NL Central Predictions

February 26, 2008 at 2:30 am 13 comments

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The NL Central has been the opposite of the NL West over the last year or so. It has been called the “weakest” division in the league. I don’t think it is the weakest division in baseball this year and the Cubs and Brewers are out to prove it.

[TABLE=58]

Strengths
1) Run Scoring – This Brewer team may end up leading the league in runs scored. They have the potential to put up 900+ runs easily. The only week spot in the lineup is at catcher. They should have a 20+ homer guy at all positions except catcher as well.

2) Power – This team could lead the majors in homers by season’s end. Fielder is a virtual lock for 40+, Braun for 20+, and Hardy, Hart, Hall, Weeks, and even Cameron are all going to get 20+. Russ Branyan may get double digits off the bench in only 150 at-bats.

Weaknesses:
1) Catcher – Jason Kendall is a weak hitting, bad fielding catcher that can’t throw a runner out. I would almost think that Eric Munson in the catcher spot would be the better route.

2) Health – Injury prone players are at key positions. Ace Ben Sheets is an injury risk, table setter Rickie Weeks is as well, and closer Eric Gagne can’t be relied upon to stay healthy. The recent injury to young starter Yovanni Gallardo doesn’t help either.

Breakout Candidate:
1) Rickie Weeks is the closest thing to a sure break out unless he gets injured. In only 187 post All-Star break at-bats he posted a .422 OBP and .903 OPS. He drew 47 walks in those 187 at-bats and went 16-16 in stolen base attempts with 11 homers. If those aren’t potential break out numbers I don’t know what is.

[TABLE=59]

Strengths
1) Top of the order – You can’t go wrong with Soriano, Fukudome, Lee, Ramirez, and Soto hitting in the first 6 spots of your lineup.

2) Bench – Matt Murton should be a starter and he is the 4th outfielder here. Sam Fuld can fly. And Mike Fontenot is capable in the infield.

Weaknesses:
1) Patience – This team needs to become more patient and take more walks for it to become my division favorite. Fukudome will help and if they acquire Brian Roberts that will help as well as it stands right now they need to get people on base at a better clip because the more people on base the more runs they can score. Which brings me to the next weakness…

2) Bullpen – Outside of Marmol (who has one great year under his belt) and Howry who can they rely on? Kerry Wood? I think so but he has to prove it first. Who gets lefties out? Eyre? Cotts? I’m not sold. They better hope Kevin Hart and even Sean Gallagher can help in the middle.

Breakout Candidate:
1) Matt Murton is the most likely to break out on this team. He is a .290/.375/.460 bat that is waiting to hit 20 homers and steal 10+ bases. The only problem is that he is blocked in the outfield and may need a change of scenery to break out.

[TABLE=60]

Strengths
1) Offense – This is only a strenght if they find a way to put Bruce, Votto, and Encarnacion in and let Freel and Hatteberg come off the bench. The lineup from top to bottom has the ability to produce 900+ runs.

2) Young talent – They have top prospect Jay Bruce ready, a potential 20-20 1B in Joey Votto ready, a potential #1 starter in Homer Bailey ready, and a breakout bat in Edwin Encarnacion. Let’s just pray they all play the right amount under Baker.

Weaknesses:
1) – Dusty Baker has a tendancy to overuse young arms (watch out Bailey and Cueto) and to play aging veterans over young potential superstars. It looks like he is going to go this route this year as well and that could spell disaster.

2) Defense – If Baker plays his guys then the defense will suffer badly. The only spot that is plus is 2B with Phillips, every other spot is average or worse.

Breakout Candidate:
1) Edwin Encarnacion has the offensive tools, the age, and the ballpark to be a prime candidate for a break out season. The only thing that worries me is if Dusty Baker decides to go with Ryan Freel or someone else and only give Encarnacion 400-450 at-bats. He deserves 500+ and should put up stellar numbers if he gets the at-bats.

[TABLE=61]

Strengths
1) Offense – Try and find a weak spot in the lineup. The pitcher’s spot is the only spot that is weak.

