Cincinnati Reds v Pittsburgh Pirates

The National League Central will likely be a two horse race in 2013, with the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals battling all season for the Central crown. The Reds offense, already a balanced attacked,  will benefit with the addition of Shin-Soo Choo, while the Cardinals don’t appear to be in panic mode after losing Rafael Furcal for the season with an elbow injury. The Pirates, Cubs and Brewers made minimal changes from their 2012 Opening Day lineup, and won’t likely have the offense to compete for a playoff position.

Over the next week, we will take a look at how each team’s lineups looked to start the season in 2012 compared to the projected look for 2013 (all ZiPS projections courtesy of Fangraphs.)

We covered the NL West, now here’s a look at the NL Central.

Cincinnati Reds

2012 Opening Day Lineup Projected 2013 Opening Day Lineup
1. 2B Brandon Phillips: .281/.321/.429 1. CF Shin-Soo Choo: .283/.374/.440
2. SS Zack Cozart: .246/.288/.399 2. 2B Brandon Phillips: .277/.327/.432
3 1B Joey Votto: .337/.474/.567 3. 1B Joey Votto: .312/.422/.538
4. 3B Scott Rolen: .245/.318/.398 4. LF Ryan Ludwick: .254/.327/.449
5. RF Jay Bruce: .252/.327/.514 5. RF Jay Bruce: .263/.342/.518
6. LF Ryan Ludwick: .275/.346/.531 6. 3B Todd Frazier: .263/.325/.476
7. CF Drew Stubbs: .213/.277/.333 7. SS Zack Cozart: .260/.308/.415
8. C Ryan Hanigan: .274/.365/.338 8. C Ryan Hanigan: .275/.367/.357
9. Pitcher 9. Pitcher

The Reds made a few changes from their 2012 lineup, bringing in former Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to play centre field, while replacing the possibly retired Scott Rolen at third with Todd Frazier.

St. Louis Cardinals

2012 Opening Day Lineup Projected 2013 Opening Day Lineup
1. SS Rafael Furcal: .264/.325/.346 1. CF Jon Jay: .295/.354/.412
2. RF Carlos Beltran: .269/.346/.495 2. RF Carlos Beltran: .268/.354/.474
3 LF Matt Holliday: .295/.379/.497 3. LF Matt Holliday: .301/.385/.516
4. 1B Lance Berkman: .259/.381/.444 4. 1B Allen Craig: .301/.354/.519
5. 3B David Freese: .293/.372/.467 5. C Yadier Molina: .290/.350/.426
6. C Yadier Molina: .315/.373/.501 6. 3B David Freese: .301/.368/.476
7. CF Jon Jay: .305/.373/.400 7. 2B Matt Carpenter: .288/.365/.452
8. 2B Daniel Descalso: .227/.303/.324 8. SS Pete Kozma: .223/.285/.340
9. Pitcher 9. Pitcher

The Cardinals haven’t had a great off-season health wise to date. Before camp opened, they announced starter Chris Carpenter would likely miss all of 2013 due to injury, and in regards to the offense, they lost starting shortstop Rafael Furcal for the season after he underwent Tommy John surgery. The lineup is strong, but don’t be surprised to see them make a late move in spring to find a replacement at short for Kozma.

Milwaukee Brewers

2012 Opening Day Lineup Projected 2013 Opening Day Lineup
1. 2B Rickie Weeks: .230/.328/.400 1. RF Norichika Aoki: .288/.344/.395
2. CF Carlos Gomez: .260/.305/.463 2. 2B Rickie Weeks: .248/.345/.429
3 LF Ryan Braun: .319/.391/.595 3. LF Ryan Bruan: .314/.382/.568
4. 3B Aramis Ramirez: .300/.360/.540 4. 3B Aramis Ramirez: .286/.350/.498
5. RF Corey Hart: .270/.334/.507 5. C Jonathan Lucroy: .287/.346/.442
6. SS Alex Gonzalez: .259/.326/.457 6. CF Carlos Gomez: .251/.302/.407
7. 1B Mat Gamel: .246/.293/.348 7. 1B Alex Gonzalez: .233/.276/.372
8. C Jonathan Lucroy: .320/.368/.513 8. SS Jean Segura: .291/.340/.388
9. Pitcher 9. Pitcher

The Brewers off-season was quiet, especially when it came to signing free agents to help with the offense. The bobby Crosby at first era is already over, and now Alex Gonzalez, who started at short for the Brewers in 2012, will begin as their first baseman.

Pittsburgh Pirates

2012 Opening Day Lineup Projected 2013 Opening Day Lineup
1. LF Alex Presley: .237/.279/.405 1. LF Starling Marte: .297/.336/.479
2. RF Jose Tabata: .243/.315/.348 2. 2B Neil Walker: .275/.337/.435
3 CF Andrew McCutchen: .327/.400/.553 3. CF Andrew McCutchen: .286/.372/.483
4. 2B Neil Walker: .280/.342/.426 4. 1B Garrett Jones: .254/.315/.454
5. 1B Garrett Jones: .274/.317/.516 5. 3B Pedro Alvarez: .257/.336/.481
6. C Rod Barajas: .206/.283/.343 6. C Russell Martin: .242/.340/.394
7. 3B Pedro Alvarez: .244/.317/.467 7. RF Travis Snider: .278/.345/.468
8. SS Clint Barmes: .229/.272/.321 8. SS Clint Barmes: .233/.286/.353
9. Pitcher 9. Pitcher

The Pittsburgh Pirates made a small splash in the free market when they brought in catcher Russell Martin to replace Rod Barajas behind the plate. The heart of the order with McCutchen, Jones and Alvarez will be the key as long as Alvarez can stay somewhat consistent.

Chicago Cubs

2012 Opening Day Lineup Projected 2013 Opening Day Lineup
1. RF David DeJesus: .263/.350/.403 1. CF David DeJesus: .264/.345/.389
2. 2B Darwin Barney: .254/.299/.354 2. SS Starlin Castro: .304/.346/.448
3 SS Starlin Castro: .283/.323/.430 3. 1B Anthony Rizzo: .283/.346/.517
4. LF Alfonso Soriano: .262/.322/.499 4. LF Alfonso Soriano: .245/.304/.462
5. 3B Ian Stewart: .201/.292/.335 5. RF Nate Schierholtz: .267/.321/.425
6. 1B Jeff Baker: .239/.279/.378 6. 3B Luis Valbuena: .253/.330/.402
7. CF Marlon Byrd: .210/.243/.245 7. C Welington Castillo: .252/.316/.423
8. C Geovany Soto: .198/.270/.343 8. 2B Darwin Barney: .268/.3121/.357
9. Pitcher 9. Pitcher

The Chicago Cubs spent on pitching and not on the offense, which may have a direct reflection on their record in 2013. Anthony Rizzo is a bright spot at first, along with Castro at short, but the remainder of the projected lineup could be a problem when it comes to scoring runs.