By Ethan Salm
As a Chicago Cubs fan, I say this is definitely “our year,” because we say that every year.
As a fan of baseball and columnist though, I will say the National League Central probably belongs to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019. St. Louis acquired six-time all-star, three-time gold glove winner, and four-time silver slugger in Paul Goldschmidt. That adds to a team that won 88 games last year AND that went 41-28 after replacing manager Mike Matheny.
The outfield of Bader, Ozuna, and either Martinez or Fowler is pretty good. They have a good infield as well, anchored by the ever present catcher Yadier Molina. The starting rotation is also poised to have a solid year. Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty both had the best years of their respective young careers in 2018. They should only get better as they develop a little more and they will have plenty of offensive support. You can’t forget about flamethrower Jordan Hicks coming out of the bullpen. He has been repeatedly touching 103 MPH on his fastball this spring and that will be a scary sight in the late innings of ballgames this year.
Coming in behind the redbirds are the Chicago Cubs. The team from the North Side has made the playoffs every year since 2015, and I expect more of the same this season. While the Cubs will probably not take the division this year, I see a wild card spot in their future once again. The Cubs return all of their major pieces from last year’s 95-win season. Javier Baez can make another run at the MVP after finishing second behind Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich last year. Third baseman Kris Bryant is looking healthy and dangerous again this year and first baseman Anthony Rizzo will bring another 100 RBI season to the plate again this year. The Cubs need to not go ice cold again this year. Down the stretch last season, the bats went cold and that doomed them. The pitching staff is good, but it could and should, be better. They didn’t go get a big-name starter like I thought they would. Jon Lester should be an acceptable first starter, and he will be supported by Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks, and Jose Quintana. If Yu Darvish can pitch well for the Cubs, this year that would be a very welcome sight given his big contract. If this team preforms the way they should, they can blow this division away and compete for a championship.
Next, there is a team that played just about as good as they possibly could last year. The Milwaukee Brewers won 96 games and went on an absolute tear the second half of the season behind NL MVP Christian Yelich. In my mind, Milwaukee hit their peak last year. Yelich will not have another season like he did last year. Ryan Braun is aging, and the starting rotation lacks an ace. I don’t really understand the choice to re-sign Mike Moustakas and to second base, because he hasn’t played there in his career. Milwaukee is still a good baseball team, and actually expect them to make the playoffs again, they just won’t be as good as last year.
After Milwaukee come the Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati made one of the biggest offseason splashes by getting Alex Wood, Yasiel Puig, and Matt Kemp from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Wow. The NL Central was already one of the best divisions in baseball- and it got better. This trade is huge for Cincinnati and it would be a big deal if they didn’t have the Cardinals, Cubs, and Brewers all firmly ahead of them. All this does is put the Reds above the Pirates and make the division race closer.
The Pirates are caught in an unfortunate situation here. They are not as bad as some of the other last place teams, they are just in one of the best divisions in baseball.
- Chicago Cubs
- St. Louis
Ethan’s Projection for 2019
- St. Louis
- Chicago Cubs
Playoff teams: St. Louis, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee.
Edited By by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org