NL Central

Predictions:

5 Cincinnati Reds

4 Pittsburgh Pirates

3 Chicago Cubs

2 Milwaukee Brewers

1 St. Louis Cardinals

Cincinnati Reds

Key Additions: 2B Donovan Solano, CF Albert Almora, CF Jake Fraley, OF Tommy Pham, a TON of prospects

Key Subtractions: OF Jesse Winker, OF Eugenio Suarez, OF Nicholas Castellanos, RP Amir Garrett, SP Sonny Gray, SP Michael Lorenzen, C Tucker Barnhart, SP Wade Miley

Strength: They just became a lot younger, that’s for sure!

Weakness: The ownership does not want to win games

Face of the Franchise: Joey Votto

Player to Watch: Jonathan India

The Reds just unloaded their entire roster essentially. They were on the brink of making the postseason last year at 83-79 and showed some promise, but Nick Castellanos opted out, they didn’t feel like paying him, so they unloaded almost all of their elite talent to get young and tank for a cost-efficient rebuild. It’s a shame because in a division that could be up for grabs, their franchise guy of this era, Joey Votto, had a wonderful year last season, and Jonathon India won Rookie of the Year and deserves to be on a winner. More tanking moves could even be on the way in what looks like a season of pain…

Pittsburgh Pirates

Key Additions: 1B Daniel Vogelbach, C Roberto Perez, SP Jose Quintana

Key Subtractions: SP Chad Kuhl

Strength: They have one of the prettiest parks in baseball!

Weakness: Any veteran depth at all

Face of the Franchise: Ke’Bryan Hayes

Player to Watch: Bryse Wilson

The Pirates are kind of the face of tearing down their roster for prospects and not doing anything to replenish it with spending whatsoever, having the second-lowest payroll in the MLB. There wasn’t much more to tear down at this point, so the roster isn’t that different than the abysmal one we saw last year. At least this season young phenom Ke’Bryan Hayes will be back from injury as he looks to be the piece of the future (unless they eventually deal him, too). Look out for Bryse Wilson, though, a pitcher they acquired from Atlanta at the deadline that showed some promise on those Braves teams. They could even pass the Reds with how much they’ve torn down their team, so progress potentially is on the way!

Chicago Cubs

Key Additions: OF Seiya Suzuki, SS Andrelton Simmons, SP Marcus Stroman, SP Steven Brault, SP Wade Miley, C Yan Gomes

Key Subtractions: N/A

Strength: Infield fielding/defense

Weakness: Striking out

Face of the Franchise: Wilson Contreras

Player to Watch: Seiya Suzuki

The Cubs are one of the most confusing teams in baseball heading into 2022. Last season they had the ultimate tear down and traded away the entire core from their 2016 World Series run outside of Wilson Contreras, looking as if they were going to tank in the same fashion as the Reds are now. Then, this offseason, they went out and added Marcus Stroman, the #1 touted international prospect Seiya Suzuki, and were supposedly in on the Carlos Correa sweepstakes? No one knows if they want to win now or not. They’re trying to field a team with cheap contracts it would appear, which at least is entertaining and can speed up the rebuild a bit, but they’re just caught in the middle. The stars that they do have are still relatively young, though, so in the coming seasons with a superstar added, they could develop this talent as they climb out of the hole they dug themselves into last year.

Milwaukee Brewers

Key Additions: OF Andrew McCutchen, OF Hunter Renfroe

Key Subtractions: 3B Eduardo Escobar, OF Avisail Garcia, C Pedro Severino, OF Jackie Bradley Jr., C Manuel Pina

Strength: Top end starting pitching

Weakness: Batting average

Face of the Franchise: Christian Yelich

Player to Watch: Willy Adames

The Brewers made it to the NLDS last year only to fall to the eventual World Series Champion Braves because they could NOT put together any offense together at all to pair with their almost unstoppable starting rotation. We were hoping they would add a big bat to supplement that and get better this offseason, but they didn’t really do much to address the need at all aside from adding some veteran outfielders. They’re banking on Willy Adames to continue to be the superhuman he was after he was traded from Tampa, and for former MVP Christian Yelich to return to form after two straight down seasons plagued with injuries. The Brewers don’t normally make splashy signings anyway and have a manager that always keeps them in contention regardless, so they’ll still find a way to field a winning team in 2022 with whomever they have to play.

St. Louis Cardinals

Photo: Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images

Key Additions: RP Nick Wittgren, SP Steven Matz, OF Corey Dickerson

Key Subtractions: SP Jon Lester, INF Matt Carpenter

Strength: Base-running and defensive fielding

Weakness: The bullpen

Face of the Franchise: Adam Wainwright

Player to Watch: Jack Flaherty

The St. Louis Cardinals are reminiscent of the San Antonio Spurs dynasty: they always find a way to win with whatever pieces they have, with or without a superstar, and are the model of a consistent and steady franchise. They lost Albert Pujols after the 2011 World Series and STILL haven’t slowed down. Last year, when they got off to a brutal start, they STILL found a way to sneak into the postseason as the second wild card in the National League by winning  17 games in a row during the most critical stretch of the season. They are unkillable and we should not start doubting them. If anything, we should only have more faith in them this season- in one of the weakest divisions, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright are back to become the longest-tenured battery in baseball history, Jack Flaherty will look to bounce back from injury as a Cy Young candidate, and Nolan Arenado will have a year with his new team under his belt after he debuted in St. Louis last year. The bullpen is a brutal weak point, and cost them many games in crunch time, but they’re looking to spend and could address that area. The Cardinals will be back.

