By Matt Hetzler
NL Central Predictions 2013
By Matt Hetzler
NL Central Predictions 2013
#1 Cincinnati Reds
Stadium Capacity: 42,319
Manager: Dusty Baker
2012 Record: 97-65
Starting Pitching: The Reds starting rotation is solid from top to bottom. The ace of the staff is Johnny Cueto. Cueto dominated last season posting 19-wins and a 2.78 ERA. He is durable going over 200 IP last season. Behind Cueto is Mat Latos, Latos struggled out of the gate last season only to turn it around and have a great season. Latos posted a 14-4 record with a 3.48 ERA. Like Cueto, Latos also went over 200 IP and struck out 185. Expect big things out of Latos this year. I think he has the tools to be a Cy Young winner. Homer Bailey had a fantastic season and finally showed his potential. He should pass his 13 win total from last season, and eat up some innings for the bullpen. The veteran Bronson Arroyo had a solid year for the Reds last season. He is a true work horse posting at least 200 IP for 7 of the past 8 seasons. Aroldis Chapman could be in the starting rotation to being the season. I rather him stay in the closersrole and continue to shut the door easily for the Reds. But the Reds are paying him to be a starter. If Chapman settles into the starters role, he could have a monster year for the Reds. Mike Leake will round out the rotation if Chapman does not impress in Spring Training or struggles early into the season. Leake doesn't have great stuff but he is durable. He made 30 starts for the Reds last season as the #5.
Relief Pitching: The Reds have a great group of arms in the bullpen. They brought Jonathan Broxton back to close after trading for him at last seasons deadline. He converted 4 of 6 saves last season when Chapman was out late. If Chapman does not pan out as a starter, he will get the closers job back. Sean Marshall had a great season last year. He posted a 2.51 ERA and had a 74/16, KK/B ratio. He will setup for Broxton most games. Jose Arredondo looked very sharp last season in the Reds bullpen. He was 6-2 with a 2.95 ERA in 61 innings of work. Young pitcher J.J. Hoover should be a dangerous weapon for Dusty this season. In 28 games last season he struck out 31 and had a 2.05 ERA. Alfredo Simon and Sam LeCure will always be key pieces in the pen this season.
Infield: Behind the plate at the start of the season for the Reds, should be Ryan Hanigan. Hanigan hit .274 last season and had a .365 OBP. At third base will be Todd Frazier. Frazier takes over the starting job from Scott Rolen. Frazier was a bright spot for the Reds last season. He played in 128 games and hit .273 with 19 HR's and 67 RBI. He may feel snubbed after not winning the Rookie of the Year award. He could have a monster season for the Reds. Zack Cozart will play SS for Baker and the Reds. Cozart is great with the glove. He has some pop with the bat, but needs to improve getting on base. Brandon Phillips hit 18 homers for the 3rd straight season. His average dropped 19 points but he still hit .281. Phillips is solid all around and should continue being very productive for the Reds this season. 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto is back and healthy. All Votto does is drive runs home and get on base. His OBP was .474 last season, which led the NL. The power was down but that can be attributed to the injury he suffered. He was 2nd in the league with 44 doubles and led the league in walks. Votto will be in contention for another MVP this season.
Outfield: Ryan Ludwick will be back with the Reds after signing a two-year deal in the offseason. He hit .275 with 26 HR and 80 RBI. He could reach 30 HR this season playing in GABP. Playing center, will be Shin-Soo Choo. Choo comes over from the Indians and will be the lead off hitter the Reds needed. He replaces Stubbs and provides the Reds with an instant upgrade. He hit .283 last season with 43 doubles, 16 HR, and 67 RBI. His OBP was .373 and he swiped 21 bags. There are concerns about him defensively in center. There will no question about the defense of Jay Bruce in RF. Bruce is coming off a stellar year and he picked up a Silver Slugger award. He was just shy of 100 RBI but he hit 34 HR and had 35 doubles. If Bruce can cut down on the strikeouts, he will become a top player in the league.
Outlook: The Reds have the best starting rotation in the division and I would say best defense in the division. If the offense plays well then they will have no problem capturing a second straight Central title. It will be a tight race in the Central between the Reds and Cards, but I give it to the Reds because of the starting rotation. Expect another 90+ win for the Reds this season and possibly a National League Championship.
