First off, let me explain.
In my weekly Inside Baseball column for FanSided, I picked the Milwaukee Brewers to win the National League Central. I had the St. Louis Cardinals winning one of two wild card positions before eventually losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the wild card round.
My thinking, simply, is that I believe the Brewers are the more complete team right now. Their rotation is headlined by Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, two of the most talented young pitchers in baseball. Their bullpen features Josh Hader and Devin Williams, arguably the best one-two punch in baseball. And they are surrounded by plenty of talented pitchers that the organization is very high on this year and moving forward.
The offense, however, is where I had the most hesitation. The Brewers expect bounce back seasons from Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura. The talent around them is where the most questions remain. Lorenzo Cain is coming back after a season off. Jackie Bradley Jr. is battling an injury. Avisail Garcia struggled last year. And Orlando Arcia and Luis Urias, along with Travis Shaw, come with concerns about their offensive abilities, too.
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But I’m optimistic enough that they can get enough production from each player and win the division. The Cardinals, of course, will not make it easy.
Nolan Arenado is a big reason why. His presence alone, combined with Paul Goldschmidt, makes the Cardinals’ lineup one of the most dangerous outside of the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers. But the rest of the lineup comes with concerns. How will Tommy Edman do filling in for Kolten Wong? How will the young outfielders headlined by Dylan Carlson fare this season?
Yadier Molina returning should help that lineup, but his greatest impact should come with a pitching staff that looks promising, especially with the bullpen. The Cardinals have not hidden how giddy they are about the group which features Alex Reyes and Jordan Hicks. But there are concerns about the rotation with Miles Mikolas sidelined long-term and with Kwang Hyun Kim starting the season on the Injured List.
I believe the Cardinals, even with those concerns, are a playoff team. Perhaps they make trade deadline acquisitions to better position themselves to win the division and compete with the mighty Dodgers and Padres. But if the season began today, I would pick the Brewers to win the Central.