2013 Season Preview – National League Central

1. Division Champions – Cincinnati Reds


Last year: 97-65 (NL Central Champs)

Projected lineup:

1. CF: Shin-Soo Choo
2. SS: Zack Cozart
3. 1B: Joey Votto
4. 2B: Brandon Phillips
5. RF: Jay Bruce
6. 3B: Todd Frazier
7. LF: Chris Heisey
8. C: Ryan Hanigan
9. SP: Pitcher’s spot

Projected rotation:

1. Johnny Cueto
2. Mat Latos
3. Bronson Arroyo
4. Homer Bailey
5. Mike Leake

One of the more amazing things about the Cincinnati Reds’ 2012 NL Central championship was the fact that they built their division lead in large part without former MVP Joey Votto in the lineup. Cincinnati’s All-Star first baseman missed significant time after suffering a knee injury over the summer, but has fully recovered and returns as main cog in the Reds offensive machine. His presence should allow Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips to see better pitches than they did a season ago. Johnny Cueto is perhaps the most underrated ace in Major League Baseball, and though it took longer than originally anticipated, Homer Bailey is finally emerging as a top-tier arm. Latos had a successful first campaign, and should be better adjusted to the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ballpark in this his second season with the Reds. The club also returns every member of its bullpen, which ranked as the best in the National League a season ago. Though Cincinnati suffered a setback when Ryan Ludwick dislocated his shoulder and suffered cartilage damage on Opening Day, Chris Heisey has long been thought ready to take over an everyday outfield position. The Reds are primed to repeat as NL Central champions in 2013.

SAD’s prediction: 94-68 (NL Central Champions)

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Last year: 88-74 (Wild Card berth)

Projected lineup:

1. CF: Jon Jay
2. 3B: Matt Carpenter
3. LF: Matt Holliday
4. 1B: Allen Craig
5. RF: Carlos Beltran
6. C: Yadier Molina
7. 2B: Daniel Descalso
8. SS: Pete Kozma
9. SP: Pitcher’s spot

Projected rotation:

1. Adam Wainwright
2. Jaime Gracia
3. Jake Westbrook
4. Lance Lynn
5. Shelby Miller

St. Louis barely edged out the Dodgers to get into the playoffs with the final Wild Card spot last year, and made serious unexpected noise once there. The Cardinals knocked off the Braves in the one-game Wild Card playoff, eliminated the NL-favorite Nationals in seven games, and pushed the World Series champion Giants to the limit before falling just one game short of reaching the World Series themselves. Injuries to Lance Berkman paved the way for the emergence of Allen Craig, who will take his .861 OPS and man first base full time for the Red Birds this season. Carlos Beltran, Matt Holiday and Yadier Molina are perennial All-Stars who helped St. Louis finish with the second-best run differential in the National League. Chris Carpenter likely will not pitch this season, and rookie Shelby Miller will be relied on to try and fill the void left in the rotation much in the way Lance Lynn did a season ago.   Adam Wainwright will need to be the workhorse, Jaime Garcia will need to avoid injury and Jake Westbrook will need to find consistency that has eluded him for much of his career for the Cardinals to challenge the Reds for the division title.

SAD’s prediction: 88-74 (no playoff berth)

3. Milwaukee Brewers

Last year: 83-79 (no playoff berth)

Projected lineup:

1. RF: Norichika Aoki
2. 2B: Rickie Weeks
3. LF: Ryan Braun
4. 3B: Aramis Ramirez
5. C: Jonathan Lucroy
6. 1B: Alex Gonzalez
7. CF: Carlos Gomez
8. SS: Jean Segura
9. SP: Pitcher’s spot

Projected rotation:

1. Yovani Gallardo
2. Marco Estrada
3. Wily Peralta
4. Kyle Lohse
5. Mike Fiers

The Brewers had a good but not great 2012 season. The Brewers will have another good but not great 2013 season. Yovani Gallardo remains the ace of this Brewers pitching staff, and Kyle Lohse should fit in the rotation nicely. After career-best years spent pitching in St. Louis, Lohse finds himself pitching against familiar division opponents and in a generally pitcher-friendly ballpark. But beyond Milwaukee’s two veteran starters, it’s anyone’s guess how the rest of the rotation will perform. Niether Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta or Mike Fiers have entered a season as a big league starter before in their careers. Ryan Braun leads the offensive charge, but his involvement with the Biogenises clinic is under investigation and it is possible he might face a 50-game suspension for violation of baseball’s performance enhancing drug policy at some point during the course of the season. All-Star first baseman Corey Hart will return from knee injury sometime in May, adding depth to the lineup, but there are serious question marks surrounding the Brewers’ pitching staff.

