March 20, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) prior to the game against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

NL Central Linkage: McCutchen, Lucroy, Wandy, Marlon and Tyler Greene?

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Here’s a few links about the other NL Central teams that I found interesting…

McCutchen is an Animal

Well, he is if you take Rum Bunter’s Tom Smith at his word. And I do. And Smitty also has a nugget within this piece that many may find a little surprising.

He is the face of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 25-year old has always been able to flash the ability of one of the very best players in the National League. Yet, each season has failed to live up to the billing as one of the best players in all of baseball.

I was surprised when I first read that, but as I took some time to think about it, I bought into it. Take the whole quote. The face of an organization has higher expectations placed upon his shoulders. While a lot of non-Pirates fans will look at McCutchen’s career numbers and see that he is clearly one of the best center fielders in baseball, Pirates fans may be expecting just a little more.

And I have no doubt that McCutchen will do so.

Brewers Lock Up Lucroy

It may be the first a couple more deals for the Milwaukee Brewers where they lock up their core talent inking catcher Jonathan Lucroy to a five-year, $11+ million deal. May not seem like a lot of dough, but it’s a step the likes of Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and John Axford like to see.

Best part of Lucroy’s game: his defense. Reviewing the Brew’s Brad White fills us in on the details.

But one thing that really looks promising about Lucroy is his defense. It took him awhile to get used to playing defense in the Majors, but he finally got the knack for it around halfway through the 2011 season. I don’t know exactly what his defensive stats were in 2011, but it sure seemed like he was throwing out everybody who tried to steal against him, regardless of the starting pitcher.

In my preseason NL Central catcher rankings, I had Lucroy listed at the division’s #3 catcher behind Yadier Molina and Geovany Soto. Within that post, I stated that Lucroy “could be a face Berewers fans see for an extended period of time.”

I actually nailed one.

Wandy to be Opening Day Starter for Astros

I honestly doubt this is a shocker. With Brett Myers moving to the bullpen to man the closer’s role, the choice of Astros skipper Brad Mills made here was a no-brainer. So I ask, why did it take so long?

But that’s not the underlying theme here. I’ll let Brian Hamilton of Climbing Tal’s Hill explain.

This will be Wandy’s first Opening Day assignment for the Astros and will likely be his last. It’s no secret that Wandy is being shopped and will most likely be dealt by the trade deadline in July. If in fact he is dealt, it will truly be the end of an era in Astros baseball as he is the last player remaining on the team that made the playoffs as an Astro.

All you can say is “wow”. 2005 seems so long ago…

Byrd on the Market

The Cubs are looking for help in their bullpen. (I chuckled as I wrote that.) The one piece that may bring them a relief pitcher is veteran center fielder Marlon Byrd. Who’s looking? Jordan Campbell of Cubbies Crib will tell you.

Both the (Atlanta) Braves and (Washington) Nationals interest in Byrd dates back to 2011. The Cubs and Nationals were having regular conversations about Byrd during the early portions of the 2011 season but Byrd suffered an injury in late May and that put a end to the team’s discussions. The Braves, on the other hand, made an offer for Byrd at the trade deadline last season but former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry rejected the offer

Well, a deal with the Braves may not materialize since they have injury issues, but I never count Braves GM Frank Wren out of any potential addition that can improve his roster. With Chipper Jones out for a while, the Braves desire a right-handed hitting outfielder to platoon out in left. Byrd can certainly fit that bill.

Tyler Greene‘s Fan Club is Growing

Chris Ferguson of Redbird Rants adds his name to a growing list. I love his look at who is the Cardinals most important player. Notice: most important…and Chris thinks Greene is the guy.

He (Greene) has the potential to make the biggest impact and could be the key to a postseason run. In my mind solidifying this position is more important than both Motte and Carp. This may not be a popular statement but I tend to lean toward everyday players having a greater impact than those who are out there every 3-5 days. Greene has the ability to alter the daily play of this team and his speed is more important than his fielding, although that must be much improved. If he can stay steady in the field, get on base at a decent clip, and use his speed to help the team, he very well may be the Most Important Cardinal of 2012.

With Skip Schumaker‘s status on the shaky side, it will be up to Greene to man second base. Greene may finally have the opportunity to show the Cards why he was selected 30th overall in the 2005 draft.

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Tags: Andrew McCutchen Baseball Chicago Cubs Houston Astros Jonathan Lucroy Marlon Byrd Milwaukee Brewers MLB Pittsburgh Pirates St Louis Cardinals Tyler Greene Wandy Rodriguez

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