2011 National League Central Preview

MLB Divisional Previews – 2011 NL Central

The National League Central is the biggest division in baseball with six teams (don’t ask me how that happens).  The Reds were the surprise of the division last year, but it is tough to say whether they can repeat as 2011 NL Central Champs.  The Cardinals are always going to contend for the title, and the Cubs should be able to bounce back from a down year to contend in 2011.

As it stands right now, however, the Reds are the favorite to take the National League Central division again, especially with the season ending injuries the Cardinals have suffered.  Still, in baseball’s largest division, it’s anyone’s for the taking (except maybe the Pirates), so look for another good year from this group of teams.

2010 NL Central Final Standings
Team Win Loss
Reds 91 71
Cardinals 86 76
Brewers 77 85
Astros 76 86
Cubs 75 87
Pirates 57 105

 

2011 Cincinnati Reds Preview

2011 Cin Reds Projected Starters
Position Name
SP1 J. Cueto
SP2 E. Volquez
SP3 B. Arroyo
SP4 H. Bailey
SP5 T. Wood
Catcher R. Hernandez
First Base J. Votto
Second Base B. Phillips
Third Base S. Rolen
Shortstop P. Janish
Left Field J. Gomes
Center Field D. Stubbs
Right Field J. Bruce

 

It’s never easy to follow up an overachieving year with a season of equal impressiveness, but that is exactly what the 2011 Cincinnati Reds will be trying to do.  They shocked everyone last year with their NL Central championship led by Joey Votto.  I don’t expect to see much of a fall off in Votto’s production, but Rolen and Phillips are getting a bit old in the infield and Janish is an unproven player who has never been in more than 100 games/season in his career.  The outfield is solid with Gomes and Bruce at the corners, but this team will probably need to rely on their starting pitching a bit more than they did last year.  If Cueto and Volquez can’t put up great numbers, this team will probably finish out of first place. For a chance to see the Reds defend their NL Central title, head on down to the Great American Ballpark.

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2011 St. Louis Cardinals Preview

2011 STL Cardinals Projected Starters
Position Name
SP1 C. Carpenter
SP2 J. Westbrook
SP3 J. Garcia
SP4 K. Lohse
SP5 K. McClellan
Catcher Y. Molina
First Base A. Pujols
Second Base S. Schumaker
Third Base D. Freese
Shortstop R. Theriot
Left Field M. Holliday
Center Field C. Rasmus
Right Field L. Berkman

The Cardinals finished a few games out of first place last year, but looked to have everything geared up for a NL Central title run in 2011 until Wainwright went down.  Losing him hurts, but St. Louis Cardinals’ fans should not despair because you still have King Albert (at least for this year). Pujols always puts up amazing numbers, but in 2011 he will be out to prove that he deserves 30+million/year and the NL Central will bear the brunt of his wrath.  The addition of Berkman to the Cardinals lineup gives them one of the strongest in the NL Central and Theriot gives the Cardinals some experience in the middle infield as well. The pitching staff is not completely in shambles, but Carpenter will be asked to carry much more of the burden than he would if Wainwright were still around.  Even with all the injuries, look for the Cardinals to hit 90 wins and possibly win the NL Central in 2011. Busch Stadium is a great place to watch baseball, so head on down – like we said, this may be your last chance to see Pujols in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform.

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2011 Milwaukee Brewers Preview

2011 Mil Brewers Projected Starters
Position Name
SP1 Z. Greinke
SP2 Y. Gallardo
SP3 S. Marcum
SP4 R. Wolf
SP5 C. Narveson
Catcher J. Lucroy
First Base P. Fielder
Second Base R. Weeks
Third Base C. McGehee
Shortstop Y. Betancourt
Left Field R. Braun
Center Field C. Gomez
Right Field C. Hart

The Brewers are such an up and down team, it is hard to predict what they will do in the 2011 season.  They picked up Greinke which will give them a solid starter at the top of their rotation, but that’s about where the good times end for the Brewers pitching staff.  The infield is pretty solid on the right hand side with Fielder and Weeks, but unproven McGehee might prove to be a liability at third base and at the plate.  Betancourt will help shore up the infield defensively, but won’t provide much at the plate.  The outfield needs Braun and Hart to step up big if they want to avoid getting blown out in this suddenly competitive division.  If the Brewers can hang on to some of their young stars for a few years, it should give them enough time to fill in the gaps with reliable vets.  Only then can they make a good run at the NL Central, but for 2011, they shouldn’t finish much higher than third. Grab a beer, grab a seat, and watch Bernie Brewer go down the slide every time Milwaukee hits a home run.  Miller Park is a great place to watch baseball.

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2011 Houston Astros Preview

2011 Hou Astros Projected Starters
Position Name
SP1 W. Rodriguez
SP2 B. Myers
SP3 J. Happ
SP4 B. Norris
SP5 N. Figueroa
Catcher H. Quintero
First Base B. Wallace
Second Base B. Hall
Third Base C. Johnson
Shortstop C. Barmes
Left Field C. Lee
Center Field M. Bourne
Right Field H. Pence

The Astros might not have finished at or even near the top of the NL Central last year, but they did quite a bit better than anyone could have expected, especially with the loss of Oswalt.  Still, they have other losses to get over, now that Berkman is gone to the National League Central rival Cardinals.  The Astros have some great talent in the outfield with Bourne and Pence, but they really hold themselves back with Lee in left field. I know he can put up offensive numbers from time to time, but last year was his lowest offensive production since coming into the league – and it won’t get better with age. On the infield, young Brett Wallace (an Arizona State Grad) and Chris Jonhson cover the corners.  Wallace will be playing in his first full season while Johnson is in his second.  They will have some vets to help them out with Barmes and Hall up the middle. Still, this will be a rebuilding year for the Astros.  If you want to see some budding young talent, head on down to Minute Maid and catch an Astros game.

