Well, considering the fact that I’m on a Cardinals blog, and I am a Cardinals fan, this is the division that I probably know the most about. So let’s jump in.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
This is probably no surprise to just about anyone. Not only because I’m picking the home team, but because of the three teams in the division that were fighting for the division at the end of the year, the Cardinals are the only team that has really improved in the offseason, but more on that later. The Cardinals shored up their outfield by getting Bourjos, Wong will produce more than Freese did last year, and I think it’s safe to say that Peralta will hit way better than Kozma (the question being his glove). Their rotation is the best built in the division as well, and that definitely helps. I don’t see any way that they don’t win the division if everyone can stay healthy.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates haven’t made waves in the offseason, but they’ve remained a pretty solid team. Their bullpen was a strength for them last year, and unless some regression happens, it will still dominate. Their rotation is a little more of a question mark, though. Liriano will probably be dominant again, especially against the Cardinals, A.J. Burnett is now in Philly. Also, Pedro Alvarez needs to continue to play at a high level. His bat will likely look exactly the same, but he fielded better than he did ever in his career last year.
3. Cincinnati Reds
3 and 4 in the division were the hardest for me to predict, and here’s one of the reasons. Yes, this team is pretty solid, but they lost their leadoff guy from last year who had a .423 OBP and scored 107 runs. The guy who is replacing him had an on-base percentage of .306 last year in AAA. The only upside on him is that he had multiple seasons in the minors with 100+ stolen bases, and had 75 last year. That’s great speed, but he can only run when he can get on the bases. Add that to a rookie manager and a rotation that lost Bronson Arroyo, I don’t know how strong of a showing that they’ll have this year.
4. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brew Crew did improve over the offseason, but did they do enough to move up to 3rd? Maybe. That’s what made the 3-4 decision so hard. They have some strong players on the team who will have good years, including Gomez, Segura, and Lucroy. Braun will be back from his 65 game suspension, and although my personal feelings about him would just be a large, more expletive-filled rant that would make Milton Bradley seem tame, there’s no denying that he’ll put up some good numbers. They signed Garza in the offseason, and they seem poised to move up to 3rd, but I’m just a little tentative to put them there just yet.
5. Chicago Cubs
Well, the Cubs are continuing to stay in the cellar. They keep doing what they always do, and I don’t see them coming up anytime soon. The Cubs fans that I know keep preaching “2015”, but 2 years ago, it was “2014”, and before that, it was probably “2013”. Don’t get me wrong, I give them a ton of props to holding onto hope and sticking with a club, even though they have been struggling for so long, but I just don’t know when they’ll be ready to get out of the cellar. They do have some great looking prospects coming through the pipeline. As I am also a blogger for the Chattanooga Lookouts, I get to see their AA team pretty often, and they looked good last year. The problem with prospects is that they sometimes pan out, and sometimes don’t. A great AA team may not become a great MLB team. All I can say is “good luck”.
It’s interesting that today’s predictions come on the heels of the MLB predictions, but here’s to hoping for another great season for the Cardinals.