N.L. Central Preview

06 Jul

By: Josh H. (jogan) – Colorado Rockies GM

Chicago Cubs

The addition of Carlos Pena provides needed pop in the middle of the lineup.  Geovany Soto and Kosuke  Fukudome get on base with consistency, while Pena, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, and Soto are power threats. Can Castro and Tyler Colvin build on successful rookie campaigns? Can Ramirez and Carlos Pena rebound from subpar seasons? The Cubs offense need positive answers to this question if they are going to be successful.

Matt Garza is a key addition. This rotation lacks an ace but Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, and Garza are all #2/#3 type guys. Andrew Cashner has a lot of potential in his first year as a starter in the majors. This group has the potential to be a solid, if unspectacular, rotation.

The Cubs have a solid bullpen, especially with Kerry Wood giving a hometown discount. Carlos Marmol has turned into one of the better closers in the game, while Wood and Sean Marshall are solid 7th and 8th inning guys. After that, the quality of arms takes a steep downturn.

The Cubs might have a shot at contending for the playoffs if they can get a few big years from veterans such as Soriano, Ramirez and, Pena, and an ace performance from Garza, Zambrano, or Dempster. But that means a lot of things going right, and the Cubs look headed towards a .500 season.

Cincinnati Reds

Joey Votto anchors the lineup and is one of the better young hitters in the game. Jay Bruce is a second young bat with a lot of power. Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen are the other key contributions.  To be successful, the Reds lineup will have to get solid contributions from their weaker hitters, including Paul Janish, Drew Stubbs, and Juan Francisco. The Reds have great defense all over the field.

There’s a lot of young talent here, with Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, and Homer Bailey, although Cueto and Bailey are injured for the first month of the season. Bronson Arroyo is a solid option on the back end of the rotation, and Mike Leake has potential to be very good and is only 23. They also lack an ace.

Aroldis Chapman and his 105 mph fastball bring a lot of excitement to the bullpen. Francisco Cordero is shaky at times at closer, but he also could be very good. Nick Masset and Bill Bray are solid bridges to the late inning.

The Reds should contend for the division title. Votto, Bruce, and Phillips provide a lot of punch in the middle of the lineup, and if Volquez, Cueto, and Bailey can fulfill their promise the team will be very good.

Houston Astros

The loss of Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee to the rebuilding effort is a big blow to the lineup. Kelly Johnson, recently acquired from the DBacks, is one of the better 2B in the game, and Michael Bourn will surely finish at or near the top of the league in SB. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the offense will be the continued development of 24 year old first basemen Brett Wallace, who projects to anchor the lineup for many years.

Brett Myers and Bud Norris are quality starters, but J.A. Happ, Nelson Figueroa, and Aneury Rodriguez leave something to be desired. Myers may not be around for long either, as he is on the trade block. The pitching staff will be a weakness for  the Astros this year.

Mark Melancon is a decent option at closer, although he doesn’t have the talent of some other big league closers. Brandon Lyon is a reliable 8th inning man and veteran presence on the team. Jeff Fulchino and Fernando Abad will help get to the 8th.

The Astros are in the middle of the rebuilding process, and don’t look like they’ll make much noise this season. The best case scenario is that their players overachieve while prospects like Wallace continue to develop.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers have a powerful lineup built around the Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder’s big bat and Rickie Weeks speed-power combo. Casey McGehee also boasts a solid bat and guys like Carlos Gomez and Craig Counsell provide outstanding defense at the demanding positions of CF and SS. This offense has a lot of power and youth and will be bringing excitement to Milwaukee for years to come.

Yovani Gallardo is a true ace with electric stuff, and Shaun Marcum is a valuable addition who will benefit from moving from the AL East to NL Central. The back end of the rotation is a weakness and will have to step up for the Brewers to win the division.

The Brewers have a powerful bullpen. John Axford closes, and Takashi Saito, the setup man, would close for many teams. Axford, Saito, and the next two guys, Zach Braddock and Mitch Stetter, all have 10 stuff ratings, so look for plenty of strikeouts from the Brewers relief.

The Brewers will score a lot of runs. They can win the division, but they will need the back of the rotation to deliver decent results. With Fielder possibly leaving after this season, it is important to win now.

Pittsburgh Pirates

There is a lot to look forward to here. Andrew McCutchen is turning into a prime leadoff hitter, and Pedro Alvarez has the tools to become one of the best sluggers in the game. Jose Tabata and Neil Walker project to become very good players as well. All four are 25 or younger. However, the Pirates are still a year away from having a strong offense. It’s not good when Ronny Cedeno and Lyle Overbay are in your starting lineup.

There is very little talent in the rotation. Charlie Morton and Kevin Correia are the aces. Not much else to say. The rotation could be an achille’s heel this year.

The bullpen is solid and veteran without being old. Joel Hanrahan has great stuff at the closer spot, and Chris Resop and Jose Veras are strong 7th and 8th inning guys. But can the rotation carry leads into the late innings?

The Pirates have a lot of promise, but they are still a year or two away. Players like McCutchen, Alvarez, and Tabata will offer a glimpse towards an exciting future. If the rotation cannot step up, it could be a very long season for the Pirates.

St. Louis Cardinals

Any offense with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday has to be pretty good. Lance Berkman and Colby Rasmus can hit a little bit too. Yadier Molina is a great defensive catcher as well. The rest of the offense (David Freese, Ryan Theriot, Tyler Greene) is fairly light hitting, but the middle of the lineup will be enough to score a lot of runs for the Cards.

Chris Carpenter is not the same pitcher he used to be, but still a great guy to have as your ace. Kyle McClellan are two rising stars, and Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse are two veteran workhorses at the back end. If McClellan and Jaime Garcia can build on their success, and Chris Carpenter’s arm doesn’t fall off, this could be a great rotation.

Late innings will be a roller coaster for Cardinals fans. Jason Motte is not reassuring in the closer job, the setup man position will be filled by Ryan Franklin and Trever Miller–37 and 38 year olds without much talent. The bullpen is a big weakness for the Cardinals, but Pujols and Holliday could drive in enough runs to make up for it.

The Cardinals have a potent offense and a talented pitching rotation. They will have to overcome a weak bullpen, however, In the end, the offense and pitching should give them enough wins to be a very good team.


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Posted by on July 6, 2011 in Astros, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Pirates, Reds


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