Friday, March 13, 2015

MLB 2015 preview, part 5: NL Central

Let's move out to the midwest, shall we?

NL Central:

I find it amusing that the Sporting News, an august publication, would anoint the Chicago Cubs as World Series champions, just because of two offseason moves. First, GM Theo Epstein reeled in manager Joe Maddon, who maneuvered his way out of Tampa Bay, then reunited with former Boston ace Jon Lester. Mix in a nucleus of young and upcoming talent in Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Addison Russell, and Kris Bryant, and you're led to believe that this is the year the Cubs finally break through. Nuh-uh. As Lee Corso on ESPN would say, not so fast, my friends.

The road to the division title still runs through St. Louis. The Cardinals are dedicating this season, no doubt, to the late outfielder Oscar Taveras, a rising star in his own right, who was killed shortly after the World Series ended. St. Louis filled the void by trading for Jason Heyward (Atlanta), then added some veteran presence in the infield by signing Mark Reynolds (Milwaukee). To get Heyward, the Cardinals gave up pitcher Shelby Miller, but that allows Carlos Martinez an opportunity to break into a deep rotation.

Some wags are down on Cincinnati. Please. Give me a break. Journeyman outfielder Marlon Byrd's 2nd tour in Philadelphia lasted a year, as he signed with the Reds as a free agent. Byrd moves to left field, as there's no way they move Jay Bruce out of right. Not gonna happen, unless Bruce gets hurt. Backup Chris Heisey is gone (Dodgers), which takes away some depth. The pitching took a hit, with Alfredo Simon (Detroit) & Mat Latos (Miami) departing. That still needs to be replaced.

Pittsburgh welcomes back AJ Burnett after a horrible year in Philadelphia. Russell Martin is gone (Toronto), but another ex-Yankee, Francisco Cervelli, comes in to take his place as the starting catcher. Something Cervelli was never guaranteed he'd get with the Yanks. Otherwise, the offense remains intact, as they have Gregory Polanco for a full year.

Milwaukee let Rickie Weeks walk (Seattle), opening second base for Scooter Gennett. The whole right side of the infield has changed, as Adam Lind replaces Mark Reynolds at first. Lind was heisted from Toronto, and will have to acquaint himself with National League pitching. Maybe he finally gets the recognition he deserves, but then, in a division that has Joey Votto, Matt Adams, and Anthony Rizzo? Good luck.

Projected order of finish:

1. St. Louis.
2. Pittsburgh.
3. Cincinnati.
3 (tie). Chicago.
5. Milwaukee.

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