Why do I have the Cubs first, just because. I will say the top 4 teams in the central could produce a race this year that comes down to the final week of the season. Placing them first is almost beyond silly. But if they can get numbers from the likes of Derek Lee, Alfonso Soriano Mike Byrd and Aramis Ramierez at the plate, they will be in good shape. They also have Xavier Nady waiting to play; he is capable of some long balls as well. We will see where the pitching staff is able to take these guys, lead by Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster. Again, the Cubs could finish anywhere from first to fourth.
I could be reading too much in Mark, but I see his presence to be a big distraction to the team, at least early on. Someone that only hit for power as a hitting coach does not make much sense to me. They do offer two “aces” in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. On offense, you have the always present Albert Pujols and the hard hitting left fielder, Matt Holliday. I am sure the Cardinals will once again win the central, but it would be nice to see someone else give them a run for the money.
The Brewers face some challenges this year for sure, but they could make this race an interesting one. They are lead on the mound by Gallardo and Randy Wolf, both were spotty last year, just over .500. Offensively you have two heavies in Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. I think this could be a great “team” that could take advantage of the Mark McGwire distraction that will follow the Cardinals.
Could Cincinnati be the next team to give the Cardinals a run for their money? The recent addition of Aroldis Chapman took a step back as he is dealing with lower back pain this spring. They have a lot of RBI producers in the field. Here is how they sat at the conclusion of 2009: Votto 84, Phillips 98, Cabrera 77, Rolen 67, and Bruce 58. Bruce will play in more than 101 games this season for sure. If Aaron Harang and Johnny Cueto can get back on track, the Reds will help make the central an interesting race to watch.
The Pirates need a shift. Instead of always placing these guys at the cellar of the central, I think you will see them creep up to fifth. Zack Duke was off last year for sure, but I am confident that he will turn things around and be the true ace of this staff. Offensively, we will have a great opportunity to see Jeff Clement and what he can do outside of the hype from Seattle. Andy LaRouche will still lead all Pirates in most offensive categories.
The Astros and Pirates will make cellar watching a nice story. Roy Oswalt probably had one of his worst seasons every in 2009. I am sure he is hungry to turn things around. The rest of the staff could pick up on this energy and actually produce. Offensively, you still have Carlos Lee. They have some up and comers in Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn. Don’t forget about Lance Berkman too. After doing more research, I am changing my vote, the Pirates will again finish in last.