2024 NL Central Division Preview

The NL Central features five teams who can talk themselves into being contenders at the start of the season in this wide-open division.

MESA, ARIZONA - MARCH 4: Cody Bellinger and Nico Hoerner of the Chicago Cubs share a laugh at Sloan Park on March 4, 2024 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images)

While the NL Central might not be the strongest division in the National League, it is still one of the more compelling ones to monitor in all of baseball.

The Milwaukee Brewers are the reigning NL Central champs, but they are going to look a lot different this year, with Corbin Burnes having been traded and Brandon Woodruff and Devin Williams being out due to injury.

That’s arguably the Brewers three best pitchers of recent years all out of the picture. This will open the door for the Cubs, Reds and Cardinals to really contend in 2024.

The Cubs look like the favorite on paper after adding Shota Imanaga and Hector Neris to a team that finished second in the NL Central last year. Cody Bellinger was a big part of last season’s success and returns for another crack at it after signing a three-year deal in free agency.

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At one point this offseason, the Reds looked like a real threat to win the NL Central. That can still be the case, but some bad news this spring (Noelvi Marte’s suspension and Matt McLain’s injury) has casted a bit of a shadow over this team before Opening Day. They still have plenty of talent to overcome those loses however.

Finally the Pittsburgh Pirates continue their methodical rebuild and look to take another step forward in 2024, with Oneil Cruz finally back to star at shortstop after a lost season in 2023.

Chicago Cubs Season Preview

Written by: Cameron Zunkel

The 2023 season ended in disappointing fashion for the Chicago Cubs, but there are high hopes for 2024. Below we are going to preview the Cubs 2024 season, and meticulously breakdown everything they have to offer as the new season begins.

Last year, the Cubs missed the playoffs by just one game. They finished second in the NL Central with a record of 83-79. Highlighted by Justin Steele, the Cubs had a few players step up in a big way. Steele finished 16-5 with a 3.06 ERA, 1.171 WHIP, and 9.1 K/9 in 30 starts. More analytically, Steele had a 146 ERA+, 3.02 FIP, and his 3.8 WAR was tied for 14th among all pitchers.

Cody Bellinger is worth mentioning when talking about the 2023 season. He finished 10th in MVP voting, and won a Silver Slugger award. He played both center field and first base for Chicago, so he proved to be extremely valuable. The Cubs finally re-signed Bellinger, so their lineup from last season remains largely the same.

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As a team, the Cubs were able to finish in the top half the league in most hitting and pitching categories. However, their one major area of struggle came in the bullpen. The Cubs had the seventh-fewest saves, and they blew 22 saves in 57 save opportunities…

For the rest of this preview on the Chicago Cubs, click here.

St. Louis Cardinals Season Preview

Written by: Eric Treuden

Entering the 2024 season, the St. Louis Cardinals have virtually nowhere to go but up. Last year, things went about as poorly as they could have for a team that was widely expected to run away with the NL Central.

Wrapping up the year with a 71-91 record, the wheels just fell off of this Cardinals team. Thanks to a multitude of different factors including poor management and severe underperformance of star-level players, 2023 was just a lost year.

On just the fifth game of the season, manager Oli Marmol got into a bit of a spat with outfielder Tyler O’Neill about his lack of hustle on a sacrifice fly. Marmol called it unacceptable, O’Neill responded by saying that he works his ass off 160 games a year, and that it’s “good to know” that the manager said things to the media about him.

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A month later, Willson Contreras, the club’s shiny new catcher, was removed from his role as primary backstop thanks to complaints from the pitching staff about how he called games. That lasted about a week, as he was back to full-time catching duties shortly after. There was never a true resolution to this weird storyline, but it points to some communication and chemistry issues all around.

For the first time in John Mozeliak’s tenure with the Cardinals, he had to steer the organization through a soft sell-off. Jordan Hicks, Paul DeJong, Jordan Montgomery and Genesis Cabrera were sent packing. Each of them netted prospects that could end up helping this squad in a big way in the near future…

For the rest of this preview on the St. Louis Cardinals, click here.

Milwaukee Brewers Season Preview

Written by: Joey Peterson

The Milwaukee Brewers are entering a new era of baseball. With a new manger at the helm and a completely revamped starting rotation, the Brewers are going to look quite different in 2024.

Projection systems from FanGraphs and PECOTA have the Brewers winning about 80 games, which would be a significant step back after winning 92 games last season. However, that projection feels about right when you dig into their roster.

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Both their offense and their pitching staff have a bit of uncertainty heading into the season. There’s a lot of young players looking to establish themselves as core pieces of the future, but leaning on that young talent can also yield a wide range of outcomes.

That said, the Brewers are in an interesting position. They retooled their roster this offseason, and they have shifted their focus onto building a competitive roster for the future. At the same time, the National League Central is a wide-open division, and they could still seemingly compete for a division title if everything clicks with their young players.

While the roster might look a bit different, there is plenty to be excited about in 2024.

For the rest of this preview on the Milwaukee Brewers, click here.

Pittsburgh Pirates Season Preview

Written by: Joey Peterson

The Pittsburgh Pirates took a major step forward in 2023, and the foundation of their roster is finally starting to come together.

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The Pirates surpassed all expectations last season, despite it being an assessment year for much of their young talent. They won 76 games, which was a significant improvement from the previous two seasons. It was also their highest win total since the 2018 season, and it was the second time since 2016 that the club surpassed 75 wins.

They are undeniably headed in the right direction, and there’s a lot to be excited about for Pittsburgh’s fanbase. However, they still appear to be a year or so away from playoff contention, despite being on a positive trajectory.

From an offensive perspective, Pittsburgh’s lineup should be fun to watch this season. They have a lot of talent at several different positions, and it’s a group of players that appears ready to take a step forward in 2024.

The pitching staff is where the club may fall short this season. It will likely be an assessment year for many of their young arms, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Their window for contention hasn’t opened yet, and it’s important for the club to establish who will be mainstays in the starting rotation.

Mitch Keller took a leap forward last season, and the Pirates rewarded him with a five-year contract extension to be a core piece of their rotation for years to come. With Paul Skenes expected to make his MLB debut in the near future, it feels as if the pitching staff is starting to come together.

All in all, this season may be the most excited Pirates fans have been in quite some time. We’ll start by breaking down their projected starting lineup, which is shaping out to be the most exciting part of their entire roster.

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For the rest of this preview on the Pittsburgh Pirates, click here.

Cincinnati Reds Season Preview

Written by: Clay Snowden

Without a doubt, there has not been this much buzz around a Reds team in the past decade. A flurry of rookie breakouts in 2023 combined with added depth have fans dreaming of October baseball. Well, until a wave of negative news has changed the trajectory.

TJ Friedl, Matt McLain, Nick Lodolo, Brandon Williamson and a few other pieces are all injured and will miss time to start the season. While the Reds added depth this winter, a team can only sustain so many injuries until AAAA types are filling the lineup.

With the roster additions more or less wrapped up, it’s time to focus on the roster. Dive in and see just how good the Reds can be in 2024.

For the rest of this preview on the Cincinnati Reds, click here.

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