#2 St. Louis Cardinals
Stadium Capacity: 46,861
Manager: Mike Matheny
2012 Record: 88-74
Starting Pitching: The Cardinals will be without Chris Carpenter for the what looks like most of 2013. That is a big loss for the starting rotation. They also lost Kyle Lohse to free agency. Adam Wainwright will be #1 guy for the Cards. He had a solid year coming back from an injury, getting 14 wins and striking out 184. Jaime Garcia was 7-7 with a 3.92 ERA in only 121.2 innings last season. He is coming off an injury, so it will be hard to project what he will bring this season to the rotation. Veteran right handed Jake Westbrook comes in after posting 13 wins last season and held his ERA under 4.00. 18 game winner, Lance Lynn was a bright spot for the Cards last season. He had a short stint in the bullpen last season but he still had a monster season. He had 180 strikeouts in 176 innings of work. With Carpenter out, it looks like Shelby Miller will start the season in the rotation. Miller is young, in 6 games last season (one start) he was 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA and 16 K's.
Relief Pitching: Jason Motte will be the closer for the Cardinals. He is coming off a 42-save season, and will be the best closer in the division with Chapman moving to the starting rotation for the Reds. Motte will have some great company in the bullpen. Mitchell Boggs comes into 2013 after a solid 2012 campaign. Boggs was 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA in 73.1 innings. The other setup man will be righty Edward Mujica who came over from Miami and posted a 1.03 in 29 games for the Cardinals. They picked up vet Randy Choate via free agency and also have young Joe Kelly in the the bullpen.
Infield: Yadier Molina will be back behind the plate this season. Molina is coming off a career year with bests in HR (22) and AVG. (.315).Molina is a stellar defensive catcher and should continue to get better at the plate. Molina is a legit MVP candidate this season. David Freese will be playing the hot corner this season. Freese is solid, he hit for 20 HR last season and hit .293. Furcal will be the starting SS. Furcal had a decent year in 2012. He played in 121 games and hit .264. Daniel Descalso will start at 2B. He struggled last season at the plate. He did have 7 triples, look for his AVG to rise some this season. Allen Craig will replace Lance Berkman at1B this season. Craig played in just 119 games last season and slugged 22 HR and drove in 92. Craig is special and he should reach 100 RBI this season with a a possibility of 30 HR. He could be a dark horse MVP threat.
Outfield: The Cardinals have a stacked outfield. Matt Holliday will be in left, and he had a fantastic season in 2012. Holliday hit .295, 27 HR,and drove in 102 RBI. Jon Jay will start in center. Jay only 117 games last season, but when he did play he was great. Jay hit over .300 and added 19 steals. Carlos Beltran had a monster first season in St. Louis last year. Beltran hit 32 homers and had 97 RBI. He still has some speed, swiped 13 bags in 2012. His .269 AVG was a little low and should improve a few points in 2013.
Outlook: I have the Cardinals finishing second in the Central. The starting rotation have too many question marks for me to put them at #1. I love the rest of the team though. The offense is tops in the Central and so is the bullpen. There is a lot to like about this team. I would not be surprised if they won the Central, but they will be right there with the Reds.
#3 Milwaukee Brewers
Stadium Capacity: 42,200
Manager: Ron Roenicke
2012 Record: 83-79
Starting Pitching: Yovani Gallardo will be the ace of the staff this season. Gallardo is a solid #1 guy. He is coming off a 16 win season and he struck out over 200. Gallardo eats up innings and should continue to be the best pitcher for Milwaukee. After Gallardo there is a some talent but not much to like about the starting rotation. They lost Shawn Marcum to free agency, leaving Marco Estrada who was 5-7 last season with a 3.64 ERA as the #2. He only had 23 starts but he does strike out a lot of batters. Mike Fiers had a good year for Milwaukee in 2012, he won 9 games and had an ERA under 4.00. He had 135 K's compared to just 36 BB. Wily Peralta should be in the starting 5 to begin the season. In 6 games (5 starts) last season he went 2-1 with 2.48 ERA. Mark Rogers and Chris Narvesonwill compete for the last spot in the rotation.
Relief Pitching: John Axford will return as the closer for 2013. Axford struggled last season he finished 5-8 with a 4.67 ERA. He did have 35 savesand 69.1 innings of work. Lefty Jim Henderson will be the setup man for Axford. Henderson had 3 saves last season and went 1-3 with a 3.52 ERA. Tom Gorzelanny comes in as a free agent and will add a vet to the pen. He was 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA last season with Washington. He also struck out 93 and gave up 30 BB. Burke Badenhop comes in from Tampa Bay where he had a solid year in relief.
