NL Central Three Up Three Down
Surprises and disappointments from the NL Central heading into the All Star Break
At the All-Star break, we could do the best and the worst of the NL Central so far. If we did that, though, it’s going to be a lot of the same names you’ve seen throughout the year. We’re gonna switch it up a tad. What about the surprises in the division? The players we didn’t expect to break out who did are up. The players we expected a lot more from are down. And I left Joey Votto off the list because he deserves a break more than any of the all-stars.
Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds
The Reds All-Star third baseman might be the best player you’ve never heard of. He’s behind Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and even Billy Hamilton in Cincinnati’s headline-makers. But he’s at the top of the chart in terms of production. A year after hitting .234, Frazier is up to .290 this year with 19 home runs–the same amount he’s totaled in each of the last two seasons. He’s only 20 RBI behind his career high of 73, and he’s added 14 stolen bases after entering the season with a total of 10 career steals. The Reds are alive in the division thanks to Frazier, and no thanks to the team’s two highest paid offensive stars.
Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
Lucroy was solid last year, but he’s been the catalyst for the Brewers lineup this year. His batting average is up to .315 after hitting .280 last year. He already has more doubles than last year and is halfway to his home run total. Yadier Molina gets all the attention at the catcher position, but Lucroy is making a name for himself, and has played a large role in the success of Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez this season. Lucroy’s production has been a pleasant surprise all the way around.
Alfredo Simon, Cincinnati Reds
It was supposed to be Tony Cingrani breaking out in the Reds rotation. Instead, Cingrani is in the bullpen and Simon is an All-Star. Simon hadn’t started a game in two years since arriving in Cincinnati. All he’s done in his new role is post a 2.70 ERA with a 12-3 record helping ease the pain of Homer Bailey’s slow start, Mat Latos’ injury and Cingrani’s move to the bullpen.
Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs
Admittedly, not a ton was expected from Edwin Jackson this year. But as the only “major” signing for the Theo Epstein era in Chicago, Jackson has gone from bad to worse. He was always described as an “innings-eater”, but was also a serviceable starter. He’s been nothing but this year. His ERA is up to 5.64 and batters are hitting .288 off of him. You pretty much look like an All-Star is you’re facing Edwin Jackson.
Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals
Holliday isn’t having a terrible year, per say. Hitting .264 isn’t awful, and an on-base percentage of .373 is plenty good. But just six homers for a team that needed power after the loss of Carlos Beltran is killing the Cardinals offense. It goes with expectations–just like Votto—that you have to be the big power bat when you’re making the kind of money Holliday is. And he’s making money as a power bat. He’s not playing like one.
Jason Grilli, Formerly Pittsburgh Pirates
Grilli was traded in a swap of struggling closers to the Angels for Ernesto Frieri. Grilli had a case as the best closer in baseball last season, but was nothing close to that this year. He blew four saves in 15 attempts. Look no further than his control. His strikeouts are way down–just 28 in 27.1 innings. He’s walked as many hitters as he did last year in 23 less innings. He’s rebounded well in a set-up role with the Angels, but that does nothing for us over here in the NL Central.