2023 National League Central Division Preview

2023 National League Central Division Preview


2023 National League Central Division Preview


Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

In a short 13 days, Major League Baseball will begin its 2023 regular season. The next division up for examination is the National League Central. While weak at the bottom, the best teams in this division have a chance to make a deep October run. The St. Louis Cardinals are the class here with a loaded team, while the Milwaukee Brewers will look to prevent the Cardinals from taking the division once again. The Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cincinnati Reds are all expected to stay under .500 this season, but one could surprise the league by playing over its heads. 


Cincinnati Reds – projected record 60-102 – 5th NL Central

The Reds are going to be bad. There is no way to sugarcoat it. Cincinnati has a few young players in the big leagues like Jonathan India, Will Benson in its lineup and Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo in its rotation. Other than that, the Reds have minimal MLB assets. Joey Votto will be 40 by the end of the year, Will Myers is 32 years old and is on the decline, and Kevin Newman will be 30 in a few months. In addition to the underwhelming lineup and rotation, Cincinnati’s bullpen has no household names. It is going to be another long year in the Queen City.

Chicago Cubs – projected record 72-90 – 4th NL Central

The Cubs enter 2023 as one of the most overrated teams. Chicago was very active in free agency, signing solid players like Trey Mancini, Cody Bellinger, Eric Hosmer, Edwin Rios, Tucker Barnhart, Jameson Taillon, Michael Fulmer, Brad Boxberger and the crown jewel of its class, Dansby Swanson. On paper, the Cubs’ lineup looks dangerous but, in reality, Chicago will need most players to match their career years just to have a shot at breaking .500. The only consistent hitters in that lineup are Nico Hoerner, Swanson, Ian Happ, and Seiya Suzuki. The Cubs are going to have to win every game 8-7. 

Chicago’s pitching staff is headlined by Marcus Stroman and Taillon but other than that, there is really nothing there. Justin Steele and Drew Smyly are nothing special, while Kyle Hendricks has been on the decline and is recovering from a major shoulder injury. The bullpen is not good either, as Fulmer and Boxberger are slotted in as the eighth and ninth inning arms right now. The Cubs are going to be blowing a lot of leads late and giving up a ton of runs in 2023. Do not let this team fool you.


Pittsburgh Pirates – projected record 77-85 – 3rd NL Central

The Pirates are at the point in its rebuild where it is finally time to start showing positive results. Pittsburgh has been fairly active this offseason, grabbing three bats that can hit in the heart of its lineup, along with bringing in a few veterans for its young team. The lineup is headlined by returners Bryan Reynolds, Oneil Cruz, and Ke’Bryan Hayes and now features Andrew McCutchen, Ji-Man Choi and Carlos Santana. 

Mitch Keller will headline a young staff that will feature Roansy Contreras and eventually Luis Ortiz, Quinn Priester, and Johan Oviedo. Rich Hill and Vince Velasquez were also brought in to reinforce the rotation. The Pittsburgh bullpen is set up for success as well. Anchored by all-star closer David Bednar, the pen also consists of Wil Crowe, Duane Underwood Jr., Chase De Jong, Yerry De Los Santos, and Colin Holderman. The Pirates will surprise some people this season.


Milwaukee Brewers – projected record 89-73 – 2nd NL Central

Milwaukee is a big question mark for me this season. The rotation is solid as usual, headlined by Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff with Eric Lauer, Freddy Peralta and Wade Miley. The pen is a bit of a soft spot but has potential. Star backend piece Devin Williams will anchor the group. The make-or-break for the bullpen will be its ability to get the ball to Williams. Matt Bush and Peter Strzelecki will be the arms that begin in the backend of the pen, but that could change based on performance.

The lineup has been disappointing in the past but added a few solid bats. William Contreras and Jesse Winker were both acquired via trade this winter and are projected to hit in the middle of the order. They will join Christian Yelich, Willy Adames, Rowdy Telez and Luis Urias in a lineup with a ton of potential. It is also yet to be seen whether prospect Brice Turang starts in the big leagues or not.


St. Louis Cardinals – projected record 96-66 – 1st NL Central

The Cardinals are loaded and no one is talking about it. The St. Louis lineup is headlined by Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and newcomer Wilson Contreras, but also features dangerous hitters in Tommy Edman, Lars Nootbaar and Tyler O’Neill. Brendan Donovan and Dylan Carlson also add to the depth in the Cardinal order. Young prospects Nolan Gorman and Jordan Walker could also be on the way in for St. Louis, making its depth and power that much better.

As for its pitching, 41-year-old Adam Wainwright headlines a deep staff that also consists of Miles Mikolas, Jordan Montgomery, Jack Flaherty and Steven Matz. The bullpen offers depth as well, but also has two established, backend pieces in Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos. Andre Pallante and Jordan Hicks also add solid bridge pieces. The Cardinals are poised to make a run into October.


St. Louis Cardinals 96 66 YES – NL #3
Milwaukee Brewers 89 73 7.0 NO
Pittsburgh Pirates 77 85 19.0 NO
Chicago Cubs 72 90 24.0 NO
Cincinnati Reds 60 102 36.0 NO


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