Infield: Jonathan Lucroy will be behind the plate. Lucroy was very good last season for the Brewers. Lucroy hit .320 with 12 homers and 58 RBI. Veteran Aramis Ramirez will play 3B. He played great in his first full season in Milwaukee. Aramis hit .300 and had over 100 RBI. His 50 doubles led the National League. At shortstop will be Jean Segura. They received Segura from the Angels and he hit .264 in 44 games for Milwaukee. Rickie Weeks will look to improve after a down season in 2012. He hit just .230 for the Brewers. He did have 21 homers and stole 16 bases. I look for him to bounce back, and the Brewers will need him if they plan on contending in theCentral. Corey Hart will play 1B, Hart had a monster year where he hit 30 homers. Hart hit a good .270, added 35 doubles and drove in 83 RBI. Hart may not hit 30 HR again but he will have a productive season at 1B.
Outfield: The Brewers have one of the most interesting outfields in the league. The speed of the three starters is nothing short of amazing. They combined for 97 steals last season. In left field is Ryan Braun. Braun needs no introduction, he is the best player in MLB. Braun continued crushing the ball last season, with a .319 AVG, 41 HR and 112 RBI. He added 36 doubles, 30 stolen bases and 108 runs. Braun has 5 straight Silver Slugger awards and has 5 consecutive All-Star appearances. In center, will be Carlos Gomez. Gomez hit just .260, but he has power (19 HR) and speed. (37 SB) Norichika Aoki will be in RF for the Brewers. Aoki should be the leadoff hitterthis season. His debut season with Milwaukee was successful. Aoki hit .288, had 37 doubles, 10 homers, and 30 stolen bases.
Outlook: Milwaukee should be over .500 at the end of the season. I think the offense is special, but the pitching just is not there for them to be division winner. I think Braun could have another MVP season for Milwaukee. It will be interesting to see how Aoki and Hart do this year. I think both could exceed expectations and put together solid years. If the young pitching comes together, the Brewers could get in as a wild card team.
#4 Pittsburgh Pirates
Stadium Capacity: 38,496
Manager: Clint Hurdle
2012 Record: 79-83
Starting Pitching: A.J. Burnett will be the ace of the staff after a solid 2012 season. Burnett was 16 games and had a 3.51 ERA. He added 180 K's and went over 200 IP. Behind Burnett will be James McDonald, McDonald also had a good season McDonald posted a 12-8 record with a 4.21 ERA. McDonald struggled to finish the season but was one of the leagues best starters in the first half. Wandy Rodriquez will be the #3. Wandy is a solid pitcher and durable. After coming over from Houston, Wandy went 5-4 with 3.72 ERA in 12 starts for the Pirates. Jeff Locke, Jeff Karstens, and Francisco Liriano will fill out the rotation.
Relief Pitching: Jason Grilli comes into 2013 with the closers role. Grilli will take over for Joel Hanrahan who went to Boston. Grilli was 1-6 with a 2.91 ERA and 90 K's in 58.2 innings. Grilli has the tools to be a solid closer for the Pirates this season. Bryan Morris is a young right handed pitcher who will get a chance in the bullpen to begin the season. Jared Hughes will be a great option again this season out of the bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA last season in 75.2 innings. Lefty Tony Watson is another pitcher coming off a good season. Watson was 5-2 posting a 3.38 ERA in 68 games.
Infield: Russell Martin comes to Pittsburgh from the New York Yankees a season ago. Martin hit 21 homers and drove in 53 for theYankees. His average has declined and I wouldn't expect it to get much better. Michael McKenry will back up Martin. Pedro Alvarez will be at 3B and is coming off a good year for the Pirates. Pedro knocked 30 homers and had 85 RBI. Pedro does strike out a lot and his average will not be much better than last season. Clint Barmes will be the starting SS and really there isn't much to like about him. Barmes is good defensively, but with the bat he brings nothing to the table. Neil Walker is coming off another good season. Walker only played in 129 games but he hit .280 with 14 homers and 69 RBI. If Walker is healthy, you can expect a few more RBI,HR and a solid year from the 2B. Garrett Jones will take over 1B. Jones quietly had himself a solid year in 2012. Jones hit .274 and hit 27 homers with 86 RBI. I don't see Jones giving the Pirates a repeat performance this season.
