Spring Training: One Thing to Watch From All 30 Teams - NL Central

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The NL Central should be a fun division this season.  The Cubbies are still good and could be even better if they get the Yu Darvish of old back.  The Cardinals are much improved and determined to return to the postseason.  Then you have the reigning division champ Milwaukee Brewers out to prove last year was not a fluke.  Heck, even the Reds are a better team.  Let's dive into story lines to focus on this Spring.


Chicago Cubs

Cubs were definitely a disappointment last season after failing to even survive the NL Wild Card game in their own ballpark.  It was a season with high exceptions with additions like Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to solidify their rotation.  Darvish missed practically the entire season injured and Chatwood flat-out stunk.  This year Cubs once again are setting their expectations as high as a World Series title, but that will rely heavily on health.  Kris Bryant battled a shoulder injury throughout last season, and I already mentioned Darvish.  Health should be the main focus of Cubs camp.  How does Bryant's swing look?  How does Darvish look?  Is his fastball back in the high 90's?  A lot of questions for the Cubs, and seeing early positive indicators could go a long way in telling how 2019 goes for the lovable losers.

Cincinnati Reds
Yu Darvish Chicago Cubs Gear
The Reds had quite the off season.  They have a top prospect ready to contribute at the highest level with Nick Senzel.  They pulled off a blockbuster deal with the Dodgers bringing in Alex Wood, Matt Kemp, and most of all, Yasiel Puig.  They also brought in Sonny Gray from the Yankees in the hopes he can rejuvenate his career outside the bright lights of New York.  The Reds will unquestionably be better than the past few years, but asking them to be anything more than a .500 team will be a stretch.  The main thing I am personally focusing on this Spring out of Cincinnati is Yasiel Puig.  He openly came out and admitted to not needing to try that hard as he already was signed to a lucrative deal with the Dodgers.  Now in Cincinnati, he is playing in a walk year and knows he must perform to receive a second large deal.  The Reds plan on him being an everyday, center of the lineup player.  It will be interesting to see how he fits in early now donning red and black.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers had a very quiet off season compared to a year ago when they brought in Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, who casually went on to win the NL MVP award.  This season, their biggest move was probably simply signing Yasmani Grandal to take over the catching duties.  As the resident Dodgers fan here, I can tell you that is a good signing for basically the months of May-July.  Outside of that he will bat .190 with 2 home runs and loads of strikeouts.  If you think that is bad, just wait until October (if they get there).  The Brewers biggest acquisition may be someone who was already on their team.  Jimmy Nelson returns from a one year hiatus due to injury.  However, just a mere two years ago, Jimmy Nelson broke out with a dozen wins and a 3.49 ERA.  All eyes will be on Nelson this Spring to see if the Brewers quietly have a front line pitcher that could propel them to a second straight NL Central division title.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Somebody needs to bring up the rear in every division, and in the NL Central, that team will be the Pirates without question.  There is little to be excited about this year in Pittsburgh, but there is a pair of kids that should catch your eye; Mitch Keller and Ke'Bryan Hayes.  Keller is a hard throwing righty with potential to be the future ace of the Pirates.  Hayes is the Pirates top position prospect and already off to a hot Spring with a .381 average and six extra base hits, two of which were homers.  With the Pirates having little to play for this year, expect them to play it slow with Hayes and let him mature in the minors.  So get your viewing party in now during Spring Training.

St Louis Cardinals

It is hard to believe, but it has now been three straight years without the Cardinals playing October baseball.  They clearly are ready to end that streak as they went out and traded for power hitting first baseman and six time All Star Paul Goldschmidt.  As much as one would be inclined to think Goldy would be your best Spring storyline as he rocks Cardinal red for the first time, the eyes have to go over to Alex Reyes.  Reyes was once considered the top pitching prospect in baseball, but has now suffered through two injury plagued seasons, one of which was from Tommy John surgery.  Reyes is ready for baseball, and baseball is ready for Reyes.  Fan should watch closely this Spring, for first, his health, but also how to the Cardinals choose to deploy him.  He could very well start out in the pen in high leverage situations, but this is a guy who still has ace potential, as he will over power opponents with his triple digit heater.

Be on the lookout for the final installment of Spring Training Storylines next week as we visit the NL West.

Find the past ones here:

AL East  AL Central  AL West  NL East


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Boston Sports Syndicate: Spring Training: One Thing to Watch From All 30 Teams - NL Central
Spring Training: One Thing to Watch From All 30 Teams - NL Central
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