Sunday, March 31, 2013

NL Central Preview

The new NL Central is without the Bottom Feeder Houston Astros, but should be tight at the top as usual.  Here's my projected finish:

1. Cincinnati Reds
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Chicago Cubs

Team by Team Preview:

Cincinnati Reds o/u 91 wins --- TRE says: Over

Aroldis Chapman decides to barter
Out of his role as a starter
His arm is a rocket
And although he does knock it
A starters' role is is much harder

The Reds should once again compete for the division crown after winning in 2012 and 2010.  Their biggest additions were Shin-Shoo Choo who will lead off and play center field and Jon Broxton who WAS going to close until Aroldis Chapman decided he would prefer to be in the pen instead of start.  Nevertheless, the Reds do have a strong rotation with Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey.  The bullpen was strong before Chapman's move and is now elite.  Joey Votto could be the best hitter in baseball and is surrounded by Choo, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips and Todd

Player to Watch:  Billy Hamilton - Billy Hamilton is making the move from shortstop to the outfield.  He is a terror on the base paths, stealing 155 bags over 132 games in A and AA ball last season.  He also appears to have a good eye as he collected 86 walks in the same period.  Ryan Ludwick is a solid  cog for the Reds, but if he should falter or a player should get injured, Billy will literally sprint onto the scene.

St. Louis Cardinals o/u 86 --- TRE says Over

Beating the Reds will be hard
and although they're not loaded with stars
They have the depth to compete
and a Kozma named Pete
Is 2013 the year of the Cards?

To me the Cardinals don't have enough with aging start Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday to win the division.  David Freese is already hurt and although Allen Craig can hit, he's also frequently injured.  Stud prospect OF Oscar Taveras is probably one more year away, so they need to hold on with what they have.  The starters are led by newly inked Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn who are both good.  Jaime Garcia is also solid and Jake Westbrook is serviceable.  The bullpen is also good with Jason Motte and young flamethrower Trevor Rosenthal.

Player to Watch: Shelby Miller - Starter Shelby Miller could be a rookie of the year contender.  The 2009 first round pick has a big fastball with movement.  His two seamer has some sinking action and he has a 12-6 curve not unlike Adam Wainwright.  He has the #5 starter job and he could be a difference maker for this team.

Milwaukee Brewers o/u 79.5 --- TRE says Over

Speculation of Ryan Braun goes on
The HGH user list he's upon
If Selig comes calling
the Brewers will be falling
And hopes of post season will be gone

The Brewers have some good players surrounding Braun, but none exceptional.  The pitching staff is led by Yovani Gallardo and there are some young arms on the back end.  Kyle Lohse has recently signed as well, which at a minimum adds depth and at maximum adds an all-star.  Corey Hart is hurt and will be out until at least May.  Rickie Weeks is coming off a poor season and Norichiki Aoki and Carlos Gomez are coming off surprisingly good seasons.  I expect all three to return to the mean.

Player to Watch:  John Axford - The Brewers don't have the best bullpen and John Axford is coming off a poor season.  His ERA jumped from 1.95 to 4.67 and his walks went from 25 to 39. 

Pittsburgh Pirates o/u 77.5 --- TRE says Over

When you're sucking for so very long
Every move seems to go wrong
But you get some first rounders
That don't come up and flounder
And your fans will sing a different song

Superstar Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates continue to grow and hope springs anew.  The interesting thing about hop in Pittsburgh is that playoffs isn't so much the goal as getting to .500.  The starting pitching is OK with AJ Burnett, James McDonald and Wandy Rodriguez.  Young phenom starters Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are still in the minors but on the verge of cracking into the majors.  The corner outfield situation is a bit of a mess and Pittsburgh is looking for Starling Marte, Travis Snider or Jose Tabata to make a step forward.

Player to Watch:  Pedro Alvarez - Two years ago Pedro Alvarez was expected to be a big time homerun threat and instead he hit .191 and spent much of the year in AAA.  Last year, opinion was not so high and Alvarez came through and hit 30 homeruns.   This year projections are once again high.


Chicago Cubs o/u 72.5 --- TRE says under

Another bleak year in Wrigley ahead
or at least that's what many have said
Anthony Rizzo can hit a ton
but as long as they got Scott Hairston
Their chances of the playoffs are dead.

The Cubs haven't been in the playoffs since 2008 and working on a rebuild.  They signed my boyfriend Edwin Jackson who I badly wanted the Twins to land and they also brought in Carlos Villanueva, Scott Feldman and Scott Baker.  Baker is already on the 60 day DL (shocker), so he'll miss at least the first two months of the season.  Jeff Samarzija might be the ace of this staff; he struck out 180 batters last year..  They are shopping Alfonso Soriano and really Rizzo and Starlin Castro are the only above league average players they have.  Jorge Soler and Javier Baez await  opportunity in the minors and it will probably be sooner than later.  In addition, you can expect the Cubs to be active in the free agent market next season -- perhaps targeting someone like Ellsbury.  Until then it's Luis Valbuena, David DeJesus and pray for Rizzo.

Player to Watch:  Anthony Rizzo - If you're watching the Cubs lineup, you're watching for Rizzo.  Last year as a 22 year old he hit 342/405/696 in AAA and then upon call-up he hit 285/342/463 with 15 homers in 337 ABs.

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