Go to your nearest sportsbook or the sportsbook app of your choice, and bet the St. Louis Cardinals to win the NL Central Division. This is the year for the Cardinals to dominate the division and make a run in the playoffs. The Cardinals will win the NL Central Division and here is why.
For starters, the division is down as a whole. The Milwaukee Brewers lost pivotal pieces from their lineup a season ago but retained their great pitching rotation. The Brewers will be the toughest opponent in the NL Central this season for St. Louis.
The Chicago Cubs cannot figure out what team they want to be. I envision the Cubs being able to compete, but by the end of the season, they will be an average run-of-the-mill team. They will finish third in the division because they do not want to completely tear down, but do not want to spend the money to be a playoff team.
The Cincinnati Reds are headed for another rebuild after a disappointing season last year. The Reds looked to be contenders but fell apart in the second half of the season. Over this offseason, Cincinnati traded Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez to Seattle, starting another rebuild.
Lastly, there is the Pittsburgh Pirates and there is not a lot to say about this ball club. They have not been relevant in years and until a drastic change happens, it will continue to stay that way.
Lineup made in Heaven
The Cardinals have a dream lineup. The infield is practically made of gold with Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and Yadier Molina. The Cardinals should have the best defense in baseball again. The outfield is very solid all the way around and they have other options off the bench to go with if injuries or bad play arises.
While they may not have signed a big name at DH, the two signings of Corey Dickerson and Albert Pujols looks great on paper. Dickerson will handle the right-handed batters and Pujols will handle the southpaws.
Can the Cardinals win from within?
Every team controls its own destiny and that could not be more true for the Cardinals. If you look at the makeup of the roster, the lineup will produce. They struggled at times last season, but in the 17-game win streak, the lineup showed you what they are capable of. This year it has to translate on a larger scale.
There are two players that I am looking forward to watching this season, not only to see what they can do, but what they could possibly become. Tyler O’Neill and Paul DeJong will have many eyes watching them this summer. Can O’Neill make the jump to a top-tier outfielder and possibly an MVP candidate? Will DeJong prove that he is the everyday shortstop going forward for this organization?
The shortstop position is going to be a key part of the success of St. Louis this season. DeJong is off to a hot start this spring, currently hitting .500 and an OPS of 1.515. He has hit two home runs and drove in nine guys. If we see anything close to this in the regular season, the Cardinals will be very solid in the lineup.
Will the Cardinals need to make a midseason move?
When you look at the current pitching staff, St. Louis will need to make a move at some point this season. We still have a question mark at the fifth spot in the rotation and our “ace” has been hurt the last two seasons. At some point, something will give with the current rotation that the Cardinals throw out there.
While we have one starting pitcher out, it is almost guaranteed that we could see another injury or poor performance from another. Will Adam Wainwright‘s age finally catch up to him? Will Miles Mikolas be able to pitch a full season? What production will we see from Dakota Hudson after Tommy John surgery?
During this offseason, the Cardinals addressed part of this issue with the signing of Steven Matz. The Cardinals were also interested in trading for either Sean Manaea or Frankie Montas of the Oakland Athletics. Oakland has gone quiet recently about moving either Manea or Montas, but it is not out of the realm of possibility.
If the Cardinals are to make a move, it needs to be in the pitching department. Locking up the rotation to win a weak division this season is a must.
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