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2013 Preview: The National League Central

Mar 28, 2013, 9:40 AM EDT

Dusty Baker AP

For the past few days we’ve been previewing the 2013 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League Central.

The Reds got amazing consistency from their starting pitching and won 97 games. With a revamped outfield, can they maintain that pace?

The Cardinals lost Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal. But they have the best farm system in the game and an annoying ability to always, you know, be good. But good enough?

The Pirates haven’t finished over .500 since before a lot of you reading this were born. Is this the year they finally break through?

The Brewers had a frustrating 2012 and a quiet offseason. Is there any reason to expect a bounceback year?

The Cubs have Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer leading a rebuild. How soon can fans in Chicago expect their moves to pay some dividends in the standings?

Below are our team-by-team previews for the NL Central as well as our HBT Extra feature on the division. Enjoy.

Reds

Cardinals

Pirates

Brewers

Cubs

 

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  1. spudchukar - Mar 28, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    That is the way I see it, with the greatest question at the top. As noted, hard to see the Reds staff having the ridiculous number of starts without injury, and question marks on the left side of the infield, defensive outfield, and bottom of the line-up gives one pause.

    But the Cards have questions too, just more answers. Probably safe to say more upside Cards, less unknowns Reds. Pretty safe to count on Votto, Phillips, Bruce, Shoo, Ludwig, and Hanigan. Cozart has proven himself capable as a defensive SS, but his offensive numbers tumbled in 2012, especially in the second half, some worry, but not a lot. The big question offensively, rests at 3B. Frazier, had a great rookie campaign despite not showing that capability in the minors. It can happen, the line-up and home park help. If he can replicate his 2012 numbers then the Reds should score plenty to win. But when you don’t get much pop from SS or C, your #6 guy needs to be a contributor or your #5 guy gets pitched around and the offensive numbers wane.

    If the St. Louis youngsters perform as hoped then the Reds may end the year looking up and it isn’t unbridled optimism, cause those in question have all done it at least once. Kozma is certainly the great unknown. If he can outperform his minor league numbers like Frazier, like he did in 2012 and again this Spring, a big hole is filled. Can Wainwright return to form, most likely, Garcia, quite possibly and his excellent Spring gives hope, and even if Lynn takes a slight step backwards his 2012 campaign was lights out and should post good numbers as a #3 guy. The bet on Westbrook as a viable #4, Arroyoesque, and Miller has the credentials to give the Cards as good a 1-5 as the Reds, with more viable alternatives, with Kelly and Rosenthal ready and waiting.

    The Cards are excited about Carpenter’s ability to handle 2B. His offense prowess affords him the opportunity, and Descalso’s an outstanding utility guy who can certainly spell him. His insertion into the line-up gives the Cards a deadly 1-8, arguably the toughest group of hitters in MLB. Some could point to the Jays, Tigers, or Angels, but if you are looking for pure hitters, who make every at bat count, St. Louis is a nightmare.

    Both have great bull pens, so-so catcher backups, and one useless utility infielder. Barring major multiple injuries, which the Cards would be more likely to overcome, the two teams successes will be answered by their questions.

  2. contraryguy - Mar 28, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    So instead of leading the article with a pic of ‘the face of MLB’, Joey Votto, we get the, uh, backside of MLB. LOL Dusty Dusty Dusty…

    Long story short, it’s a two-team race. As a Reds fan, I have little doubt in Frazier’s ability; in fact I would hope he can do even better this year with a full-time job at a position. If Choo stays healthy and hits, he forces Dusty to not screw with the top of the lineup 7 days a week; that has to help as well. Last year the gloves made up for some pitching errors, this year it should be the bats.

    • okwhitefalcon - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:06 PM

      When the hell did Joey Votto become “‘the face of MLB’”?

      The whole “face of” angle (not narrative) is beyond played – the sooner the term goes away the better.

      As for the division – I’d rate Cincy a heavy favorite for now.

      Too many question marks for the Cards at this point.

      • bailey2626 - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:36 PM

        okwhitefalcon – Joey Votto is the Face of MLB

        http://mlb.mlb.com/network/promotions/faceofmlb.jsp

      • okwhitefalcon - Mar 28, 2013 at 3:36 PM

        A “Face of Baeball fan vote” huh, good Lord…

        Now if only Reds fans would pack the park like they hit the “vote now” button…

      • bailey2626 - Mar 28, 2013 at 4:47 PM

        Reds fans didn’t come up with the contest, MLB did. As far as attendance, that is a lame response people use when they don’t have anything valuable to add, but just want to put down a team and their fans. Who gives a damn what attendance is for any club!

  3. salvomania - Mar 28, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    The Cardinals lost Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal.

    Chris Carpenter won zero regular-season games in 2012.

    And even Pete Kozma will be hard-pressed to match Rafael Furcal’s 2012 offensive futility: after a hot start the first 33 games through May 13, Furcal hit just .218/.277/.279 the rest of the season, covering almost 400 at bats.

    To me the bigger worries are replacing Carlos Beltran’s production—because there’s no way the dude repeats his fountain-of-youth 2012, playing over 150 games and hitting over 30 homers—and the gradually declining production of Matt Holliday, as well as Molina’s regression to a merely good hitter.

    • jm91rs - Mar 28, 2013 at 4:34 PM

      As a Reds fan I sure hope you’re right about these guys declining. I just don’t see it though, that team is always competitive and in the thick of it right up til the end. Holliday is turning into a Reds killer and Molina loves nothing more than hitting off of Reds pitching.

  4. buffalomafia - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    Lets go Pirates!

  5. cintiphil - Mar 28, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    It is too soon to tell anything now, There are a few questions on each side, and I am worried that we have problems which few are taling about here in Cinti. We have a C-F who hasn’t played there since he got out of school and we have a pitching staff which has had many problems (and injuries) so far, leaving questions on opening day. Also, two new players (Frazier-Cozart) who are expected to repeat last years performance, may not. Rolen is gone and we have little back up for the two positions mentioned. I am sure the redbirds have problems too, but I don’t know what they are just now. Lets play a month or two and see who is going to do what? By June, we may know who is going to win this division.

    • jm91rs - Mar 28, 2013 at 4:32 PM

      Two things to think about when you mention Frazier. He should be getting better by playing every day. Playing only day games after night games doesn’t do a lot of good for a young guy. Secondly, I don’t believe Frazier needs to play as well as last year, just that he needs to play as well the combined numbers he put up with Rolen last year. Rolen played a lot more than Frazier so he just needs to do better than Rolen’s abysmal numbers for the Reds to improve.

  6. jm91rs - Mar 28, 2013 at 4:28 PM

    The way I see it the Reds upgraded or stayed the same at every position. The pitching staff likely can’t stay so healthy throughout the full season like last year, but that might just about even out with the upgrade at Center/leadoff. Drew Stubbs and company were abysmal last year. Cozart needs to play as well as his first year up and Frazier just needs to do better than Rolen did last year (not tough).

    That said, they won’t win as many games as last year because the Astros aren’t there to beat up on, but that will affect the Cards’ wins too. The Cards can never be counted out of the picture, but it looks like the Reds added pieces and the Cards didn’t do as much.

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