The Cincinnati Reds ran away with the National League Central in 2012, and by the looks of their current lineup, starting rotation, and deep bullpen, there’s a chance they will do it again in 2013. The Reds infield and lineup are anchored by former MVP Joey Votto, one of the most talented hitters in the league, and every day they’ll run out a starting pitcher and cast of relievers with the ability to keep the team in the game. Their model is quite similar to that of the division-rival St. Louis Cardinals, who have continuously restocked both their pitching staff and batting order in the past decade to contend day in and day out. The Cardinals have lost some of their bigger bats in the past couple of years, but outfielder Matt Holliday is still a consistent threat in the middle of a lineup filled with homegrown talent.
The final 2012 standings look like the same old-sub-.500 story, but the Pittsburgh Pirates enjoyed a lot of success last season before an epic second-half collapse took them out of the NL Central and Wild Card races. The Pirates made a few changes in the offseason, and Andrew McCutchen hopes to lead his teammate on a season-long quest to (finally!) finish with a winning record and contending for a playoff spot into September. The Milwaukee Brewers still have Ryan Braun, one of the most talented mashers in the game, but the Brew Crew’s pitching staff is a little thin and the lineup is suffering from injuries that will likely limit their potential in 2013. Finally, with the departure of Houston for the AL West, the rebuilding Chicago Cubs are now the most likely candidate to finish the season in the basement. A few talented young players like Starlin Castro are back with potential for breakouts, and the Cubs pitching staff has improved in some areas. They aren’t likely to contend for a NL Central title in 2013, but Chicago won’t be a 100-loss doormat this season, either.