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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Out of Left Field 2013 predictions — NL Central

1. Reds —
The great Aroldis Chapman ‘Will-he-start or Will-he-close?’ drama is over. The lefty fireballer will stay at the back end, giving the Reds a very good bullpen to go with a pretty good rotation. They added Shin-Soo Choo for lefty power, but have no clear-cut center fielder (Billy Hamilton, anyone?). That’s a small problem, though, considering the rest of the team — anchored by one of the best young infields in baseball, including Brandon Phillips (pictured) — is World Series-caliber.

2. Cardinals — No Chris Carpenter, no Kyle Lohse? No problem, not for one of the top organizations in baseball, a group that just reloads from its stacked farm system, no matter who they lose. (Even if it’s Tony La Russa or Albert Pujols). There was every reason to believe that the Tigers might be headed for a 2006 World Series rematch with the Cards, and there’s no reason to think it might not happen this fall.

3. Pirates — This has to be the year the Pirates finally finish over .500, right? They’ve flirted with breaking their 20-year streak of sub-.500 finishes each of the last two seasons, only to fold at the end. If former Yankee catcher Russell Martin can provide enough pop to support Andrew McCutchen in the lineup, and young stars like Starling Marte and Gerrit Cole can live up to their billing, this could be the year. Just don’t bet the farm on it.

4. Brewers — The Brew Crew almost made it back to the playoffs after it looked like they’d waved the white flag by trading Zack Greinke. The offseason was much more quiet, meaning the rotation remains startlingly average without Greinke. Hard to see how Milwaukee breaks into what should be a solid top 3 teams in this division. UPDATE: The Brewers added some luster to that rotation, signing Kyle Lohse in late March, but it’s probably not enough to elevate them into contention.

5. Cubs — There are no Astros around anymore to keep the Cubbies out of the basement of the always-competitive NL Central. Chicago lost more than 100 games for the first time in almost 50 years, and it appears this will be a long building process for GM Jed Hoyer and president Theo Epstein, even if there are building blocks like Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Anthony Rizzo.


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