SAD’s prediction: 81-81 (no playoff berth)

4. Pittsburgh Pirates

Last year: 79-83

Projected lineup:

1. LF: Starling Marte
2. C: Russell Martin
3. CF: Andrew McCutchen
4. 3B: Pedro Alvarez
5. 2B: Neil Walker
6. 1B: Gaby Sanchez
7. RF: Travis Snider
8. SS: Clint Barmes
9. SP: Pitcher’s spot

Projected rotation:

1. A.J. Burnett
2. Wandy Rodriguez
3. Jason McDonald
4. Jeff Locke
5. Jonathan Sanchez

The Pittsburgh Pirates had their best season since 1997 a year ago, but it wasn’t enough to stave off the club’s 20th consecutive sub-.500 season. Pittsburgh should be an improved version oftheir 79-win 2012 squad, but Seeds All Day is not ready to go out on the limb of predicting this is the year the losing streak ends. The Pirates have upgraded both offensively and defensively at the catcher position by replacing Rod Barajas with Russell Martin. Otherwise their lineup looks much the same as it did last year. Pitching should improve as the season progresses. Pittsburgh signed veteran starter Francisco Liriano this offseason to fill the fifth spot in the rotation. Liriano is recovering from a broken humerus and will return in late May or early June. Right hander Charlie Morton is recovering from Tommy John surgery and may be ready to go as early as June 1. Jeff Karstons is also beginning the season on the disabled list due to shoulder soreness, but should be ready to contribute in the coming weeks. The Pirates will be improved, but so too are the Reds, Cardinals and Brewers. Which means Pittsburgh should find itself looking up at those division opponents yet again.

SAD’s prediction: 80-82 (no playoff berth)

5. Chicago Cubs

Last year: 61-101

Projected lineup:

1. CF: David DeJesus
2. SS: Starlin Castro
3. 1B: Anthony Rizzo
4. LF: Alfonso Soriano
5. RF: Nate Schierholtz
6. C: Welington Castillo
7. 3B: Luis Valbuena
8. 2B: Brent Lillibridge
9. Pitcher’s spot

Projected rotation:

1. Jeff Samardzija
2. Edwin Jackson
3. Scott Feldman
4. Travis Wood
5. Carlos Villanueva

2013 commences year two of the Theo Epstein era in Chicago, and the Cubs rebuilding project continues. Chicago’s offense was one of the worst in baseball last year, and the lineup remains thin. Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano are the clear class of the group, and Soriano will certainly be the subject of trade rumors once the July deadline draws nearer. Jeff Samardzija has been propelled to the role of team ace now that Ryan Dempster has moved on to the Red Sox. Behind Samardzija is a collection of fourth and fifth starters. Edwin Jackson has been a journeyman throughout his career, Travis Wood had a horrendous 2012 season and Carlos Villanueva is making the switch from reliever to starter this season. Scott Baker and Matt Garza will open the year on the disabled list, and should find roles in the rotation once healthy, but neither have had sustained success at the big league level. The Cubs will not score many runs this season, and will allow well more than their fair share.

SAD’s prediction: 65-97 (no playoff berth)

About Matthew George

Matthew George graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2008 with a bachelor of science in journalism. He spent three years writing sports for the Kentucky Kernel, the university's daily paper, and served as assistant sports editor. After undergrad, Matthew attended Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University where he earned his juris doctorate. He is now admitted to practice law in Kentucky and Indiana.

One thought on “2013 Season Preview – National League Central

  1. Pingback: Grading My Preseason Vegas Over/Under Picks | SEEDS ALL DAY

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.