The National League Central is probably the most balanced division in the MLB (at least the top four teams) and the Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, and Cubs all have a decent shot to emerge as the division’s best team, much like they all did last year. The Cardinals made the biggest offseason move of these teams, getting Nolan Arenado from the Rockies, but they’re still just a few games ahead in terms of projected win total. The early landscape suggests that we could be in for another tight race this year with three or more teams all involved.
World Series Odds: +2200
National League Odds: +1050
NL Central Odds: +105
Win Total Over/Under: 86.5
MVP Contenders: Nolan Arenado +1200, Paul Goldschmidt +3300
Cy Young Contenders: Jack Flaherty +1500
ROY Contenders: Dylan Carlson +700
The Nolan Arenado trade was probably the flashiest move any team made this offseason, and the Cardinals acquired a player that’s had among the best numbers in baseball over the last handful of seasons. It remains to be seen how well Arenado will fare outside of Coors Field, however, and it seems fairly likely that fans and oddsmakers alike are overreacting to his merits as a player. It’s not that Arenado isn’t a very good player — he certainly is by just about any metric — but his numbers have been inflated to a large degree by his home park and he’s now 29 years old and coming off of a truly subpar season. Arenado will help the Cardinals for sure, but it’s unlikely that they’ve improved by more than a couple of wins by adding him. The rest of the Cardinals team is nearly identical to last year, and it’s probably more likely they have a good season than a great one.
World Series Odds: +4400
National League Odds: +2500
NL Central Odds: +300
Win Total Over/Under: 82.5
MVP Contenders: Christian Yelich +1200
Cy Young Contenders: Brandon Woodruff +2200
The Brewers should be the most likely team in the NL Central to surpass the Cardinals, and they seem to be an under the radar group after not doing that much over the offseason. The Brewers were about an average team in 2020, but they’re a well-rounded team without many weaknesses, and they probably have the most underrated ace in the MLB in Brandon Woodruff (+2200 for this year’s Cy Young). Luis Urias and Keston Hiura are both still very young, and if they can develop even further this year it could mean a division title and a playoff run for Milwaukee. Christian Yelich didn’t have a great season in 2020 either and he should be significantly better in 2021.
World Series Odds: +3300
National League Odds: +1500
NL Central Odds: +330
Win Total Over/Under: 81.5
Cy Young Contenders: Luis Castillo +1500, Sonny Gray +3300
ROY Contenders: Nick Lodolo +1200, Tyler Stephenson +1800
The Reds snuck into the playoffs with a 31-29 record last season, and they’ll most likely find themselves on the border of playoff contention in 2021 with a slightly weakened roster from last year. Trevor Bauer left for the Dodgers, and the rest of the Reds team is basically the same as it was. The Reds had one of the best starting rotations in the major league last season, but without Bauer they’re left with just Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray, and while both are really good pitchers, it probably won’t be enough to carry them to the playoffs. The Reds offense should be decent again, but their defense also could be a significant problem especially if Shogo Akiyama doesn’t hit well enough to be in the lineup most days.
World Series Odds: +4000
National League Odds: +2200
NL Central Odds: +425
Win Total Over/Under: 78.5
MVP Contenders: Kris Bryant +3000, Anthony Rizzo +3000, Javier Baez +3300
ROY Contenders: Miguel Amaya +2200
The Cubs had a busy offseason after a disappointing 2020, but overall this should be a worse team than what they had last year when they lost to the Marlins in the first round. Yu Darvish is now in San Diego, replaced by Zach Davies and Jake Arrieta, and the rotation figures to be substantially worse a result. Joc Pederson taking over for Kyle Schwarber should be roughly a wash, and it adds up to the Cubs likely being the 4th best team in the NL Central.
World Series Odds: +25000
National League Odds: +10000
NL Central Odds: +6500
Win Total Over/Under: 59.5
ROY Contenders: Ke’Bryan Hayes +350
The Pirates have the lowest win total over/under in all of baseball, and it’s all but certain to be a lost season for them as they look to rebuild for the future. The one major bright spot on this team is leading ROY candidate Ke’Bryan Hayes, who was dominant for Pittsburgh after being called up for the 2nd half of last season. After Hayes, the rest of the Pirates players are average at best and it may even be a couple more years before this team competes for a playoff spot.
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