregory Polanco, are both five tool player is capable of changing the outcome of the game. They traded Neil Walker to Queens for big John Neise,  which will allow Pittsburgh to utilize the services of Josh Harrison to play multiple positions, which is where he thrives the most. The Bucos  found a gym when they signed Jung Ho Kang last season to play shortstop, and, despite his season-ending injury, he looks to be the real deal. They chose not to re-sign Pedro Alvarez, but instead, signed John Jaso and Mike Morse to facilitate the role of first base.  Their ace, Garit Cole, is one of the top 10 starters in the National League and Fransisco Leriano is about as good a number two as there is. Mark Melancon, former Yankee, had a breakout year in 2015 last season and looks to continue his dominance of the closer role this season. An excellent lineup, a good rotation and an even better bullpen is the perfect formula for a championship-caliber team.

2 comments:

  1. *4. Milwaukee Brewers... Damn voice-to-text

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    1. What the heck Benny half the time we type fast and mess up a word here and there. Except me, I type a line every hour...I think that is slow right? LOL
      Good job on the 2016 Predictions.

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