Previewing the new look NL Central Kyle Dallman February 15, 2012 Cardinals 3 Comments With spring training just around the corner I think it is time to begin looking ahead towards the future. The NL Central is often criticized for being one of the worst divisions in baseball however last year two of the six NL Central teams made it into the post season and both of them squared off in the NLCS and the Cardinals went all the way to win their eleventh World Championship. Most of the teams in the NL Central look drastically different than they did on opening day 2011 and even at the end of the 2011 season, with the loss of superstar players, and the additions of new personnel and talented players the NL Central will be a different division than it was last year. Here is a brief synopsis previewing the division team by team in order of their finish in 2011. Milwaukee Brewers: Can this former Cub fill in Princes shoes? Unlikely... Photo courtesy of MLB.com Additions: 3B Aramis Ramirez SS Alex Gonzalez OF Norichika Aoki RHP Jose Veras Subtractions: 1B Prince Fielder (DET) RHP Takashi Saito (ARZ) 3B Casey McGehee (PIT) UTL Yuniesky Betancourt (KCR) UTL Craig Counsell (Retired) The Brewers may be one of the newest look teams in all of baseball after losing their star franchise icon Prince Fielder to the Detroit Tigers in free agency. Also, the Brewers will most likely be without star player Ryan Braun for at least 50 games after he tested positive for PED’s after his NL MVP season last year was concluded. The Brewers did make a nice addition signing Aramis Ramirez to a three year deal which will some what supplement for the loss of Prince Fielder, but he is in his decline and has struggled to stay healthy in recent years. The Brewers also added Japanese hitter Norichicka Aoki as well as adding veteran short stop Alex Gonzalez and set up man Jose Veras. The Brewers will still be a decent team without Fielder and Braun for atleast 50 games, but I don’t know how good they will be, but I don’t see them as a first or second place team this upcoming season. But they still have star players in Ramirez, Rickie Weeks, Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, and Corey Hart so they will still be competitive, but don’t expect them to repeat their success of last season. St. Louis Cardinals: Carlos Beltran joins the Cardinals in hopes of filling the void that Albert Pujols left in the Cardinals offense. The question is can Beltran stay healthy all season long? (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Additions: OF Carlos Beltran Manager Mike Matheny LHP J.C. Romero UTL Alex Cora RHP Scott Linebrink Subtractions: 1B Albert Pujols (LAA) Manager Tony La Russa Pitching Coach Dave Duncan RHP Edwin Jackson (WSH) 2B/SS Ryan Theriot (SFG) 2B/SS Nick Punto (BOS) RHP Octavio Dotel (DET) C Gerald Laird (DET) The Cardinals are the most changed team in the MLB in my opinion, they lost three franchise icons in Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa, and Dave Duncan. They added a refreshing look in management with the hiring of former catcher Mike Matheny as well as some valuable signings like that of Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal. The defending world champions look even stronger than the team that was on the field in 2011, they have a respectable short stop, a bullpen that is strong and reliable, and the return of Adam Wainwright to the rotation after he missed the entire 2011 season when he had to undergo Tommy John Surgery in the beginning of spring training. Also let’s not forget the Cardinals have many talented players returning like Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Jaime Garcia, David Freese, and Allen Craig. Craig is a bit of a question mark though as he is recovering from knee surgery and his return is unknown however he states he will be available on opening day, something I just cannot envision happening. Along with Craig health is the biggest concern with the Cardinals next season: Will Beltran, Freese, Craig, Lohse, Carpenter, Wainwright, Berkman, Furcal, and Holliday stay healthy? All of them have dealt with injuries in the past few seasons Craig and Freese have yet to play 100 games in a season, while Furcal and Beltran have really missed significant time the past few seasons. If the Cardinals can stay healthy and the players can play up to their potential I think the Cardinals will run away with the NL Central and repeat as World Champions. Cincinnati Reds: The Reds enter a "Win now" philiosphy with their two biggest stars entering the final years in their contracts. Photo credit Joe Robbins/Getty Images. Additions: RHP Mat Latos LHP Jeff Francis LHP Sean Marshall RHP Ryan Madson OF Ryan Ludwick Subtractions: RHP Edinson Volquez LHP Travis Wood 1B Yonder Alonso SS Edgar Renteria C Ramon Hernandez Expect a repeat of 2010, the Reds and Cardinals rivalry will once again be intensified. The Reds are in a win now mode, GM Walt Jocketty traded several top prospects in order to get players who can help them win now while they still have star players Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips under contract. They added some talented players in Mat Latos, Ryan Madson, and Sean Marshall as well as signing another former Cardinal Ryan Ludwick to help solidify their young outfield. The Reds have a talented ball club, they have stars in Joey Votto and yes Brandon Phillips,talented players that could soon be superstars like Jay Bruce and Chris Heisey, veteran leaders like Scott Rolen, and a good young rotation in Latos, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Jeff Francis, and Bronson Arroyo, also guys like Homer Bailey will be competing for a spot in the rotation. The Reds are a very talented club yes, but they are a dirty team and one of the Cardinals biggest rivals, and I am kind of excited to re-kindle the flame of this new rivalry in 2012, expect the Reds to finish second but maybe winning a wild card spot. Pittsburgh Pirates: Additions: LHP Erik Bedard OF Nate McClouth 1BCasey McGehee RHP Juan Cruz SS Clint Barmes Subtractions: RHP Jose Veras LHP Paul Maholm The Pirates showed glimpses of brilliance in 2011 but yet still had a losing season in the end. They are still a few seasons away from really having a shot in the NL Central but I wouldn’t count them out completely as I said they shocked the world by having a spot at first for a while in the NL Central last season before an awful second half. They have budding superstars in Andrew McCutchen, Joel Hanrahan, and Neil Walker they also have talented players in Garret Jones, Jose Tabata, Casey McGehee on their roster for 2012. Their biggest issue is their rotation and until top prospect Gerrit Cole can reach the majors I don’t see their rotation having much success even with the addition of Erik Bedard. Expect the Pirates to finish fourth or fifth in the division but don’t count them out completely like in previous seasons. Chicago Cubs: Theo Epstein hopes to revive the long struggled Chicago Cubs franchise, well good luck. Photo By Tommy Giglio, US PRESSWIRE Additions: President Theo Epstein GM Jed Hoyer Manager Dale Sveum 1B Anthony Rizzo LHP Travis Wood LHP Paul Maholm RHP Andy Sonnanstine INF Adrian Cardenas 3B Ian Stewart RHP Chris Volstad OF David DeJesus Subtractions: Manager Mike Quade GM Jim Hendry 1B Carlos Pena LHP Sean Marshall RHP Carlos Zambrano RHP Andrew Cashner OF Tyler Colvin The Cubs are in the middle of a serious re-build process and one that could make them a very successful team in the future. With the hiring of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer they immediately upped the ante in the baseball world and they showed that they are serious about trying to get out of their century old rut. They got rid of one of the biggest headcases in franchise history Carlos Zambrano who they traded for young right hander Chris Volstad to the Miami Marlins. They also added some talented players in Travis Wood, David DeJesus, Paul Maholm, and Anthony Rizzo in their busy off-season. They probably won’t be competing for the NL Central this season or even in 2013 but be prepared for the Cubs to become a dominant team in the future, but don’t worry they will still be choking in September. But you can’t help but be a little scared when they have a budding superstar in 21 year old short stop Starlin Castro who became the youngest player to have 200 hits in a season last year at the age of 20, and other talented young players like Anthony Rizzo on their way to the bigs. Houston Astros: Additions: GM Jeff Lunhow SS Jed Lowrie C Chris Snyder Subtractions: RHP Mark Melancon (BOS) SS Clint Barmes (PIT) Last season the Astros were really really bad, but on opening day they still had great players like Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, but they traded them both away for some prospect near the trade deadline last summer. This season the Astros will be even worse which is hard to imagine for a team that lost 106 games