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2023 NL Central Preview: Brighter Days Ahead?

 (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

2023 NL Central Preview: Brighter Days Ahead?

The NL Central is next on our list in week 2 of the 2023 MLB division previews leading up to 2023 MLB Opening Day.

As opposed to the NL East, which was previewed last week, the NL Central really … wasn’t good in 2022. In fact, no one won a playoff series from this division in 2022.

Only the division-winning St. Louis Cardinals made it into the playoffs with 93 wins. When they got to the playoffs, they seemed outmatched when they were swept by the Phillies in the Wild Card Round.

Things might be looking up for certain NL Central teams in 2023. For others? Maybe not as much. Let’s get into it!

5th Place: Cincinnati Reds

Let’s face it Reds fans: this team won’t be anything in 2023 just like they weren’t anything in 2022. Just a franchise adrift at sea. Ever since Reds president and COO Phil Castellini slapped fans in the face for criticizing him, I knew this franchise won’t amount to much for the next few seasons.

The Reds didn’t do much this offseason. They sorta were just there. Cincinnati needed to cut payroll, which they did when they shipped off Kyle Farmer.

They look to be transitioning Tyler Stephenson, arguably their best player, to DH/1B when they added catching depth. Luke Weaver was also a good addition to the rotation.

Cincinnati’s roster looks pretty bleak. They’ll continue to develop young starters Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo. Hopefully they can see some prospects breakout like Elly De La Cruz. I actually really like the bats in their farm system, but that’s a story for another day.

No one expects the Reds to be legit contenders in 2023. They won’t be quite as bad as last year, but they also won’t be any good.

Projected record: (68-94)

4th Place: Pittsburgh Pirates

Hey, Andrew McCutchen is back! I just want to see asses in seats for the Pittsburgh Pirates in beautiful PNC Park in 2023. They had almost none of that last year. Cutch should help with attendance for the Bucs. Last season, Pittsburgh tied the Reds for last in the division at 62-100.

Much like the Reds, ownership’s pockets are sealed shut. They are still trying to keep their culture of building from within, but they did do okay to acquire some veteran talent without breaking the bank.

Jarlín Garcia was a good pickup, Rich Hill and Ji-Man Choi as well. Mitch Keller looks to be a mainstay in the rotation again.

The Pirates are more focused on the future than winning now. They’re another one of those teams that will ship off anything resembling an above average baseball player at their first chance come deadline time.

Oneil Cruz and Ke’Bryan Hayes headlined the young Pirates in 2022. Could 2023 be the year we see Henry Davis play in the MLB? Will Bryan Reynolds be traded to a contender? We’ll have to wait and see.

I don’t love the lineup, but it’s certainly better than the pitching staff. But hey, Andrew McCutchen!

Projected record: (70-92)

3rd Place: Chicago Cubs

Just because you sign a bunch of old dudes with experience doesn’t mean you’re going to have an elite baseball team, but I guess it doesn’t make you any worse.

I really liked some of the moves that the Cubs pulled off in the 2022 offseason, like locking up Jameson Taillion and Trey Mancini. However, I think they overpaid the fourth-best shortstop option in Dansby Swanson.

Cody Bellinger could reset his career, Tucker Barnhart is underrated, and Seiya Suzuki could have a breakout sophomore season.

This roster isn’t complete enough … yet. The rotation isn’t the worst with Tallion as the headliner. But the lineup isn’t particularly deep. Everything about this team is just screaming mid. Maybe if they get hot, they’ll fill holes at the deadline and try to make a run at it in 2023.

At the very least, I’m glad ownership is starting to go in the right direction by spending again. Chicago needs to benefit on the bottomfeeders of the NL Central, and the season will come down to how they play the Cardinals and Brewers.

Overall, the Cubs are a better team in 2023 than they were in 2022. Who knows what could happen in summer time in Wrigleyville?

Projected record: (81-81)

2nd Place: Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers had a real chance to win the NL Central last season before they entirely shot themselves in the foot at the trade deadline. Trading Josh Hader may look like a good move in a few seasons, but it killed the team in 2022.

I didn’t hate the Brewers offseason. Acquiring William Contreras is massive. He’s a huge upgrade over what they had last season. Trading a clubhouse guy in Kolten Wong sucks, but Jesse Winker is a good return. Brian Anderson was a sneaky good pickup as well.

That rotation is so lethal. Corbin Burnes will be in the running for Cy Young again, along with Brandon Woodruff. Eric Lauer was solid in 2022 and journeyman Wade Miley just adds depth to one of the best rotations in the sport. Freddy Peralta is another guy who could explode in 2023.

I have a feeling this team will live and die based on the play of Christian Yelich. He has a real chance to get his career back on track after some down seasons with a new hitting coach duo in town.

Milwaukee did not do enough to surpass St. Louis at the end of last season, and they also didn’t do enough to surpass them this offseason. I like the Brewers, and I want them to be successful. However, they just aren’t as deep as the Cardinals or some of the other NL juggernauts.

Projected record: (85-78)

1st Place: St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals didn’t make many splash moves like some other NL competitors, but I believe they got better in this past offseason.

What a year for the Cards in 2022. The Albert Pujols home run chase was like a fever dream, and the farewell departure of Yadier Molina was a bitter-sweet one. As for 2023, they should be really solid again.

Having the NL MVP helps. They filled their biggest need when they signed Willson Contreras. They retained legend Adam Wainwright.

Jordan Montgomery and Miles Mikolas are mainstays. Hopefully they can get a full season out of Jack Flaherty. Their bullpen, featuring Ryan Helsley should be really solid again.

The lineup is pretty scary when you dive into it, with Goldy, Edman and Arenado as the headliners.

We’ll see how the Cardinals fare against the big boys in the National League. Expect St. Louis to control the NL Central in 2023. Anything less will just be disapointing. Personally, I think they run away with the division early and don’t look back.

Oh and by the way, their home whites are the best uniforms in baseball.

Projected record: (95-67), 3rd seed in the NL

That does it for our NL Central preview. The divsion should be better in 2023 than it was in 2022. The division was scoffed at in 2022.

By the way, this division probably has the best ballparks in the entire league. Great American, PNC and Busch are all awesome.

Will the National League winner come from the Central? Unlikley, but not impossible. Stranger things have happened.


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