NL Central Cards - Red 1 Cubs 4 Brewers4 Astros6 Pirates 8
Playoff team(s): Cards Cubs
St. Louis Cards: Not much has changed for the defending World Series champs.That is why I am picking them to repeat as Central winners.The rotation again looks strong, as long as Carpenter can maintain his surprising dominance.They have some youth trying to make the opening day roster.Looks like the young pitching star Anthony Reyes is the #3 starter.He has yet to live up to the hype.If John Rodriguez can make the opening day roster, he may be a person to consider in deeper fantasy leagues.
Cincinnati Reds:They were a surprise team from a year ago, and I hope that continues into this year.Rule 5 player Josh Hamilton is playing out of his head.Not being around baseball for 4 years (due to drug related problems); he is making a strong return.If they pick him, he could add some pop to the offense that was lost with Casey last year.The top 4 pitching slots won’t change with Arroyo, Harang, Milton and Lohse, but they due have about 10 guys fighting for the 5th spot.Add a healthy Griffey to the mix and Reds should compete well this year.
Milwaukee Brewers: Yes, I have them picked third.With young pitching come up in Gallardo and the HR hitting Hall in CF, this team has potential.Prince Fielder needs to start living up to expectation if they are to finish 3rd or higher this season.Cordero appears to be the front runner for the closer spot and is a free-agent-to-be.With the return of a healthy Sheets and the potential for a formidable (That one was for you Bill S.) talent in Gallardo, this could be a great year for the BrewCrew.
Chicago Cubs:I am a Piniella fan, just like the next guy; however, he has his work cut out for him.To put the Cubs 4th, or tied for 3rd, seems odd since they added Soriano in center, and starting pitchers Lilly and Marquis.By moving Woods to the pen, you may see more innings from him than you have in the past 2 years combined.Prior is actually competing for a starting position on this team now with Wade Miller.These two pitchers have seen more time on the DL than on the field last year.Perhaps a tie for 3rd was lower than what most have figured for this team, but you have to admit, they are still the Cubs. I have them picked as a playoff team just in case they due better than expected.
Houston Astros: The Astros will still be competitive in the Central even though offensively they did not add much.Adding Jennings from the Rockies could be a good thing, he may have better luck pitching in the launching pad, rather than mile high.Woody Williams joins this starting rotation as well, coming off a 12-5 season.I am a fan of pitchers remaining in the same league.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Offensively, this team is not that impressive.They have Zack Duke, the young prospect anchoring a starting rotation that resembles a three stooge’s movie.A lot of these starters have had failures with other teams; Armas for example never was great for the Expos.Sean Chacon had semi-success with the Rockies and Yankees.The one pitcher I do like is Ian Snell.He doesn’t pitch as deep into games as Duke, but has a lot more K’s.With Mike Gonzalez departing for the Braves, look for Salomon Torres and Damaso Marte to compete for closer spot.