With the season just over two weeks away we have covered what many believe will be the National Leagues strongest division in the NL West and possibly its weakest in the NL East. It's time now to look at the NL Central. The Central is a division with mixed opinions and while they will have two bottom dwellers in the Pirates and Reds they could have three competitive squads in the Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers.
Let's take a quick look at each team's odds for the season for various futures.
Chicago Cubs: -345 to win the division, +370 to win NL Pennant, +830 to win World Series
The class of the Central the past few seasons the Cubs are once again the division favorites and look loaded and ready make another run. The Cubs finished 92-70 last season and fell to the Dodgers in the NL Championship series, losing in 5 games.
The offense will be led by superstars Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Wilson Contreras. They will need to be at their best as the rest of lineup has some question marks. Kyle Schwarber is being reported as being in the best shape of his career. Can he return to form and become the masher many projected him to be?
The pitching staff will be bolstered by offseason addition Yu Darvish who looks to replace the departed Jake Arrieta. This Cubs staff is good and deep with Darvish followed by Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, and Kyle Hendricks. The announced closer is Brandon Morrow with Cishek waiting in the wings should he falter.
Milwaukee Brewers: +425 NL Central, +1400 NL Pennant, +3320 World Series
The Brewers are often forgotten in the Central with most talking about the Cubs and Cardinals but this Brewers team looks ready to compete. The Brewers finished last season 86-76 falling one game behind the Colorado Rockies for the final NL Wildcard spot.
Last season's wildcard chase gave the Brewers reason for optimism and ownership appears to be going for it as they added outfielders Lorenzen Cain and Christian Yelich in the offseason. This team tied for the NL lead in HRs last year and looks primed to hit them in bunches this season.
The starting staff has plenty of questions to be answered but the bullpen should again be a strength led by closer Corey Knebel. It would not be surprising to see the Brewers add a starter of some sort in the season as management has shown a little willingness to spend some cash to snag a few extra wins.
St. Louis Cardinals: +465 NL Central, +1110 NL Pennant, +2250 World Series
For the second time in the past two seasons, the usually reliable Cardinals missed out on the playoffs going 83-79. This was the first time since 2007/2008 that the Cardinals have missed the playoffs in consecutive season.
This team had a questionable offseason but did manage to add a monster bat in outfielder Marcell Ozuna who will lock down left field. He will be joined in the outfield by last years surprise breakout Tommy Pham in center and Dexter Fowler in right.
The pitching staff has some talent with Carlos Martinez but has a lot of question marks as well. Does former staff ace Adam Wainwright have anything left in the tank?
Pittsburgh Pirates: +4000 NL Central, +9500 NL Pennant, +18500 World Series
After another disappointing campaign in 2017, it became apparent to the front office that the club's stint as a competitor in the Central had come to an end and it was time to rebuild. They dumped the face of the franchise in Andrew McCutchen as well as former ace Gerrit Cole as they went all-in on the rebuild. Will be several years before we determine how well the prospects they got turn out. This year's on-field product looks to lose a lot of games.
Cincinnati Reds: +3650 NL Central, +9000 NL Pennant, +18500 World Series
Normally the doormat of the Central, this year's Reds have one thing to possibly look forward too. They might be better than the Pirates. Joey Votto will continue to lead a young group that will still need time to develop. The Reds made no real offseason moves of note as they continue to be dedicated to the rebuild. The lineup is decent and will score some runs. The pitching doesn't look to be very good and will give up a lot of runs. Could be another long season for the Reds.