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  • Writer's pictureMason Dalley

2024 MLB Preview: NL Central

PREVIEWS, PROPS, AND MORE!

NL Central
MLB.com


The NL Central is a a whole lot of unknown. This preview is going to be focusing on where teams have improved, and with the Brewers rebuilding on the fly, the division is up for the team that wants it.



St. Louis Cardinals

Nolan Arenado
USA Today


2023 Record: 71-91(77-85 ATS)

Batting WAR: 18.7(16th)

Pitching WAR: 14.0(19th)




2024 O/U: 84.5

2024 Division Odds: +190

2024 NL Pennant Odds: +1600

2024 World Series Odds: +3500



The Cardinals should be better. That is the operative word though. Should. They're going to need significantly better performances from just about everybody in the lineup. Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt need to defy their age to get back to their near MVP forms for the Cardinals to have any hope of having a productive lineup. They can't be a .260/.340/.460 pairing, they need to be closer to .300/.400/.500 to be the rising tide they were years prior. Everybody else is a nice complimentary piece. Willson Contreras , Nolan Gorman and Lars Nootbar are fine. Tommy Edman is okay. Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn have to be much better than their projections. The lineup is built on two guys who can perform at an MVP level that makes the supporting cast only ever have to be just that, support. If the Red Birds don't get elevated play from the 7 other bats, it's going to be a long season.


The pitching staff is not good. Sonny Gray will be good. He's only ever been bad in Yankee Stadium. Counting on Lance Lynn, Steven Matz, Kyle Gibson, and Miles Mikolas at this point in all of their careers is tantamount to waving a white flag. They have guys who can go deep into games but they'll give up 3-5 runs per start. The bullpen has an awesome top 3 in Ryan Helsley, JoJo Romero, and Giovanny Gallegos, but they might be able be used for getting a good prospect haul. All in all, I don't think the Cardinals are primed for any sort of run, and they should probably hit the big red button for the first time in my lifetime.


Over or Under

Under. I think another losing season is on the cards, especially since three teams in the division got better


Player Prop

Paul Goldschmidt UNDER 25.5 HR's




Pittsburgh Pirates

Cruz
Michael Urakami/Getty Images



2023 Record: 76-86(84-78 ATS)

Batting WAR: 13.3(23rd)

Pitching WAR: 11.7(23rd)


Key additions: LHP Marco Gonzales, LHP Martín Pérez, LHP Aroldis Chapman, 1B/DH Rowdy Tellez


Key departures: LHP Jarlín García, LHP Angel Perdomo, INF Miguel Andujar


2024 O/U: 75.5

2024 Division Odds: +1200

2024 NL Pennant Odds: +7500

2024 World Series Odds: +17000



For the first time in a long time, the Pirates are going to be a lot of fun. Oneil Cruz and Ke'Bryan Hayes are foundational on the left side of the infield. Cruz getting a full season is worth a handful of wins with how dynamic he is in the field, base paths, and with the bat in his hands. Bryan Reynolds and Jack Suwinksi are great in the outfield and be it Michael A Taylor or Jared Trriolo, whoever is platooning in right, the offense will be there. Henry Davis has a big chance to improve behind the plate with the aid of Yasmani Grandal. They're young, but have a clear path and dynamic offensive players. They should have at least an average offense this season.


The Pirates addressed their pitching staff in an intelligent way. While I don't think Paul Skenes is going to be ready for 100 innings or anything like that, adding Marin Perez and Marco Gonzales provides an opportunity for their young arms to develop. Mitch Keller is a Cy Young candidate that can carry the rotation and have the Pirates competitive every 5th day like all aces should. Hs Sweeper is ridiculous and there's still room for growth. The Bullpen is awesome. By Bullpen I mean All-American hero David Bednar. He's an amazing reliver and is a contender for NL reliver of the year. Aroldis Chapman is some high level depth, but the rest remains to be seen. They do have stars that can win the day as the depth develops.


Over or Under

Over. They have legitimate star power and have someone who is liable to just twirl a gem every 5th day.


