2013 Season Preview: NL Central

By Matt Musico
6 of 6

Division predictions

Anticipated Finish:

Oct 1, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun (8) scores on a single by third baseman Aramis Ramirez (16) (not pictured) in the first inning during the game against the San Diego Padres at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Cincinnati Reds
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Chicago Cubs

Best Hitter: OF Ryan Braun

I gave this category plenty of thought, and there is truly no other hitter in this division that is as consistent as Ryan Braun is. He hits over .300 every year, hits 30+ HR and drives in 90+ on a yearly basis, and score 90+ runs. He can do it all, and is by far the most valuable part of any team’s lineup. If you take him out of the three-spot in Milwaukee, the Brewers look a lot less intimidating.

Best Pitcher: SP Johnny Cueto

Cueto put together a great year in 2012, but didn’t get talked about all that much. I don’t think he received the recognition he deserved, so I’m going to give it to him right here. He finally put it all together in his age-26 season, going 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Although he placed fourth in NL Cy Young voting, he was snubbed from the All-Star team. He’s entering the prime of his career, and I’m expecting Cueto to build on the foundation he’s been laying over the previous two seasons.

Top Rookie: SP Wily Peralta

At this point, it looks like Peralta has the best opportunity to show what he’s capable of in a mostly unproven Milwaukee rotation, and I think he will explode onto the scene. Fans got a small taste of what he can provide them at the Big League level, and he’ll hopefully be able to give them more of what they saw toward the end of last season. He has all the tools to be successful in a stadium like Miller Park, and it will just be a matter of whether or not the young hurler can stay within himself and not do too much.

Comeback player: SP Matt Garza

He’s already going to be starting the season on the disabled list and miss about a month, but I still think Garza is going to dominate once he comes off the shelf. Why? Well, this is a contract year for him, so I anticipate him being a little more motivated than normal so he can get that lucrative multi-year deal he’s looking for. In order to get a deal like that, he’ll have to prove he’s healthy and be able to stay on the field, something he hasn’t done since 2011 now.

Be sure to check out tomorrow’s divisional preview, as Danny Abriano takes a look at the NL West and whether or not the Los Angeles Dodgers will be able to live up to their extraordinary expectations.

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