2017 Season Preview – National League Central

bryant

 

Chicago Cubs

2016 Record: 103-58 • 1st NL Central

O/U on Wins: 95.5 • Over

Moving In: P Wade Davis • OF Jon Jay • P Koji Uehara • P Brian Duensing

Moving Out: OF Dexter Fowler • P Aroldis Chapman • P Jason Hammel • P Travis Wood • P Joe Smith • OF Jorge Soler • C David Ross • UT Chris Coghlan • P Travis Cahill

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Jake Arrieta. The 2015 Cy Young winner had another remarkable season in 2016. The Cubs ace went 18-8/3.10/1.08/190/4.2 WAR in 197 innings pitched. Despite those numbers, Arrieta did see an increase in his ERA (3.10 from 1.77 in 2015) and in BB/9 (3.5 from 1.9 in 2015); as well as setting a new career high in walks (76) and wild pitches (16). The emergence of Kyle Hendricks in 2016 helped ease the load off of Arrieta and should give the Cubs a dynamic 1-2 punch heading into 2017. With Arrieta’s contract up at seasons end and the possibility of him hitting the open market in 2018, the Cubs should be looking to negotiate an extension before that happens. Despite their loaded lineup and relatively deep farm system, their pitching depth is shockingly sparse and an injury or two in the rotation could be devastating. Personally, I cannot see the deep pockets of the Cubs ownership NOT opening up their wallets to sign Arrieta to an extension. And that’s said knowing that they have to re-sign Anthony Rizzo too.

Potential Breakout: OF Kyle Schwarber. The C/LF made his MLB debut in 2015 and got into 69 games before the season’s end. In those games, Schwarber hit .246/.842/16/43/1.2 WAR in 232 AB. He was expected to be an integral part to the Cubs heading into 2016 but only managed to get into 2 regular season contests before a collision in the OF left him with torn ligaments in his knee. Despite being sidelined for the next 169 games, Schwarber made it back into the Cubs lineup just in time for the World Series which was good news for the Cubs. In the World Series, Schwarber raked at a clip of .412/.972 and added 2 RBI as the Cubs DH and pinch hitter. Even though he was drafted as a catcher and has spent a considerable amount of time behind the dish during his (brief) professional career, Schwarber’s future might be exclusively as a full time LF; and that’s despite his questionable OF defense. Both his knee injury and the Cubs need(s), as well as having two legit starting C on their roster as it is, could keep him permanently entrenched in LF for the foreseeable future.

Top Prospect: OF Eloy Jimenez • Age: 20 • MLB ETA: 2019

First Round Draft Miss: 3B Josh Vitters (3rd) over C Matt Wieters (5th) in 2007.

Fantasy Stud: 3B Kris Bryant • 2016 Stats: .292/.939/39/102/7.7 WAR in 603 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Everything about Kris Bryant. His bat, his glove, his ability to play multiple positions, his smile, the way he looks like he will tell you “not to worry, everything will be alright.” Really stung to learn that the Blue Jays had drafted him out of high school in the 18th round of the 2010 MLB Draft but he refused to sign, choosing to honour his commitment to the University of San Diego.

2017 Prediction: 1st NL Central

 

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Cincinnati Reds

2016 Record:68-94 • 5th NL Central

O/U on Wins: 73.5 • Under

Moving In: OF Desmond Jennings • P Scott Feldman • OF Arismandy Alcantara • 1B/3B Richie Shaffer • OF Gabriel Guerrero • P Tyrell Jenkins

Moving Out: P Alfredo Simon • P Ross Ohlendorff • P John Lamb

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Billy Hamilton. Blistering speed, superb defense, and as of 2016, finally showing some patience at the plate. Everybody in baseball knows that Hamilton can run like the wind, unfortunately for both him and the Reds, his inability to get on base regularly all but made his speed a moot point. The old adage of “you can’t steal first base” definitely applied to Hamilton going into 2016 but 4th year CF proved us wrong. Hamilton had a solid year for the Reds, hitting for .260/.664/3/17 and 58 SB; his OBP of .321 was also a career high and the first time in his career that he had broken the.300 plateau. Hamilton needs to prove that he can maintain his newly found plate discipline and continue to get on base more regularly in order to remain part of the Reds rebuild. If he falters and goes back to his free swinging ways, he could easily find himself on the trade block.