AL Central

Predictions:

5Kansas City Royals

4 Cleveland Guardians

3 Detroit Tigers

2 Minnesota Twins

1 Chicago White Sox

Kansas City Royals

Key Additions: SP Zack Greinke, RP Amir Garrett, 

Key Subtractions: SP Mike Minor

Strength: Base-running

Weakness: Home run-hitting

Face of the Franchise: Salvador Perez

Player to Watch: Bobby Witt Jr.

The Royals are still in the midst of their soft rebuild- they finished close to the bottom, but Salvador Perez set the season home run record for catchers and had unreal power. The expectations can be kept low this season as they have a long way to go to accrue depth on the roster, but they’re calling up the 2nd overall prospect, shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. this year and they brought back Greinke, who started his career in KC! While it will probably be painful, it will at the very least be a fun year.

Cleveland Guardians

Key Additions: Nothing but a new name

Key Subtractions: C Roberto Perez, RP Nick Wittgren

Strength: Developing starting pitching

Weakness: Drawing walks

Face of the Franchise: Jose Ramirez

Player to Watch: Triston McKenzie

It’s the first ever year of the Guardians! Will they turn over a new leaf, or be the same old Cleveland franchise that develops talent at an elite level only to not spend and trade away their superstars? Jose Ramirez might be the best third baseman in baseball, and they’ll get 2020 Cy Young Winner Shane Bieber back from a 2021 of injuries, but they did absolutely nothing exciting this offseason to get better, and there’s already trade rumors surrounding JoRam. They’re a well-coached team that develops top-tier talent from the inside, but the way the franchise operates is like the movie Major League coming to life, and 2022 might not be any different.

Detroit Tigers

Key Additions: SP Eduardo Rodriguez, SS Javier Baez, C Tucker Barnhart, RP Andrew Chafin, SP Michael Pineda

Key Subtractions: 2B Niko Goodrum

Strength: High ceiling with their talented youth

Weakness: Inexperience

Face of the Franchise: Miguel Cabrera

Player to Watch: Spencer Torkelson

After tearing down one of the most-talented teams of the 2010’s, the Tigers have rebuilt at an incredibly quick rate, and we’re seeing it all come together as they’ve hit on their draft picks. Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal look like promising arms in the rotation, and Spencer Torkelson, the #1 overall pick in 2020, is going to make his debut in the infield next to checks notes Miguel Cabrera…. They made enough moves throughout the rest of the roster, signing Javier Baez, trading for Tucker Barnhart, and getting another quality starter in Eduardo Rodriguez, that they may not be amongst the top-tier teams in baseball just yet, but they’re well on their way.

Minnesota Twins

Key Additions: SS Carlos Correa, C Gary Sanchez, SP Sonny Gray, SP Dylan Bundy, 3B Gio Urshela

Key Subtractions: 3B Josh Donaldson, RP Alex Colome

Strength: Home run-hitting

Weakness: Pitching depth

Face of the Franchise: Carlos Correa

Player to Watch: Byron Buxton

Many may forget that the Twins got off to one of the hottest starts in baseball with Byron Buxton looking like an MVP candidate to start the year, then Buxton got hurt, they got hit with COVID, and became one of the worst teams in baseball as they tore down the entire roster. Now, they’re building it right back up! They spent big on the crown jewel free agent shortstop in Carlos Correa, hoping that Buxton could finally put it together and stay on the field, and filled out the rest of their lineup with trades with the Yankees and Reds. Will it be enough? Probably not. The pitching staff is so depleted after their 2021 tear down, and they will go as far as Correa and Buxton will take them. They’re likely not done making moves if they intend to win with this short window on Correa’s 3-year deal. It’s going to be very odd seeing one of the biggest sports villains in a city known for “Minnesota nice.”

Chicago White Sox

Key Additions: RP Kendall Graveman, RP Joe Kelly, 2B Josh Harrison

Key Subtractions: SP Carlos Rodon, 2B Cesar Hernandez

Strength: Pitching depth

Weakness: Health

Face of the Franchise: Tim Anderson

Player to Watch: Luis Robert

The White Sox are coming off of two straight postseason appearances and might be the most top-to-bottom complete team in the American League. They’ve got superstars in their prime in the lineup. They carry themselves with an unmatched confidence, whether it’s Tim Anderson bat-flipping a home run or Lance Lynn screaming at the dugout after a strikeout. They have shut down starting pitching ready to make a leap in Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Michael Kopech with a deep bullpen. They have a roster that is incredibly difficult to pinpoint a glaring weakness.

Their glaring flaw last year was merely that they were without two of their most-impactful bats, Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez, and Yoan Moncada was reportedly one of the individuals most-impacted from a health standpoint from COVID. They cruised through one of the easiest schedules in baseball without being tested before running into a buzzsaw of an Astros team. This year, even with losing a Cy Young candidate in Carlos Rodon, having all of the pieces in play this season makes them one of the favorites to win the pennant.

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