The NL Central should be a three-team race between the Reds, Brewers and Cardinals, although the Pirates could stick around for a little while. The numbers here are courtesy of the LVH Sportsbook. See overviews of other divisions here: AL East AL Central AL West NL East
Chicago: Under 74.5
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They have a good front office in place, but the talent is not there yet. They have a rising star at short in Starlin Castro, but other than him, the lineup is bad. After Matt Garza, they really don’t have any pitching to be excited about. Better days are coming for Cub fans but not yet.
Cincinnati: Over 86.5
The Reds had a disappointing 2011 but made nice additions in the offseason. Mat Latos is a front-line starter, and they got a steal with Ryan Madson to close. Bronson Arroyo is just an innings-eater now, so they need more consistency from Homer Bailey and Mike Leake. At this point, Aroldis Chapman is a complete X-factor who could wind up pitching in a variety of roles. The offense is good but also needs more consistency around core guys Joey Votto & Jay Bruce. It may come down to the last weekend, but they inch past.
Houston: Under 64
The Astros lacked any foresight allowing a veteran team to play out as long as it did. They were blinded by two great second half runs and a World Series appearance. Now they are a complete disaster and only beginning to turn the corner with the trade of Hunter Pence last season. There is really nothing to be excited about regarding this team. Wandy Rodriguez is a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy, but he should have been dealt in the offseason. Having Brett Myers close is fixing one problem but creating an even bigger one. The lineup is terrible, and for reasons known only to them, they have an aging Carlos Lee in the middle of it. They lost 106 games last year and are on their way to topping that this year.
Milwaukee: Over 83.5
I don’t think the Ryan Braun decision will affect this, but either way, I think they top the number comfortably. The top of the rotation is still very good, and the offense is still formiddable post-Prince Fielder. I like the additions of Aramis Ramirez and Alex Gonzalez. John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez give them a nice back-end.
Pittsburgh: Over 73
The Pirates had a great first half last season but, ultimately, didn’t have enough talent to sustain it. They are led by rising star Andrew McCutchen and have some other solid pieces in place. They need Pedro Alvarez to bounce back from a terrible second season to give them a power presence. The rotation pitched way over its head last season but is pretty decent with the additions of veterans Erik Bedard and A.J. Burnett. The exciting thing for the Pirates is the big front-line pitching in their farm system, which is not too far away. I can see them making a run at a .500 season.
St. Louis: Over 82.5
The defending champs move forward without Albert Pujols,but they should still be very good with Adam Wainwright coming back from Tommy John surgery. If Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman can stay relatively healthy, they should have enough offense. I think they clear this number and win the division.