3 Burning Questions: National League Central
Sep 28, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Eric Thames (7) celebrates his home run with left fielder Ben Gamel (16) in the fifth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Rounding out the “three burning questions” series is the National League Central, perhaps one of the game’s most interesting divisions ahead of 2020.
New general manager Ben Cherington’s first move was trading the team’s best player and fan favorite Starling Marte to Arizona.
Can they make 70?
Pittsburgh only managed 69 wins last season. So the bar isn’t that high to improve but it’s still very unlikely.
Will they get out of the basement?
The 69 wins landed them in last place in the division. They don’t have enough to think they will end up anywhere but the bottom.
St. Louis Cardinals
Is he still gold?
Paul Goldschmidt put up 34 home runs and drove in 97 runs in his first season in St. Louis. I expect him to have a similar second one this year.
Can he finally come around?
Dexter Fowler has not provided the Cardinals with the consistency he had in his early career. He may be the X factor for the team to be successful in 2020.
Is he the backup or replacement?
Catcher Matt Wieters was signed to share duties with Yadier Molina. Molina is entering his 17th season, so this move was just as much about the future as it is about now.
Is he staying?
Kris Bryant was another third baseman many teams inquired about. For now, he’s staying put in Chicago. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in a new home at season’s end.
Is it the best?
The Cubs boast one over the better pitching rotations from top to bottom in baseball. Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kris Hendricks, and Jose Quintana will lead this team to over 100 wins this season.
Do they have any glaring holes?
The only perceived hole was at third base if they had traded Bryant. But the bullpen could’ve used some tweaking.
Do they have enough starting pitching?
I thought the Brewers would go all-in for Bumgarner, Cole or Strasburg but they didn’t. Maybe the staff as it currently sits will be a surprise.
Do they have enough infield depth?
They didn’t really address the infield during the winter. Maybe they will fill the void with someone during the spring.
The best outfield?
Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and the signing of Avisial Garcia make the Brewers among the top outfields in baseball.
Could 64 be the magic number?
Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas both signed $64 million contracts in the offseason. Castellanos is a bit more surprising as he was one of the widely coveted players and wound up here. The two will help this lineup produce runs.
Is this the toughest manager job, well second?
First-time manager David Bell got the job of all places with one of his dad Buddy’s former teams. Until Dusty Baker took the Astros job, Bell was in the toughest spot.
Can they avoid a fourth straight 90 loss season?
If it was just one season, you could be optimistic. But after three straight even the most loyal Reds fan has to be just a bit pessimistic.
The Brewers and the Cubs are the two best teams in this division. But I see the Reds being a surprise team.