Potential Breakout: 2B Jose Peraza. Appeared to be roadblocked behind Brandon Phillips and Zack Cosart but the trade of Phillips means that Peraza will open the season as the Reds starting 2B. Peraza played in only 72 games but made it count when he was in the lineup. Hit for .324/.762/3/25 and added 21 SB in 241 AB. Sample size OBP of .352 shows that he can be selective at the plate, but his K/BB ratio of 33/7 shows that he does have some free swinging in him. If he is able to keep that in check, Peraza could be one of the few bright spots in Cincinnati this season.

Top Prospect: 3B Nick Senzel • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: P Nick Travieso (14th) over P Lucas Giolito (16th) in 2012

Fantasy Stud: 1B Joey Votto • 2016 Stats: .326/.985/29/97/4.0 WAR in 556 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Joey Votto. The consummate professional and perennial recipient of the Tip O’Neil award (best Canadian ballplayer). Even though Votto is getting up their in age (33 at this season’s end) there have been no signs of seeing a slow down or regression. The only thing not to love is his contract, but I am sure that there would be no shortage of suitors if the Reds were to make him available.

2017 Prediction: 5th NL Central

 

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Milwaukee Brewers

2016 Record: 73-89 • 4th NL Central

O/U on Wins: 72.5 • Over

Moving In: 1B Eric Thames • 1B/3B Travis Shaw • C Jett Bandy • P Tommy Milone • 2B Eric Sogard • IF Ivan de Jesus

Moving Out: P Tyler Thornburg • 1B Chris Carter • C Martin Maldanado • P Blaine Boyer

Key Player(s) in 2017: 1B Eric Thames. The former Blue Jays farmhand and Mariner took his trade to Korea once he stopped receiving interest from MLB teams. Luckily for Thames, a move to the KBO might have been the best thing to have happened to his career. In three seasons in Korea, Thames hit for an average stat line of .348/41/127 and even had a 40/40 season in 2015. Sure, playing in the KBO makes those numbers as inflated as Thames’ muscles (seriously though, dude is JACKED!) but that didn’t stop the Brewers from signing him to a 3yr/$16 mil deal to play 1B. The question will be which Thames do the Brewers get? Will it be the dude who straight uo mashed in the far East? Or will it be the guy who .250/.727/21/62 and was a minus WAR player in 633 MLB AB?

Potential Breakout: OF Keon Broxton. The 26yr old OF got into 75 games in 2016 and posted a respectable stat line of .242/.784/9/19/23 SB/2.1 WAR in 207 AB. Broxton was acquired from the Pirates in the 2015 offseason and is looking to establish himself as an everyday player with the Brew Crew in 2017. The (continuing) emergence of Broxton should give the Brewers a solid OF trio as he’ll team up with Domingo Santana and Ryan Braun, and if Braun does in fact get moved, he will be replaced by another young OF prospect in Lewis Brinson.

Top Prospect: OF Lewis Brinson • Age: 22 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Dylan Covey (14th) over anyone who would sign a contract in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: SS Jonathan Villar • 2016 Stats: .285/.826/19/63/3.9 WAR in 598 AB

Money’s Man Crush: 1980’s powder blue and yellow jersey’s with the MB glove logo. I’d rank the throwback Brewers logo as the best in the (current) MLB over the now defunct Expos.

2017 Prediction: 4th NL Central

 

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Pittsburgh Pirates

2016 Record: 78-83 • 3rd NL Central

O/U on Wins: 85.5 • Over

Moving In: P Daniel Hudson

Moving Out: UT Sean Rodriguez • OF Matt Joyce • P Jeff Locke • P Nefateli Feliz • P Ryan Vogelsong

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Andrew McCutchen. From 2011 to 2015 the man known simply as “Cutch” was a 5x All Star, 4x Silver Slugger winner, won an NL MVP, finished 3rd twice, 5th once and added one Gold Glove. His average stat line in those five seasons was: .302/.905/25/90/6.4 WAR in 572 AB. But in 2016 all that changed and for the first time in his career, Cutch was a minus WAR player. Injuries were not to blame as he played in 153 games but only put up a meager .256/.766/24/79 in 598 AB. McCutchen’s performance was so alarming that the Pirates actually fielded trade offers for him throughout the offseason. As if that wasn’t enough of a shock, the Pirates asked the former Gold Glove winner to shift from his usual position in CF to RF because of a poor defensive showing in 2016. Although the Pirates are saying the right things, it would be hard for them to justify re-signing him once his contract is up at the end of this season, especially if he has another down season. That being said he does have a team option for 2018 that could see him in Pittsburgh for a swan song or until he is surpassed by top prospect, Austin Meadows.

Potential Breakout: P Jameson Taillon. The former 2nd overall pick in 2010 finally made his MLB debut in 2016 and didn’t disappoint. Taillon made 18 starts in his rookie season and went 5-4/3.38/1.12/85/2.3 WAR in 104 innings. Throughout his career the only thing that has slowed down the hulking right hander has been issues with his durability. If those issues are behind him, Taillon should easily pair up with Gerrit Cole to give the Bucs a solid 1-2 punch atop their rotation. The Pirates will need all their arms to contribute if they have any hope with competing against the Cardinals, let alone the Cubs, for a potential playoff position.

Top Prospect: P Tyler Glasnow • Age:23  • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Daniel Moskos (4th) over C Matt Wieters (5th) in 2007

Fantasy Stud: Starling Marte • 2016 Stats: .311/.818/9/46/47 SB/4.9 WAR in 489 AB

Money’s Man Crush: PNC Park. Hands down the most beautiful park in MLB; although im sure Giants fans will disagree. The whole experience of a weekend game in Pittsburgh is worth the pilgrimage to Pennsylvania. Best view is anywhere in the upper deck behind home or along the 3rd base line. That way you get an incredible vantage point of the Pittsburgh skyline and the Roberto Clemente Bridge; the game being pretty much takes a backseat to the view. The Pirates vintage 70’s and early 90’s throwbacks are pretty decent too.

2017 Prediction: 2nd NL Central

 

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St. Louis Cardinals

2016 Record: 86-76 • 2nd NL Central

O/U on Wins: 87.5 • Under

Moving In: OF Dexter Fowler •P Brett Cecil

Moving Out: 1B/OF Matt Holliday • P Jaime Garcia • 1B/OF Brandon Moss • P Jordan Walden •P Seth Manness

Key Player(s) in 2017: Pitchers Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal. Both players mentioned here are integral parts to any World Series aspirations that the Cardinals might have. They were both All Stars in 2015 and had complete production drop offs in 2016. If it wasn’t for Seung-hwan Oh’s terrific debut (6-3/1.92/.92/103/19 SV in 79.2 innings) the Cardinals would be looking at a closer by committee. That’s because their usual everyday closer (Rosenthal) looked completely lost in 2015. Rosenthal went 2-4/4.46/1.91/56:29 K:BB/14 SV in 40 innings. The biggest reason for his struggles was his lack of control, as Rosenthal set new career highs in BB/9 (6.5) and H/9 (10.7). He will need to regain both his control and his confidence if he hopes to be a key part of the Cardinals bullpen; let alone try to win his closer’s job back. Wacha on the other hand went from 17-7/3.38/1.21/153/3 WAR in 181.1 innings to 7-7/5.09/1.48/114/-0.4 WAR in 138 innings. One reason for his struggles could be attributed to a nagging shoulder injury that has bothered him throughout his career and flared up during 2016. The Cardinals will need Wacha to stay healthy and pitch like he can as their pitching depth is already set to be tested with young, flamethrower, Alex Reyes, out for the season with Tommy John.

Potential Breakout: P Luke Weaver. Originally this spot was going to center on another Cardinals pitching prospect, Alex Reyes. Unfortunately for both Reyes and the Cardinals, Reyes suffered a torn UCL early in spring training and has undergone Tommy John surgery. This is where Weaver enters the picture. In theory, he could fill the tole that was suppose to be Reyes’ and either compete for a spot in the rotation, be a swing man out of the pen or be the first call up from AAA if needed. It’s not like Weaver has come out of nowhere either. He’s a former first round pick (27th in 2014) and enters the season as the Cardinals number two prospect behind only Alex Reyes. Although he may not make the opening day roster, I’d say there is a solid chance that he’ll be up with rhe Cardinals before the all star break.

Top Prospect: P Alex Reyes • Age: 22 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: P Chris Lambert (18th) over P Glen Perkins (22) P Phil Hughes (23) in 2004

Fantasy Stud: P Carlos Martinez • 2016 Stats: 16/3.04/1.22/174/5.9 WAR in 196 IP

Money’s Man Crush: The St. Louis organization. Pound for pound the most well ran farm system and team in the game. Well besides the occasional “rogue”scout.

