2020 MLB Season Preview: N.L. Central

Updated: Jul 22

As we prepare for our delayed 2020 MLB Opening Day, we take a look at each division, spotlighting each team and their key offseason moves. We’ll also discuss the outlook for all 30 clubs heading into the season, including team MVP, Cy Young and Impact Rookie to watch.


Today, we continue on with the National League Central Division.


Let's first peek at last season's final standings in the division:


2019 Regular Season

W-L Pct. GB

St. Louis 91-71 .562 --

Milwaukee 89-73 .549 2.0

Chicago Cubs 84-78 .519 7.0

Cincinnati 75-87 .463 16.0

Pittsburgh 69-93 .426 22.0


Cincinnati Reds

Who’s In?

RF Nick Castellanos, 3B Mike Moustakas, SP Wade Miley, RP Pedro Strop,

CF Shogo Akiyama

Who’s Out?

SP Kevin Gausman, SP Alex Wood, SS Jose Iglesias, 2B Jose Peraza

2020 Outlook: 

There’s a lot to be excited about with the 2020 Reds. They’ve added more power to a good lineup in the likes of Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos, but perhaps more importantly is the balance they’ll get with Japanese import Shogo Akiyama. Akiyama is a true centerfielder with range on defense, speed on the basepaths, and is currently penciled in as the leadoff hitter to start the season. The Reds rotation returns their top three innings-eaters from 2019 (Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Anthony DeScalfini), plus a full season of Trevor Bauer and the addition of free agent Wade Miley. This bullpen is deep too, led by closer Raisel Iglesias and setup man Michael Lorenzen. The Reds could be in line for their first winning season since 2013 and first division championship since 2012.


2020 Team MVP: 3B Eugenio Suarez

2020 Team Cy Young: SP Luis Castillo

2020 Rookie Watch: CF Shogo Akiyama

Milwaukee Brewers

Who’s In?

RF Avisail Garcia, 1B Justin Smoak, SP Brett Anderson, 3B Eric Sogard,

UTIL Brock Holt, C Omar Narvaez

Who’s Out?

C Yasmani Grandal, 3B Mike Moustakas, RP Drew Pomeranz, SP Gio Gonzalez,

SP Jordan Lyles, 1B Eric Thames, RP Junior Guerra, SP Zack Davies

2020 Outlook:

There was a lot of movement for the Brew Crew this offseason, with key players coming and going. They did a great job of replacing departing contributors, while also adding quality depth on defense with utility players Brock Holt and Luis Urias, along with the versatile Eric Sogard at third base. Christian Yelich is the clear leader for the team, but keep an eye on the young second baseman Keston Hiura. He has the potential to become one of the premier second basemen in all of baseball within the next year or two. Due to the shortened season we could see rookie pitcher Drew Rasmussen join the rotation without his 2020 inning cap coming into play. The Brewers should be buyers at the deadline and competitive throughout the season.


2020 Team MVP: LF Christian Yelich

2020 Team Cy Young: SP Brandon Woodruff

2020 Rookie Watch: SP Drew Rasmussen

Chicago Cubs

Who’s In?

RF Steven Souza Jr, RP Jeremy Jeffress, SP Jharel Cotton

Who’s Out?

RF Nick Castellanos, SP Cole Hamels, RP Steve Cishek, RP Brandon Kintzler,

RP Pedro Strop, 2B Ben Zobrist, 2B Addison Russell

2020 Outlook:

The Cubs are another N.L. Central team who went through a relatively quiet offseason, with their core lineup and rotation remaining intact. Manager Joe Maddon has left the Windy City for the Beach Cities of Orange County, California and the well-liked and respected David Ross has taken over the helm in Chicago. The Cubs find themselves between a rock and a hard place. On paper, there is still a hope of a deep playoff run. With Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez all due for extensions by 2021 and the team already working in the luxury tax, it will be interesting to see how they manage payroll at the August 31 trade deadline. There could be a log jam at the top of the division, but the Cubs have the talent and experience to be entrenched in the top spot at season's end.


2020 Team MVP: SS Javier Baez

2020 Team Cy Young: SP Kyle Hendricks

2020 Rookie Watch: 2B/SS Nico Hoerner

St. Louis Cardinals

Who’s In?

2B Brad Miller

Who’s Out?

SP Michael Wacha, OF Marcell Ozuna

2020 Outlook:

The N.L. Central seems to be the forgotten division heading into 2020. There was a lot of noise and player movement in the other five divisions, but the N.L. Central teams were relatively quiet, especially the Cardinals. That comes as somewhat of a surprise, as this team won the division last season and had momentum to build on. St. Louis overachieved in 2019, en route to 91 wins and a Division Series win over Atlanta in five games. The cards have to fall into place for the Cards (you're welcome for that one) to repeat that success, which does not bode well in a shortened season. The Cardinals are one of the consistent franchises in MLB, but a slight fall back in 2020 is on the horizon.


2020 Team MVP: 1B Paul Goldschmidt

2020 Team Cy Young: SP Jack Flaherty

2020 Rookie Watch: LF Dylan Carlson

Pittsburgh Pirates

Who’s In?

CF Jarrod Dyson, OF Guillermo Heredia

Who’s Out?

SP Josh Lindblom, RP Francisco Liriano

2020 Outlook:

The Pirates are slowly building a good, young nucleus that should be fruitful for years to come. However, 2020 is not yet that season to harvest. 1B Josh Bell, 2B Adam Frazier, SS Kevin Newman, and LF Bryan Reynolds are young and already established Major League contributors, and starting pitchers Joe Musgrove and Trevor Williams fit that description for the Pirates rotation. One big drawback for Pittsburgh will be the absence of Jameson Taillon, who will unfortunately miss 2020 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. On the flip side, starting pitcher Mitch Keller is only 23 and has a spot in the rotation locked down with a chance to showcase his talent. The Pirates have a lot to look at, but not a lot to look forward to this season. With some uncertainty headed into 2020, a couple of big names (Gregory Polanco and Chris Archer, for example) could be on the market at the deadline in hopes of adding to that nucleus long term.


2020 Team MVP: 1B Josh Bell

2020 Team Cy Young: SP Joe Musgrove

2020 Rookie Watch: SP Mitch Keller


Let's take a look at our predictions for the 2020 season:


2020 Regular Season Predictions - NL Central

W-L GB

Cincinnati 34-26 --

Milwaukee 33-27 1.0

Chi. Cubs 33-27 1.0

St. Louis 31-29 3.0

Pittsburgh 24-36 10.0


Do you agree with the above? Let's hear your thoughts in the comment section!

Brandon Rice

CIH Contributor

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