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2011 NL Central All-Star Team and Division Preview

March 29, 2011

C: Geovany Soto, Chicago – Soto is by far the best offensive catcher in the NL Central.

1B: Albert Pujols, St. Louis – It speaks greatly to the depth of premiere first basemen in the Central that Prince Fielder is the third best first baseman.

2B: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati – Phillips and Rickie Weeks put up very similar numbers last year, with Weeks having the edge in the power categories. But Phillips has been a steady source of power and steals in Cincinnati for the past five years, never playing in fewer than 141 games while Weeks has only played more than 130 games once (last year).

3B: Casey McGehee, Milwaukee – One of the toughest spots to figure out here. I could’ve gone with Aramis Ramirez or Pedro Alvarez, but McGehee’s been better than Ramirez the past two years, and in the Milwaukee lineup he’ll have plenty of opportunities to put up stats again. Alvarez’s power is for real, but he could face a sophomore slump because he strikes out a ton.

SS: Starlin Castro, Chicago – A weak crop of NL Central shortstops puts Castro at the top of the position heading into 2011. He’s leading the Cubs in homers and RBIs this spring, and hopefully he’ll lead the team in those categories throughout the season because he won’t hit more than low double-digits in homers.

OF: Matt Holliday, St. Louis

OF: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee – Holliday’s and Braun’s career numbers are very similar and are easily the top two outfielders in the division

OF: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh – Jay Bruce and Hunter Pence come close to cracking the list, but McCutchen has 20/40 upside with not near the downside that Bruce has.

SP: Chris Carpenter, St. Louis – With the loss of Adam Wainwright for the season the Central lacks a true dominant starter that would rank in the top five league-wide. But Carpenter’s a Cy Young winner and has pitched back-to-back seasons of stellar ball.

SP: Zack Greinke, Milwaukee – Greinke will start the year on the DL but should only miss a start or two. After a down year last year Greinke should feast on NL hitters this year.

RP: Carlos Marmol, Chicago – Marmol posted a 15.99 K/9 last year, good for tops in the league, and has four straight years of 90 or more strikeouts. He has some control issues but a .147 opponents’ batting average was good for second best in the majors.

Projected standings

  1. Milwaukee 86-76
  2. St. Louis 84-78
  3. Cincinnati 82-80
  4. Chicago 81-81
  5. Houston 76-86
  6. Pittsburgh 64-98

Division MVP – Ryan Braun

Division Cy Young – Zack Greinke – But watch out for his teammate Shaun Marcum. Both have almost the exact same career ERA and WHIP; pitched in the American League prior to this season; and Marcum pitched in the tough AL East and dominated any team not named the Yankees, Rays or Red Sox last year.

Albert Pujols hits 50 home runs. … The Reds succumb to the “pressure” of being a division favorite for the first time in forever and do not embarrass themselves in the playoffs again, because they won’t make it. … Pittsburgh’s James McDonald posts a 3.25 ERA. … Andrew McCutchen hits 22 homers and steals 41 bases.

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