NL Central Preview: Full Forecast for Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Pirates and Brewers

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NL Central Preview: Full Forecast for Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Pirates and Brewers
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
The Cincinnati Reds were the class of the NL Central in 2012. Will they do it again?

The National League Central got a bit of a makeover this offseason, as the Houston Astros moved to the American League West as part of a small bit of realignment. 

Losing the Astros will actually help separate the wheat from the chaff in the division, because that franchise is in the early stages of a full-scale rebuilding job that basically made them a punching bag for everyone else. 

The five remaining teams will miss those wins against the Astros, but it should make for a more compelling summer of baseball. 

Last year, the Cincinnati Reds took control of the division for the second time in three years and actually had the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants on the ropes in the Division Series before blowing a 2-0 series lead. 

The St. Louis Cardinals also had the Giants up against it in the National League Championship Series but weren't able to close things out in Game 6 or 7 and missed out on the opportunity to repeat as champions. 

But those two teams are going to be right back in the playoff mix again this season, with the other three teams looking to take different steps in order to be where the Reds and Cardinals have been at the last few years. 

Here is a look at what we expect from the National League Central in 2013, including what each teams needs to happen, things that could go wrong and projected final standings. 

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