2010 MLB Predictions: The “Key” Player for Each NL Central Team

Adam BernacchioAnalyst IIIMarch 30, 2010

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 04:  Corey Hart #1 of the Milwaukee Brewers waits at second base against the San Francisco Giants during a spring training game at Scottsdale Stadium on March 4, 2010 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Yesterday, I looked at the “Key” player for each National League East team, so today I will cover the National League Central.

Here is the “Key” player for each National League Central team.

St. Louis Cardinals: Brad Penny

Normally this title is reserved for Chris Carpenter, but I feel good about Carpenter staying healthy this season. With Carpenter and Adam Wainwright at the top of the rotation, the Cardinals are set.

However, they need someone behind them to step up and replace the departed Joel Pineiro in order to be a dominant team in 2010. That guy is Brad Penny.

As much as I am not of fan of Pineiro’s, he did win 15 games last year. It will be up to Penny to replace his production. If he does, the Cardinals will run away with the NL Central.

Milwaukee Brewers: Corey Hart

In the first half of the 2008 season, Hart was the toast of the town and an All-Star. Since then he has really struggled.

The Brewers don’t have your classic “Brewer beat you into submission” lineup this year. They are going to need someone else besides Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder to hit.

If Hart can return to his pre-All-Star Game form, the Brewers’ lineup will be a lot deeper in 2010.

Chicago Cubs: Alfonso Soriano

Does Soriano have one more run left in him? That is the question Cubs fans are asking about their 34-year-old outfielder.

Soriano hasn’t played in more than 150 games since 2006, when he was with the Washington Nationals. If the Cubs can get 135 games and 25 to 30 home runs out of Soriano, their chances of a playoff berth will greatly improve.

Cincinnati Reds: Aaron Harang

The Reds are a trendy pick this year as a sleeper team, but if that is going to happen, then they need Aaron Harang to be the 2007 version of Aaron Harang.

Harang has lost 31 games over the last two years. The two years before, Harang won 32 games. If Harang can find himself again, the Reds will indeed be a sleeper in 2010.

Houston Astros: Bud Norris

I expect Roy Oswalt to be fine, and Wandy Rodriguez has developed into a solid No. 2 starter. The key for the Astros next year will be the development of prospect Bud Norris.

Norris struck out 54 in 55.2 innings last year, but he also walked 25 in those 55.2 innings. If he can harness his control and develop his skills, Norris will give the Astros three solid starters.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Pedro Alvarez

Like the Washington Nationals, the “Key” to the Pirates' season won’t be on their Opening Day roster. Alvarez was sent down to the minors last week, but he should be with the big club shortly.

Alvarez dismantled Double-A pitching last year to the tune of a .333 average with 13 home runs in 60 games. If Alvarez hits major league pitching like he hit Double-A pitching, the Pirates will have two stars (Andrew McCutchen being the other) to build around for the future.

Tomorrow I will cover the National League West.

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