2019 MLB Predictions: National League


National League Central

1.St. Louis Cardinals

2. Chicago Cubs

3. Milwaukee Brewers

4. Cincinnati Reds

5. Pittsburgh Pirates

Transparency of the NL Central: I’m Putting A Ton Of Stock In An Unknown

What do I mean by that? Well, the Cardinals invested in the middle of their lineup this offseason, bringing in, perhaps, the best first baseman in the game in Paul Goldschmidt. The six time All Star brings an immediate and cemented three-hole hitter for the better part of 155 games.

While Goldschmidt was the most exciting acquisition of the offseason for the Cardinals, what excites me most about this team are the players that were already on the roster. Matt Carpenter broke a personal record for most homeruns in a season and is poised for another successful season. Marcel Ozuno is in his second full season with the Redbirds after hitting .280 and 23 homeruns last season. Paul DeJong looks for a bounce back season after a wildly successful rookie year in 2017.

But what makes me invested in a relative unknown is the young, talented starting pitching staff. Miles Mikolas begins year two of his resurgence at the top of the St. Louis rotation. Jack Flaherty, however, is the name I’m most thrilled to watch this season. After posting a 3.34 ERA last season, Flaherty is ready to take another step forward, putting together the team’s own trio of himself, Mikolas and Michael Wacha.

The Cardinals are my pick to win the division, but it’ll be anything but a runaway. The defending champs, the Milwaukee Brewers, return a majority of their starting lineup, and feature a new piece behind the plate: Yasmani Grandal. But what excites me about Milwaukee is also what worries me about the Brewers this season: the return of a majority of the 25-man roster. The starting rotation pitched well above expectations last season. Every Brewers’ starter last season posted a positive WAR, something that will be difficult to duplicate in 2019. Milwaukee and Philadelphia will be eerily similar this year. The difference in the two teams, and why the Phillies will make the playoffs and the Brewers will not, is Aaron Nola. The Brewers don’t have that shutdown ace that they can turn to when a lose turns into a four game losing streak. They need a skid stopper, and they simply don’t have one.

Sitting in between St. Louis and Milwaukee are the Chicago Cubs. This team is a relative unknown this year, and therefore are a fringe team at the start of the season. The roster is still as talented as ever, headlined, of course, by superstar Kris Bryant. But the starting rotation will pace this team in 2019. Best case scenario, Yu Darvish remains healthy and a good Jose Quintana emerges. That scenario allows for a definitive playoff team. Worst case, Darvish can’t get it together, Cole Hamels takes a step back, and Quintana has another dud season. That will requires this team to win a ton of 7-6 games. That’s why this Cubs team is a fringe team, capable of making the playoffs, and even winning the division. For now, I’ll temper my expectations on this team, and say they just miss the postseason.