2013 National League Central Preview
1.Cincinnati Reds– Winners of 97 games in 2012, the Reds are poised to be even better in 2013. Joey Votto spent a decent chunk of his season on the disabled list last year, former top prospect Homer Bailey seems to have finally taken a step forward after a few years of disappointment, and Aroldis Chapman was rightfully put back into the closer’s role after flirting with becoming a starter. This could be the best team in the NL in 2013.
2.St. Louis Cardinals– After losing perennial MVP candidate and franchise cornerstone Albert Pujols and adding rookie manager Mike Matheny to the mix, the Cardinals looked like they might take a step back in 2012. That wasn’t the case. 2011 World Series hero Allen Craig had a huge 2012 (.307, 22HR, 92RBI) despite playing in only 119 games, and Lance Lynn had a breakout season winning 18 games. In 2013, the Cardinals will have to do without consistent closer Jason Motte to start the season, but if they can avoid disaster in the late innings in April they’ll be in the thick of the playoff race all year.
3.Milwaukee Brewers– The Brewers have a shot to explode onto the scene in 2012. Ryan Braun leads the NL’s most potent offense from last season. The only problem for the Brew Crew is the rotation behind ace Yovani Gallardo. No other starter on their team managed more than 140 innings in 2012, and if they don’t get contributions from those other four starters, it won’t matter how good the offense is in 2013.
4.Pittsbrugh Pirates– The Pirates looked ready to make the leap in 2012. At the all-star break, they led the NL Central with a 48-37 record. Andrew McCutchen was leading the MVP race, and everything was butterflies and rainbows in Pittsburgh. Then—somewhat predictably—they fell apart, finishing the season 31-46. Coming into 2013, the rest of the division got better and the Buccos lost closer Joel Hanrahan so it’s hard to be optimistic about them contending this year.
5.Chicago Cubs– It’s not like good things aren’t happening at Wrigley. Anthony Rizzo looks like a star in the making. Jeff Samardzija has the stuff to be a potential ace. Starlin Castro is one of the best young shortstops in the game. But the Cubbies aren’t contending anytime soon. You know it, I know it, and Theo Epstein knows it.