2017 Prediction: 3rd NL Central

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2015 MLB Season Preview · NL Central

Wrigley Field

Chicago Cubs

Home Field: Wrigley Field

2014: 73 – 89 · 5th NL Central

O/U in 2015: 81.5 Wins · Under

What We Love:

  • Youth Movement. Years of poor finishes and savvy trades have left the Cubs with the best farm system in MLB. Cubs’ fans have already been introduced to the likes of Javier Baez, Arismandy Alcantara and Jorge Soler. Amazingly, the best is still to come. We’ll have to wait a few weeks, due to controllability reasons, but it will definitely be worth it, when one of the most highly touted prospects in all of baseball, Kris Bryant, makes their highly anticipated debut. Following him will be the likes of SS Addison Russell, RHP C.J Edwards and C/OF Kyle Schwarber.
  • Jon Lester. Not only does the signing of the left handed Lester give the Cubs a legit workhorse and ace in their rotation, but it also signifies that the Cubs are willing to be buyers opposed to sellers. Next step: contention.
  • Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon. The former Rays manager signed a 5 year deal to become the Cubs new bench boss in the offseason. Maddon is considered one of the best baseball minds in the game and it should be very interesting to see what happens when he teams up with another great baseball mind in Epstein. What Maddon and former Rays GM Andrew Friedman did in Tampa Bay was absolutely remarkable. It should be very fun to see what Maddon and Epstein are able to do with this roster and (deep) farm system.
  • Anthony Rizzo. After a breakout year in 2014, the Cubs first baseman could be showing the first signs of potential super stardom.

What We Hate:

  • Kris Bryant toiling in the minors. I understand that it’s more about the business end of the game (service time, controllability, etc…) than of a question of whether he has the talent to belong; he answered that during Spring Training. Either way, it sucks.
  • Renovations at Wrigley. It just isn’t the same without the fans in the outfield bleachers. It also seems really odd to see a Jumbotron sitting above the ivy covered outfield. I’m sure this is what it must have felt like when they (finally) installed lights back in 1988.
  • That ridiculous attempt at a mascot.
  • Knowing that Mark Prior is only 34 and hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since 2006.
  • Chet Steadman’s pitching face and corresponding grunt.

Impact Player: 1B Anthony Rizzo

Potential Breakout Candidate: OF Jorge Soler

Potential Bust Candidate: SS Starlin Castro

Top Prospect: Kris Bryant · 3B · MLB ETA: 2015

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=chc

Sergio Mitre

Irrelevant Throwback Player: RHP Sergio Mitre (2003-05)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Newly acquired CF Dexter Fowler was teammates with the reliever back in 2010, while they were both in Colorado. The Rockies were one of three teams that Dotel played for in 2010.

Final Prediction: 4th NL Central

Great American Ballpark

Cincinnati Reds

Home Field: Great American Ballpark

2014: 76 – 86 · 4th NL Central

O/U in 2015: 79.5 · Under

What We Love:

  • Johnny Cueto. The Reds right hander made 34 starts a year ago went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA, struck out 242 hitters over 243.2 innings and finished 2nd in NL Cy Young voting. It was his best season since he went 19-9 back in 2012. Cueto is signed through 2015 and becomes a free agent at season’s end, if the Reds are far enough out of it in this season, don’t be surprised to see Cueto become available.
  • The new Todd-Father. After posting back to back above average seasons in 2012 and 2013, Frazier enjoyed a big breakout year in 2014. Last season, Frazier played in 157 games, hit for a .273 average and added 29 HR and 80 RBI; he also made his first career All Star appearance.
  • The Cuban Missile. What’s not to like about watching Aroldis Chapman sling 100mph+ fastballs, with a wipeout slider, from the left-hand side?
  • Billy Hamilton’s wheels. Hamilton would have fit right in during the stolen base heyday of the 1980’s. The Reds CF has elite speed and stole 56 bases in his rookie season a year ago. Hamilton’s speed gives him the ability to change the outcome of each and every game on the bases alone.
  • The 2015 Mid-Summer Classic. The Queen City will be the host of this year’s All Star game and festivities. It should also make for an interesting Home Run Derby, given Great American Ballpark’s home run friendly reputation.
  • Mr. Red, the Red’s mustachioed mascot.