2) Roy Oswalt – He could pull a Steve Carlton and win over 40% of his team’s games.

Weaknesses:
1) Rotation -Other than Oswalt this rotation is dismal at best.

2) Defense – Not a good combo to have. Bad rotation and below average defense. Ouch!

Breakout Candidate:
1) Don’t confuse Michael Bourn with a player that will hit home runs. If you’re lucky he’ll hit 5 homers but his value is his ablilty to take walks, put the ball in play, and steal bases. Look for him to top 45 steals with ease.

[TABLE=62]

Strengths
1) Weak Division – If all player stay healthy and Colby Rasmus wins rookie of the year they could make a push for the division.

Weaknesses:
1) Position players – They will field below average players at SS, 2B, and 2 outfield spots. The reserves are awful too. Not good.

2) Injuries – Chris Carpenter, Matt Clement, Jason Isringhausen, Troy Glaus, and now Albert Pujols. The worst part is that Pujols and Carpenter are the two best players and both could very well miss significant time.

Breakout Candidate:
1) Adam Wainwright became a full-time starter just last year. He topped 200 innings and posted a 3.70 ERA, not bad for a first timer. But it started with a rocky first half (7-7, 4.66, 59 K/40 BB, and 9 homers in 102.1 IP) that made some doubt. He then had a phenomenal second half (7-5, 2.71, 77K/ 30 BB, and 4 homers in 99.2 IP) that should translate into this season.

[TABLE=63]

Strengths
1) Gorzelanny/Snell combo – The 1-2 punch of these two is the main bright spot for the Pirates. Both should be among the 20 best pitchers in the NL.

Weaknesses:
1) Offense – The offense will be lucky to get 30+ homers from a player this year and the lineup lacks patience, finishing as the only team with under 500 walks in 2007 (463)

Breakout Candidate:
1) Nate McLouth is going to take advantage of Chris Duffy falling out of favor with the Pirates. McLouth has 20-20 potential and should approach at least that if given 500 at-bats. He also takes walks and should bat near the top of the Pirates order.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell

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13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Charlie Nehl  |  February 27, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Of course you know I’ve got a remark on this, but I don’t have time to formulate a full response yet. Maybe later today.

    Also there’s a rumor floating around _again_, that the Royals and Brewers could flip flop leagues. Now *if* this were to happen (which it won’t) you’d be be giving the Cubs the division

    Reply
  • 2. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  February 27, 2008 at 11:05 am

    If that did happen they would get the division for sure. The Brewers will need a DH when Matt LaPorta is ready. He can only play LF and 1B.

    Reply
  • 3. Charlie Nehl  |  February 27, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Has it been officially set that Braun is playing LF and Hall 3b??

    Reply
  • 4. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  February 27, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Yes sir. They have said Braun has done great in left so far too and that there is a 99.9% chance he will never go back to 3B.

    Reply
  • 5. Jamison Hall  |  February 27, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Where is Carlos Villanueva??

    Reply
  • 6. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  February 27, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Sorry brother, I had to stop predictions somewhere and he was left out. That’s a good thing for your Brew Crew though. They have depth, a lot of it too.

