A very top-heavy division, the NL Central does not seem to provide any challenge to the overloaded Chicago Cubs.
Chicago Cubs. Easy pick. The only team close to them in talent is the Milwaukee Brewers, and I'll get to their problems in a minute.
How can you not like what the Cubs bring to the table? Possibly the best batting order in the NL, the Cubs bring to the table what no Central team can: a great pitching staff.
Zambrano at the top, effective lefties in Lilly and Hill, and veteran talent in the back end, plus about five guys who can close if needed. Unless they come off the rails at some point, they should cruise to the division title.
Milwaukee Brewers. Yes, they may have the most talented young group of position players outside of Arizona, but that upside is masking a serious downside: the health of their pitchers.
Ben Sheets and Yovani Gallardo are perhaps the best one-two punch in all of baseball, but they always seem to be included on the injury report. Sheets hasn't made 30 starts in a single season yet, and Gallardo is starting the season on the DL.
Add to that the overpaid and marginally effective Jeff Suppan, add the other two scrubs they run out on days four and five, and you have a recipe for disaster.
And add to that the GIGANTIC question mark, closer Eric Gagne, who in the first half of the 2007 season was lights-out for the woeful Rangers, then completely imploded in Boston.
Letting Francisco Cordero go may cost the Brewers close to 10-20 games this year, as they will surrender a lot of leads. No division title and no wild card.
Cincinnati Reds. Oh my lord, when I read that Sports Illustrated was picking the Reds to finish second in this division, I almost died. If I hadn't been on the toilet already, it could have been disastrous.
To think that a team running out a bunch of waste-of-space batters behind their declining veterans can beat out the other teams in the top of this division is a riot. They have no chance, and I think the best case scenario is third in the division.
But don't fear, Reds fans. Two of the best prospects in baseball are on their way up to the majors in Jay Bruce and Joey Votto.
Maybe Next Year
As weak a division as this is, four of the teams have a chance to get a lot better. I'd say the most improved team for next year may be the Brewers, though I wouldn't be surprised if the Reds get a lot better next year. It's a coin toss though.