By: Max Zuiker
Losing 89 games in 2014, the Chicago Cubs made the NL Central division interesting by winning 97 games in 2015. In fact the Cardinals (100 wins), Pirates (98) and Cubs (97) had the top three records in all of baseball. This year the NL Central should be just as tightly contested as last year.
PITTSBURG PIRATES: (95-67)
The Pirates have been a wild card team the past three seasons. I think 2016, is the year they make the leap and win the division. This Pirate team won’t be all together for too much longer because of payroll restrictions. The Pirates must go all in in 2016. The strength to this team is the great set of arms they have collected as well as probably having baseball’s best outfield. Highlighted by former MVP Andrew McCutchen this Pirate offence should do some damage in 2016. They scored the fourth most runs in the NL. However the big concern for the Pittsburg in 2016 will be improving their defense who committed 122 errors the most in the NL.
CHICAGO CUBS: (92-70)
The Cubs had a great season winning 97 games, and yet I don’t have them winning the division even with all that young talent and the 280 million spent in free agency. Yes I do believe the Cubs will go far, but I think in the early stages of the season that the Cubs still might have a little hangover from the success in 2015. In the end Joe Maddon will have his team secure a wild card spot in 2016. Cubs fans look forward to the encore Kris Bryant is going to bring in his sophomore season.
- LOUIS CARDINALS: (86-76)
There is no team in baseball that is as competitive on a daily basis like the Cardinals are. That being said I don’t want to say it’s not the Cards year to win the NL Central crown and be kicking myself in seven months, but I don’t think they got the fuel for a full 162 this year. With injuries to Lance Lynn and Yadier Molina and the losses of Jason Heyward and John Lackey, I think it will be tough to contend with the Pirates and Cubs in 2016. Regardless of what I just said, the Cards should still be a fairly competitive group this year. I have them winning about 85 games or so.
CINCINNATI REDS: (73-89)
The reds only won 64 ball games last year but were devastated by injuries. Big names like Devin Mesoraco and Homer Baily, barley played last year which hurt this team significantly. Mesoraco was limited to 23 games behind the plate and Homer only made two starts before being shelved for the rest of the 2016 campaign. With Devin being able to start the season and Homer expected to come back in May it should help this team, but it won’t be enough to stay fly with the rest of the division. Watch out for Eugenio Saurez who is replacing all-star Todd Frasier at third this year.
MILWAUKEE BREWERS: (63-99)
Don’t have much faith for the Brew Crew in 2016. Defense and pitching have been a problem for the Brewers the past couple of seasons and I believe that trend will continue. I look for the Brew Crew to unload as many of their veteran pieces such as Matt Garza and Jonathan Lucroy, to start revamping for 2017 and beyond.