What We Hate:

  • The rotation behind Cueto. Homer Bailey will open the season on the DL and Mike Leake has been a pretty reliable starter since he came in to the majors back in 2010, but after those two, things get a little questionable. The Reds traded RHP Mat Latos to the Marlins in the offseason and one of the players they got back, RHP Anthony DeScalafani, will open the season in the Reds rotation. DeScalafani has 6 career starts to his professional resume. Veteran right-hander and 2015 “I can’t believe he is still eating in MLB” candidate, Jason Marquis, and Cuban rookie, Raisel Iglesias, will round out the rotation. LHP Tony Cingrani is also available to start, but he will open the season in the bullpen.
  • Durability concerns. The Reds ability to contend in the Central could come down to how many man games they lose to the Disabled List. Players like Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Devin Mesoraco and Aroldis Chapman have all spent time on the DL at one point or another. SP Homer Bailey will open the season on the DL but should come off of it within the first couple weeks.
  • 27 and counting. With Marlon Byrd slated to open the season as the starting LF, he will become the 27th different player to patrol LF for the Reds since the Big Donkey (Adam Dunn) left in August 2008.

Impact Player: SP Johnny Cueto

Potential Breakout Candidate: CF Billy Hamilton

Potential Bust Candidate: 1B Joey Votto

Top Prospect: Robert Stephenson · RHP · MLB ETA: 2016

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=cin

D'Angelo Jiminez

Irrelevant Throwback Player: SS D’Angelo Jiminez (2003-05)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Dotel was teammates with OF Skip Schumaker back in St. Louis in 2011.

Final Prediction: 5th NL Central

Miller Park

Milwaukee Brewers

Home Field: Miller Park

2014: 82 – 80 · 3rd NL Central

O/U in 2015: 80.5 Wins · Over

What We Love:

  • Brewers batting order. Even with Ryan Braun sitting out the first couple games of the season because of a strained side, this is a batting order that could be among the most potent in the National League. Until Braun returns, the Brewers batting order should look something like this: CF Carlos Gomez, C Jonathan Lucroy, 1B Adam Lind, 3B Aramis Ramirez, LF Khris Davis, RF Gerardo Parra, SS Jean Segura and 2B Scooter Gennett.
  • Jonathan Lucroy. Took a big next step in becoming an elite catcher with his 2014 season. Lucroy hit .301/13/69 in 153 games; his 53 doubles also paced MLB.
  • Aramis Ramirez’s career. Seems like an eternity since he made his MLB debut as a 20yr old in Pittsburgh back in 1998. Now in the twilight of his career, Ramirez will most likely not end up in Cooperstown, but he had one hell of a career nonetheless: 18 seasons · 2060 G · 2189 H · .285 AVG · .840 OPS · 369 HR · 1342 RBI · 3x All Star · 1x Silver Slugger.
  • The Robin Yount era throwbacks. Nothing more 80’s than that blue and yellow colour scheme. The MB Glove logo is also pound for pound tops in MLB.
  • Any ballplayer named Scooter.

What We Hate:

  • Starting rotation. The Brewers moved RHP Yovanni Gallardo to the Rangers in the offseason and in doing so; they have depleted a rotation that was already pretty thin to begin. Right-handers, Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse, will anchor the rotation but both have been susceptible to injury in their career. RHP Wily Peralta enjoyed a big 17 win breakout season in 2014 but it was only his second full season in the majors so who knows what happens this season. After those three, the rotation should be rounded out by Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson. Former 1st rounders, Johnny Hellweg, Taylor Jungman and Jed Bradley are all in the minors but have not shown much promise, if any, at the ML level.
  • Poor farm system. Years of poor scouting and player development has left the Brewers with one of the thinner farm systems in MLB. The Brewers farm system lacks both impact pitching prospects, as well as impact positional prospects. Not only does this lack of depth hamper the Brewers if injuries occur, but it also leaves the cupboards bare if Brewers management looks to add via the trade market.

Impact Player: CF Carlos Gomez

Potential Breakout Candidate: SP Wily Peralta

Potential Bust Candidate: 1B Adam Lind

Top Prospect: Orlando Arcia · SS · MLB: 2016

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=mil

Doug Davis

Irrelevant Throwback Player: SP Doug Davis (2003-2006, 2010)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Recently acquired, Adam Lind, and Dotel were members of the Blue Jays back in 2011.

