Rather than risk disappointment in 2019, the Milwaukee Brewers kept the pedal to the proverbial metal following a 96-win 2018 campaign.
They left a massive upgrade at catcher by registering Yasmani Grandal. They also reinserted Mike Moustakas into their infield. Together with reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Travis Shaw and Jesus Aguilar, the lineup is one of the league’s greatest.
When there’s a red flag in Milwaukee, it concerns the club’s lack of a No. 1 starter. That was not an issue in 2018, nevertheless, and the Brewers have the starting pitching depth and overpowering bullpen for the same in 2019.
Such as the NL East, the National League Central is deeper than it had been a year ago. Yet, these Brewers have 95-win upside that could net them a branch crown or even a wild-card spot.
Playoff opportunities: 70 percent
The Chicago Cubs are estimated to finish last in the NL Central by Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projection system, and they are not happy about it.
To be honest, they did win 95 games last year. And they are going into 2019 using a healthful Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez in the center of a lineup that’s oozing with upside down. A beginning five of Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Yu Darvish has loads of upside in its own right.
However, at least until Brandon Morrow is retrieved from elbow surgery, the bullpen is a clear weakness. And while the offense has explosive potential, it’ll be accomplished only if Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras and Ian Happ create the strides which were expected of them in 2018.
Though the Cubs almost certainly won’t be the worst team in the NL Central this season, their playoff odds nonetheless look as a toss-up.
Playoff opportunities: 50 percent
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals responded appropriately to missing out on the 2018 postseason with 88 wins.
Their big move was to add MVP-caliber slugger Paul Goldschmidt to a lineup which was good enough to score 4.7 runs per game without him. Additionally they built a leaky bullpen with Andrew Miller.
It’s nevertheless reasonable to be concerned about the volatility inside the pitching team. Neither Miller nor Luke Gregerson was healthy last year, and Jordan Hicks’ results were less striking than his stuff. In the meantime, Carlos Martinez has already run afoul of the injury insect.
If the pitching staff holds together better than expected, the NL Central crown will probably be within the Cards’ reach. Otherwise, it is going to be a struggle.
Playoff chances: 40 percent
In the event the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to improve on last season’s up-and-down street to 82 wins, it will be due to their pitching.
Somewhat quietly, Pirates hurlers put up a 3.52 ERA in the second half of 2018. Virtually All the key contributors–specifically Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Felipe Vazquez and Richard Rodriguez–are back to maintain runs in a premium in 2019.
It’s too bad the front office did nothing to enhance a weak offense. It’ll be around the incumbents–particularly Starling Marte, Josh Bell, Corey Dickerson and, when healthy, Gregory Polanco–to drive an improvement on this, and they can not have the capacity to make it happen.
With any surprises, the Pirates will be hard-pressed to crack the top three of the NL Central.
Playoff opportunities: 10 percent
Despite losing 95 matches in 2018, the Cincinnati Reds took the novel approach of attempting to build a winner at the offseason.
Consequently a batch of fresh stars headlined from Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark and Alex Wood. They figure to improve the offense that relied too heavily on Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett as well as a rotation with an NL-worst 5.28 ERA because 2017.
However, Cincinnati’s new additions arguably have more name worth than star power. The pitchers are specifically trouble, since they have to contend with Great American Ball Park and a feeble defense.
The Reds are definitely better than they were a year ago, but they’re in essentially the exact same ship as the Pirates.
Playoff opportunities: 10 percent
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