MLB 2021: NL Central Division Preview

by Scott Rickenbach

NL Central Division Preview for MLB 2021

Chicago Cubs – This team will struggle to get to .500 this season and is likely to finish in the mid to upper 70s for a win total. The Cubs Hendricks and Davies are now sandwiched with Arrieta at the top of the rotation but the latter was ultimately a bust in Philly. The problem with the Cubs is more than just having only a top two in the rotation. Chicago hit just .220 as a team last season and their lineup strikes out too much.

Cincinnati Reds – The Reds should finish slightly above .500 but this team has to start hitting better. They were dead last season in the National League and are forced to rely far too much on their pitching staff. The rotation and bullpen both look rock solid but, again, will this team score enough runs? Probably enough to be competitive but not enough to win this division. 

Milwaukee Brewers – This team should compete with Cincinnati and battle the Cardinals for the top spot in the division. The Brewers have Woodruff and Burnes for a great 1-2 combo at the top of the rotation and then the bullpen is also stacked with the 1-2 punch of Williams and Hader. One of the issues with this team though is a lineup that piles up the strikeouts. I don’t see where that has been fixed and, though they have some pop, they don’t get on base enough and could struggle against strikeout pitchers.

Pittsburgh Pirates – This could be the worst team in baseball this season. The Pirates may not even get to 60 wins. In fact if I would have to get a range I would say between 54 and 59 wins is a likely area for this team’s win total to fall into. Yes, Pittsburgh is that bad! The Pirates lost Jameson Taillon to the Yankees. The rotation has Keller at the top but a lot of question marks behind it. The team seems to be in a constant rebuild. Rodriguez a solid closer but how much will he be needed considering the Pirates are unlikely to have a ton of late leads! The Bucs had the worst slugging percentage and on base percentage in baseball last season. Will be a long season in Pittsburgh! 

St Louis Cardinals – This team should win the division though the Brewers and Reds will do their best to prevent that. I project the Cardinals to get into the upper 80s with their win total this season. The Cardinals did not hit particularly well last season but the good news is the other 4 teams in the division also have that issue. In fact the NL Central comprised the bottom 5 of the 15-team NL when you look at team batting average last season. St Louis did rate about 10 points better than everyone else in the division though and picking up Nolan Arenado which pushes a fading Matt Carpenter out of the lineup could prove to be a big plus for this team. A concern for the Cardinals is when Kim and Mikolas will be back in the rotation. Kim should only miss his 1st start or 2 of the year but Mikolas situation not as favorable. This will be something to keep an eye on but St Louis still looks like the team to beat in this division. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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