St. Louis Cardinals: End of 2019 NL Central Power Rankings

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4), center left, and shortstop Paul DeJong (12), right, celebrate after hitting back-to-back home runs off Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (24) in the ninth inning at Wrigley Field Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Chicago.(John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4), center left, and shortstop Paul DeJong (12), right, celebrate after hitting back-to-back home runs off Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (24) in the ninth inning at Wrigley Field Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Chicago.(John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals have made just one move as the calendar is about to flip to 2020. Looking around, how does the NL Central stack up right now?

in 2019, the St. Louis Cardinals narrowly scratched out an NL Central division win in the regular season. Many fans think this win should come with an asterisk as the other teams weren’t that great. I disagree because at the end of the day, the 2019 Cardinals won 91 games and a division win is a division win.

This offseason has been (as expected) a boring one in St. Louis and the Cardinals have made just one move (signing Kwang-Hyun Kim). The one move the Cardinals have made ended their running as the last team in the entire MLB to make an addition to their roster.

While the Cardinals have been tweaking, the Brewers and the Reds have drastically changed their rosters. There’s still lots of offseason left, but as of today, what would an NL Central Power Rankings list look like?

#5: Pittsburgh Pirates

This was the easiest one to rank as the Pirates were just plain bad in 2019 and haven’t done anything to change that so far. Finishing the season at 69-93 (22.0 games back of the Cardinals), there’s no way to label 2019 as anything but a disappointment.

Josh Bell broke out in 2019, hitting 37 homers and driving in 116 with a .936 OPS. Leading the way with his 143 OPS+, the Pirates got good contributions from center fielder Starlin Marte (120 OPS+), left fielder Bryan Reynolds (131 OPS+) and shortstop Kevin Newman (111 OPS+). Marte, Reynolds, and Bell would’ve set the mark for the Cardinals offensively as their highest OPS+ was 113 from Paul Goldschmidt.

Either way, they have too many holes in the pitching staff and those bats couldn’t bail out the sinking ship. The Pirates have signed a few players to minor league deals and made a couple of trades for cash but overall haven’t done anything to improve their team.

#4: Milwaukee Brewers

This list gets very difficult very fast at this point. The Brewers nearly caught the Cardinals at the end of 2019 even without their MVP candidate, Christian Yelich. After a disappointing loss in the Wild Card game, the team let Yasmani Grandal walk in free agency and then proceeded to release half of their roster. That’s no joke.

Allowing Travis Shaw, Eric Thames, and others to walk freed up a ton of payroll for them and they have been making under-the-radar signings and trades this winter. Omar Narvaez, Avisail Garcia, Eric Sogard, Justin Smoak, and Brett Anderson headline those under-the-radar guys.

They haven’t traded Josh Hader yet, and with the core of Hader, Yelich, and Keston Hiura, they are still going to be dangerous offensively and at the end of games. The problem is that the team is mostly unknowns. If you scroll through their active roster on, most of the players on there haven’t even been assigned numbers yet.

Reviewing the Brew might have some issues with the fourth place ranking, but the biggest reason they are down here is the unknown of their offense and the fact that they haven’t shored up their pitching yet.

#3: Chicago Cubs

Contrary to the Brewers, the Cubs are a complete known. They have no secrets about what their roster is, and that is the problem. The Cubs finished third in the Central in 2019 after not being able to get out of their own way. The vast sums of money they’ve promised to subpar players have left them bound by their own wallet and stuck in concrete as far as making any moves.

They let Cole Hamels, Brandon Morrow, and Addison Russel walk this winter and other than trading for Jharel Cotton and signing Dan Winkler and Ryan Tepera, the Cubs will be coming into 2020 with the exact same team as 2019.

That may change though as reports were made that said they were “desperate” to make trades (desperate is always what you want to be in trade negotiations, trust me). Willson Contreras or Kris Bryant could get moved, but I wouldn’t count on it. Between Contreras, Bryant, Baez, and Rizzo, the Cubs should be better, but they just weren’t.

They rank above the Brewers because they have those big names and have a better pitching staff.

#2: St. Louis Cardinals

I am a homer, yes. You may be a homer too and disagree with me. However, I do believe this is where the Cardinals currently sit. The inaction of this winter was not something that surprised me, and I have tried in many different ways to explain it. The team has no obvious holes, they have a hoard of young outfielders, and an amazing pitching staff and bullpen (WHEN HEALTHY). The team is going to see what they have before they make any drastic moves.

More from Redbird Rants

It’s not what fans want, but it’ll lead to the best season. That I believe.

There’s no question, the Cardinals have the best relievers in the NL Central, and as we saw in 2019, that can take you far. With a rotation that is basically substituting Michael Wacha for either Carlos Martinez or Kwang-Hyun Kim, it should only be better in 2020.

In 2019, as I mentioned earlier, the Cardinals were paced by Paul Goldschmidt’s worst year ever, and many other players played well under their career norms. They are likely losing Marcell Ozuna, but the young players the Cardinals possess shouldn’t have a problem replicating the 107 OPS+ Ozuna had the two years with the Cardinals.

Hitting will improve, pitching is already shored up and improved, I like where the Cardinals are sitting.

#1: Cincinnati Reds

For as blindly bullish as I am on the Cardinals, I may be even more idiotic when it comes to the Reds. Last year, the Reds had the best starting pitching in the NL Central behind Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer, Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, and Anthony DeSclafani. It may not sound like much, but they were better than the Cardinals.

In the field, they had 49 homers from Eugenio Suarez, an .800+ OPS from Jessie Winker, Yasiel Puig putting up Ozuna-esque production, and the aging Joey Votto. Not to mention the breakout of Aristides Aquino who hit 19 homers in 56 games in the second half.

The Reds finished 2019 in fourth place in the NL Central with a 75-87 record, then proceeded to get after it so far this offseason. Puig is gone, but they signed Mike Moustakas to play second base and have signed Wade Miley.

This lineup looks dangerous from top to bottom and with a pitching staff that replaced Tanner Roark with Wade Miley, they look to be getting better and better while the rest of the Central treads water. I would expect the Reds to make a big jump in the standings.

Could Corey Dickerson be the answer in left field?. dark. Next

You may disagree with this list, but it’s my list so I don’t care. The Cardinals are going to be just fine, regardless of how doom and gloom most of the fanbase view them right now. Sorry, it hasn’t been an exciting offseason, but when you look at the team, there isn’t be too much that can easily be changed. The Cardinals, Reds, Brewers, and Cubs are all going to be in it, it’ll be fun to see how it shakes out with no clear leader right now.