BASN’S HOT STOVE 2016 – PART IV

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Updated: March 11, 2016

 

 

 

BASN’S HOT STOVE 2016, PART IV

By Tony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus

 

 

NEW HAVEN, CT (BASN) — Now that the Super Bowl is done and all the collective All-Star weekends have come to a close, it’s time to focus on the one thing that makes us think warmer thoughts — spring training.

 

 

By the time you read this pitchers and catchers for all 30 MLB squads will have started their preparations for the 2016 campaign. The rest of the players aren’t too far away as well.

 

 

Over the last few days, we’ve taken a brief peek at all six divisional races heading into camp. Not really making predictions, but more so taking an educated look at what to watch for during the upcoming season.

 

 

We’ve already spoken on the AL Central, NL East, and AL West. Today’s focus will be on the NL Central. Teams are listed in order of their 2015 finish.

 

 

1. SAINT LOUIS CARDINALS

 

 

 

They’ve averaged 91 wins over the last eight seasons under two managers, along with various division crowns and World Series appearances. They’ve survived numerous player defections, injuries to their core stars, and the rise of their division rivals. But like the Spurs of the NBA, the Redbirds are always somewhere in the mix when the postseason comes calling. Losing OF Jason Heyward and P John Lackey to the rival Cubs will be a serious body blow to the franchise, especially when they have to see them on a regular basis. Yet with all that being said, don’t bet against St. Louis somehow finding a way to be in the mix.

 

 

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2. PITTSBURGH PIRATES

 

 

 

The Buccos have made the playoffs the last three season, Last year, they had the second best record in the majors last year. But all they’ve got to show for it are those pretty postseason shirts and hats that everyone gets. While it’s not a win-or-else thing for manager Clint Hurdle, the baseball natives in Steeltown are getting a tad bit restless. Pittsburgh has shown that they can navigate well within one of the best divisions in baseball. Now they just need the hardware to show it. Having been shutout in the last two NL Wild Card games have left a bitter taste in their mouths. This franchise is hungering for a World Series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. CHICAGO CUBS

 

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Adding the aforementioned Heyward and Lackey as well as the versatile Ben Zobrist already made the Cubbies’ off-season a success. However, their biggest prize may have come just a few days ago when OF Dexter Fowler agreed to return to Chicago after having a stellar season as their table setter for 2015. After an unexpected trip to the NLCS, all the pieces appear to be in place for Joe Maddon’s squad to make another spirited run in October. For the first time in a long while, the needle is pointing upward on the Northsiders. Seeing how they’ll react to being one of the hunted will be an interesting power play to watch all season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. MILWAUKEE BREWERS

 

 

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Somewhere between August of 2014 and April of last year, this franchise lost its way. From contenders in the Central to backing up the truck and dumping salaries, Milwaukee has literally gone from the penthouse to the ….. well, you know. Continuing a trend in the sport, former GM Doug Melvin was kicked downstairs and replaced by former Astros’ assistant GM David Stearns. Hoping that the Houston formula will work for them, management has already put the “work in progress” sign on the upcoming season. Other than All-Stars Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun, this team will be looking like a minor league team for most of the year at best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. CINCINNATI REDS

 

 

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The Reds find themselves in the ultimate Catch 22 situation. While they’re probably not going to contend for a postseason crown this year. However unlike the aforementioned Brewers, there’s still enough talent to make them a watchable product — for now. That being said, All-Stars Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce have seen their names come up frequently in possible trade talks over the last two winters. Since they pulled the plug on hometown hero Todd Frazier, don’t be surprised if both Phillips and Bruce are gone if Cincy is out of it by the trade deadline. If that’s the case, it will be a season long version of the Joeys (Hamilton and Votto) versus the volcano.

 

 

 

NEXT: The AL East.

 

 

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