Predictions are useless but are also fun to do. This week I will roll out my own dumb predictions for the 2013 season.
Cincinnati did a great job keeping their starters healthy last season, all five of them started 30 games or more. It’s tough to count on that happening again as predicting pitcher health seems to be the hardest thing to do in the sport. The Reds made the safe choice keeping Aroldis Chapman as their closer, that may not be the best long term decision but it does give them a great anchor in their bullpen for this year. Joey Votto was the most valuable first basemen in baseball in 2012 and he only played 111 games. I expect a full season out of Votto and for him to take home N.L. MVP honors in 2013. Cincinnati added Shin Soo Choo during the offseason which greatly improves their offense but it also creates a problem defensively as the Reds have no true center fielder and their outfield defense was already a weak spot.
Best player by WAR (Baseball-Reference) Joey Votto 8.2
This has not been the best spring for the Cardinals as Rafael Furcal, David Freese, and Jason Motte all suffered injuries and are all starting the season on the disabled list. Furcal will likely miss the entire season. I like the Cardinals pitching staff 1-12 but I have concerns about the depth and quality of their lineup. The Cardinals are relying heavily on unproven players like Allen Craig and Jon Jay, and on aging stars Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday. They do have star prospect Oscar Taveras waiting and ready to contribute if one of their outfielders suffers an injury or struggles early. The Cardinals are one of the best organizations in baseball who always seem to get the most out of their players. They are overachievers and many of their players with question marks attached to them usually work out, so dismissing them seems like a mistake.
Best player by WAR (tie) Adam Wainwright & Yadier Molina 5.0
The Pirates have made a run each of the the last two seasons but have fallen short both years. I expect a similar result this year. They have enough talent to be good for short stretches but not enough to last the entire year. Their pitching staff is still very thin, although it might see a boost mid-season from former number one pick Gerrit Cole who should provide an instant upgrade over their number five starter. Andrew McCutchen is one of the better players in the game but his .375 BAPIP was the 2nd highest in the National League last year and is nearly fifty points higher than his career average, some regression (even if it’s small) should be expected from him.
Best player by WAR Andrew McCutchen 6.5
Major League Baseball is out to get Ryan Braun, for real. If Braun is suspended for his involvement with Anthony Bosch’s Biogenesis clinic that will all but destroy the Brewers chances of competing this year and may cause them to trade some of their players mid-season. Milwaukee did upgrade their pitching staff adding Kyle Lohse late in the spring but their rotation still has some question marks and their bullpen does too. The underrated Corey Hart isn’t expected to play until May and Aramis Ramirez is a year older and unlikely to perform at the same level he did last season. The Brewers have an extremely loyal fan base but depending on how aggressively MLB pursues Braun, this could be a long year for them.
Best player by WAR Ryan Braun 7.4
It’s tough to predict the Cubs this year as I think they will likely deal many of their players before the trade deadline. Their roster as currently constituted seems okay, good enough to play well at times and bad enough to have some really ugly stretches. Jeff Samardzija has finally blossomed into a well above average starter and I think Anthony Rizzo will take a big step towards stardom this year as well, however the overall quality and depth of their lineup and pitching staff will likely prevent them from competing this year, and next.
Best player by WAR Anthony Rizzo 4.0
The all NL Central team with my projected WAR (Baseball-Reference).
I could have easily picked Brandon Phillips or Darwin Barney at second base as I think they will both generate similar value to Walker. Right field was an interesting choice, I chose Aoki over Bruce because Bruce’s value is hurt by his defense and he has only been a three win player or better once in his career (2010).
There are no truly dominant front line pitchers in the division and the overall quality of starters seems a bit thin. There are some top prospects coming soon (Miller, Cole, Taillon) but I don’t expect any of them to end up as a top five starter in the division this season.
Those are my dumb predictions for the NL Central. I’ll revisit them at the end of the season to see how many I butchered.
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Originally posted 3/28/13
Thumbnail NL Central logo courtesy of www.500levelfan.com