2010 MLB Preview: NL Central

In order to help get you ready for the MLB season, we’re doing division-by-division rankings with quick overviews on how each club could fair in 2010. Next to each team, you’ll also find a corresponding number written in parenthesis, which indicates where we believe that club falls in a league-wide power ranking. Be sure to check back throughout the next two weeks leading up to the season, as we will be updating our content daily. Enjoy.

All 2010 MLB Preview Content | AL East Preview | AL Central Preview | AL West Preview | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Next up is the NL Central.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (4)
Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday could help the Cardinals win this division sauced out of their minds on a nightly basis. That said, would anyone really be surprised if Carpenter’s arm falls off and the starting pitching (which is among the best in the league) suffers? It’s happened before, so if you answered “yes” to the proposed question then you sir or madam, have not been paying attention. Still, the addition of Brad Penny (who pitched well in the second half last year) will strengthen the club’s starting pitching and Kyle Lohse is a fine middle of the rotation guy. Pujols and Holliday will ignite the offense again, although Colby Rasmus might be the key to whether or not this team makes a serious World Series run. Skip Schumaker is a solid table setter, but how Rasmus fairs hitting in front of Pujols and Holliday could be the difference between the Cards winning the NL Central again and playing for a championship. David Freese better produce too or else the club will regret not acquiring a veteran third baseman in the offseason. All in all, the Cardinals are the best the NL Central has to offer and should make another postseason appearance this season. But how far they go beyond that depends on whether or not Carpenter and Wainwright can continue their magic and if Pujols and Holliday receive help from the rest of the lineup.

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2009 MLB Preview: #18 Milwaukee Brewers

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Offseason Movement: The Brewers signed long-time Padres’ closer Trevor Hoffman in the offseason and also brought on pitchers Jorge Julio and Braden Looper, as well as outfielder Trot Nixon.

Top Prospect: Mat Gamel, 3B
Some would say Alcides Escobar is the Brewers’ top prospect, but you can’t go wrong with either. Milwaukee seems to be following a trend of taking prospects based more on their offense than defense, because not unlike Matt LaPorta and Ryan Braun before him, Gamel doesn’t have the best defensive skills. But there is no denying that the kid can hit. Gamel has a nice, pure swing and has shown excellent plate discipline to this point in his career. He has great hand/eye coordination and he loves hitting the gaps. Gamel figures to start the season in Triple-A, but could get a shot to compete if Bill Hall continues to struggle with a calf injury.

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Fraley: Brewers should trade Prince Fielder

Gerry Fraley of SportingNews.com suggests that the Brewers trade Prince Fielder before he (possibly) wins arbitration and soaks the club for millions.

Prince FielderTheir argument against Fielder would be interesting and potentially incendiary.

Would the Brewers mention Fielder’s deteriorating defense?

Fielder and Howard each have 31 errors during the last two seasons. That is the highest total by a major-league first baseman since Kevin Young had 40 errors with Pittsburgh in 1999-2000.

(The legendary Dick “Dr. Strangeglove” Stuart had 53 errors at first base with Boston in 1963-64.)

Would the Brewers bring up Fielder’s increasing weight and decreasing power?

Fielder adopted a vegetarian diet last season, but he seemed to expand while his power shrunk. Fielder went from 50 homers, 119 RBIs and a .618 slugging percentage in 2007 to 34 homers, 102 RBIs and a .507 slugging percentage last season.

Fielder is a sensitive slugger, especially when his weight is an issue. He can sit in on the hearing as the Brewers make their case. If Fielder was angry when the club exercised its right of renewal last season, what would he be like after listening to a club-built case against him?

Melvin has the payroll flexibility to keep Fielder this season, even if he wins a big award. The Brewers want to build on last season’s success. Trading Fielder now or during the season would send a bad message to the growing fan base.

A year from now, the situation will be different.

Fielder and Boras have rejected one proposal from the Brewers on a multi-year contract and seem set on going into free agency after the 2011 season. The Brewers would be better served moving Fielder then rather than letting him get closer to the walk-away season. Milwaukee is on the clock.

Most clubs are in constant search for more offensive pop, so trading a young slugger heading into the prime of his career doesn’t make a lot of sense on the surface. But as Fraley points out, the Brewers will be in a bind very soon because of Fielder’s contract situation (Boras is going to rape Milwaukee) and they could get a couple of arms in the right deal.

If the Brewers make a move now before Fielder shows up for camp (no doubt out of shape) and trade him for a starter (Jake Peavy?), then they could sign Adam Dunn as a stopgap until Mat Gamel (his natural position is 3B, but he’s rumored to be brutal defensively) is major-league ready. Just an idea…

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