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2022 National League Central Preview

After a roller coaster lockout in the off-season filled with glimmers of hope and absolute despair, we made it. Baseball is happening on April 7! In preparation for opening day, we’re going to take you through a preview of every division in the MLB, who the manager is, pitching rotations, notable acquisitions, etc. So without further ado let’s take a look at the National League Central!

National League Central Division

Last year the Brewers sat atop the NL Central Division with the Cardinals not close behind and even managing to snag a wild card spot for the entire National League! The rest was a race to the bottom with the Reds being the only team (barely) over .500, the Cubs at .438, and the Pirates even worse at .377.

2022 is a new year, though, and every team feels like it has made improvements.

Milwaukee Brewers

National League Central Preview
AP Photos

Last Year’s Results

  • 95-67 (.586)
  • First in the National League Central

2022 Payroll

  • $117,214,460 (17th in the League)

2022 Manager

  • Craig Counsell

2022 Projected Lineup

  1. Kolten Wong
  2. Lorenzo Cain
  3. Christian Yelich
  4. Andrew McCutchen
  5. Willy Adames
  6. Rowdy Tellez
  7. Hunter Renfroe
  8. Omar Narvaez
  9. Jace Peterson

2022 Projected Rotation

  1. Corbin Burnes
  2. Brandon Woodruff
  3. Freddy Peralta
  4. Adrian Houser
  5. Eric Lauer

The Brewers bring back Counsell for another season to manage the roster, a job he has held since 2015. Coming off a strong regular season campaign but ultimately bowing out in the Division Series to the Atlanta Braves, the Brewers are looking to improve on that and make their way further into the playoffs.

With notable additions Hunter Renfroe and Andrew McCutchen in the outfield/DH respectively, the Brewers hope for them to bolster their lineup as well as their outfield defense. The retention of Brad Boxberger and the additions of Gott and Mejia make this Brewers team no easy opponent on both offense and defense.

Caesars has the Brewers set at -180 to win the division. They won it last year and retained all of their key pieces with a couple of notable additions. In a weaker than we are used to NL Central, it’s not hard to see them win the division again.

St. Louis Cardinals

National League Central Preview
AP Photos

Last Year’s Results

  • 90-72 (.556)
  • Second NL Wild Card spot

2022 Payroll

  • $150,746,666 (12th in the league)

2022 Manager

  • Oliver Marmol

2022 Projected Lineup

  1. Dylan Carlson
  2. Paul Goldschmidt
  3. Tyler O’Neil
  4. Nolan Arenado
  5. Albert Pujols
  6. Paul DeJong
  7. Yadier Molina
  8. Harrison Bader
  9. Tommy Edman

2022 Projected Rotation

  1. Adam Wainright
  2. Miles Mikolas
  3. Steven Matz
  4. Dakota Hudson
  5. Drew VerHagen

Typically, when a manager coaches their team to a winning record, a playoff spot, and amid injuries to boot, they keep their job. The Cardinals would be the exception to this rule as they let their 2021 manager Mike Schildt go. Stepping into the mantle is Oliver Marmol, a rookie manager, and the youngest manager in the league.

Last year the Cardinals went 90-72 which was good for second in the NL Central and the second wildcard spot under the Dodgers. They would eventually fall to the Dodgers in the wildcard game. 

This year the Cardinals have gone with a mix of something old and something new. At the heart of the season is the storyline of Albert Pujols returning home to StL to serve as their primary DH, Yadier Molina going through his final season, and Adam Wainright possibly doing the same.

These three have been at the heart of the Cardinal’s success in the last two decades. Along with this they have been both in the organization longer than their current manager and are older than their manager as well.

Caesars has the Cardinals set at +225 to win the Central Division. The Cardinals prove time and time again that no matter what, they will be a presence to go through if you are going to go to the postseason.

There may have been few additions to their roster from last year, but far be it from us to ever count the Cardinals out.

