Chicago Cubs – I think the Cubs are far and away the best club in this division. Their improved lineup and consistently good pitching staff (led the majors in strikeouts for the last 8 years) make this a no-brainer. Now, when it comes to the playoffs, my confidence vanishes. Lou and the boys will need to show me that they can win a playoff game before I crown them the kings of baseball. But they have the talent. And they better win it all this year, because the studs on this team are getting a little long in the tooth.
Milwaukee Brewers – A pretty fashionable pick here. A good team. Good offense, but they really need to sort out their pitching staff. With young hitters like Braun and Fielder, it’d be a shame to waste that on a team with no pitching. Yovanni Gallardo is one bright spot for Brewers pitching.
Cincinnati Reds – I thinkthis team has a chance to challenge for 2nd place, but I just couldn’t make myself pick a Dusty Baker coached team. If Dusty doesn’t ruin the arms of Edison Volquez and Johnny Cueto, the Reds have a solid pitching staff for a long time. Add in a recovered Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo and you’ve got something there. On the offensive side, the emergence of Jay Bruce will continue. The Reds are becoming a solid ballclub. A year away.
Houston Astros – The Astros seem to only be able to put together halves of years. I’m sure this year will be no different. They have a lot of holes. Definitely have some talent on this club with Berkman and Oswalt but not enough of a supporting cast. I think Hunter Pence will continue his progress, and become a potential All Star.
St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals are kind of mess. Another case of great talent wasted. Albert Pujols is the best hitter in baseball, but the Cards can’t seem to put a team around him. The addition of Khalil Greene and the return of Chris Carpenter will help, but just don’t have the horses.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Perrenial basement dwellers. The Pirates are a small market team that just can’t compete. It’s actually a little sad.