Expectations: Aroldis Chapman throw a 373 MPH fastball.
Key addition: Edgar Renteria
Key loss: Orlando Cabrera
Projected record: 92-70
Summary: The Cincinnati Reds were among one of the biggest surprises in baseball. In 2010, the young Reds overtook the reigning NL Central champion Cardinals and made their first postseason appearance since 1995. They have a very talented young core in 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce. Sprinkle in veterans like Scott Rolen and Edgar Renteria and they should be back on top of the Central division. Their starting rotation is very strong and is full of veterans. Youngster flamethrowers Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto help anchor the ship. Bronson Arroyo and Travis Wood should help bring stability and gives them a very deep rotation. The Reds should get a challenge from Prince Fielder and the Brewers but no Wainwright for the Cardinals makes this division race a little less intriguing.
Expectations: The franchise folds as they realize they can’t move on without Cutter Dystra.
Key Addition: Zack Greinke
Key Loss: Alcides Escobar
Projected Record: 87-75
Summary: The Milwaukee Brewers finished with a record of 77-85 last season but made significant moves in the offseason. After Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke was considered the runner-up prize for many teams and the Brewers landed him. They parted with a few prospects and Alcides Escobar to obtain Greinke. Greinke brings over a boatload of talent. His career numbers are 60-67 but most of that is the product of playing on a bad team. In 2009, he boasted an ERA of 2.16 and could do more of the same in the competitive NL Central. The Brewers also added outfielder Nyjer Morgan in a trade. Morgan brings over a ton of talent and a bad rap. He is famous for charging Marlins’ pitcher Chris Volstad and plowing over catchers. Morgan will challenge Carlos Gomez for the centerfield job and can provide speed at the top of the Brewers’ lineup. They have a lot to be proud of heading into this season and should contend with the Reds for the division crown.
St. Louis Cardinals
Expectations: They amputate Wainwright’s arm and find him a new one and he wins the Cy Young.
Key Addition: Lance Berkman
Key Loss: Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery)
Projected Record: 83-79
Summary: The Cardinals finished second place in the Central last season and were hoping to take back the crown. But that became a little more difficult within the last month. With Adam Wainwright slated to miss the entire with Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals rotation will certainly be a lot weaker. Aside from Chris Carpenter, their starting rotation is very weak, especially when you compare it to some of the rotations around the National League. Behind Carpenter, they have Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia. Westbrook was acquired from the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline last season and signed a two-year extension. Westbrook went 4-4 with a 3.48 ERA with the Cardinals in the second half last season. Garcia had a very good rookie campaign and could be the #2 starter in the rotation. He went 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA. The young Garcia certainly has great stuff but the loss of Wainwright will just be too much. You’re replacing a Cy-Young award winner which is not easy to do. They did add Lance Berkman who should bring some more pop to their lineup. Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday should be among the most talented duos in baseball and Berkman could definitely add 60-70 RBIs to the club. But in the end, the pitching just won’t be strong enough. The Cardinals should be competitive but the other teams in the Central are very good and have made significant strides this offseason.
Expectations: Steve Bartman is finally able to show his face in the city of Chicago again.
Key Addition: Matt Garza
Key Loss: Derrek Lee
Projected Record: 80-82
Summary: The Chicago Cubs are coming off a not-so-impressive season in which they finished in fifth place. They turned around and pulled off a blockbuster trade to acquire pitcher Matt Garza. Garza will help to anchor a solid Cubs rotation that also includes Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster. Garza was 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 2010 for a first place Tampa Bay Rays team. They also let aging first baseman Derrek Lee walk in free agency. They signed another former Ray in first baseman Carlos Pena. Pena is a career .241 hitter and brings some much-needed power to the Cubs lineup. In the past four seasons, Pena has hit 144 home runs and knocked in 407 RBIs. If Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez can be solid contributors along with Pena, the Cubs could stay alive in the Central. However I just don’t think they have enough offense to keep up.
Expectations: Ed Wade trades with a team other than the Phillies.
Key Addition: Clint Barmes
Key Loss: Matt Lindstrom
Projected Record: 72-86
Summary: For the first time in eight years, the Astros Opening Day starter won’t be Roy Oswalt. It will be Brett Myers. Perhaps that says it all about this Houston Astros team. Their starting rotation is very weak and will be led by the former Phillies hot head. Wandy Rodriguez and J.A. Happ are both very solid but don’t strike fear into opponents. Their offense can be very good at times. Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence should combine to hit around 50 home runs and knock in 175-200 runs. Michael Bourn does a great job setting the table for the Astros. He led the National League with 52 stolen bases and also scored 84 runs last year. Their infield may hurt them this season though. Their best infielder is Bill Hall. Yes Bill Hall. The youth movement in the infield features Chris Johnson at third base, Angel Sanchez at shortstop, and Brett Wallace at first base. There isn’t much major league experience there and I think there will be some growing pains this season.
Expectations: What expectations? It’s the Pirates.
Key Addition: Lyle Overbay
Key Loss: Zach Duke
Projected Record: 67-95
Summary: The Pittsburgh Pirates begin every season thinking that this year will be better than the previous one. I actually hold that to be true. Well at least by Pirates standards. While this team is very far away from being anywhere close to a successful franchise, I think they will be better this year. Their infield is very solid and should generate some excitement. They added Lyle Overbay at first base which allows Garrett Jones to move to right field. Overbay adds some nice pop to the Bucs’ lineup. Youngsters Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker will turn some heads this season. Alvarez will get to start the year with the big club and could hit 25 home runs for a struggling Pirates team. Walker hit well last season and ended up with a .281 average. He will likely be hitting third in the Pirates lineup and could hit between 75-90 RBIs before the year is through. Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, and Jones round out a very talented outfield. Former Brave Matt Diaz will be coming off the bench. The rotation as usual, is the downfall of the team. Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, and Ross Ohlendorf will be the top three starters for the Pirates. It’s safe to say that the Pirates could actually be decent one day if they got some good pitching.