In 2016, the Chicago Cubs ran away with the division, beating out the St. Louis Cardinals by 17.5 games. The Cubs rode that momentum all the way into October, as they won their first World Series title in 108 years. Are the Cubbies destined to repeat as National League Central champs, or is there another team waiting in the weeds to take down the defending World Series winners?
- Chicago Cubs 100-62
- St. Louis Cardinals 86-76
- Pittsburg Pirates 85-77
- Milwaukee Brewers 80-82
- Cincinnati Reds 70-92
There’s no question that the North siders are the best team in the National league, let alone the entire MLB. Yes, they may have lost some key pieces this offseason. Dexter Fowler is on his way out of town and landed with the Cub’s rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, while their stud closer Aroldis Chapman was picked up by the New York Yankees. With that being said, the Cubs did a great job replacing these guys. Baseball’s best General Manager, Theo Epstein went out and landed Wade Davis, who tallied 27 saves last season with the Kansas City Royals. To replace Fowler, the Cubbies have promoted Albert Almora Jr, who is expected to be a stud once he gets a few games under his belt. This year is going to be no different. Expect the Cubbies to run away with this division once again.
Coming in second place are the St. Louis Cardinals. The Red Birds are consistently good, year in and year out. The addition of Fowler to their lineup should bring some much needed speed and athleticism to their team. Unfortunately, the Cardinals haven’t done enough this offseason to even come close to the team the Cubs have built. Cardinal fans should be praying for a Wild Card spot.
The Pittsburg Pirates are my choice for third place in the National League Central. The Buccos struggled last season, recording a losing record for the first time since 2013. This is due in large part to the lack of production from Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen had a quiet year in 2016, hitting just 24 home runs and recording a career low .256 batting average. If the Pirates want a chance to make the playoffs, they are going to need the Andrew McCutchen of old. Look for the Pirates to bounce back in 2017, but not nearly enough to put them over the top.
Rounding out the bottom of the division are the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds. The Brewers stayed out of the limelight in 2016, having a better than usual season. The offseason was even quieter for the Brew Crew as they went out and signed Travis Shaw. The Brewers are just as boring as the city they play in. Don’t expect them to do anything special in 2017.
The Reds are in the midst of a rebuilding stage. Brandon Phillips has headed out of town, being acquired by the Atlanta Braves this offseason. Don’t expect the Reds star, Joey Votto to last much longer in Cincinnati either. I expect the Reds to deal Votto by the trade deadline in 2017 to acquire some much needed farm system help. The Reds will be bad for a while, no ifs ands or buts about that.
The National League Central is not going to produce any close races down the stretch. The Cubbies should comfortably take home the title once more, on their quest to repeat as World Series champions.