National League Central

Milwaukee Brewers

As opposed to risk disappointment in 2019, the Milwaukee Brewers kept the pedal to the proverbial metal after a 96-win 2018 effort.
They left a massive update at catcher by signing Yasmani Grandal. They also reinserted Mike Moustakas into their infield. Along with reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Travis Shaw and Jesus Aguilar, the lineup is among the league’s greatest.
When there’s a red flag in Milwaukee, it concerns the club’s lack of a No. 1 starter. That was not an issue in 2018, nevertheless, and the Brewers have the starting pitching overwhelming and depth bullpen for more of the same in 2019.
Such as the NL East, the National League Central is deeper than it was a year ago. Nonetheless, these Brewers have 95-win upside down that could net them a division crown or even a wild-card spot.
Playoff opportunities: 70 percent
Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs are estimated to finish last in the NL Central by Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projection system, and they are not happy about it.
To be honest, they did win 95 games this past year. And they’re going into 2019 with a healthy Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez at the center of a lineup that is oozing with upside. A beginning five of Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Yu Darvish has plenty of upside down in its own right.
However, at least until Brandon Morrow is retrieved from knee operation, the bullpen is a clear weakness. And while the crime has explosive potential, it will be realized only if Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras and Ian Happ make the strides which were expected of them in 2018.
Though the Cubs probably won’t be the worst team in the NL Central this year, their playoff odds nonetheless seem like a toss-up.
Playoff chances: 50 percent
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals reacted appropriately to missing out on the 2018 postseason with 88 wins.
Their huge move was to include MVP-caliber slugger Paul Goldschmidt into a lineup which was good enough to score 4.7 runs per match without him. They also outfitted a leaky bullpen with Andrew Miller.
It is nevertheless fair to be concerned about the sheer volatility within the pitching team. Neither Miller nor Luke Gregerson was healthy last year, and Jordan Hicks’ outcomes were less impressive than his substance. Meanwhile, Carlos Martinez has already run afoul of the injury insect.
If the pitching staff holds together better than anticipated, the NL Central crown will probably be within the Cards’ reach. Otherwise, it’ll be a struggle.
Playoff chances: 40 percent
Pittsburgh Pirates
In the event the Pittsburgh Pirates are likely to improve on last year’s up-and-down street to 82 wins, then it will be due to their pitching.
Somewhat softly, Pirates hurlers put a 3.52 ERA in the second half 2018. Almost all the key contributors–namely Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Felipe Vazquez and Richard Rodriguez–are back to maintain runs at a top in 2019.
It is too bad the front office did virtually nothing to enhance a weak offense. It’ll be up to the incumbents–particularly Starling Marte, Josh Bell, Corey Dickerson and, even when healthy, Gregory Polanco–to drive an improvement on this, and they may not have the power to make it occur.
Barring any surprises, the Pirates will be hard-pressed to crack the top three of the NL Central.
Playoff chances: 10 percent
Cincinnati Reds
Despite losing 95 matches in 2018, the Cincinnati Reds took the novel approach of attempting to construct a winner at the offseason.
Hence a batch of new stars headlined by Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark and Alex Wood. They figure to improve an offense that relied too heavily on Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett in addition to a turning with an NL-worst 5.28 ERA since 2017.
Still, Cincinnati’s new improvements arguably have more title worth than star power. The pitchers are in particular trouble, as they have to compete with Great American Ball Park and a feeble defense.
The Reds are certainly much better than they were a year before, but they are in basically the same boat as the Pirates.
Playoff opportunities: 10 percent

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