A look at the 2015 National League Central


With one simple quote, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo has nearly started Major League Baseball’s version of World War III. His declaration of, “We’re going to win the N.L. Central and you can quote me on that,” boldly declares that he believes the Cubs have arrived to finally make this a five-team race.

This assertion seems bold. The type of bold that comes from a buddy when he claims he’s taken the best-looking girl in school to the Prom, and then makes a promise of extra-curricular activities occurring, just because he’s driving his dad’s Mercedes. (That Mercedes in this case would be the shiny new acquisition of Jon Lester.)

We’re going to take a peak at the National League Central and see where the Reds’ competition stacks up. At the end, you’ll place your vote for which team you believe will take home the crown in this way-too-early-to-predict poll concerning 2015.

St. Louis Cardinals

They are the baddest dudes on the block. For years now, it has seemed that the only way for the Reds to snatch the division crown has been for others teams to take care of the Redbirds for them. Winning in Busch Stadium has become as common an occurrence as a lunar eclipse, making it difficult to make up ground/maintain a lead.

All the same villainous characters are back: Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Michael Wacha. Who tragically won’t be back is Oscar Taveras. The Dominican star passed away during the World Series in October in a horrific car accident, sending tremors through the baseball world. Widely believed to be the Cardinals’ right fielder of the future, St. Louis went out and made a deal for another super prospect, now turned Gold Glove outfielder, Jason Heyward.

Stopped in the National League Championship Series by the champions-to-be, the San Francisco Giants, the Redbirds are looking at the division crown being a formality in 2015. The competition is as balanced as can be, but to be the man, you got to beat the man.

Milwaukee Brewers

How they managed to not make the Postseason last year still baffles me. They were the perfect example of a club not being able to hold out for all 162 games, which is the beauty of the length of the schedule in the first place. Some say change it, but it’s a perfect system. There are no “accidents” in a 162-game season; you were good enough, or you weren’t, it’s as simple as that.

Much like the Cardinals, the band is back in town for the Brewers. They bring back virtually the same club as last season, hoping to be able to hold out for the long haul this year. When going right, their offense is as dangerous as any in baseball. They have perennial MVP candidates in Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez, backed by excellent hitters such as Scooter Gennett and Aramis Ramirez.

Their pitching will be a bit more of a question mark, just as it was last year. Atop the rotation is the three-headed monster of Kyle Lohse, Yovani Gallardo, and Matt Garza, but beyond that, the development of Wily Peralta will be key to their success.

After coming so close in 2014, there’s two schools of thought here: they could either have blow the club up and started making wholesale changes, or they could have kept it the same (which they did) and hoped for a non-Titanic collapse in 2015. There should be no doubt that Milwaukee will be a contender for the NL Central crown.

Chicago Cubs

They are the darlings of Vegas, Venice, and everywhere in between. With the addition of Jon Lester to the mix, suddenly the Cubs are not only playoff contenders, but World Series contenders. (Which may be more a product of Back to the Future predicting their Championship win than anything. By the way, how did that Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012, go?)

There are a whole lot of intriguing pieces inside the Cubs’ organization. They are seemingly breeding an All-Star at every position down on the farm, with a couple having already stolen a seat at the big kid table. What so many folks forget is that sustained success in the minor leagues doesn’t always equate to guaranteed big league stardom. Not all of these kids are Mike Trout incarnate.

At best, their rotation is still average. Jake Arrieta had his coming out party in 2014 and didn’t show any sign of slowing down, so when combined with Lester at the top of that rotation, the Cubs are looking awfully top heavy.

If the Cubs really are to do this and shock the world, Anthony Rizzo will need to be the league’s MVP. He absolutely has the talent to do it, but he’ll have to obliterate his career-highs and take this team to another dimension.

The Chicago Cubs are going to be a problem very soon. I just don’t see how 2015 is that year.

Pittsburgh Pirates

For years, we as Reds fans have been downplaying the Bucs success, waiting for them to realize that their, well, the Pirates. Clearly, we need some reverse psychology. Maybe if we hype them up in 2015, they’ll crater back down to earth. Based on basic math, someone in this division has to finish below .500, and all five clubs have at least a semi-decent shot at winning the crown, meaning someone will crater out of nowhere.

Losing Russell Martin may serve as a bigger loss than many anticipate. The veterans on their staff, which once again includes A.J. Burnett, loved throwing to him during that magical 2013 run.

What carried the Bucs on so many separate occasions over the past few seasons was a lights out bullpen. That’s not to say they can’t be again, but they lost both Jason Grilli and Justin Wilson, meaning roles will have to switch and there will be increased pressure on the guys already there.

We have basically established that Andrew McCutchen may be the most complete player in the National League. The beauty of baseball is that you can let him get his, just limit everyone else. Their corner outfielders, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, are brimming on the edge of stardom. As long as neither realizes his potential this year, I feel as if the Bucs are the club prime for a collapse.

Cincinnati Reds

We have the rest of the off-season to break down our Redlegs, so I’ll keep it short here: They need healthy bodies. No team can expect to play at 100 per cent health, but the Reds cannot have more than half their lineup suffering debilitating injuries.

The loss of Mat Latos hurts in the short term, but if Tony Cingrani or Anthony DeSclafani can step in and bridge the gap, the Redlegs will be right in it.

There’s too much elite talent (Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, Jay Bruce) here for the Reds to not at least be in the conversation. If they suffer the same injuries as last year, then they absolutely are staring at a fifth-place finish. But if they don’t they very easily could be standing atop the Central when it’s all said and done.