Gigantic Sox and Dawgs 2012 MLB Preview – Day 3 – NL Central

Welcome to the Gigantic Sox and Dawgs 2012 MLB preview.  Over the next few days you will get a team by team look at its key players, new faces, their potential MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year candidates, their possible starting lineup and rotation as well as a quick summary.

For the second year in a row we will select a MVP candidate and Cy Young candidate for each team no matter what their predicted team outcome is.

This preview was sculpted over a two month period in the off season with some mild tweaking as we went along prior to publication.  It comes from a culmination of reading many baseball magazines, periodicals, articles and websites.

I hope you enjoy this look at the upcoming season.  I know everyone will not agree with me and that’s fine put it in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.  I can assure you I’ll most likely have an argument for each and every objection that you could possibly raise.

Yesterday we looked at the AL West and we started on Sunday with the NL West, today it’s the NL Central.

To continue reading, click on the read more button below if you’re on the home page.

National League Central

Cincinnati Reds1. Cincinnati – Manager: Dusty Baker (5th year/19th overall)

Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds fields a ball against the Houston Astros at Great American Ball Park on September 20, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio.The Reds are ready to once again make some noise in the Central Division and do it with two rookies in key spots up the middle in C Devin Mesoraco and SS Zack Cozart (recovering from Tommy John surgery).  They also strengthened the starting rotation by making reliever Aroldis Chapman a starter and in getting Mat Latos from San Diego and they inked free agent close Ryan Madson from Philadelphia to help the bullpen.  I see this as Cincinnati’s division to lose.

Key Players: 1B Joey Votto; 2B Brandon Phillips; SS Zack Cozart; C Devin Mesoraco; P Johnny Cueto; P Mat Latos; RP Ryan Madson; RF Jay Bruce

MVP Candidate: 1B Joey Votto

Cy Young Candidate: P Johnny Cueto

ROY Candidate: C Devin Mesoraco and SS Zack Cozart

Key Additions: SP Mat Latos (Trade-SD); RP Sean Marshall (Trade-CHI); RP Andrew Brackman (FA-NYY); RP Ryan Madson (FA-PHI); C Devin Mesoraco (Rookie); SS Zack Cozart (Rookie); OF Ryan Ludwick (FA-PIT); INF Wilson Valdez (Trade-PHI); P Jeff Francis (FA-KC)

*Possible lineup: Stubbs CF; Phillips 2B; Votto 1B; Bruce RF; Rolen 3B; Ludwick LF; Mesoraco C; Janish SS

Possible lineup: Phillips 2B; Cozart SS; Votto 1B; Bruce RF; Rolen 3B; Ludwick LF; Stubbs CF; Mesoraco C

*- Possible line up with Cozart on DL to start the season.

Possible rotation: Cueto; Latos; Chapman; Arroyo; Bailey

St. Louis Cardinals2. St. Louis – Manager: Mike Matheny (1st year)

St. Louis Cardinals' Chris Carpenter celebrates on the field after his team beat the Texas Rangers 6-2 at Game 7 of baseball's World Series Friday, Oct. 28, 2011, in St. Louis. The Cardinals win the series 4-3.The defending World Series Champions have a new manager, new first baseman and new rightfielder and are missing a Hall of Fame manager and a consensus MVP candidate. In their place are a rookie manager, last years best free agent signing, Lance Berkman, moved from RF to 1B and they inked free agent RF Carlos Beltran to take Albert Pujols place in the lineup.  They hope to be able to keep up with the Reds in the division but they maybe more in line for the wild card again as Beltran will not put up Pujols numbers.

Key Players: RF Carlos Beltran; LF Matt Holliday; 1B Lance Berkman; 3B David Freese; P Adam Wainwright; P Chris Carpenter

MVP Candidate: 1B Lance Berkman

Cy Young Candidate: P Chris Carpenter

ROY Candidate: P Shelby Miller

Key Additions: RP J.C. Romero (FA-COL); RF Carlos Beltran (FA-SF); C Koyie Hill (FA-CHI); Mgr. Mike Matheny

Possible lineup: Furcal SS; Jay CF; Beltran RF; Berkman 1B; Holliday LF; Freese 3B; Molina C; Descalso 2B

Possible rotation: Carpenter; Wainwright; Garcia; Lohse; Westbrook

Milwaukee Brewers3. Milwaukee – Manager: Ron Roenicke (2nd year)

Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers hits a double against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the third inning of Game Two of the National League Division Series at Miller Park on October 2, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.The Brewers made the playoffs as the division champions last season and had one of their own, LF Ryan Braun win the NL MVP Award.  Then in the offseason they lost Prince Fielder to Detroit in free agency, luckily Braun was able to beat the 50 games suspension for PED use as he was getting ready to report to camp.  They signed free agent 3B Aramis Ramirez away from the Cubs but he won’t come close to matching the numbers put up by Fielder and with that the Brewers will fall short in quest for a playoff spot.

