Wednesday, March 24, 2010
It's the NL Central, Home of the dominant Pirates of Pittsburgh.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals went out and spent some big cash this offseason to keep Matt Holliday around but will that mean success in the postseason? One could argue that their team isn't much improved from 2010 when they were quickly dispatched from the playoffs.
Key Player: Albert Pujols, This doesn't change any year for the St. Louis Cardinals. If Albert Pujols were to suffer an injury the Cardinals will not make the playoffs. Even with Ludwick and Holliday and Lopez the Cardinals won't provide enough offense if Pujols is out.
Player to Eye: Chris Carpenter, Last year I said Carpenter might be the steal of all fantasy drafts and well, he was. Carpenter should have won the Cy Young award (apparently not losing a game in 4 months is an overrated stat aka Saber-matricians gone too far) but was nonetheless a top NL starter. Will his body hold up for a second consecutive season? The Cards can't really afford for Carpenter or Wainwright to go down either.
Record Prediction: 88-74
2. Chicago Cubs
The Cubbers were the prohibited favorite of the NL Central in 2009. Unfortunately thanks to a meh pitching staff, a few down years, a crazy man in right field and Ram-That-Ass sufffering an injury the Cubbers finished out of the postseason. Will 2010 be any different? vc
Key Player: Carlos Zambrano, Remember when Big Z used to say he was going to win the NL Cy Young and you thought that was a possibility? Those 200 K and 3.00 ERA days seem long in the rear-view mirror. Right now without Zambrano returning to excellence the Cubs frankly don't have the kind of pitching staff that will get them anywhere so the burden is on his shoulders.
Player to Eye: Geovany Soto, In 2007 Soto made a huge leap in the minors from what was a pretty mediocre career. In 2008 he took that success to the major league level. Then in 2009 Soto hit around the Mendoza Line. So which Soto is the real Soto? The .280 26 HR guy in 08 or the .218 10 HR guy in 09?
Record Prediction: 85-77
3. Milwaukee Brewers
Two years ago the Brew Crew had CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets, last year their rotation after the Mexican wonder was a pile of poo. This year they hope Mr. Quirky Rick Peterson will right the ship.
Key Player: Randy Wolf, The Mexican Wonder is going to be dominant, I have no doubt. What the Brewers need is someone to step up and be a reliable #2. The best chance for that is Randy Wolf. Wolf had arguably the best year of his career last year for the Dodgers. The Brewers desperately need a repeat to contend in the NL Central.
Player to Eye: Rickie Weeks, It's time for Rickie Weeks to stay healthy for a full year and well not suck while he's playing. Last year he looked like he was turning the corner and then down he goes. Weeks is 27 now, this is his time to shine. If not now then when?
Record Prediction: 85-77
4. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds may not be the favorites in the NL Central but they just might have the best combination of young talent in the division between Bruce, Votto and Chapman. 2010 might not be the year of the breakout but watch out in 2011.
Key Player: Joey Votto, If there is a stud in the NL Central that goes completely under the radar than it's Joey Votto. Last year in 131 games Votto hit .322 with 25 HRs and 80-80. With another year under his belt and potentially 160 games, .315 35 100 100 seems a distinct possibility.
Player to Eye: Aroldis Chapman, The Cuban has been tiring out umpires arms with Strikeouts this spring training but with his recent back strain who knows when he will get his first start and/or how effective he actually will be.
Record Prediction: 78-84
5. Houston Astros
Oh the Astros, how their time has past. Berkman is getting older. Oswalt is getting older. Their youngster have yet to emerge as superstars. Wand Rodriguez might be their best pitcher.
Key Player: Lance Berkman, Berkman is still the Astros most important player. Last year he spent time underperforming and/or injured and the Astros lineup struggled as a result. If Berkman returns to his 2008 first half than the Stros just might surprise people.
Player to Eye: Roy Oswalt, In 2009 Roy Oswalt could not buy a win. Perhaps it looked to the non observant that Oswalt was washed up with his 8 wins all season but he pitched to a 3.85 ERA the first half of the season through 19 games and could only pick up 5 total wins. Will 2010 be a bounce back year for Oswalt with a little sprinkling of luck or is his slight frame going to way of an aging Pedro Martinez.
Record Prediction: 72-90
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Oh the Pirates a team where the fans likely don't get excited for more than two weeks of the season (if that). It's likely that the people of Pittsburgh will enjoy the Hockey season and then immediately look forward to the Steelers season.
Key Player: Nobody, Let's be honest, the Pirates have zero chance of making the playoffs for yet another year. Their lineup provides some intrigue but their rotation is somewhere between Bottom of the Barrel MLB Rotation and Top of the Line AAA rotation.
Player to Eye: Octavio Dotel, He's getting a closers job again. Weeee. How long until he's so terrible that they go to whichever bullpen guy they have that's slightly better than mediocre?
Record Prediction: 67-95