Is it too early to start talking about the race for the National League Central Division? Nah, I didn't think so.
What an exciting time to be a fan of the Cincinnati Reds. The team, for the first time since midway through the 2021 season, has given the fanbase hope. While that can be a dangerous thing to cling to, the fact of the matter is that Cincinnati looks like a potential playoff contender.
There's talk of the Reds being buyers, not seller at this year's trade deadline. And with the return of Joey Votto and the youth infusion of Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, and others, winning the NL Central is actually in the cards.
The Cubs are the Reds biggest obstacle to winning the NL Central.
Now when you talk about obstacles, the Cincinnati faithful may point to an unproven bullpen, injuries, lack of depth in the starting rotation, and a whole host of other things within the organization that could stop the Reds dead in their tracks.
But, when you talk about the others teams within the division, which ball club will be the biggest obstacle to Cincinnati taking the NL Central for the first time since 2012? As much as I hate to admit it, it's the Chicago Cubs.
The Reds may be riding high, but the Cubbies aren't far behind. Cincinnati's dominant road trip and thuderous return home to Great American Ball Park overshadowed what Chicago has done lately. But, the Cubs have won eight of their last 10 games and are the only team in the NL Central with a plus-run differential.
Chicago may not have Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jazier Baez, or Willson Contreras, but David Ross' group has a well-balanced attack that features top-notch pitching and good enough hitting. While still below .500, the Cubs are making up ground in the NL Central rather quickly.
The Cubs, according to Tankathon.com, have one of the easiest remaining schedules as we've almost hit the halfway-point of the 2023 season. Cincinnati is about in the middle of the pack in terms of their remaining strength of schedule.
The Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates are currently ahead of the Cubs in the standings, while the St. Louis Cardinals are just a mess. Milwaukee seems to have no direction this season and the Buccos have been hot and cold. The Cards could fire their manager any day now.
Outside of the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago Cubs look to be the most stable franchise heading into the dog days of summer. The Cubbies, much like the Redlegs, could be buyers at this year's trade deadline as well.
There's a lot of games left to play, but at the moment, the Cubs look to be a formidable opponent. Cincinnati has eight games remaining against Chicago this season. Those games could be the difference between who wins the NL Central and who may be battling for a Wild Card spot.