The NL Central went from a one-horse race that had the Brewers out of the gate in a sprint while no one else could get out of the gate. But alas the Brewers slowed down just a little bit, and the Reds, Cardinals and Pirates all came charging. Then there’s the Cubs, stockpiling talent in the minor leagues hoping one day to have a powerhouse of their own at the Major-League level.
Today begins the second half of the season. What questions does each team need to answer for the rest of the season?
Do the Milwaukee Brewers have enough to hold everyone off?
Very few, if any, predicted that the Brewers would have the best record in the National League for much of the first half of the season. It starts with Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy. Both are over 100 hits so far and combining for 7 offensive wins above replacement.
Ryan Braun is playing well, but he’s not playing as well as he did in his MVP campaign. He’s also not staying healthy, having spent time on the DL. He’s driven in 52, but his home run numbers are down with just 11 thus far. I wonder what the difference is.
The Brewers pitching can only be described as “solid”. It’s a middle-of-the-road rotation with no one that will kill you (at least if Jimmy Nelson replaces Marco Estrada) but no one that really scares you either.
The bullpen is a little thin after Francisco Rodriguez, but moving Estrada there could shore up that issue. His high strikeout numbers should translate well to the bullpen.
The biggest problem for the Brewers is they don’t have the pieces moving forward to make any sort of deadline deal. The team’s top prospect, Nelson, is ready to contribute now. Everyone else is multiple years away and isn’t lighting up anyone’s prospect rankings.
If the Brewers hang on, it’s going to be the guys in the clubhouse that do it. Despite losing 8-of-10 games, they still won the first half. They’re plenty capable of winning the second half.
Will the St. Louis Cardinals make a big move?
Translate: Will the Cardinals trade for David Price? They have the pieces to do so. Out of all the teams rumored to be interested in David Price, no one can offer the package the Cardinals can with a combination of Major-League ready pitching and offense. Of course, none of those guys is David Price.
The problem isn’t really pitching, but with injuries to Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha it might be one moving forward. Really the Cardinals would just like Allen Craig and Matt Holliday to produce the power numbers that they’re supposed to and take a risk with young guys like Carlos Martinez on the mound. But if those two don’t come around, then it puts even more pressure on the pitching staff. A 1-2 punch of Adam Wainwright and Price would be even better than Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
Where oh where has Joey Votto gone for the Cincinnati Reds?
The same question needs to be asked about Jay Bruce as well. The offense is stuck in the lower half of baseball because it’s all on Todd Frazier right now. Frazier (19) and Devin Mesoraco (16) have supplied the power. Bruce and Votto have supplied little. Bruce is hitting just .229 on the year, and Votto can’t stay healthy. When he is, he’s not playing all that well. Six homers and 23 RBI from a “slugging” first baseman isn’t what the Reds expected. The pitching staff is outstanding and the bullpen might be the best in baseball from the 7th inning on. But Todd Frazier can’t be the only one hitting.
Can the Pirates find pitching?
Pittsburgh is in the top 11 of the major offensive categories as a team, but in the bottom half of nearly every pitching category. Francisco Liriano has been atrocious. He has just three quality starts in 15 starts. Wandy Rodriguez was DFA’d. Charlie Morton is currently the best pitcher on staff along with the inconsistent Edinson Volquez. Even when Gerrit Cole comes back, the Pirates will need to make some sort of move to address the pitching problems.
When will the Cubs’ Kids come up?
We’ve already seen Arismendy Alcantara make his Major-League debut and hit his first career home run. But who else will we see? Kyle Hendricks came up to pitch, but he’s not the one people are looking for. That would be Kris Bryant and Javy Baez. Bryant is hitting .350 with 32 home runs in the minors this year between Double-A and Triple-A. He was the No. 2 overall pick last year behind the abysmal Mark Appel. Baez struggled early, but he has four homers in his last 10 games. With not much else to see, Cubs fans are just waiting for the stork to deliver the kids to Wrigley.