Outfield: Starling Marte will start in left for the Pirates in 2013. Marte played in 47 games last season. In 167 AB, he hit .257, with 6 triples, 5 homers, and 12 stolen bases. Marte could swipe over 20+ this season. Andrew McCutchen will patrol center field for the Pirates. Andrew is coming off of an MVP type season in 2012. McCutchen hit .327, added 31 HR and 96 RBI. He stole 20 bags as well.Andrew could have another 30/20 year in 2013, and make another run at MVP. Travis Snider rounds out the Pirates outfield. Snider will play right field and I don't see him bringing much to the success of the Pirates in 2013. In 50 games with Pittsburgh last season,Snider hit .250.
Outlook: Pittsburgh has a decent pitching all around, but that is about it. I don't see the offense being able to carry this team to a .500 record. Walker will need to stay healthy if the Pirates want to make it over .500. I see Jones and Martin both regressing but Marte could be a bright spot for this team.
#5 Chicago Cubs
Stadium Capacity: 41,159
Manager: Dale Sevum
2012 Record: 61-101
Starting Pitching: Jeff Samardzija should come into the season as the Cubs #1 starter. Jeff had an all around solid season in 2012. He pitched a lot better than the 9-13 record. He posted a 3.81 ERA in 28 starts and had 180 K's. Matt Garza is coming off a 5-7 record in only 18 starts in 2012. Garza, when healthy can be dangerous. Chicago brings in Edwin Jackson who was a 10 game winner last season for Washington. Jackson pitched 189.2 innings last season and carried a 4.03 ERA with 168 K's. Chicago also brought in Scott Baker as well as Scott Feldman from Texas. Travis Wood could compete for the last spot in the rotation. Wood was 6-13 last season with Chicago.
Relief Pitching: Carlos Marmol will be the closer to start the 2013 season. Marmol finished with 20 saves in 2012, and posted a 3.42 ERA. Marmol is usually inconsistent in the 9th inning, the Cubs have replaced him before and will do it again. Jeff Beliveau is a young lefty who will contribute to the bullpen this season. He appeared in 22 games last season and had a 1-0 record with a 4.58 ERA. James Russell is another lefty that the Cubs have and he is solid. Russell finished 2012 with a 7-1 record, with 55 K's. Shawn Camp will be a work horse for the Cubs. He threw 77.2 innings in 2012, with a 3.59 ERA. The big move for Chicago was bring in Kyuji Fujikawa as competition for the Marmol and the closers role. Fujikawa averages 12.42 K/9 in Japan, and he has great control.
Infield: Chicago will go with Welington Castillo behind the plate to start 2013. In 52 games lats season, Castillo hit .265 with 5 homers and 22 RBI. Castillo is young and it will be interesting to see how he handles his first full season behind the plate. At third base, will be Luis Valbuena. Luis struggled last season and I don't see much changing for him. He hits for a low average and lacks power, but he did have 20 doubles. The face of the Cubs is Starlin Castro and he will be at SS. Castro is a solid SS, last season he hit .283,added 12 triples, 14 homes, and drove home 78 RBI. On top of that he stole 25 bases and posses a good glove. Darwin Barney will fill the slot at second base. Barney had a decent season on the North Side in 2012. Barney hit .254 with 26 doubles, 7 long balls and 44 RBI. Barney has some room for improvement on his AVG. and with that he will continue to become a better hitter. At first will be Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo was the one bright spot other than Castro in 2012. Rizzo hit .285 in 87 games for the Cubs. Rizzo showed power with 15 home runs, and is a run producer with 48 RBI last season. Rizzo has the tools to become a 30 HR/100 RBI hitter, and it could happen this season.
Outfield: Alfonso Soriano will be back in left for Chicago for 2013. Soriano had a great season in 2012. He had 32 HR which was his most since 2007, added 108 RBI a career high, and hit .262 his highest since 2008. Even with the production of last season, the Cubs still finished dead last. I am skeptical about him having another great season at age 37, but who knows. Brett Jackson could be the starter in CF on opening day. Jackson is young and has great athleticism but he hit just .175 in 44 games last season for Chicago. If it is not Jackson it will be David DeJesus. Dejesus hit .263 in 2012, added 8 triples, 9 home runs, and 50 RBI. Nate Schierholtz could get the start at RF depending on Jackson. Nate hit .257 last season with 6 homers for the Phillies and Giants.
Outlook: It is hard to see anything on paper that would make you think the Cubs would finish anywhere but last in the Central. Rizzo and Castro are special talents. The offense has to be the worst in the Central outside of the two mentioned. The pitching is not much better if not worse. The Cubs could improve on the 61 wins from a year ago, but not much better. Cubs finish last and continue to rebuild for the future.