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NL Central Preview

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Last week, George broke down how he felt the AL Central would shake out, and predicted another big year for the stupid Royals. Well a team with even more hype coming into 2016 is the Chicago Cubs. They burst onto the scene last year, and blitzed there way to 97 wins. It wasn’t enough to catch the Cardinals, but the Cubs and Jake Arrieta were able to shut down the Pirates in the wild card game. That eventually led to an appearance in the NLCS, where the Mets swept the shit out of them (ha!). Anyway, the point is the Cubbies are the early World Series favorites, but that doesn’t mean the Cards or Pirates are just going to roll over and give them the division. These three teams are going to fight tooth and nail all summer long to prove who is best. With that, let’s move on the predictions:

1. Cubs

Chicago had a great offense last year, so maybe they thought they would stand pat and let the youngsters carry them into 2016? Apparently they thought about it and said or nah instead. The Cubbies went out and signed Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and resigned Dexter Fowler this offseason, giving them on of the deepest and most balanced lineups I’ve ever seen. In addition to those 3 guys, they have sluggers Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber anchoring the middle of the lineup. All 6 of those players should be able to post OBPs around .350 or higher, giving them both patience and power. However, with all that patience and power comes some strikeouts, but mainly from Bryant and Schwarber. The Cubs weren’t done there though, and Chicago went out and signed vet John Lackey to help Arrieta and Jon Lester in the rotation. This team is a top to bottom juggernaut, but they still have one major weakness: Mets pitching ;).

Projected Lineup

Player POS AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG OPS BB K
1 Dexter Fowler OF 425 65 12 51 14 0.264 0.360 0.405 0.765 62 107
2 Jason Heyward OF 520 76 13 63 19 0.281 0.353 0.421 0.774 56 88
3 Anthony Rizzo 1B 548 97 29 87 12 0.272 0.367 0.495 0.862 73 107
4 Kris Bryant 3B 552 94 30 100 13 0.270 0.358 0.495 0.853 71 204
5 Kyle Schwarber OF 467 71 25 74 4 0.257 0.346 0.469 0.815 62 157
6 Ben Zobrist 2B 405 59 10 50 5 0.277 0.360 0.425 0.785 52 55
7 Miguel Montero C 350 47 12 42 1 0.243 0.331 0.380 0.711 44 90
8 Addison Russell SS 518 64 15 60 5 0.245 0.302 0.388 0.690 40 152
Projected Rotation

Player POS IP W L ERA WHIP K BB SwStrike Fastball
1 Jake Arrieta SP 192 14 7 2.67 1.01 195 49 11.1% 94.6 mph
2 Jon Lester SP 203 13 9 3.33 1.17 199 50 10.4% 92.0 mph
3 John Lackey SP 195 11 11 3.69 1.23 159 47 9.4% 91.6 mph
4 Kyle Hendricks SP 168 10 8 3.75 1.18 143 39 8.1% 88.3 mph
5 Jason Hammel SP 171 9 9 3.74 1.19 161 44 10.9% 92.3 mph
2. Cardinals

The Cards are coming off a 100 win season, but they went about it in an odd way. They lost Adan Wainwright and Matt Holiday for basically the whole season, but also received breakout performances from Carlos Martinez, Stephen Piscotty, and Randall Grichuk. Also, the Cards were able to put together a team era of 2.94, which is pretty incredible. However, they shouldn’t be able to repeat that kind of number again, considering their FIP was 3.47, meaning they performed about half a run better then they should have. Also, the 2016 rotation will be without Lackey (Cubs) and Lance Lynn (TJ surgery). They will need a full season from Michael Wacha, and also an improved version of Mike Leake. All in all, the Cards should still be an 85+ win team, but they won’t come close to 100 wins again.

