With baseball less than a month away and teams coming together for spring training, it’s the perfect time to predict the future on how the divisional races will come out for this 2018 season. We’re starting off hot with the shaping of the NL Central. Here is how I think the Central division will stand come the end of
I see the cubs coming out on top of the central division due to the addition to their starting staff. Yu Darvish struckout 209 batters combined while starting the year with the Rangers and finishing the year with the 2017 World Series runner-up Dodgers. The cubs also added Tyler Chatwood, which is an easy move for him coming from the mile high city where baseballs get hammered into the mountains with help from the elevation. I see Chatwood having a much better year than last and more like his 2016 campaign where he went 12-9 with a 3.87 era. The offense will thrive as they have in the past with their core of young talent starring the bromance that is Bryzzo (Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.) Kyle Schwarber showed up to spring training looking fit as he shed some pounds in the offseason to get ready for the 2018 campaign. The Cubs are loaded in the outfield still so they could afford an injury in the outfield and still win the division. I could again see this cubs team making a big run in the playoffs if their offense continues to shine as it should.
The Brewers made some key moves for their outfield this offseason. They traded for Christian Yelich from Miami and signed Lorenzo Cain to man their CF positions. Yelich looks to be one of the games upcoming young talents. He’s got a few seasons under his belt in Miami but I can see Yelich hitting for .300 and being a 20/20 guy (20 homeruns and 20 stolen bases). The Brewers also added to their rotation by adding Jhoulys Chacín and Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo will have to hold down the fifth spot in the rotation until Jimmy Nelson comes back from his shoulder surgery that he had last September. With these offensive additions and with the pieces they already have, like Domingo Santana who hit 30 homeruns last year, I see the Brewers competing for an NL wildcard spot toward the end of the year.
I have the Cardinals finishing third in the central this year right behind the Brewers. I don’t see enough longballs out of the current Cardinals offense to see them competing for the central division. They traded for Marcell Ozuna who had a stupendous season last year at the dish with the fish, hitting 37 homeruns but that’s where their offensive additions start and end. The rotation for the Cardinals doesn’t look so bad as their young pitching is coming along with Carlos Martinez, who made the 2017 all-star game, Michael Wacha and Luke Weaver. They also have the long-time Cardinal veteran Adam Wainwraight around to help the young staff through its moments, but I don’t see his knowledge and wisdom being enough to rally the Cardinals into making a run for the division this year as I see them finishing third in the central.
This year's reds team will look a lot like last year's in terms of where they finish the season. The reds did little to nothing in the offseason to improve the 2018 reds. The Reds money is still tied up into struggling Homer Bailey who will make $21 million this year, $23 million next year and $25 million the following. Last year Bailey started 18 games and and finished with a 6.43 era. To put things into perspective, Corey Kluber had 29 starts going 18-4 with a 2.25 era all while getting paid $10.5 million for the year. Joey Votto’s contract eats a lot of the money that the Reds put out to the players but he actually lives up to his value. Votto was snubbed from the NL MVP award last year hitting .320 while lifting 34 balls into orbit and having over 100 runs and RBI’s. As far as the rest of the offense, I don’t see them hitting as well as they did last year with Scooter Gennett putting up the highest homerun total of his career at 27. The reds are a young, unseasoned squad just looking to build the franchise now for success down the road.
The Pirates had a surprising offseason this year as experts thought if they made a couple moves they could have been competing for the division, but the pirates organization saw none of that as they shipped off prized pitching piece Gerrit Cole and traded away the long time face of the organization Andrew McCutchen. The pirates, needing another outfield piece, made a trade with the Rays for Corey Dickerson whom they designated for assignment in a bold move to try to move him. Dickerson was an all-star last year and on a relatively cheap contract so it was a good move for the Pirates, but I wouldn’t be surprised that if he had a good first half and the pirates did not have a good first half that he (along with others like Harrison and Bell) could be traded at the all-star break to a contending team or a team who is looking to fill a spot due to an injury. With a lackluster pitching staff, I see the pirates barely staying afloat but finishing below the .500 mark and last in the division.