Player Prop

Mitch Keller +4000 is a great long shot pick for Cy Young. David Bednar is a more realistic +1500 Reliever of the year



Cincinnati Reds

Elly
MARCA



2023 Record: 82-80(98-64 ATS)

Batting WAR: 14.3(21st)

Pitching WAR: 14.2(18th)




Key departures: 1B Joey Votto, OF/IF Nick Senzel, RHP Derek Law, C Curt Casali


2024 O/U: 81.5

2024 Division Odds: +350

2024 NL Pennant Odds: +2200

2024 World Series Odds: +4500



The Big Red Machine tuned on for the first time in decades and I don't se it turning off for some years. They called up a metric ton of top 100 prospects and they're all playing out well. Gone are the days of Joey Votto and some prayer. Matt McClain and Elly De La Cruz are stars in the making. They're fouindational players and they are supported by a bunch of + bats. Homegrown Spencer Steer, and Jonathan India round out a solid infield. Tyler Stephenson is a fine catcher, you can do much worse defensively and offensively. Will Benson, TJ Friedl, and Jake Fraley are a fine group of outfield bats and the Great American Small Park doesn't necessitate platinum glove winners so their lack of defense doesn't hurt as much as it normally would. The addition of Jeimer Candelario is just icing on the cake for what's already a formidable lineup. The lineup is young, can bang, and is primed for a proper breakout in 2024.


The biggest issue the Reds had in 2023 was a consistent pitching staff. They have remedied that by adding proven vets looking to continue performing well. Frankie Montas and Nick Martinez bare minimum are going to provide solid innings. They'll be properly supporting Hunter Greene, Andrew Abbott, and Nick Lodolo as they continue developing. It's the correct approach a prospect laden team should take. Alexis Diaz is a great reliever and having more support around him in Emilio Pagan and Brent Suter is going to make his life easier. The entire staff is deeper, and therefore better.


Over or Under

Over. They're primed for a true wild card push.


Player Prop

Elly De La Cruz is going to swipe so many bags. OVER 39.5



Chicago Cubs

Belly
Getty



2023 Record: 83-79(81-81 ATS)

Batting WAR: 24.7(10th)

Pitching WAR: 16.9(9th)


Key additions: RHP Yency Almonte, INF Michael Busch, LHP Shota Imanaga, RHP Hector Neris


Key departures: INF Jeimer Candelario, RHP Marcus Stroman


2024 O/U: 84.5

2024 Division Odds: +185

2024 NL Pennant Odds: +1500

2024 World Series Odds: +2800


The Cubs are just straight up good. I'm shocked at how undervalued they are. They're going to win the division this year barring a catastrophe. Most teams would love to have a 2.0 WAR top 3, let alone having 6 2.0 WAR minimum bats. Nico Hoerner is an amazing second basemen and Dansby Swanson is looking to carry his 2nd half form from 2023 into 2024. Ian Happ, Seiya Suzuki, and Christopher Morel is one of the best outrfield groups in all of MLB, and they reisgned a player with MVP potential in Cody bellinger. Belli needs to prove he can stay healthy, but he was a fantastic player in 2023 and it's just good for baseball if he can stay good. I think he can and whatever 3 the Cubs fill in after that top 6 just have to not be awful. Whoever they platoon at 1st, Catcher, and 3rd just need to provide a level of pop that those positions require.


Losing Marcus Stroman hurts less when you replace his production with that of Shota Imanga's. The Japanese import should have little trouble adjusting to the MLB game since his stuff aligns with the modern power fastball/slider combo. Justin Steele is looking to cement himself as a perennial Cy Young candidate The back three starters aren't nearly as good, but all they have to do is get to the Bullpen. The addition of Hector Neris turns a great unit into one with an embarrassment of riches. Albert Alzolay, Javier Assad, Julian Merryweather, and Mark Leiter Jr. are dynamic, and can hang against any lineup. I hope that the Cubs can make the leap to true contender, especially since the next team I'm about to talk about might be going on rebuild soon.



Milwaukee Brewers

Yeli
Reggie Hildred-USA TODAY Sports



2023 Record: 92-70(80-82 ATS)

Batting WAR: 19.0(14th)

Pitching WAR: 15.9(12th)


Key additions: 1B Rhys Hoskins, C Gary Sánchez, RHP Jakob Junis, 1B Jake Bauers, SS Joey Ortiz, LHP DL Hall, RHP Joe Ross



2024 O/U: 77.5

2024 Division Odds: +750

2024 NL Pennant Odds: +4500

2024 World Series Odds: +9000



I have no idea what this team is doing. William Contreras is awesome. Willy Adames is a great ballplayer. Christian Yelich is maybe back for good as a high level ballplayer. Sal Frelick is a breakout candidate Everything else is a question mark. Those 4 could be traded for a haul. I simply do not know. Until they are, the team have a little too much talent to be truly awful.


The pitching staff has even more questions. Burnes was traded for greener pastures. Woodruff is out for the whole season. Freddy Peralta is still there but man, I'd be shocked if he isn't traded to the most desperate starter needy team. Devin Williams and Abner Uribe are awesome. Their pitches don't make sense and it's mesmerizing. But that's all I have to say on the Brewers. They're sort of just there, but they're historically well run so I'm sure that they'll make the most of what's amounting to a lost season.



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