The NL Central has always been of baseball’s most competitive divisions but this year, the Chicago Cubs will be the favorite for the first time in over a decade. Not only are they projected to win the division, they’re the current frontrunner to win it all.
1. Chicago Cubs (lost NLCS): The Cubs had a loaded team last year but their loss to the New York Mets in the NLCS inspired them to make some big acquisitions during the offseason. Not only did they pick up Jason Heyward from the division rival St. Louis Cardinals and Ben Zobrist from the Kansas City Royals, they managed to keep Dexter Fowler, who was reported as going to the Baltimore Orioles. The sophomore class of Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Addison Russell could absolutely inflict terror on their opponents. And we haven’t mentioned NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, who may have even a better performance in store this time around. All in all, this is baseball’s most complete team going into the season. This is their best chance in the last 108 years to win it all. Whether they get that monkey off their back or not is a different story.
2. St. Louis Cardinals (lost NLDS): As always, the Cardinals were in the thick of it last season and expect to be doing so again this season. Despite suffering some major injuries, they managed to win 100 games. Now, they did lose Heyward to the Cubs, but having the rest of the team healthy may do some wonders for this team. It’ll be tough for anyone in this division to compete with the Cubs, but the Cardinals are definitely a threat to do it.
3. Pittsburgh Pirates (lost Wild Card game): For a team as consistent as the Pirates over the past few years, it’s hard to remember that they were the bottom of the barrel for so long. Besides Starling Marte, Gerrit Cole, and Andrew McCutchen, there aren’t too many big names on the Pirates roster, but what they bring to the table this season is a youth-infused lineup. If their young core of talent has the kind of breakout season that the Cubs’s rookies had last year, then not only will the Pirates be a dark horse to win the division, they’ll be a dark horse to overcome their demons and advance further in the NL playoffs.
4. Cincinnati Reds: And now we get to the really disappointing part of the division. It’s remarkable that a team as bad as the Reds still has Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, and Joey Votto in their lineup. Two or three years ago, that team would be making a run at first place in the division. Now they’re trying to stay out of last.
5. Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers are making the kind of moves that will make them a very dangerous team in 3 to 5 years. But we don’t focus on the future here, only the present. And right now, the Brewers are as bad as it gets. It’s going to be a very long season for Milwaukee fans.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Matt Weingarten