When you look at the NL Central, you could probably conclude that it’s the weakest it’s been in some time. Yes, the Brewers have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, but can the bats wake up? The Cardinals will always compete, but their pitching staff has some question marks. The Reds have torn it down to the studs; the Cubs are in a weird limbo period, and then you have our Pirates.
Since it is opening day and the Pirates are set to face the Cardinals, let’s look at this NL Central division and predict who will land where.
1- Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are coming off of a fairly successful 2021 campaign, winning the division, going to the playoffs for their 4th consecutive year, and eventually falling to the World Series, winning Atlanta Braves in the early rounds of the playoffs.
The Brewers have the best pitching staff in the division, but it’s also one of the best in Major League Baseball. The pitching staff will again lead them to a division title; whether they go deep into the playoffs will hinge on their suspect bats. I’m predicting around 89-90 wins for the Brewers.
2- St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals will always be the Cardinals; I like to equate them to the New England Patriots of baseball. You could probably give the Cardinals 9 amateur bats, and somehow, they’d scrape into the playoffs. I’m kidding, but not really.
Where the Cardinals will face some turbulence is their starting rotation. When you have to rely on a 40-year-old pitcher in Adam Wainwright, you have a problem. The only reason the Cardinals will finish 2nd in the division is that the remaining three teams are probably worse. That being said, I’ll predict the Cardinals will win around 82-84 games.
3- Chicago Cubs
Gone are Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Kris Bryant. This Cubs team is a long way away from their 2016 World Series team. The Cubs did sign Marcus Stroman and Clint Frazier, but I don’t think anyone will be racing to ticket master for 2022 World Series tickets in Chicago (Unless the White Sox do something).
Strictly because the Cubs made moves that will put them over the Reds and Pirates, they will most likely finish 3rd in the division. There is almost always one surprise in baseball, but I don’t see the Cubs surprising anyone in 2022. I predict around 70-72 wins.
4- Pittsburgh Pirates
This may be a little surprising to you, but there is some merit to the Pirates staying out of the basement for 2022. There will have to be some things falling in place, but the number one thing is the pitching staff performing a little above their pay grade.
Mitch Keller is the number one guy that needs to turn it around on the pitching staff for this to work. IF the Pirates are to succeed (more than the Reds), they will need a full season from the likes of Ke’Bryan Hayes, Mitch Keller, and Bryan Reynolds. That’s at least 6 or 7 more wins than the Reds. I predict the Pirates to win around 67-69 games.
5- Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have gone into full rebuild mode after going out and spending some legit cash in the ’21 season. The one thing the Reds are doing is having their top prospects like Hunter Green and Nick Lodolo on their opening day roster.
Unless those prospects blow everyone out of the water, I feel pretty comfortable placing the Reds in the division’s basement. Jonathan India is a legit stud, but one player will not make a huge amount of difference, ask the Pirates; they know all too well. I’m predicting around 60-62 wins for the Reds