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2011 Chicago Cubs Preview

2011 Chi Cubs Projected Starters
Position Name
SP1 R. Dempster
SP2 M. Garza
SP3 C. Zambrano
SP4 R. Wells
SP5 C. Silva
Catcher G. Soto
First Base C. Pena
Second Base B. DeWitt
Third Base A. Ramirez
Shortstop S. Castro
Left Field A. Soriano
Center Field M. Byrd
Right Field K. Fukudome

Oh where have the all the Cubbies gone?  Wrigleyville’s finest boasted the third highest payroll in the Majors last year, but only beat out the Pirates in the National League Central. They had friction in the clubhouse with Zambrano going crazy on everyone, and the rest of the team pretty much just underperformed.  Unless some miracle hits north Chicago, however, the 2011 Cubs will probably not fare much better than they did last year.  Zambrano, who would normally be a number 1 starter, is projected in the three spot behind Dempster and Garza – shows just how far he’s fallen.  Carlos Pena will have some big shoes to fill over at first base, but numbers-wise, they won’t see much of a drop off there, now that Derek Lee has gone to Baltimore.  The outfield is just OK, as Soriano and Byrd are starting to see the wrong side of age 30.  The Cubs do have an outstanding young shortstop in Starlin Castro, but his defensive struggles are well documented.  All in all, the Cubs probably won’t finish in 5th again, but don’t look for them to really make a big push at an NL Central title. No matter how badly the Cubs stink, Wrigley is still one of the best places in all of baseball to catch a game.  Avoid the breeze (if you can) and head on down to Wrigley to watch the Cubbies. Let’s Play Two.

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2011 Pittsburgh Pirates Preview

2011 Pitt Pirates Projected Starters
Position Name
SP1 J. McDonald
SP2 P. Maholm
SP3 K. Correia
SP4 R. Ohlendorf
SP5 C. Morton
Catcher C. Snyder
First Base L. Overbay
Second Base N. Walker
Third Base P. Alvarez
Shortstop R. Cedeno
Left Field J. Tabata
Center Field A. McCutchen
Right Field G. Jones

I promised myself that this would not be the forum to kick the Pirates while they were down.  They are trying, I promise, to put together a team that will compete in the NL Central. But try as they might, they just cannot seem to hang onto any good players.  The ones they do invest in, turn out to be busts, and they refuse to pay any money for decent free agents.  Atop their rotation is James McDonald who was a castoff from the Dodgers and has a career ERA approaching 4.00 – not exactly a dominating number 1 starter, but it’s what they got.  From there the names get even more obscure, which means the defense will need to stay on its toes.  Andrew McCutchen is one of the best young outfielders in the game today, but he isn’t getting much help. The only other name on the roster that the casual fan might know (and I stress MIGHT) is Lyle Overbay.  Maybe this young team can bring it all together for a winning season, but that is probably best case scenario – no way is a 2011 National League Central title within their grasp.  Even if you go just to watch other teams beat up on the Pirates, PNC Park in Pittsburgh is a great venue with stunning views of the city skyline.

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The Rest of Our 2011 MLB Previews

 

About Aaron Garcia

Aaron is an avid sports fan who passionately follows the NFL, NBA and MLB, in addition to NCAA Sports. He is an Arizona State University grad who loves the Dodgers and the Patriots.

4 comments

  1. 1) Braun and Hart did really well in 2010. Why is stepping it up an issue?
    2)Greinke isn’t the only top-of-the-rotation starter in the Brewers. There’s also Gallardo and Marcum. Yes, they are both good pitchers too.
    3)McGehee is not unproven. He did well last season and he did well in his rookie season
    4)For the Cardinals, Berkman would be a defensive liability in the outfield, and the loss of Wainwright is HUGE. Plus Carpenter isn’t a guarantee to hold up for the entire season, despite pitching over 200 innings last season

    1. Greg,
      I mentioned that Braun and Hart needed to step up, not because they didnt perform well, but because the team will be relying on them a ton this year. I have a ton of respect for them, but there isnt much on this team aside from them. I will agree that Gallardo and Marcum put up good numbers, but neither have ever reached 15 wins in a season. I said that McGehee is unproven because despite having a good power year, he struck out over 100 times – those are Mark Reynolds Numbers (but not really, because come’on nobody is that bad)!! My comment about Berkman was that adding him to the lineup gave the Cards one of the best in the NL Central – nothing about his defense. Losing Wainwright is huge, I agree, and Carpenter probably can’t do it alone. I was just trying to make the point that with Pujols on your team, there is always something to look forward to, even though guys are hurt. Totally appreciate the feedback Greg – I’m guessing you are a Brew Crew fan?

      1. Yup, proud Brew Crew fan. Despite my critcisms, I have great respect for both the Cards and the Reds. It’s going to be very interesting in teh NL Central as the Reds, Cards, and the Brewers are all candidates to win the NL Central.

        1. I totally agree – it’s gonna be great to keep track of this year. Hopefully I didn’t offend with any of my comments about Milwaukee. I have a lot of respect for them, but I’m just not sure if it’s their year.

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