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2014 MLB National League Central Division Preview

2014 MLB National League Central Division Preview

We’re just over two weeks away from Major League Baseball’s first game of the season and Top Bet is your home for all the previews and analysis you need to get suitably hyped before the first pitch. We’ve looked at which teams had the best offseason and what you can expect from the NL East division, today we move on to dig into the NL Central.

The National League Central Division sent three teams to the postseason last year, including the NL pennant-winning St. Louis Cardinals, as well as both wild card teams: the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds. Can these three teams repeat their dominance of the playoff picture? Could the return of the disgraced Ryan Braun and the addition of Matt Garza be enough for the Milwaukee Brewers to make some (see: any) noise in the division? And are the Cubs good enough to win more than 70 games, or bad enough to lose a hundred?

NL Central Division Preview

St. Louis Cardinals (+1,000)

2013 Season Record: 97-65

[sc:MLB240banner ]Two of the Cardinals’ postseason heroes have moved on – Carlos Beltran (free agency) and David Freese (traded to the Angels for Peter Bourjos) – but St. Louis nevertheless improved their outfield with defensive specialist Bourjos. The Cards also retained their prized pitching rotation that finished fourth in the league last season in ERA (3.38). Leading the way is 2013 NL Cy Young award runner-up Adam Wainwright, who’ll have Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly working behind him.

Pittsburgh Pirates (+2,500)

2013 Season Record: 94-68

Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates, MLB

Following a remarkable 2013 season that saw them make the postseason for the first time in 20 years, the Pirates could find it hard to attain that same success this season for a couple of reasons. They lost a top-of the-rotation arm in A.J. Burnett, as well as several of their best bats. After the departure of John Buck and Marlon Byrd, Andrew McCutchen (.317 BA) is the only player on the current roster who hit better than .300 last season.

Cincinnati Reds (+1,800)

2013 Season Record: 90-72

The Reds are now without Shin-Soo Choo, whose solid contribution at the top of the batting order will be sorely missed unless speedster Billy Hamilton can get on base enough to leverage his rocket-powered legs. Cincinnati was second in the majors last season with a .327 on-base percentage, and if Hamilton can help keep that number up Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, and Jay Bruce should be able to bring him home consistently. Bruce led the team in homers last season with 30, while Votto, who had an off year in 2013 with only 73 RBIs, could spark the team if he’s able to get back to his usual power numbers.

Milwaukee Brewers (+5,000)

2013 Season Record: 74-88

Ryan Braun , Milwaukee Brewers, MLB

Ryan Braun returns to the lineup, eager to provide much-needed production at the plate for the Brewers, who mildly surprised last season by scoring 640 runs, eighth in the league. Bound for improvement, too, is Milwaukee’s pitching staff, who add Matt Garza (10-6, 3.82 ERA in 2013) to a four-year, $50 million contract. With Garza, Kyle Lohse and Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers are projected to have among the best 1-2-3 rotations in the majors.

Chicago Cubs (+5,000)

2013 Season Record: 66-96

In his first season as the Cubs’ manager, Rick Renteria will inherit a team that has lost at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons. However, the 2014 season may not be as bad for the rebuilding Cubs, who added quality arms to their bullpen by signing Jose Veras and Wesley Wright. While they aren’t the longest shot to win the World Series at +5,000, the Cubs aren’t expected to challenge for much, with Top Bet’s linemakers setting their win total at 69 wins for the 2014 MLB regular season].

Who do you like to win the competitive NL Central? Put your money where your hunch is and bet on baseball with Top Bet, America’s best online sportsbook.

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Rex
Written by Rex

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