Projected Lineup

Player POS AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG OPS BB K
1 Matt Carpenter 3B 585 92 19 79 5 0.275 0.368 0.448 0.816 83 131
2 Stephen Piscotty OF 400 56 11 50 4 0.260 0.330 0.418 0.748 41 94
3 Matt Holliday OF 402 64 13 53 3 0.276 0.373 0.443 0.816 58 75
4 Randal Grichuk OF 459 65 22 70 6 0.255 0.301 0.471 0.772 28 146
5 Jhonny Peralta SS 558 74 18 70 2 0.271 0.333 0.421 0.754 50 111
6 Brandon Moss 1B 480 69 24 68 1 0.238 0.319 0.440 0.759 54 150
7 Kolten Wong 2B 489 63 12 55 17 0.264 0.314 0.387 0.701 30 85
8 Yadier Molina C 386 45 6 41 2 0.269 0.316 0.376 0.692 25 47
Projected Rotation

Player POS IP W L ERA WHIP K BB SwStrike Fastball
1 Adam Wainwright SP 135 10 5 3.20 1.17 110 28 7.8% 89.6 mph
2 Michael Wacha SP 184 11 9 3.57 1.22 158 56 9.5% 94.2 mph
3 Jaime Garcia SP 118 8 5 3.20 1.14 90 27 9.2% 90.2 mph
4 Carlos Martinez SP 148 10 9 3.34 1.30 148 52 10.5% 95.3 mph
5 Mike Leake SP 195 10 12 3.92 1.23 133 48 6.3% 90.9 mph
6 Marco Gonzales SP 100 4 8 4.23 1.39 83 35 3.0% 89.4 mp
3. Pirates

Every single season I look at the Pirates, and ask myself how the fuck they win 90 plus games. Not that they are bad by any means, but outside of Andrew McCutchen they don’t have another hitter than scares opposing fan bases. Also, their pitching seems to overachieve year in and year out. The reason for that though is a smart front office and manager that puts the team in the best position to win. The Pirates shift more than just about any team, and they have a wizard of a pitching coach who gets the most out of his staff every season. The difference this year is that Pittsburgh has a legit ace in Gerrit Cole. Cole was an all star last season, and should continue to get better considering he is only 25 years old. They also have stud prospect Tyler Glasnow ready to step up after the Super 2 deadline passes. The one area that Pitt could really surprise people is on offense. They might have the most athletic outfield in the majors, with Cutch, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco. If the two youngsters finally take the next step, this could be a special group of players. I’m sure Cutch will do everything to lead his troops to victory, just like he has done before.

Projected Lineup

Player POS AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG OPS BB K
1 Gregory Polanco OF 565 75 10 60 27 0.255 0.319 0.366 0.685 53 117
2 Josh Harrison 3B 408 52 6 46 11 0.289 0.326 0.416 0.742 18 66
3 Andrew McCutchen OF 565 96 24 86 16 0.301 0.402 0.501 0.903 92 122
4 Starling Marte OF 558 83 16 72 32 0.287 0.331 0.434 0.765 28 132
5 Michael Morse 1B 305 39 10 37 0 0.252 0.316 0.403 0.719 25 97
6 Jung-ho Kang 2B 417 61 14 57 5 0.273 0.332 0.434 0.766 28 98
7 Francisco Cervelli C 385 51 6 42 1 0.296 0.367 0.392 0.759 40 82
8 Jordy Mercer SS 285 32 5 28 2 0.256 0.305 0.365 0.670 19 51
Projected Rotation

Player POS IP W L ERA WHIP K BB SwStrike Fastball
1 Gerrit Cole SP 202 14 8 2.90 1.13 196 47 10.2% 95.6 mph
2 Francisco Liriano SP 168 11 8 3.21 1.24 182 70 14.3% 92.5 mph
3 Jon Niese SP 175 9 11 3.86 1.36 120 52 5.8% 89.1 mph
4 Jeff Locke SP 170 9 10 4.34 1.40 127 64 9.0% 91.3 mph
5 Ryan Vogelsong SP 140 6 10 4.56 1.41 109 55 6.3% 91.1 mph
6 Tyler Glasnow SP 125 6 8 3.67 1.36 120 60
4. Reds

Let’s be honest here, the Reds and Brewers are going to be just shit the bed awful. The only question is who will be worse. I’m giving the Reds the advantage in the win department for one reason, starting pitching potential. They don’t have a bona fide ace joining the staff from the minors like Pittsburgh, but they have a ton of young pitching options. They should go with the throw shit at the wall til something sticks approach with John Lamb, Micheal Lorenzen, Brandon Finnegan, and Robert Stephenson, and see which youngsters have what it takes. Current rotation member Raisel Iglesias showed top of the rotation potential, and Anthony DeScalfani could be a solid mid rotation guy as well. The lineup will be mostly atrocious, but keep an eye on Devin Mesoraco, Jay Bruce and eventually Jesse Winker.

