Potential Opening Day Lineup
Potential Opening Rotation
The Cubs have a lot of talent this season... but its not in Chicago. The Cubs farm system is incredibly talented, with elite prospects such as Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, C.J Edwards and many more. The world got to see what Baez is capable this spring training when he was in the Arizona League smashing five home runs. Kris Bryant is entering his first full season in professional baseball after being drafted in the first round last year out of San Diego University. Them and many more of the Cubs top prospects will help the Cubs become an elite team again and make a run in the NL Central, but it won't be this year. The Cubs return several starters from last year including shortstop Starlin Castro, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and pitcher Jeff Samardzija. An interesting prospect who could reach majors this year is Mike Olt. Olt was acquired last year from the Rangers in a trade for Matt Garza. Olt is a 3B/1B who could get a call by mid season.
Ryan Braun is returning to the Milwaukee Brewers this year after spending more than half of last season at home after being suspended by the MLB for his involvement during the BioGenesis scandal. In his absence last year the Brewers finished with the 5th worst record in the National League, and were hardly a remnant of the teams that finished above .500 the previous two years. The overarching question in all of this is does Milwaukee want Braun back? Right now they're kind of playing wait and see with Braun, but if Braun doesn't come back and play with the NL MVP numbers he was putting up the previous two years, how do you think most Brewers' fans will react to that? My guess is that if he plays good he will be "forgiven", if not look for the Brewers to try and shop Braun near the trade deadline to add some more pieces for the future.
Other than the Braun drama, the Brewers do look to be improved from last year. The Brewers picked up Matt Garza in free agency to come in and pitch, adding him to last years addition of Kyle Lohse to give the Brewers a nice 1-2 punch in the pitching game. The Brewers could be a surprise this year and make a run, but that run is probably more realistic in 2015 or 16. Until the Braun situation works itself out, the Brewers will just have to play it by ear and only do what they feel is necessary for the team.
Dusty Baker finally met his match last year in Cincinnati. After winning two NL Central titles in six years, Dusty Baker was fired by the Reds after losing to their division rival Pittsburgh in the wild card game. Baker, who led the Reds to their 1st NL Central title and playoff appearance in 15 years in 2010, will be remembered as the guy that brought the Reds back to national relevance in the MLB. Now to this year. Pitching coach Bryan Price now holds the reins to the Reds, who look to push for another NL Central title again this year. This will be Price's 1st manager gig, but don't let the lack of managerial experience fool you, his team will be contenders in the NL Central with the Pirates and the Cardinals. With talent like Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Johnny Cueto, and Homer Bailey there's no reason the Reds shouldn't put up a fight in the NL Central
The Pirates were the feel good story of the MLB last year, but this year everyone should see them coming. McCutchen, the reigning NL MVP, should continue to lead the Pirates to contention in the NL Central. With a great lineup and a solid pitching tandem, featuring Francisco Liriano and All-Star closer Jason Grilli, look for the Pirates to remain in the hunt for playoff contention.
If I could just write that the Cardinals are simply just going to be an NL Central contender than I would, because the Cardinals are always going to be a factor in the NL Central and the playoff race. The Cardinals lost Carlos Beltran to the Yankees in free agency, but still have Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, and Matt Carpenter to hold down the fort. Add those guys to the pitching tandem of Wainwright, Miller, and Wacha and the Cardinals will remain a force to be reckoned with as usual in the MLB.