NL Central Odds and Prediction for the 2020 MLB Season

By Michael Wynn in MLB
| April 13, 2020 1:37 am PDT
MLB NL Central Division Preview

The race for the NL Central Division crown went all the way down to the wire in 2019. The Cardinals ended up edging out the Brewers, while the Cubs weren’t too far behind. The Reds spent some money during the offseason and look like they’re going to enter the mix, meaning this division could be a four-team sprint in the shortened 2020 campaign.

All you have to do is take one peek at the odds, and you’ll quickly see how tight of a race it’s expected to be, so let’s start diving in and figure out who has the leg up.

I’ll cap off my NL Central Division preview with my betting prediction for who will reign supreme.

NL Central Odds to Win

Chicago Cubs +225
St. Louis Cardinals +225
Cincinnati Reds +275
Milwaukee Brewers +300
Pittsburgh Pirates +10000

The fact that the top baseball betting sites have the Brewers slotted as the fourth-favorite to emerge tells you how competitive the NL Central is going to be. Fans in the Windy City think the Cubs are going to prosper, but ask anyone around Busch Stadium who the best team in the division is, and they’ll all emphatically tell you it’s the Cardinals. 

Taking all biases out of the equation, Milwaukee and Cincinnati might be the two most complete teams. It’s safe to say that who is going to win the NL Central in 2020 is pretty ambiguous. 

Chicago Cubs (+225)

Kris Bryant is moving to the top of the order and will be protected by Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez. No complaints there, but Kyle Schwarber and Wilson Contreras are going to need to stay healthy if the Cubbies are going to roll out one of the better lineups in the National League.

Perhaps the biggest question mark lingering for first-time skipper David Ross is what the Cubs are going to get out of Yu Darvish. When healthy, Yu is one of the most dominating starting pitchers in the game. When he’s not, the Cubs rotation is weakened to a middle-of-the-road staff at best.

St. Louis Cardinals (+225)

I’ll start with the fact that Jack Flaherty is my pick to win the NL Cy Young in 2020. If Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez can get back to eating up big-time innings, the Cardinals have good reason to think they are the best team in this division.

Mike Schildt will likely have to add a bat sometime before the stretch run, as Marcell Ozuna inked a deal with Atlanta, and Paul Goldschmidt isn’t getting any younger. Hopefully, guys like Tyler O’Neil and Harrison Bader can start taking the next step in their progressions because it looks like Matt Carpenter’s best days are behind him.

Cincinnati Reds (+275)

The Reds aren’t messing around. Cincinnati coughed up $64 million to Mike Moustakas on a four-year deal and signed Nicholas Castellanos to the exact same terms. Luis Castillo looks like one of the brightest young pitchers in baseball, and Trevor Bauer has a lot to prove.

The idea that the Reds are listed at +275 and ahead of Milwaukee is the first sign that Cincy is coming, but I’ll show you some more evidence. Eugenio Suarez clubbed 49 homers in 2019, and Shogo Akiyama comes over from Japan as a super intriguing leadoff hitter.

In the event that Joey Votto returns to the form we all know he is capable of, Cincinnati could be a serious sleeper to win the NL Pennant.

Milwaukee Brewers (+300)

You can make the argument that Christian Yelich is the best player in the Majors, but Milwaukee hasn’t done a good enough job solidifying the talent around him. The batting order lacks potency, and their pitching staff is filled with guys that casual fans have never heard of.

Craig Counsell is a creative manager and knows how to get the most out of his dugout, but Milwaukee is fighting an uphill battle in this division. Whether Brewers fans want to hear it or not, their team is simply overmatched when you measure it up against its NL Central counterparts.

Pittsburgh Pirates (+10000)

Josh Bell had a breakout year in 2019, and Pittsburgh could receive a jolt if they decide to bring Ke’Bryan Hayes up from the Minors. But let’s not spend time fantasizing about scenarios in which the Pirates could win the division in the upcoming year. 

Not only is the back end of the Pirates rotation unproven, but Chris Archer and Joe Musgrove at the top is nothing to write home about. It’d make sense to call up Mitch Keller at some point to give the pitching staff a boost, but this is a team that ranked 14th (out of 15 teams) in the NL last season in team ERA.

Prediction – Who Wins the NL Central in 2020?

I have a hunch that the Reds are going to surprise a lot of people in 2020. Those immersed into the baseball community won’t be that caught off guard, but a portion of the general public will be stunned to see Cincinnati contending.

We’re talking about an extremely well-rounded lineup with plenty of speed and loads of power. Luis Castillo is an absolute stud, and both Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer have flashed as outstanding starters.

Don’t look now, but it could all start coming together for the Reds in 2020.

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