Projected Lineup

Player POS AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG OPS BB K
1 Zack Cozart SS 365 42 9 40 4 0.244 0.288 0.375 0.663 20 57
2 Joey Votto 1B 520 106 25 84 6 0.304 0.445 0.508 0.953 132 126
3 Brandon Phillips 2B 477 58 10 53 13 0.279 0.316 0.386 0.702 24 64
4 Devin Mesoraco C 300 43 14 41 2 0.247 0.322 0.440 0.762 30 73
5 Jay Bruce OF 535 74 24 73 9 0.232 0.301 0.430 0.731 52 143
6 Eugenio Suarez 3B 489 61 14 58 6 0.252 0.307 0.393 0.700 36 124
7 Scott Schebler OF 325 40 11 37 7 0.212 0.275 0.354 0.629 23 90
8 Billy Hamilton OF 425 54 4 36 52 0.235 0.284 0.306 0.590 28 81
Projected Rotation

Player POS IP W L ERA WHIP K BB SwStrike Fastball
1 Anthony DeSclafani SP 195 11 11 3.88 1.31 157 58 9.5% 92.5 mph
2 Raisel Iglesias SP 175 11 9 3.50 1.18 179 52 11.7% 91.7 mph
3 Michael Lorenzen SP 150 5 12 4.74 1.49 104 74 8.6% 94.0 mph
4 Brandon Finnegan SP 120 4 10 3.38 1.19 111 45 9.7% 92.7 mph
5 John Lamb SP 75 2 6 5.04 1.56 73 34 10.6% 91.1 mph
6 Homer Bailey SP 75 4 5 3.84 1.24 63 22 7.0% 91.1 mph
5. Brewers

The Brew Crew are in full rebuild mode, and if they can get any value for any player, I don’t think will hesitate to pull the trigger. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Jonathon Lucroy is on a contending team by the all star break. However, they do have some good young talent in both their lineup and pitching. Domingo Santana, Taylor Jungmann, and Jimmy Nelson are all talented guys who will start opening day for the Brewers. They also have stud SS prospect Orlando Arcia waiting to take over asap. This team really won’t be good to 2018 or later though.

Projected Lineup

Player POS AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG OPS BB K
1 Scooter Gennett 2B 448 53 9 52 2 0.279 0.307 0.408 0.715 17 75
2 Jonathan Lucroy C 411 57 9 50 3 0.277 0.346 0.416 0.762 42 57
3 Ryan Braun OF 502 81 23 77 19 0.283 0.349 0.484 0.833 49 113
4 Chris Carter 1B 485 75 32 76 3 0.214 0.312 0.456 0.768 65 185
5 Aaron Hill 3B 355 43 8 40 5 0.245 0.305 0.372 0.677 29 62
6 Domingo Santana OF 529 76 20 69 6 0.251 0.332 0.418 0.750 61 203
7 Jonathan Villar SS 360 46 6 34 29 0.231 0.294 0.328 0.622 31 115
8 Shane Peterson OF 285 34 5 29 2 0.260 0.323 0.368 0.691 26 81
Projected Rotation

Player POS IP W L ERA WHIP K BB SwStrike Fastball
1 Matt Garza SP 160 6 11 4.50 1.40 120 55 7.8% 92.7 mph
2 Wily Peralta SP 169 7 12 4.21 1.42 113 57 6.8% 94.3 mph
3 Jimmy Nelson SP 190 10 10 3.74 1.25 162 66 10.0% 93.5 mph
4 Taylor Jungmann SP 175 9 11 4.17 1.35 154 70 8.4% 92.0 mph
5 Zach Davies SP 81 3 6 4.89 1.48 64 33 10.0% 88.8 mph
6 Chase Anderson SP 91 5 5 4.05 1.29 71 25 8.0% 91.5 mph


Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Sean

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