2020 MLB Division Previews: NL Central
Welcome to Week 2 of the Vendetta Media Power Rankings! This is week 2 of 7 where I am covering each MLB division with a bonus week that will be my first overall power rankings for all 32 clubs during the 2020 season.
First, as always, let’s take a look at the 2019 standings and how each team fared:
St. Louis Cardinals 91 71 Division Winners
Milwaukee Brewers 89 73 Wild Card
Chicago Cubs 84 78
Cincinnati Reds 75 87
Pittsburgh Pirates 69 93
The NL Central in 2019 was one of the weaker divisions in baseball this past season. The Cardinals played well over the duration of the season and avoided a collapse of any sort which essentially was enough to win the division. Milwaukee, as has been the case for two years now, started the season hot but in the second half played .500 ball before winning 18 of 23 to grab a wildcard spot. The Cubs played a similar season to Milwaukee but closed the season 2-10 to miss that final wildcard spot. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh were both rebuilding during the 2019 season. David Bell was in his first year as manager and things actually look good going into the 2020 season while the pirates lost longtime manager Clint Hurdle along with an overall boring and uneventful season.
First things first I have to say, look out for big changes in the standings this coming season. Each team made moves that I will outline, but expect changes that havent been seen in the division in quite some time.
St Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals were blessed with one of the biggest breakout stars of 2019 in Jack Flaherty. He finished 4th in ERA with a 2.75 and 0.96 WHIP in 200 innings. Kolton Wong and the addition of Paul Goldschmidt helped to power the Cardinals to a first place finish.
They, unfortunately, did not have a great offseason whatsoever. They lost Jose Martinez who, in my opinion, was one of the most underrated players on their roster. They lost Marcell Ozuna and not even a week into spring training, Mike Mikolas has flexor tendon issues. Getting Carlos Martinez and Jordan Hicks (though late in the season) back will help but offensively there will be problems. Their staff is also aging outside of Flaherty and will be subject to questions.
Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers entire season can be summed up by two main points: 1) Young, inexperienced and injured pitching and 2) all or nothing batting, with of course Christian Yelich being an exception. Zack Davies has always shown flashes of greatness but has yet to compile a full season. This goes for Brandon Woodruff and Chase Anderson. Offensively they have aging pieces like LoCain and Ryan Braun who are years past their prime.
During the off-season they lost Mike Moustakas, Eric Thames, Chase Anderson and Gio Gonzales. They brought on Brett Anderson, Eric Sogard and Jedd Gyorko. I know what you’re thinking, what are they doing? I’ll be honest I have no idea. Expect a bad pitching staff, an average batting average overall with some power and a dominant bullpen that will likely save some games for them. This will be an underwhelming club in 2020.
Chicago Cubs: The 2016 Cubs were one of the most fun teams in history to root for as far as I am concerned, but age is starting to take its toll. This isn’t to say that everyone is aging, e.x the star that is Javy Baez, but if you look at the team as a whole it seems to be one of the biggest issues. They still have greats like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell. Their best starters ERA was 3.49 from an 88 mph fastball throwing 30 year old.
Transaction wise, the cubs seemingly did nothing but get worse. They lost Cole Hamels, lost Nick Castellanos and signed role players like Jeremy Jeffress and Steven Souza. Do not expect much better than the 2019 season as a ceiling.
Cincinnati Reds: The Reds were getting close last season to finishing their rebuild. There were many good young pieces that were looking to change the fact that they have not won a playoff series since 1995. Guys like Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Eugieno Suarez and Joey Votto headed this group ready to take the next step
Here we have a team that seemingly wants to win in 2020, finally! The Reds did not hold back at all in the additions, such as aforementioned Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas, resigned Trevor Bauer, added Wade Miley and speedster Travis Jankowski. With last year’s pieces already in place, look for big things coming from the reds in 2020.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The 2019 Pirates club was one that added some pieces thinking that it could pan out to a playoff appearance, and that simply wasn’t the case. Chris Archer came on and brought a disappointing 5.19 ERA. They are a young team on both sides of the ball that need some serious refining. Guys like Josh Bell, Kevin Newman, Gregory Polanco and Bryan Renolds look like a few of the only long term pieces the pirates may want to keep.
Yet again we have another team that failed to make any splashes in the off-season. They named a new manager in Derek Shelton, signed Derek Holland but also traded away Starling Marte. As long as their young pieces continue to progress they will be about the same in 2020 as they were last season, but again, don’t look for much more than that.
Taking all of these moves into consideration, here is my 2020 NL Central Predictions:
Cincinnati Reds 89 73
St. Louis Cardinals 88 72
Chicago Cubs 83 79
Milwaukee Brewers 77 85
Pittsburgh Pirates 65 97
The Reds are going to be legit folks. They have solid pitching, batting and bullpen pieces, and more than that, they did more than anyone else in the division. The Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates will all have similar seasons to last. Little moves were made here but the talent on staff already should keep them right where they are at. The Brewers are going to be considerably worse. They lost key pieces and failed to replace them. Look for a down season from them.