1. National League Central
The Chicago Cubs are World Series champions until this October, unless of course they repeat, which is pretty likely. That is, if the Cardinals and Pirates don’t have anything to say about it, which isn’t the case.
Joe Maddon had the mentality of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” around the offseason. But when you have a lineup with the names of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, there is not a lot you need to mess with.
Oh yeah, Kyle Schwarber is back from his injury and a dominating postseason in 2016, too. We get to witness an entire season of him.
The Cubs losing Dexter Fowler to the Cardinals may be a bigger loss than some want to highlight. The 2016 All-Star finished the season with a .276/.393/.447 line and increased his walk rate by two percent from the previous season while swiping 13 bags. The Cardinals who will only benefit from the outfielder, who has a lot of patience at the plate.
Jedd Gyroko made as much of an impact as some of the powerful players at his position, and he may have had his most powerful season in 2016. He’s an extremely valuable infielder for the team. The Cards are hoping three-time All-Star Matt Carpenter remains healthy as well. Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal and Mike Leake are key members of the pitching staff, which could be another portion of their success.
The Pirates are also going to be a team that is on a lot of radars in regards to a sleeper pick towards postseason play.
Josh Harrison is no longer a secret when it comes to being a stellar second baseman, and with outfielders like Josh Bell, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and of course Andrew McCutchen, the team has an impressive offense. Lefties do well against their starters, but when it comes to Jameson Taillon, he can keep batters off base.
Notables: Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers