CANTON, Ohio- Welcome back everyone! The 2017 MLB season is right around the corner. This Sunday, the regular season kicks off. I started my MLB predictions 3 weeks with my prediction of the N.L. West. Now, it’s time to move on. The N.L. Central division.
The Cincinnati Reds. With a combination of the division that the Reds find themselves in and the lack of talent, I would be extremely shocked if Cincinnati didn’t finish in last place. I like Joey Votto at first base and Adam Duvall in Left field, but that’s about it for me as it pertains to the 2017 Cincinnati Reds. From a pitching standpoint, Scott Feldman is the only bright spot I see in their rotation. Last year, the Reds finished with 68 wins. In 2017 I think they’ll finish with 64 wins.
The Milwaukee Brewers. Ryan Braun is clearly the star of this team. Braun’s batting average was .305, 30 HR’s and 91 RBI’s. If Milwaukee does end up having a miserable season like I think they will, I would expect Braun to be traded away by the July 31st trade deadline. I think second basemen Jonathan Villar has good potential. In 2016, the Brew crew finished with 73 wins. I think if Braun is traded, they might finish lower than the Reds, but for right now, I’ll call for Milwaukee to finish 2017 with 68 wins.
The Pittsburgh Pirates. I was shocked that Pittsburgh finished with 78 wins in 2016. The Pirates have talent on this team. One problem with the Pirates in 2016, was that their core player, Andrew McCutchen had a down year. He had such a bad year, that the Pirates even considered trading him. Now for 2017, I think Andrew will have a better 2017, plus, he’s a good defensive outfielder. Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco help fill out a good outfield for the Pirates. If Pittsburgh can get the most out of their core players and the “role players” can be good, I wouldn’t be shocked if Pittsburgh challenges for a Wild Card spot. The Pirates ended the 2016 season with 78 wins. I’m actually going to increase that win total to 85.
The St. Louis Cardinals. They have the talent when it comes to positional players and starting pitching, but I don’t think they can dethrone the Chicago Cubs. I liked the signing of Dexter Fowler and Yadier Molina is still a good catcher. I’m just don’t think they have the hitting to win the Central and honestly, if I were involved with St. Louis, I’d be more worried about the Pirates catching up with the Cardinals than winning the division and taking down the Cubs. In 2016, St. Louis finished with 86 wins. This is very tough to predict a win total for St. Louis, but I’ll give the Cardinals 88 wins.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL CHAMPIONS-
The Chicago Cubs. This Cubs team is loaded with talent. And to add to that, they have young talent. Theo Epstein has done a fabulous job of building this roster. They signed former Royals closer Wade Davis as their new closer. I have no doubts that the Cubs will win the Central. Last year, Chicago finished with 103 wins (The most in MLB). I’m actually going to have the Cubs winning 105 games in 2017.
The N.L. Central could very well be the toughest division in the National league. A lot will depend on if the Cardinals can remain the Cardinals, if Pittsburgh can get back to their winning ways of a few seasons ago, but, Can the Brewers or Reds be one of baseball’s surprise teams? I really don’t think so. But, if either of those two can be better than expected, the N.L. Central will be a good division to keep an eye on.
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Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Nick Broulis