just a year ago, but it is hard to imagine them getting much better. They have shipped off all of their franchise icons in the past two seasons: Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Michael Bourn,and Hunter Pence. They are now left with Wandy Rodriguez and Carlos Lee who they are trying desperately to trade away. The Astros are also entering their final season in the National League before they switch to the AL West in 2013 to finally have every division have five teams, so they have no sense of urgency. The Astros are about five , maybe six years away from competing and that is just the honest truth. They are the worst team in all of baseball and don’t expect any more of this. One more thing I wanted to do with this is have some fun by ranking the teams in the NL Central from position by position, so here it is: Starting Rotation: 1. St. Louis Cardinals- Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook 2. Milwaukee Brewers- Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson 3. Cincinatti Reds- Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman 4. Chicago Cubs- Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Travis Wood, Paul Maholom, Chris Volstad 5. Pittsburgh Pirates- John McDonald, Erik Bedard, Kevin Correia, Brad Lincoln, Jeff Karstens 6. Houston Astros- Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Bud Norris, J.A. Haap, Bullpen: 1. Cincinatti Reds- Sean Marshall, Nick Masset, Bill Bray, Jose Arredondo, Homer Bailey, Ryan Madson 2. Milwaukee Brewers- Jose Veras, Francisco Rodriguez, Manny Para, Kameron Loe, John Axford, 3. St. Louis Cardinals- Eduardo Sanchez, Lance Lynn, Kyle McClellan, Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, J.C. Romero,Jason Motte 4. Pittsburgh Pirates- Evan Meek, Jason Grilli, Jeff Locke, Daniel Moskos, Joel Hanrahan 5. Chicago Cubs- Jeff Samardzja, John Gaub, Casey Weathers, Kerry Wood,Carlos Marmol 6. Houston Astros- Wesley Wright, David Carpenter, Brandon Lyon, Jordan Lyles, Fernando Rodriguez Catcher: 1. St. Louis Cardinals- Yadier Molina 2. Cincinnati Reds- Ryan Hannigan 3. Chicago Cubs- Geovanni Soto 4. Milwaukee Brewers- Jonathan Lucroy 5. Pittsburgh Pirates- Rod Barajas 6. Houston Astros- Chris Snyder First Baseman: 1. Cincinatti Reds- Joey Votto 2. St. Louis Cardinals- Lance Berkman 3. Houston Astros- Carlos Lee 4. Pittsburgh Pirates- Casey McGehee 5. Chicago Cubs- Bryan LaHair 6. Milwaukee Brewers- Matt Gamel Second Baseman: 1. Cincinatti Reds- Brandon Phillips 2. Milwaukee Brewers- Rickie Weeks 3. Pittsburgh Pirates- Neil Walker 4. Chicago Cubs- Darwin Barney 5. St. Louis Cardinals- Daniel Descalso/Tyler Greene 6. Houston Astros- Jose Altuve Short Stop: 1. Chicago Cubs- Starlin Castro 2. St. Louis Cardinals- Rafael Furcal 3. Milwaukee Brewers- Alex Gonzalez 4. Pittsburgh Pirates- Clint Barmes 5. Houston Astros- Jed Lowrie 6. Cincinnati Reds- Zack Cozart Third Baseman: 1. Milwakuee Brewers- Aramis Ramriez 2. St. Louis Cardinals- David Freese 3. Cincinatti Reds- Scott Rolen 4. Pittsburgh Pirates- Pedro Alvarez 5. Houston Astros- Brett Wallace 6. Chicago Cubs- Ian Stewart Left Field: 1. Milwaukee Brewers- Ryan Braun 2. St. Louis Cardinals- Matt Holliday 3. Chicago Cubs- Alfonso Soriano 4. Cincinatti Reds- Chris Heisey 5. Pittsburgh Purates- Jose Tabata 6. Houston Astros- Jack Cust Center Field: 1. Pittsburgh Pirates- Andrew McCutchen 2. St. Louis Cardinals- Jon Jay/Carlos Beltran 3. Cincinatti Reds- Drew Stubbs 4. Chicago Cubs- Marlon Byrd 5. Milwaukee Brewers- Nyjer Morgan 6. Houston Astros- Jason Bourgeois Right Field: 1. Milwaukee Brewers- Corey Hart 2. St. Louis Cardinals- Allen Craig/ Carlos Beltran 3. Cincinnati Reds- Jay Bruce 4. Pittsburgh Pirates- Garret Jones 5. Chicago Cubs- David DeJesus 6. Houston Astros- Brian Bogusevic So Taguchi Decent article. The Brewers will do much better than you think. Their starting rotation is very dangerous and stacked. I’m a huge cards fan but Altuve is a better second baseman than the cards second base platoon. Also Zack Cozart is much better than Lowrie and Barmes considering Lowries injury history. The fact that you are that high on an old injury prone Furcal is unbelievable, Gonzalez is much better than him. Lastly, the Cards right field platoon of Beltran/Craig is more productive than Hart i’d tak cards right field any day. http://www.stlcardinalbaseball.com Kyle Dallman Well I appreciate your opinion but this is my opinion and what I think not what is right and wrong. So Taguchi Suck my tiny asian penis.