NL Central 2021 Division Preview
As we work our way across the map, we’ve examined the NL West and AL West, now let’s take a look at the NL Central. As always keep in mind these are not BTB or BTBJesse’s future plays, these should be considered closer to lunch money than to that prime rib dinner investment that you get with the pros.
Theo is gone, and maybe so is the magic. But, as a Cubs fan, I can tell you that the magic of this team has been gone for years. Gone is the time where we were excited about the potential, and now we are just pissed about the underperforming team and increasingly stingy ownership. In any case, there is once again reason for optimism. The Cubs have three players on the cusp of free agency – Rizzo, Bryant, and Baez. It isn’t necessarily true that they will have better years (though it wouldn’t be hard to improve from last year’s shortened season) at least there is extra motivation. They are currently +425 to win the division, something they did last year with basically the same team outside of Cy Young nominee Yu Darvish. Their win total sits at 78.5 right now, and to make the playoffs is +325. Various reports have them in contention for the division, the over, and making the playoffs. I don’t particularly like any of those bets. I instead see them being competitive, but trading away Bryant and more to build for the future as they are unlikely to sign all three and grabbed high potential trading chips for their pitching staff.
St. Louis Cardinals
The new home of Nolan Arenado, and still home of Paul Goldschmidt. Arguably one of the top corner combinations in baseball, St. Louis is looking to compete for more than just the division. More than those two mashers in their lineup, though, the red birds will need to rely on a decent rotation to pitch them into the playoffs. I like putting a little bit on Jack Flaherty for Cy Young – it is a longshot +1500 but he is a strong pitcher and faces some teams that are notorious for struggling offensively. Aside from that they are currently +105 to win the division. I only see the Cubs as their real competition and that’s only if everything goes perfectly for the Cubs. Plus money here seems like a gift and I’ll happily wait until October to unwrap it.
Well, that was a really fun short season they had last year before they decided to not hit in the playoffs and get rid of Bauer in the offseason. Don’t get me wrong, the Reds have a team that, on paper, looks good. Votto, Castellanos, Moustakas, and Aquino are solid hitters and will keep them in games against opposing staffs. After Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo, do the rest of the Reds starters have 20 wins in them? I like the under on the team because this is another team I see unloading contracts if they are unlikely to make the playoffs by the middle of the season. I’m seeing 82.5 wins for the Reds and even with the slightly juiced under (-124), I’ll take that thinking that they come closer to 80 wins at most.
I guess this is where I’m just supposed to talk about Christian Yellich. The dude can flat out rake even though last season was a down year in terms of average. Can he carry the team to 83 wins? The last three full seasons they have been over 83 wins so yes, he can. Will he do it this year? I think it all boils down to a pitching staff that scares no one. But, give them the lead in the 6th, the bullpen should carry them home to victory. I’m not touching a side on this one, but I do like them to have more wins than the Reds (Head-to-head on Draftkings Brewers are listed at -124 right now). Yellich has been in contention for MVP multiple years in a row – at +1200 he has some nice value if he can bounce back with average and the Brewers somehow contend for a wild card spot.
Yes, they still play baseball in Pittsburgh. I promise, I double checked, and yes, they are still getting rid of every talented player they have instead of actually trying to field a contending team. I’m starting to wonder if this is just a money laundering operation for the owners. They currently sit at 58.5 wins with the juice on the under! Will they really lose 104+ games? Looking at their current roster, it really looks like they might. I’m not going to play it, but the under is the only option if you’re looking to do it. One angle to look at though is Ke’Bryan Hayes for Rookie of the Year at +350. He absolutely mashed last year when he was up. And, though it is beyond unlikely for him to maintain that pace for a full season, if he can adjust to pitcher’s adjustments he could be the one positive from Pittsburgh this year.
- David Troy
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