Thursday, March 26, 2009

First to Third: Divisional Previews - NL Central

Tuesday, March 24: National League West (can be found here)
Thursday, March 26: National League Central (can be found here)
Saturday, March 28: National League East
Tuesday, March 31: American League West
Thursday, April 2: American League Central
Saturday, April 4: American League East
Monday, April 6: Opening Day Preview and Playoff Prediction Special

National League Central

The First to Third 2009 MLB season preview continues today with the National League Central. After the Cubs, the division is up in the air and the rest of the teams could finish in pretty much any order.

Fresh Meat: Colby Rasmus (pictured) is one of the top prospects in baseball and will be an impact player for the Cardinals this year. The rookie will see time in leftfield this year and could move to center, his natural position, next season if Rick Ankiel leaves as a free agent. He has all five tools and is an underrated defender.

Dearly Deported: The Milwaukee Brewers were the big losers in the 2008-09 off-season losing their top two starting pitchers, CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets. Without an ace (or two) to anchor their rotation, the Brewers will find themselves in the bottom of the NL Central.

How They'll Finish:
  1. Cubs - For the second straight season, the Cubs remain the class of the NL Central and should have no problem coasting to the division title, probably as the first team in MLB to clinch a playoff spot. The addition of Milton Bradley helps their outfield depth and adds a righthanded bat to the middle of the order. Their rotation is one of the best in the division and if the Cubs stay healthy, they should go far in October.
  2. Reds - Their lineup leaves a lot to be desired, but their starting pitching is strong and will only get better as Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez continue to develop. The Reds could surprise some people this year if manager Dusty Baker gets his team to manufacture runs since there's no Adam Dunn to hit home runs anymore.
  3. Astros - Led by Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee, the Astro lineup should score plenty of runs and if Mike Hampton, Brian Moehler, and Russ Ortiz do something, the Astros should have a solid year.
  4. Cardinals - The Cardinals are like the opposite of the Reds, they have good hitting but a lot of question marks in the rotation and in the bullpen. Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball, but he's the only sure thing in the infield as the Cardinals still struggle to find a second baseman.
  5. Brewers - Prince Fielder will provide the pop in the lineup but when your ace is Yovani Gallardo, who has 124 career innings pitched, the Brewers will have a pretty steep fall from their playoff berth in 2008.
  6. Pirates - Yes, they still play major league baseball, but the Pirates are poised for serious improvement. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the Pirates will probably have to wait until 2010 to finish higher than 5th in the division, but could get out of the cellar this year. Jack Wilson is bound to get dealt by the trade deadline, but the Pirates have a solid young team that keeps getting better with every trade of a veteran.

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