Now that Spring Training has begun for all Major League Baseball teams, it is time to start focusing on baseball. There were some major trades made during the offseason, and that could affect some playoff races.
After a shortened 60-game season in 2020, MLB will be having a normal 2021 season, and there is plenty of excitement building. One of the most competitive divisions in baseball will be the National League Central.
Here is an NL Central preview for the upcoming 2021 season.
Current Odds to Win NL Central:
St. Louis Cardinals +105
Cincinnati Reds +330
Milwaukee Brewers +380
Chicago Cubs +400
Pittsburgh Pirates +5000
The St. Louis Cardinals are the heavy betting favorites at this time to win the National League Central Division. The Reds, Brewers, and Cubs are all expected to be pretty equal this season, and that could lead to a very interesting divisional race.
Without further ado, here is a quick breakdown of each NL Central team based on the expected order of finish.
1st: Chicago Cubs
That’s right, the Chicago Cubs are going to win the National League Central Division again this season. Most people are sleeping on the Cubs based on the rough offseason that the team had, but this team still has a feared offensive lineup.
Manager David Ross is the right man to guide the Cubs back to the top of the Central Division, and the starting rotation will be much better than expected. There are still some holes in the bullpen, but that’s a common theme for most teams in MLB.
A lineup featuring Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Willson Contreras is capable of carrying this team offensively, and that is exactly what will happen. The Cubs will find some money at the Trade Deadline and they will make a move that helps them win the division.
2nd: St. Louis Cardinals
When the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Nolan Arenado in a trade with the Colorado Rockies, many people assumed that the Central Division title was guaranteed. Arenado is obviously a massive upgrade for the Cardinals, but this team still has some serious flaws.
The starting rotation will not scare anyone outside of Jack Flaherty, and he wasn’t exactly dominant a season ago. There are still some quesiton marks in the bullpen, and there are plenty of aging stars on this roster.
Sure, bringing Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina were two nice sentimental moves, but they are not what they used to be. St. Louis should be able to score some runs in the middle of that lineup, but I wouldn’t start printing those NL Central Division t-shirts just yet.
3rd: Milwaukee Brewers
If the Milwaukee Brewers are going to contend for the NL Central crown this season then Christian Yelich is going to have to return to his old form. The numbers last year for Yelich were staggering, and not in a good way.
The Brewers will once again struggle to get outs with the starting rotation, but the bullpen should still be a force. Milwaukee just doesn’t have any real advantages over the Cubs or Cardinals, but they won’t make it easy on either team.
4th: Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds missed out on a golden opportunity to win the NL Central Division in 2020, and now it appears that their window of opportunity is gone. Losing Trevor Bauer was the biggest blow, but the Reds are going to take a step backward this season.
The starting rotation could still be strong, but the rest of the team has some major weaknesses. Cincinnati could finish around the .500 mark this season, but that won’t be enough to win the NL Central.
Last: Pittsburgh Pirates
One thing is for certain, and that is that the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to finish in last place in the division. Pittsburgh might even be the worst team in baseball in 2021, but the Baltimore Orioles might have something to say about that.
It was another offseason of slashing payroll for the Pirates, and many of their most recognizable stars will now be wearing a new uniform. With or without masks, the Pirates will be a hard team to recognize.
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