This division has a lot of Tonys and Anthonys in it. More than the usual amount of Tonys and Anthonys. Pirates are the clear favorite. Ranking the pig-pile below seems a little tougher this spring because of the Cubs’ improved outlook. Here’s a prediction: Not seeing a Wild Card berth from out of this division this year.
Chicago Cubs - There are reasons for hope — maybe not hype — on a team that has of late re-established itself as a basement dweller. Offseason moves included bringing Jon Lester, Miguel Montero and Dexter Fowler on board. They join a mix of talent at various stages of development including bomb-hittin’ Anthony Rizzo. Blog sees fate of Cubbies tied closely to prospects of No. 2 starter Jake Arrieta, who last year seemed to shake off years of inconsistent results and channel his big talent. Whose this Kris Bryant kid? Is he awesome or what?
Cincinnati Reds - Depending on injuries and the performance of a couple youngish starters (Tony Cingrani and Anthony DeSclafani) the Reds project anywhere from last to pushing for first. Jay Bruce is looking for his mojo again after a putrid 2014. Joey Votto is a good bounce-back candidate. Not loving the ancient Marlon Byrd in left but Skip Schumaker is on the club for a depth — and he’s talking playoffs! Will they make the playoffs? If you put a gun-shaped sausage to Wayward O’s head and demanded an answer, Wayward O would have to say no.
Milwaukee Brewers - Pink eye? Gross! Kyle Lohse playing role of ace? Yikes! If you squint – and if Matt Garza doesn’t strain anything or whatever – then a playoff push is not completely out of the question. Here’s a positive: Blog likes Adam Lind at first base a lot more than Mark Reynolds at first base. Oh Adam seems to have pulled something too. Not high on the Crew this spring. If they did make the playoffs, somehow, the no-handshake thing could be a fun, you know, thing.
Pittsburgh Pirates - Viable, even swashbuckling, starters. Maybe the best outfield in the National League depending upon how well young Gregory Polanco fares. Good depth everywhere. The transitioning of Pedro Alvarez over to first base appears to be working. Fans will be watching Jung Ho Kang’s progress carefully to see if he can crack an already-talented infield picture. If you want to be a worry wart you can ask: Is Mark Melancon the answer at closer? Hey, if he’s not they can do a deal. Proceed with confidence!
St. Louis Cardinals - The perennial contenders appear poised to be in the mix again with a good-if-not-great starting rotation; known professional baseball players Jon Jay, Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta and Yadier Molina coming back; and a resurgent Jayson Heyward joining the outfield. But are Adam Wainwright’s finest days behind him? He’s got a mean case of the gimps right now. To Blog’s lights they look like about a 90-win team again, which isn’t likely enough. And that’s if Waino — and Lance Lynn — get right and stay right.
Predicted Order of Finish: