The Cubs are the only team in the MLB, in my opinion, that have a lock on the division. They will rise above again. The rest of the division is a little harder to predict because each team not named the Cubs are missing large parts of the team (either rotation problems, pen problems or lineup problems). The rest of the teams need to figure out how to fix their problems to have a shot of taking the wild card. With that, here are my predictions for the NL Central.
1) The Cubs have not had a title in over 100 years now and look to make a run at it again this year. If they stay healthy they will be division champs again. Additions of Miles and Bradley will take pressure off of Lee and Fukudome. Soto and Ramirez look to have big years again. The question for them is how good can the rotation be. Zambrano is imposing, Lilly isn't bad, and Dempster was impressive but the forth and fifth spot (Basically Harden and revolving door) have durability issues. That being said, the should still run away with this division.
2) The Astros nudge out the Cards thanks to the late addition of Pudge and become a dark horse team for this divison. If Matsue (yes, that Matsui) stays healhty, and Berkmam and Lee have good years then this team has a good chance at the Wild Card. They will also need big performances from Pence and Bourn. The Rotationa dn bullpen have to be on though. Hampton must stay healthy and Hawkins must be good for this team to have a chance.
3) It was really hard to put the Cardinals in third place, but I feel it was warranted. Pujols is going to carry this team but if anything happens to him, this team is done. More worrying is that the rotation basically has Wainright and then everyone else could easily have terrible years. The Bullpen also seems week. The lineup will have to carry them this year if they want anyshot of overtaking the Astros for a shot at the Wild Card.
4) The Cards and the Astros possibly should keep looking back at the Reds because they, in a division were 2-6 are very similar, they have a lot of upside and that is because they bring a lot of prospects to the table, and a lot of prospects that can be very good. Bruce, Votto, Volquez and Cueto can take the league by storm if they all breakthrough this season. Bruce and Votto really do pack a powerful punch, for the Reds to be successful though, the success will have to be in the rotation, which trailed off in the latter part of the season.
5) The Brewers could have a very dark year. Their lineup still packs a powerful punch but literally their rotation is bare. They lost CC due to a trade, and Sheets is out with injury (plus free agency). Really this team will go as fire as its rotation and pen can take them, which looks pretty shallow.
6) The Pirates always seem to be on the fringe of turning it around, but for them, their young pitchers in the rotation never really have stepped up and Capps in the pen can be so good but also so bad. Their lineup is not strong enough, even with McClouth, to be able support a flailing pitching staff. Looks to be another long season in the steel city.
Best Lineup: Cubs, Astros 2nd
Best Rotation: Cubs, no 2nd
Best Pen: Cubs, Astrons 2nd