We’re but a few short months away from spring training, and while there still are a great many free agents still available and a few big trades away from wrapping up the winter, we generally know where every team stands for the upcoming season. With that, we’ll make predictions on the best and worst case scenario for every NL Central team.
The Reds manage to find suitors for Zack Cozart, Brandon Phillips, knock on wood, Joey Votto, Homer Bailey and Devin Mesoraco. They filled their farm system with some fresh high upside talent, and cleared up some playing space for some of their younger players like Jose Peraza and Nick Senzel. Their young pitchers like Rasiel Iglesias, Amir Garrett, Robert Stephenson and Anthony DeSchalfani all have break out years together. The team gets to decide which ones to keep and which ones to profit from.
The Reds go another calendar year and fail to find any value on the trade market for any of their aging core. Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart walk in free agency, failing to provide anything besides value to multiple losing teams. The team has an underwhelming draft, keeping their farm system low on high upside talent. Nick Senzel struggles in his first big league year, and excitement for baseball reaches an all time low in Cincinnati.
Every thing goes exactly the same as last year, and Heyward plays better.
Kyle Hendricks fails to live up to his 2016 performance, Jon Lester battles a blister for several months, Jake Arrieta’s arm gives out. The team stumbles late season and they somehow lose a year in what should be an Atlanta Braves type streak of division crowns. The team regroups and gets ready for 2018 as World Series favorites.
The Brewers flip Ryan Braun for a young bat to put in the middle of their lineup. The team gets 170 innings from two different starters, and keep the team around sea level through July. Orlando Arcia become an All-Star and the leader of the team. Lewis Brinson and Josh Hader have successful rookie seasons, while Corey Ray, Brett Phillips, Phil Bickford and Luis Ortiz all take steps forward. The team finishes with 80 wins, and look poised to make noise in 2018.
The team sells low on its starting pitchers, and asks too much of it’s young starters. The Brewers have the worst rotation in the league, and routinely fall behind early every night. The team gives up on it’s young starters. Lewis Brinson or Corey Ray have a season ending injury and delay their development and impact at the major league level. The Brewers sell low or hold onto Ryan Braun, and with a bad year, he becomes even more difficult to unload.
The Pirates’ young rotation develops quickly. Behind Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates have a shade of the 2015 Mets' run. Andrew McCutchen bounces back and re-ups his value. The Pirates have three outfielders hit .300. Josh Bell hits 25 homeruns. The Pirates get another playoff birth and ride a hot stretch to the World Series.
Injuries continue to plague the team. McCutchen lowers his value with another mediocre season. The low key additions fall flat, and the Pirates' offense becomes mediocre. Due to injuries, the Pirates start relying heavily on Ivan Nova. The wise front office makes an emotional decision and decides to go for it, trading away valuable pieces for a big time starter or a bullpen ace. The Pirates fail to make the playoffs once again, and their window to win slams shut.
St. Louis Cardinals
The underrated outfield of Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Dexter Fowler becomes a force to be reckoned with. The Cardinals add a slugger to the middle of their lineup, which once again becomes a RISP hitting machine. The rotation reclaims its 2015 form, only this time, with Alex Reyes in the middle of it. The Cards make some big bullpen additions at the deadline and have a shot to go for the division crown.
Alex Reyes struggles to learn the ropes in his first full big league season. With him struggling, and Wainwright aging, the Cardinals rotation looks mediocre after Carlos Martinez. Age takes another bite out of Yadier Molina’s career. He only plays 100 games, and Aldemys Diaz undergoes a sophomore slump. The Cardinals rest at mediocrity and fail to come off as legitimate contenders, while younger teams like Colorado and Atlanta surpass them a year early.
How do you think the 2017 NL Central will pan out? Let us know in the comments!