Final Prediction: 3rd NL Central

PNC Park

Pittsburgh Pirates

Home Field: PNC Park

2014: 88 – 74 · 2nd NL Central

O/U in 2015: 85.5 Wins · Over

What We Love:

  • Andrew McCutchen’s everything. The 2013 NL MVP winner actually had a statistically better season in 2014 than in his MVP year the season before. Cutch hit .314/25/83 in 146 games last season and led MLB with a .410 OBP. In seven seasons in the bigs, Cutch is a 4x All Star and has finished in the top three in MVP voting in the last three straight seasons.
  • Josh Harrison’s versatility. Due to injuries and lack of production, The Jay Hey Kid saw time at 2B, 3B, SS, LF and RF in 2014. But it wasn’t just in the field where Harrison had an impact on the Pirates. Harrison’s .315/13/52 in 143 games were all new career highs and helped propel the Pirates back into the postseason. The Pirates rewarded Harrison by signing him to a 4yr/$27.3mil contract before the start of the season.
  • Gerrit Cole’s fastball.
  • Pedro Alvarez’s power and move across the diamond to 1B
  • Any throwback jersey from the 1970’s.

What We Hate:

  • Loss of Russell Martin. In Martin, the Pirates lost a leader both on the field and in the clubhouse, an elite defender and receiver and some valuable run production in the lineup. The loss of Martin could have been softened by going out and acquiring another legitimate starting catcher, but instead opted to sign former Yankees backup, Francisco Cervelli. That of course leads me to the next point…
  • Attempting to replace Russell Martin with Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli, who has spent his career as a backup in New York, has never played in more than 93 games in a season and is now poised to become a starting catcher for the first time in his career. Cervelli, who has spent considerable time on the DL, will also need to prove that he has the durability to catch upwards of 130 games.
  • Back of rotation. The duo of LHP Jeff Locke and RHP Vance Worley are nothing special but will need to keep the seats warm until top pitching prospects, Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon, are ready for the show.

Impact Player: CF Andrew McCutcheon

Potential Breakout Candidate: OF Gregory Polanco

Potential Bust Candidate: 3B Josh Harrison

Top Prospect: Tyler Glasnow · RHP · MLB: 2016

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=pit

Damaso Marte

Irrelevant Throwback Player: RP Damaso Marte (2001, 2006-08)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: The Pirates are one of the thirteen franchises that Dotel has suited up for. Dotel pitched in 41 games back in 2010.

Final Prediction: 2nd Central

Busch Stadium

St. Louis Cardinals

Home Field: Busch Stadium

2014: 90 – 72 · 1st NL Central

O/U in 2015: 87.5 Wins · Over

What We Love:

  • The acquisition of Jason Heyward. Faced with suddenly having to replace Oscar Taveras, the Cards sent former 1st rounder, Shelby Milller, to the Braves for the talented Heyward. Heyward’s blend of speed, power and defense, should play well in this Cardinals lineup. What is also worth noting is the fact that the Cardinals should hardly miss having Miller in their rotation, as highly touted, former prospect, Carlos Martinez, is poised to fill that void.
  • Yadier Molina. Still among the games top catchers and an elite defender at the position.
  • Kolten Wong’s combo of power and speed.
  • The management team of Mike Matheny and GM John Mozeliak.
  • Carlos Martinez wearing #18 in honour of Oscar Taveras.

What We Hate:

  • Durability of starting rotation. Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez are the only members of the Cardinals rotation who haven’t spent time on the Disabled List during their career. The others, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, John Lackey and Jaime Garcia, have all spent considerable amounts of time on the DL during their career.
  • The tragic death of Oscar Taveras. Just an unbelievable loss of talent and life. RIP.
  • Lack of power in the lineup. Outside of 1B Matt Adams, this is a team that is void of a true HR threat.
  • Giving the Cardinals free 1st round picks as a “competitive balance.” Small market or not, how does a team that has won World Series titles in 2006 and 2011, as well as losing titles in 2004 and 2013, get given free first round draft selections?

Impact Player: RF Jason Heyward

Potential Breakout Candidate: SP Carlos Martinez

Potential Bust Candidate: C Yadier Molina

Top Prospect: Stephen Piscotty · OF · MLB ETA: 2015

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=stl

Eli Marrero

Irrelevant Throwback Player: 1B/OF Eli Marrero (1997-2003)

Six Degrees of Octavio Dotel: Dotel was part of the Cardinals World Series championship team back in 2011. Dotel was acquired by the Cardinals, as part of the package received from the Blue Jays, in exchange for CF Colby Rasmus.

Final Prediction: 1st NL Central

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