The Cards are Still Stacked: NL Central Preview

Conventional wisdom says that the Cardinals will miss Carlos Beltrán and won’t have enough firepower to repeat as NL West champs. CW is, as usual, wrong, though scoring runs might be a problem if Craig slumps, or if Holliday slides into his too familiar bad-year-after-a-good-year routine. Bourjos won’t replace Beltrán, though his defense will be better. Peralta will probably hit better in the NL and Matt Carpenter is poised to become a major star. The good news is that the Cards don’t need to score much with a staff headed by Wainwright, Wacha, Lynn, Garcia, and Kelly. There are more power arms in the high minors.

The Reds always look awesome on paper–Votto, Phillips, Bruce, Ludwick, and the speedy Hamilton–but they never quite live up to their hype when it matters. Latos is currently injured, and he’s down for any length of time, Bailey will need to be the ace that Cueto looks like he’ll never become. Chapman closes because he flopped a starter, which I still say he should be if he’s really going to help this team.

The Pirates were Cinderella last year, but will the carriage revert to a pumpkin this year? It could, though McCutchen is a stud and Sanchez, Alvarez, and Walker are very good. Then you have the “who knows?” inconsistency guys: Martin, Marte, and Tabata, the latter in a make-it-or-pack-it year. For the Pirates to continue to rise, the pitching has to be there. Cole should get even better, but how confident are we that Liriano will stay healthy, or that Rodriquez, Morton, or Volquez will live up to their promise? Nice bullpen, though, headed by Grilli and Melanchon. Young shortstop Jody Mercer is on the cusp.

The Brewers are hopeful. There is firepower with Braun, Lucroy, Ramirez, and Weeks. Lohse, Garza, and Gallardo are good. This, in a nutshell, is what I think of the Brewers: good, but not good enough.

The Cubs are the Cubs. Need I say more? One legitimate star, Castro, and lots of guys who might be serviceable–Rizzo, Scherholtz, Lake, Valbuena, Ruggiano–and some minor leaguers you’ll probably see before the year is out: Javier Baez (ss) and Kris Bryant (3B). The staff is Samardzija, the perpetually disappointing Edwin Jackson, and huh? The Cubs haven’t been to the World Series in 68 years. It will be a while before it has a prayer of happening again.


1. Cardinals: Too much pitching to lose the Central. Not enough hitting to win it all.
2. Reds: New manager (Bryan Price) and a team that gels or is disassembled. 2nd or 4th.
3. Pirates: Good vibes and big holes. could contend, could disappoint.  
4. Brewers: Can Braun hit without ‘roids? Are three pitchers enough? Don’t think so.
5. Cubs: Wrigley Field is a nice place to see a game when a major league team visits.

No comments: