2012 was another great season for the National League Central: The Cincinnati Reds had an incredible season and won the division; the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals hung on to win the National League wild card for the second-straight year; The Pittsburgh Pirates surprised everyone with their amazing first half, and almost no one with their second half collapse; After coming within a two wins of a trip to the World Series in 2011, the Milwaukee Brewers made an impressive late season surge towards the playoffs (they were the second best team in MLB in the second half) but fell short in the end; and the Chicago Cubs were, well the Cubs.
The Central Division is chock-full of talented pitchers, hitters and fielders and will provide a ton of options for fantasy owners this upcoming season. Let’s take a look at the top-ten players the NL Central has to offer.
1. Ryan Braun, Left Field, Milwaukee Brewers
The 2011 National League MVP is clearly the best player on the Brewers young roster. He’s coming off of his second-straight 30/30 season and is showing no signs of slowing down. Fantasy owners should consider Braun with the No. 1 overall pick and will be very lucky if he’s still available at No. 2 or 3.
2013 Projections: .312 AVG, 37 HR’s, 118 RBIs and 34 SB’s
2. Joey Votto, First Base, Cincinnati Reds
Votto played part of 2012 with an injured wrist, and finally succumbed to season-ending surgery after 111 games. Despite this, he was still able to hit .337 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs in 374 at-bats. Now fully recovered, Votto will be the most dangerous part of Cincinnati’s offense and will compete with Braun and McCutchen (among others) for the Nation League MVP award.
2013 Projections: .302 AVG, 28 HR’s, 101 RBIs and 4 SB’s
3. Andrew McCutchen, Center Field, Pittsburgh Pirates
McCutchen was the runner-up in last year’s NL MVP race and the only bright spot at the end of Pittsburgh’s disappointing season. Now with the a beefed up lineup and pitching staff, McCutchen and the Pirates are poised to have their first winning season in 22 years. Look for McCutchen to contend for the MVP award again this year.
2013 Projections: .294 AVG, 25 HR’s, 90 RBIs and 20 SB’s
4. Jay Bruce, Right Field, Cincinnati Reds
The Reds are extremely lucky to have two sluggers like Votto and Bruce in their lineup. Bruce stepped up big last season in Votto’s absence and really showed what he’s capable of. While his average isn’t the best, it doesn’t need to be when you're hitting 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBIs every season.
2013 Projections: .262 AVG, 31 HR’s, 98 RBIs and 8 SB’s
5. Matt Holliday, Left Field, St. Louis Cardinals
Holliday has been a big asset for the Cardinals since they traded for him in 2009. In two of his first three full seasons with St. Louis, Holliday has missed five games or less and has led the team in home runs. At 33, Holliday still plays at an MVP-caliber level and will help keep the Cardinals in the hunt for a playoff spot once again this year.
2013 Projections: .285 AVG, 25 HR’s, 100 RBIs and 5 SB’s
6. Starlin Castro, Short Stop, Chicago Cubs
Castro has been a workhorse since being called up in 2010, missing only four games in 2011 and playing in all 162 last season. Castro has been know to make some very questionable decisions and stupid mistakes, but we forget he’s just 22. Going into his fourth season at the big league level, Castro will have to show that he can mature and make better decisions. If he can increase his awareness and focus to match his superstar talent; the sky will be the limit for Castro and the Cubs.
2013 Projections: .288 AVG, 10 HR’s, 70 RBIs and 20 SB’s
7. Adam Wainwright, Pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals
With the announcement that Chris Carpenter will miss the entire 2013 season, Wainwright has now been elevated to staff ace; a role he looked comfortable in for most of last season. Wainwright is capable of competing for the Cy Young Award every year and will need to be in top form once again this season if he hopes to lead the Cardinals to the playoffs.
15-7, 200 IP, 3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 180 K’s
8. Johnny Cueto, Pitcher, Cincinnati Reds
Cueto is just 26 years old, but has entrenched himself as the staff ace heading into his sixth season. He’s a workhorse who is rarely injured and can be counted on for at least 180 innings. It will be interesting to see how Cueto and other pitchers in the Central adjust to no longer facing the Houston Astros 2-5 times a year.
2013 Projections: 14-7, 180 IP, 3.42 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 138 K’s
9. Brandon Phillips, Second Base, Cincinnati Reds
As Phillips gets up there in age (he’s currently 31) his stolen bases have steadily declined as he’s in recent years; but even as he’s slowed down, Phillips can still be counted on for a ton of hits and a good batting average. He’s arguably the best second baseman in the Nation League and his superb defense shouldn’t go unnoticed.
2013 Projections: .281 AVG, 19 HR’s, 77 RBIs and 11 SB’s
10. Mat Latos, Pitcher, Cincinnati Reds
2012 was Latos’ third full season as a starter, and first in Cincinnati; yet he posted a career high 209.1 innings pitched and 14-4 record. Going into his second season with the Reds you can count on Latos to eat up innings (along with Bronson Arroyo) to the tune of 200-plus along with 180-plus strikeouts.
2013 Projections: 13-8, 205 IP, 3.70 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 185 K’s