I am continuing my 2012 prediction series by revealing my NL Central standings and adding a few positive and negative predictions for each team. In case you missed it, I have already revealed my AL East Predictions, AL Central Predictions, AL West Predictions, and NL East Predictions and we, as a staff, revealed some of our overall MLB predictions. Enjoy.
This team is going to take its lumps but it will also have a few diamonds in the rough. Bryan LaHair is finally getting his shot at some everyday playing time and he will not disappoint. He will hit 25+ homeruns and post a respectable .260/.350/.490 line. Ian Stewart will hit 20 homeruns. Jeff Samardzija will be the team’s second best starter behind Matt Garza and throw 175 innings with a 3.75 ERA and 150 strikeouts.
Alfonso Soriano will, again, hit below .250/.300 and SLUG below .450 and the Cubs will try anything to dump him to another team. Darwin Barney will somehow get another 500 plate appearances and struggle to keep his OBP above .300 even with the pitcher batting behind him most of the season.
I will go out on a limb and predict that Bronson Arroyo will have an ERA below 4.00. Sure, he hasn’t even posted a FIP below 4.00 since 2004 and has never had an xFIP below 4.00, but this is a gut call. Joey Votto wins the National League MVP award as he hits .320/.420/.575 with 35 homeruns and steals 15 bases while winning another Gold Glove at first. Sean Marshall is, again, one of the most valuable relievers in the game.
Manager Dusty Baker, again, avoids playing the younger guys in favor of the veterans and top prospect Devin Mesoraco wastes away on the bench for more than half the season. Brandon Phillips still thinks taking walks is a joke and has less than 40 unintentional walks and has an OBP in the .320 range.
Jordan Schafer walks enough (he has a 10.3% walk rate in 533 career plate appearances) and hits enough to steal 45 bases and be a fantasy steal. Matt Downs gets 400 plate appearances and hits 15 homeruns this season. 20 year old Jordan Lyles posts a respectable 4.25 ERA and pitches 175 innings with a 3.25 K/BB ratio. Wandy Rodriguez is traded for a top 100 prospect.
Carlos Lee hits like he did in 2010 when he hit .246/.291/.417 except he does not top 20 homeruns this time. J.A. Happ is again pounded and posts an ERA over 5.00 and BB/9 over 4.5. Livan Hernandez posts a K/9 below 5.0 and has an ERA near 5.00.
The stars on this team will continue to perform. Zack Greinke posts an ERA around 2.80, a full run lower than last year. Ryan Braun is fueled by his desire to prove everyone wrong about his PED allegations and continues where he left off and has another MVP-type season and hits .325/.390/.575 with 30+ homeruns and 25+ stolen bases. Rickie Weeks stays healthy all year and hits 30 homeruns and steals 10+ bases.
Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez hit a combined .240/.295/.350 on the season. Alex Gonzalez will continue to post sub-.300 OBP rates and will lose some playing time to *gulp* Cesar Izturis who will post a sub-.275 OBP. Marco Estrada gets some starts, thanks to injuries, and posts an ERA north of 5.00 in those starts.
Andrew McCutchen goes 30/30 and is a legitimate MVP candidate but will lose some votes because he did not play on a contending team. Joel Hanrahan continues to impress out of the pen and racks up another 40 saves with an ERA in the 2.25 region. Erik Bedard actually stays healthy but only starts 15 games for the Pirates before being traded to a contender. Neil Walkers hits 15-20 homeruns.
A favorite sleeper candidate of many, Alex Presley disappoints and hits .250/.300/.360 in left field. This leads the Pirates to prematurely call up top prospect Starling Marte who fails to get on base 30% of the time. Jeff Karstens proves most of us right and regresses to an ERA in the 4.50 range.
St. Louis Cardinals:
Jaime Garcia establishes himself as the ace of the pitching staff. He will top 200 innings for the first time in his career and post and ERA below 3.25 and improve his K/9 rate to at least 7.5. Carlos Beltran stays healthy all season and hits his 2011 line of .300/.385/.525. Matt Carpenter finds himself in the role that was left void when Allen Craig got hurt and hits .285/.370/.425.
Jon Jay will have his BABIP come back down to Earth and he will hit a disappointing .275/.315/.385 and lose playing time to the aforementioned Carpenter with Beltran shifting over to center, hurting the defense. Speaking of BABIP coming back down to Earth, David Freese will see regression and hit somewhere in the .275/.325/.425 range and not be the sleeper everyone thinks he is. Kyle Lohse will also see regression in this area and post an ERA north of 4.00.
1. Cincinnati Reds (91-71)
2. St. Louis Cardinals (87-75)
3. Milwaukee Brewers (85-77)
4. Pittsburgh Pirates (76-86)
5. Chicago Cubs (72-90)
6. Houston Astros (63-99)
-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and the Florida Marlins at ESPN’s SweetSpot site Marlins Daily. You can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert. Be sure to follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis, Fantasy Tagged: | Alex Gonzalez, Alex Presley, Alfonso Soriano, Andrew McCutchen, Brandon Phillips, Bronson Arroyo, Bryan LaHair, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gomez, Carlos Lee, Cesar Izturis, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Darwin Barney, David Freese, Devin Mesoraco, Erik Bedard, Houston Astros, Ian Stewart, J.A. Happ, Jaime Garcia, Jeff Karstens, Jeff Samardzija, Joel Hanrahan, Joey Votto, Jon Jay, Jordan Lyles, Jordan Schafer, Kyle Lohse, Livan Hernandez, Marco Estrada, Matt Carpenter, Matt Downs, Milwaukee Brewers, Neil Walker, Nyjer Morgan, Pittsburgh Pirates, Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, Sean Marshall, St. Louis Cardinals, Starling Marte, Wandy Rodriguez