By Grant Flood
The National League Central has been one of the most unpredictable divisions in baseball this year with four of the five teams potentially finishing above .500 come the end of the season. We’ve witnessed the Brewers on an eye-catching 11 game winning streak, the Cubs with a sluggish 11 game losing streak, the Reds above .500 after roughly 6 years rebuilding, the Cardinals acquiring an All-Star third baseman who has already hit 18 home runs and a not so promising team in the Pirates who own the third-worst record in the entire MLB.
NL Central Standings & SimBull Stock Predictions:
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (36-59)
The Pirates selecting C, Henry Davis first overall in this year’s draft is the only positive news for the organization, other than that, they have been abysmal owning the second-worst record in the National League for the majority of the season. All 6 starting pitchers, Tyler Anderson, J.T. Brubaker, Wil Crowe, Chad Kuhl, Mitch Keller, and Chase De Jong unsurprisingly have losing records. As of 2020, new pitching coach, Oscar Marin still has a lot of work in front of him after giving up 471 runs thus far. Despite the in-field struggles, 2B, Adam Frazier is playing well earning an All-Star game ticket with a .326 batting average with 120 hits, however, only 4 have gone for home runs. It’s going to be a long haul as the organization will continue its rebuilding stage.
Price as of July 13 – July 20 – $23.82
4. Chicago Cubs (47-48)
The Cubs are one of the harder teams to figure out in MLB’s recent history, after winning the World Series back in 2016, many expected a winning culture, however, this team just checked out and has not won a playoff game since. Chicago pitched a no-hitter dusting off the defending champion Dodgers 4-0, at what cost on this impressive win as the team fell on an 0-11 streak. Other news, rumors spreading for weeks now that a potential trade revolving around DH, Kris Bryant at the deadline. He leads Chicago in both hits and runs with 81 and 53 respectively, trading away a 4-time All-Star could set the team through a rebuilding phase. More evidence of this, CF, Joc Pederson, a proven 6-year veteran hitting a .230 batting average was traded on July 15 to the Braves for prospect 1B, Bryce Bell. The dismantling of the current core has begun.
Price as of July 19 – July 20 – $32.06
3. St. Louis Cardinals (47-48)
The infield for the Cardinals has been tremendous this season as 1B, Paul Goldschmidt leads the team with 97 hits and right behind him, All-Star 3B, Nolan Arenado with 91 hits. Closing P, Alex Reyes made the All-Star Game, the first appearance of his career in which he pitched ⅔ of an inning allowing a hit and a strikeout. The talent is there for St. Louis, however, the pitching has been decimated with injuries, Carlos Martinez, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks, and Miles Mikolas have all been placed on 60-day IL. I would definitely reconsider the Cardinals playoff hopes next season if the starting rotation avoids the injury bug as these pitchers are historically reliable. Due to the pitching mishaps, I wouldn’t expect the Cardinals to be playoff-bound as it’s unlikely to see the team jump into a late-season surge.
Price as of July 8 – July 20 – $31.76
2. Cincinnati Reds (49-46)
Is there a more well-balanced outfield in the NL Central? On that note, I feel the Reds have one of the most underrated outfields in the entire MLB. Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker made All-Star game appearances along with Tyler Naquin who has blossomed setting a career-high in RBI’s with 55. Pitcher’s Wade Miley, Tyler Mahle, and Sean Doolittle have been humming along as usual not having Cincinnati’s runs go to waste. If Milwaukee stumbles upon unforeseen obstacles, the Reds who are a young and hungry group could potentially land a postseason berth. However, a wild card spot looks pretty bleak if the Reds remain in second place as the NL West has three legit playoff contenders in the Giants, Dodgers, and Padres.
Price as of July 18 – July 20 – $31.50
1. Milwaukee Brewers (56-40)
After finishing 29-31 last season and having 2018 MVP Christian Yelich on 10-day injured reserve twice at the start of the year has not hindered the Brewers. Jackie Bradley Jr has been an outstanding acquisition to the outfield as he leads the team in triples with 2, the man to his right, Avisail Garcia who is scorching with a team-leading 78 hits, 17 home runs, and 57 RBI’s. An impressive All-Star Game appearance, leading the way with Corbin Burnes who started the season with an MLB record, 58 strikeouts to 0 walks, others include P’s, Brandon Woodruff, and Josh Hader along with C, Omar Narvaez. Currently, the Brewers have a 6.5 game division lead over the Reds, if the pitching continues to stay dominant along with a healthy roster, the 87.0% chance (per Baseball-Reference) of making the playoffs will become 100%.
Price as of July 19 – July 20 – $33.39