This time of year is always about the NCAA Tournament and for good reason we have had some great games so far in the tournament. Regardless of whats going on in college basketball baseball season is still right around the corner. The latest installment of my predictions will focus on the biggest division in baseball the NL Central. Last season the Reds came out of nowhere to win the division and have big aspirations for 2011. Enough chit-chat here are my predictions for the National League Central.
1. Cincinnati Reds– The Reds, as I mentioned, came out of nowhere to capture the division title last season. However if you really look at their team it really shouldn’t be too big a surprise. Joey Votto has a chance to become a major star after his MVP season of a year ago. He is surrounded by good players like Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Scott Rolen, Drew Stubbs and they added last years World Series MVP Edgar Renteria. Their pitching staff is good but still very young, it’s led by Edinson Volquez which if he can play an entire season has the chance to be one of the best starters in the National League.
2. Milwaukee Brewers– The Brew Crew might have one of if not the best lineup in the division. Led by Prince Fielder, the Brewers also have Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and even Rickie Weeks had the best season of his career with 29 home runs last season. Milwaukee added some key members to the pitching staff like Shaun Marcum and of course number 1 starter Zack Greinke. The only problem with Greinke is he broke his ribs playing a basketball game and the last report had an April 16th return date as optimistic. The Brewers can survive without him but the longer he’s out the less their chances are to overtake the Reds.
3. St. Louis Cardinals– There are many pieces to the Cardinals that I like. First their lineup, Albert Pujols is arguably the best player in baseball right now, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman help protect Pujols in the lineup. The Cardinals starting rotation suffered a huge setback when Adam Wainwright was lost for the season when he needed Tommy John surgery this offseason. Chris Carpenter is still a frontline pitcher but no Wainwright is huge for St. Louis. The Cardinals have a lot of nice pieces but in my opinion none are good enough to overtake Milwaukee or Cincinnati. Also the Pujols contract situation will be hanging over this team all year.
4. Chicago Cubs– The loveable losers are back and Cubs fans will probably have to wait yet another season before they could celebrate a world championship because it wont happen in 2011. The Cubs signed Carlos Pena in the offseason for 1 year 10 million. A little much to pay for someone who couldn’t hit over .200 last season. They added Matt Garza to a questionable rotation at best, that already has Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster. Power guys like Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez return to Cubs but there is not enough around them to make them serious contenders.
5. Houston Astros– When looking at the Astros their strong point is obviously their outfield. Carlos Lee, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence are maybe a top 5 outfield. It’s everywhere else that the Astros have major question marks. Wandy Rodriguez probably has the biggest upside of all their starting rotation. He only went 11-12 last season but had a very respectable 3.60 ERA. Brett Myers also returns after posting his first winning season since 2006. The rest of the lineup is full of unproven youngsters and the team will go as far as they develop and take them.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates– Ummm……they have a really nice stadium. In all seriousness not a lot of optimism in the steel city when it comes to baseball. The Pirates last had a winning season in 1992 and that streak wont be broken this year. One name sticks out more than any other, Andrew McCutchen and with the track record of the Pirates he wont be in Pittsburgh very long. Look on the bright side Pittsburgh you still have the Steelers and Penguins.
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Andy Snakovsky – 105.7 The Fan Staff Writer
Follow me on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/AndySnakovsky