Coming into the 2013 season, we thought we’d take a quick look at the best NL Central players at each position as a proxy for the strongest teams in the division. The position players of the NL Central are quite strong, but the pitching leaves a bit to be desired. How do our Cubbies stack up? Well, it looks like it’s going to be a rough year for the Cubs (but you already knew that)
All NL-Central Team
Catcher – Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Tommy: He has consistently improved his offense while maintaining every bit of the defensive prowess that makes him a top 3 catcher in the game.
Kenny: There is really no explaining this one, it is common sense because he is the best catcher in the league. Well, him and Buster Posey. Not a catcher in the central really comes close to him.
First Base – Joey Votto, Reds
There’s a good argument to be made that Votto is the best hitter in the game right now, and it is tough to argue with the .474 OBP he posted in 2012.
Two years ago this one could have had 3 good candidates but Votto is an easy pick with Rizzo a FAR second.
Second Base – Brandon Philips, Reds
BP makes some ludicrous plays in the field, and brings some serious offensive skills to the plate.
Such a good hitter and a fabulous defender, again, another easy pick.
Shortstop – Starlin Castro, Cubs
Castro is a budding star, but he wouldn’t really need to be any better than last year to claim this spot in a division filled with below-average SS’s.
He plays a premium position, has developing power and hits for average. People are always bashing his defense but as he grows he will continue to get better. It will be surprising to me the year Starlin is NOT an All-star.
Third Base – Aramis Ramirez, Brewers
Ramirez has a track record of production that David Freese and Pedro Alvarez have yet to match. After posting arguably the best numbers of his career in 2012, its tough to nominate anyone else for this position.
For a guy who always starts slow (and last year was no exception) he puts up HUGE numbers. This year it’s Aramis but David Freese may be the sexy pick for next year.
Left Field – Ryan Braun, Brewers
Braun is a perennial MVP candidate and potential future Hall of Famer who is still in his prime.
It is a joy to watch him play, when it is all said and done he could be the greatest Brewer to ever play.
Center Field – Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
Cutch has finally put it all together and is likely to continue performing at a 5-6 win level for the next few seasons. No other CF in the division can touch him.
I once sat in Miller Park with Tommy as we watched a younger McCutchen face the Brewers and listen to two old timers bash him saying all he was was fast (even though he was batting around .290 with 20HR). Those guys were wrong, very wrong.
Right Field – We couldn’t resolve our differences on this pick.
Allen Craig or Carlos Beltran, whoever the Cardinals choose to play on a given day. Craig can mash and Beltran is a legitimate HOF candidate who is still posting strong numbers. Their gaudy offensive production can overcome their recent poor defensive play.
Jay Bruce (Reds) is one of the more underrated players around. He always puts up very good power numbers and he has been very consistent and for that, my pick is Bruce.
Ace – Johnny Cueto, Reds
Cueto continues to defy DIPS, and until his low strikeout numbers finally catch up to him, he’s the clear-cut best pitcher in the NL Central.
Who is their right mind puts up a sub-3 ERA in the Great American Ballpark?
#2 – Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Waino struggled in his return from Tommy John, but has the pedigree of Ace-level production to keep him on this list. If his second year back from elbow surgery is like most pitchers’, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with this summer.
Unless his arm falls off he is way to good to not be way up on this list.
Mat Latos, Reds
Latos is a young workhorse with good k numbers and strong enough ground ball rates to survive the Great American Ballpark. He should be able to provide 210-220 innings of 3.50 ERA or better ball in 2013, which is a very valuable pitcher.
I want to thank him for being in the trade that had the biggest impact in bringing Rizzo to Chicago. Do I need to mention that he is another pitcher who pitched really well…. in Cincinatti?
Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
Gallardo continues to miss bats at an excellent rate for a 200 inning starter, and he consistently ends up with an ERA in the mid-3’s. Not an ace by any means, but a valuable pitcher nonetheless.
Pretty much the only proven pitcher on Milwaukee’s staff, constantly good year in and year out.
#5 – Jeff Samardzija, Cubs
I’m not a huge believer in 2012 Jeff Samardzija. I don’t believe he’ll be able to keep his fastball velocity at that level for another full season, nor do I believe he has fully escaped the control issues that plagued him early in his MLB career. That all said, his stuff is good enough to survive a downturn in velocity and a few more walks without surrendering too many more runs. Samardzija also has the body to be a horse in the rotation and log 200+ innings with good overall numbers.
It was pretty much him or Garza, but since Garza has been hurting as of late, and even if he wasn’t hurt just based on stuff alone Shark makes the list.
Just Missing the List: The pitching in the NL Central isn’t that great right now – every pitcher has a few very noticeable flaws. I (Tommy) was tempted put Shelby Miller on this list already, just because I think he, or Gerrit Cole, have the stuff to immediately be a top five pitcher in the division. This list is going to look very different in a few years, as the Cardinals graduate an entire new staff of 2’s and 3’s into the league (Miller, Rosenthal, Martinez, Wacha, Lynn, Kelly) and the Pirates get Cole, Taillon, and possibly Heredia in their rotation.
We don’t think anyone should be surprised by the Reds taking this title and leaving everyone else in the dust. The Reds roster is simply stacked, and the rest of the division is going to have a very tough time competing with them.
Have we made any mistakes with this list? Let us know your picks in the comments below!