    Reply
  • 7. Erik  |  February 27, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Ah the NL central… where to start with the Red Headed Step Child of the National League. Well I think I will start with the Brewers who should give the Cubs the brunt of the competition in the Central. I like most of the deals they did over the off season…Adding Cameron and moving Hall to 3rd and Braun to Left should help the teams offense. Losing Cordero to a division rival will hurt. Getting Gagne shouldn’t be much of a big deal and my prediction is Turnbow reclaims the closers role in Milwaukee. The Cubs I expect great things from Felix Pie. Then again most people who are Cubs fans do from this homegrown talent. Their Pitching with Zambrano is a legit contender adding Fukodome is a gamble since the only OFer from Japan that has consistantly performed is Ichiro… Yes I know Hideki Matsui does ok but I’m sure the Yankees wish they were out of that contract. The Astros if it weren’t for Oswalt, Berkman, Pence and Lee probably nobody would be mentioning them other than the Tejeda deal and the only team Roger Clemens can pitch until he’s 80. The team should be interesting to watch since they fired ole scrap iron. Valverde was a steal for them. etc…
    The Reds… good young ball players too bad their manager plays aging veterans instead so Joey Votto won’t get a great shot, and CF is going to be Norris Hoppers to lose. Their rotation is 2 deep with Harang and Aaroyo and have a good young arm in Homer Bailey but the Reds main attraction is their Hitting… Look for Griffey and Dunn to move on when they fall out of the race which should be relatively early. Can’t say I’m a fan of Dusty Baker… I think what he did in Chicago is exactly what will happen to the Reds…
    Cardinals… I like their Injured Players alot and I have some connection to them… (Played A ball for them in Newark NJ). I can’t really say I expect much and they weakened themselves defensively adding Glaus and losing Rolen. I think having Ankiel will play huge if he is up for a full season. Mind you this team is giving a shot to Juan Gonzalez who hasn’t played in years. Their main saving grace is they play in the same division as the Pirates.

    Pirates-Jason Bay, Tom Gorezalany, and Ian Snell well McCutcheon is on the horizon…. Can’t really say much…

    Prediction
    Brewers
    Cubs
    Astros
    Reds
    Cardinals
    Pirates

    Reply
  • 8. Charlie Nehl  |  February 28, 2008 at 10:11 am

    On the Cubs relief corp you forgot to mention Michael Wurtz, their slider specialist. He’s been known to come in, in an inning and throw 75% sliders. He came in to face Albert Pujols a lot late game last season, and pretty much threw him all sliders. In one at bat last year he threw 6 sliders to strike him out (Pujols can’t hit the breaking stuff on the outside corner of the plate). He was actually 2nd in the NL with stranding inherited runners percentage. 2nd to Carlos Marmol of course. I think the Cubs pen is honestly one of their strong points.

    It’s going to be a huge race with the Brew Crew and the Cubbies. They both are going to put up big offensive numbers, so it’s going to be pitching that determines the winners. Both teams have a 2-3 decent starters and have question marks after that. The Cubs are going with experience with Marquis, Leiber, and Dempster vying for the last spots in the rotation, whereas the Brewers are going with some youth.

    I think their pens are about the same, but we’ll see who wins the closing job for the Cubs, and if Gagne can be effective and stay heathly. It will be a good race either way. Being a Cubs fan I’m pulling for the Cubs, and think they’ll win the division, but I could honestly go either way. We’ll see. This is why I love baseball so much.

    Reply
  • 9. MikeMcGinnis  |  February 28, 2008 at 10:57 am

    i really hope baker doesn’t screw this one up because the reds have some young kids with talent and can be a decent team if they play their youngsters

    Reply
  • 10. Charlie Nehl  |  February 28, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Oh, Baker is going to screw up the reds. Look what he did to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. He always seemed to play Neifi Perez over the youngsters too.

    Reply
  • 11. kenney miller  |  March 3, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Don’t count the Reds out so fast.The only reason Dusty has the rep of “ruining” young arms is because of Prior and Woods…who would have eventually been injured regardless of how many innings they pitched.Also,you are wrong in regards of Baker playing veterans over rookies.The complete opposite is true.Did you copy your homework or actually come to your own opinions?If I wanted to read the same over-written,thoughtless paragraphs,I’d buy a paper…Next thing you know,you guys will print something brilliant like,”the Reds need pitching”…c’mon fellas,you are better than that…I hope.

    Reply
  • 12. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  March 3, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Thanks for the comment Kenney. The reason I say those things about Baker is because they are true. Baker has already said Votto has to beat our Hatteberg for the 1B job (what a joke) and that is just one example. Russ Ortiz lasted only 2 full seasons after he parted ways with Baker. I’m not saying it is all Baker’s fault but I was just giving you another name. I’m scared he will do to Bailey what he did to Prior and Wood.

    Reply
  • 13. Erik  |  March 10, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Baker has a history of blowing out arms. Look at SF= Russ ortiz, CHI= Wood, Prior..

    Reply

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