Chicago Cubs

National League Central Preview
AP Photos

Last Year’s Results

  • 71-91 (.438)

2022 Payroll

  • $130,560,000 (15th in the league)

2022 Manager

  •  David Ross

2022 Projected Lineup

  1. Rafael Ortega
  2. Nick Madrigal
  3. Wilson Contreras
  4. Ian Happ
  5. Frank Schwindel
  6. Seiya Suzuki
  7. Jason Heyward
  8. Patrick Wisdom
  9. Nico Hoerner

2022 Projected Rotation

  1. Kyle Hendricks
  2. Justin Steele
  3. Marcus Stroman
  4. Drew Smyly
  5. Alec Mills

If you went into a coma shortly after the Cubs 2016 championship and awoke today, you probably wouldn’t recognize too many names on the roster. Gone are the players of that glorious run – and that is the theme of the season.

The Cubs were very active in free agency bringing in 14 new players on Major League contracts. It remains to be seen how well these acquisitions pan out, though.

The additions of Suzuki and Stroman were great strategic signings by the front office, but this roster is still young and never played together. It’s not very often a team basically overhauls its entire roster over one off-season.

Caesars has the Cub’s odds of winning the NL Central at +1800 and that seems fair. This team will at the worst be watchable and Cubs fans can look forward to Brennen Davis being promoted from the minor leagues sometime this season.  

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Cincinnati Reds

National League Central Preview
AP Photos

Last Year’s Results

  • 83-79 (.512)

2022 Payroll

  • $99,580,000 (21st in the league)

2022 Manager

  •  David Bell

2022 Projected Lineup

  1. Jonathon India
  2. Tyler Naquin
  3. Joey Votto
  4. Tyler Stephenson
  5. Mike Moustakas
  6. Tommy Pham
  7. Colin Moran
  8. Kyle Farmer
  9. Nick Senzel

2022 Projected Rotation

  1. Tyler Mahle
  2. Reiver Sanmartin
  3. Vladimir Gutierrez
  4. Hunter Greene
  5. Nick Lodolo

Last season the Reds went 83-79 (.512). This was good for third in the division, but still 12 games behind first place. Reds fans likely weren’t happy with this last season, but hey at least they were watchable and can look to the future right? Perhaps not.

Entering free agency the Reds quickly declined Wade Miley’s $10 million option in a head-scratching move. Even with the threat of a lockout looming on the horizon, they could have traded Miley once a CBA was reached.

This came on the heels of the team also sending Tucker Barnhart, a Gold Glove catcher, to Detroit in exchange for an outfielder who has never touched the majors. 

Caesars has the Red’s odds set at +1700 to win the NL Central. That seems like a fair valuation after looking at the roster coupled with the decisions the front office has made. The Reds might not be an atrocity to watch, but it seems a rebuild may be in Cincinnati’s future.

Pittsburgh Pirates

National League Central Preview
AP Photos

Last Year’s Results

  • 61-101 (.377)

2022 Payroll

  • $37,875,000 (21st in the league)

2022 Manager

  • Derek Shelton

2022 Projected Lineup

  1. Dan Vogelbach
  2. Bryan Reynolds
  3. Ke’Bryan Hayes
  4. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo
  5. Roberto Perez
  6. Cole Tucker
  7. Diego Castillo
  8. Kevin Newman

2022 Projected Rotation

  1. Jonathon Brubaker
  2. Jose Quintana
  3. Mitch Keller
  4. Bryse Wilson
  5. Zachary Thompson

Last season the Pirates were at the bottom of the barrel as far as the NL Central goes. They finished 61-101 (.377) good for dead last in the Central. If fans were hoping to see a shift towards improving this offseason they will both be sorely disappointed but have a large ray of hope. 

The Pirates re-signed Yoshi Tsutsugo and added Jose Quintana and even traded Jacob Stallings for a few solid players. That would be the end of significant positive additions to the players in the Pirates system.

However, the Pirates also added Dewey Robinson as director of pitching development. This may seem insignificant until you find out this is the man behind the late 90’s early 2000’s Astros pitching and then the Rays pitching staff from 2009-2021. It may not impact this season, but the Pirates have great things to look forward to.

Caesars has the Pirates at  +7000 to win the NL Central and that’s about all that needs to be said about where they are likely to finish.

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