Key Players: LF Ryan Braun; 3B Aramis Ramirez; 1B Matt Gamel; P Zack Greinke; P Yovanny Gallardo

MVP Candidate: LF Ryan Braun

Cy Young Candidate: P Zack Greinke

ROY Candidate: OF Taylor Green

Key Additions: SS Alex Gonzalez (FA-ATL); 3B Aramis Ramirez (FA-CHI); RP Jose Veras (Trade-PIT); OF Norichika Aoki (FA-Japan); 2B Brooks Conrad (FA-ATL); SS Cesar Izturis (FA-BALT)

Possible lineup: Morgan CF; Weeks 2B; Braun LF; Ramirez 3B; Hart RF; Gamel 1B; Gonzalez SS; Lucroy C

Possible rotation: Greinke; Gallardo; Marcum; Wolf; Narveson

Pittsburgh Pirates4. Pittsburgh – Manager: Clint Hurdle (2nd year/10th overall)

Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates smiles in the dugout during the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on September 20, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.Pittsburgh had a baseball resurgence in 2011 as they were above .500 at the All-Star break for the first time since 1992.  They were in first place on July 18, it was the latest they had been in first place since 1997.  But they ended up fading in August and had their 19th losing season in a row. I see more of the same this year for the Buco’s as they compete and hang in there most of the season before falling away again.

Key Players: CF Andrew McCutchen 1B Garrett Jones; SS Clint Barmes; 3B Casey McGehee; P Jeff Karstens; P A.J. Burnett

MVP Candidate: CF Andrew McCutchen

Cy Young Candidate: P Jeff Karstens

ROY Candidate: P Gerrit Cole

Key Additions: SS Clint Barmes (FA-HOU); CF Nate McLouth (FA-ATL); C Rod Barajas (FA-LAD); SP Erik Bedard (FA-BOS); 3B Casey McGehee (Trade-MIL); SP A.J. Burnett (Trade-NYY)

Possible lineup: Tabata RF; Walker 2B; McCutheon CF; Jones 1B; McGehee 3B; Barmes SS; Barajas C; McLouth LF

Possible rotation: Karstens; Burnett; Morton; McDonald; Bedard

Chicago Cubs5. Chicago – Manager: Dale Sveum (1st year)

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza looks at the scoreboard after pitching out of a jam in the seventh inning against the St Louis Cardinals in a baseball game on Saturday Aug. 20, 2011 in Chicago.New president, new general manager, new manager, organizational top to bottom overhaul courtesy of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer is in progress.  Trades with Colorado, Cincinnati and Miami have brought infield help and pitching depth and got rid of some problems.  While a dip into the free agent market got some more pitching.  But there is still along way to go and Epstein and Hoyer know this I just don’t know if Cubs fans do.

Key Players: CF Marlon Byrd; 1B Anthony Rizzo; RF David DeJesus; P Matt Garza; P Chris Volstad

MVP Candidate: CF Marlon Byrd

Cy Young Candidate: P Matt Garza

ROY Candidate:  1B Anthony Rizzo and OF Brett Jackson

Key Additions: OF David DeJesus (FA-OAK); 3B Ian Stewart (Trade-COL); RP Manny Corpas (FA-TEX); P Travis Wood (Trade-CIN); SP Chris Volstad (Trade-MIA); SP Paul Maholm (FA-PIT); 1B Anthony Rizzo (Trade-SD/Rookie); RP Andy Sonnanstine (FA-TB); IF/OF Adrian Cardenas (Waivers-OAK); Mgr. Dale Sveum

Possible lineup: Castro SS; Barney 2B; Bryd CF; Soriano LF; Rizzo 1B; DeJesus RF; Stewart 3B; Soto C

Possible rotation: Garza; Dempster; Wells; Volstad; Maholm

Houston Astros6. Houston – Manager: Brad Mills (3rd year)

Houston Astros' Carlos Lee walks off the field after striking out to end the baseball game against the Colorado Rockies on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011, in Houston. The Rockies won 4-2 in 13 inningsThe Astros have new ownership and they are thinking of changing the team’s nickname.  That is not sitting well with fans who have started to lash out.  The team is bad enough they need to let the fans keep the name.  There’s also a new general manager and like in San Diego you have to wonder if former Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills has possibly hit the end of the road in Houston.  This team is going no where, look for another 100 plus loss season.

Key Players: 1B Carlos Lee; 2B Jose Altuve; SS Jed Lowrie; P Wandy Rodriguez; P Bud Norris

MVP Candidate: 1B Carlos Lee

Cy Young Candidate: P Wandy Rodriguez

ROY Candidate: RP Juan Abreu

Key Additions: INF Jed Lowrie (Trade-BOS); SP Kyle Weiland (Trade-BOS); 1B/OF Jack Cust (FA-PHI); RP Juan Abreau (Rookie); RP Zach Duke (FA-ARI); P Livan Hernandez (FA-WAS); C Chris Snyder (FA-PIT)

Possible lineup: Schaefer CF; Lowrie SS; Martinez LF; Lee 1B; Bogusevic RF; Johnson 3B; Altuve 2B; Snyder C

Possible rotation: Rodriguez, Norris; Myers; Happ; Hernandez

Tomorrow: the AL Central.

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