The Chicago Cubs own the National League Central, and they’ll likely do so again this season. Hence, expect most of the action in the battle for second place between the always-competitive St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates, who should be very eager to redeem themselves from last year’s disappointments. Read on below for a quick preview of the NL Central division.
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2017 MLB National League Central Preview
Favorite: Chicago Cubs (-700)
Let’s be honest, no one can prevent the Chicago Cubs from ruling over the National League Central again. The current roster, which waved goodbye to Dexter Fowler in the offseason, still looks bound for another World Series trip this upcoming season.
Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44 ERA in 2016) and Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA) headline a deep starting rotation. Then there’s Kris Bryant, the reigning NL MVP; Anthony Rizzo; Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber, who missed nearly all of last season due to injury, keeping the Cubbies offense and defense as lethal as it was a year ago when Chicago ranked third overall in runs per game (4.9) and first in runs allowed (3.42), per teamrankings.com.
The only thing that could prevent the Cubs from inevitable success this season is injuries.
St. Louis, which some regard as the Spurs of baseball, missed the postseason last year, ending a five-year playoff streak. But we could see them return this season with a healthier and younger lineup that now boasts the aforementioned Fowler and a much-improved defense.
The pitching rotation, however, remains a question mark. And, of course, the departure of Matt Holliday to the Yankees was a big loss, particularly his leadership and experience.
On the other side, the Pirates also hope to get back to the postseason after failing to make it for the first time in three years. Their chances of accomplishing that are mostly pinned on the play of five-time All-Star Andrew McCutchen. He carried a .256/.336/.430 line in 2016, undoubtedly his worst season as a pro.
Both of these teams don’t really have much to look forward to this season, except probably a few added wins.
The Reds have had losing seasons in their three previous campaigns and they are still miles away from becoming relevant. On the bright side, they should have a sharper bullpen with the pair of promising prospects in Raisel Iglesias and Michael Loren ready and healthy to play a full season (hopefully).
There’s, of course, Joey Votto: the team’s most recognized player. He’s had solid years in his previous two campaigns, and is one of baseball’s best hitters as of the moment.
Meanwhile, the Brewers have a bevy of unripe talent on their side, and hope to build on last year’s improvement of five victories from the 2015 season. Ryan Braun is, by far, the best player on this side, but his days are numbered as Milwaukee continues its rebuild. He is a six-time All-Star and is the franchise’s all-time leader in home runs.
As implied at the beginning of this piece, the Cubs (-700) will dominate the NL Central again.
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