Welcome to the Gigantic Sox and Dawgs 2015 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.

SOX & Dawgs 2015 MLB Preview - NL CentralWe will also select a MVP candidate and Cy Young candidate for each team no matter what their predicted team outcome is.

And once again this year is some home stadium information along with dates the teams will play against the Boston Red Sox. The red shaded games are at Fenway; the blue shaded games are road games.

I hope you enjoy this look at the upcoming season.

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

National League Central

This is one of the divisions where there will be a pretty good battle for the top spot. The division is so up for grabs that I have Pittsburgh Pirates not only as a playoff team for the third year in a row but this time winning the division over St. Louis despite identical records. The top three teams will be very similar record wise to last season and you will see an up tick in Chicago and better record in Cincinnati.

  1. Pittsburgh – Manager: Clint Hurdle (5th year/13th overall)

Best ballpark, one of the best players in the game, a fundamentally sound team that plays hard for their manager and fans. This winter they went out and strengthened the bench with Corey Hart, Sean Rodriguez ad Pedro Florimon and bullpen with Antonio Bastardo and Radhames Liz and brought back A.J. Burnett so this year they don’t have worry about the wild card game.

SP Charlie Morton will miss a few months of the season and SP Jameson Taillon is expected to miss most of the year.

Projected Record: 88-74

Home Field: PNC Park; Playing Surface: natural grass Opened: 2001; Capacity: 38,362

2014 Attendance: 2,442,564 (9th in N.L.)

Key Players: CF Andrew McCutchen; 2B Neil Walker; RF Gregory Polanco; 3B Josh Harrison; SP Francisco Liriano

MVP Candidate: CF Andrew McCutchen

Cy Young Candidate: SP Francisco Liriano

ROY Candidate: P Nick Kingham

Key Additions: C Francisco Cervelli; 1B/OF Corey Hart; IF Pedro Florimon; 2B Sean Rodriguez; SP A.J. Burnett; RP Antonio Bastardo; RP Radhames Liz; IF Jung-Ho Kang; SP Stephen Tarpley

Possible lineup:

  1. Harrison 3B
  2. Polanco RF
  3. McCutchen CF
  4. Walker 2B
  5. Marte LF
  6. Alvarez 1B
  7. Mercer SS
  8. Cervelli C

Possible rotation:

  1. Liriano
  2. Burnett
  3. Cole
  4. Locke
  5. Morton

Adjusted rotation:

  1. Liriano
  2. Burnett
  3. Cole
  4. Locke
  5. Worley

Games against Red Sox in 2015: None

  1. St. Louis – Manager: Mike Matheny (4th year)

You can expect nearly and identical record to 2014 it’s only a two game drop but it’s enough for them to relinquish their two-year hold on the NL Central. Their big pickups this winter were trading for RF Jason Heyward and signing FA Mark Reynolds they also added two good arms in Jordan Walden and Matt Belisle to the bullpen.

SP Jamie Garcia is questionable for the start of the season.

Projected Record: 88-74

Home Field: Busch Stadium III; Playing Surface: natural grass; Opened: 2006; Capacity: 43,975

2014 Attendance: 3,540,649 (2nd in N.L.)

Key Players: C Yadier Molina; 3B Matt Carpenter; LF Matt Holliday; SP Adam Wainwright; SP Michael Wacha

MVP Candidate: C Yadier Molina

Cy Young Candidate: SP Adam Wainwright

ROY Candidate: RF Stephen Piscotty

Key Additions: RF Jason Heyward; 1B/3B Mark Reynolds; RP Jordan Walden; RP Matt Belisle; INF Dean Anna; IF/RF Ty Kelly

Possible lineup:

  1. Wong 2B
  2. Carpenter 3B
  3. Heyward RF
  4. Holliday LF
  5. Adams 1B
  6. Molina C
  7. Peralta SS
  8. Bourjos CF

Possible rotation:

  1. Wainwright
  2. Lynn
  3. Wacha
  4. Lackey
  5. Garcia

Adjusted rotation:

  1. Wainwright
  2. Lynn
  3. Wacha
  4. Lackey
  5. Martinez

Games against Red Sox in 2015: None

  1. Milwaukee – Manager: Ron Roenicke (5th year)

There will be a battle for third between Milwaukee and Chicago most of the season and Cincinnati may even sneak in there for a time. All three teams right now are pretty average as you can see from the record projections and I give a slight nod to the Brew Crew for third due to some deeper veteran presence.

Projected Record: 81-81

Home Field: Miller Park; Playing Surface: natural grass/retractable roof; Opened:2001; Capacity: 41,900

2014 Attendance: 2,797,384 (4th in N.L.)

Key Players: LF Ryan Braun; SP Matt Garza; SS Jean Segura; CF Carlos Gomez; C Jonathan Lucroy

MVP Candidate: LF Ryan Braun

Cy Young Candidate: SP Matt Garza

ROY Candidate: SP Jimmy Nelson

Key Additions: 1B Adam Lind; 1B/3B Luis Jimenez; IF/OF Matt Long; CF Kyle Wrenn; INF Luis Sardinas; RP Neal Cotts

Possible lineup:

  1. Gomez CF
  2. Gennett 2B
  3. Braun RF
  4. Ramirez 3B
  5. Lucroy C
  6. Lind 1B
  7. Davis LF
  8. Segura SS

Possible rotation:

  1. Garza
  2. Lohse
  3. Peralta
  4. Fiers
  5. Nelson

Games against Red Sox in 2015: None

  1. Chicago – Manager: Joe Maddon (1st year/12th overall)

While I have the Cubs behind the Brewers by one game I do like Chicago’s up side much better than that of Milwaukee or Cincinnati. Lots of good young players led by Anthony Rizzo and a pitching staff led by the FA starter Jon Lester. This is a team made for Joe Maddon. We saw what he did for years in Tampa Bay with young players with upside. Now the guy has the money of the Ricketts family behind him and two smart guys in the front office in President Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer to help fill in the gaps. I believe next season they could challenge for the top spot in the NL Central. Most underrated pickup of the offseason will be Dexter Fowler who will be a star in Chicago.

Projected Record: 80-82

Home Field: Wrigley Field; Playing Surface: natural grass; Opened: 1914; Capacity: 41,019

2014 Attendance: 2.652,113 (6th in N.L.)

Key Players: 1B Anthony Rizzo; SP Jon Lester, CF Dexter Fowler; SS Starlin Castro; RF Jorge Soler

MVP Candidate: 1B Anthony Rizzo

Cy Young Candidate: SP Jon Lester

ROY Candidate: 2B Javier Baez

Key Additions: Mgr. Joe Maddon; SP Jon Lester; CF Dexter Fowler; SP Jason Hammel; C Miguel Montero; C David Ross; 2B/3B Tommy LaStella; RP Jason Motte; OF Chris Denorfia

Possible lineup:

  1. Fowler CF
  2. Castro SS
  3. Rizzo 1B
  4. Soler RF
  5. Montero C
  6. Coghlan LF
  7. Baez 2B
  8. LaStella 3B

Possible rotation:

  1. Lester
  2. Arrieta
  3. Hammel
  4. Wood
  5. Hendricks

Games against Red Sox in 2015: None

  1. Cincinnati – Manager: Bryan Price (2nd Year)

The Reds were held back by the injury bug last season they lost Joey Votto for most of the year, Jay Bruce was never really right all season. They remade the starting rotation out are Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos while they brought in Anthony DeSclafani via trade and are using in house depth as well. They also added LF Marlon Byrd to give them the power they needed on the outfield corner and 4th spot in the lineup.

RP Sean Marshall may start season on the DL.

Projected Record: 78-84

Home Field: Great American Ball Park; Playing Surface: natural grass; Opened: 2003; Capacity: 42,319

2014 Attendance: 2,476,664 (8th in N.L.)

Key Players: 1B Joey Votto; 2B Brandon Phillips; RF Jay Bruce; P Johnny Cueto; LF Marlon Byrd

MVP Candidate: 1B Joey Votto

Cy Young Candidate: P Johnny Cueto

ROY Candidate: SP Anthony DeSclafani

Key Additions: SP Anthony DeSclafani; LF Brennan Boesch; IF Ivan DeJesus Jr.; RP Jose Mijares; 2B/SS Eugenio Saurez; LF Marlon Byrd; RP Burke Badenhop

Possible lineup:

  1. Hamilton CF
  2. Cozart SS
  3. Votto 1B
  4. Byrd LF
  5. Bruce RF
  6. Frazier 3B
  7. Phillips 2B
  8. Mesoraco C

Possible rotation:

  1. Cueto
  2. Bailey
  3. Leake
  4. Cingrani
  5. DeSclafani

Games against Red Sox in 2015: None

Tomorrow: the AL Central.