2014-MLB-Baseball-Picks-and-Odds2014 MLB NL Central Odds and Predictions – Vegas Odds to Win the National League Central Division: The National League Central has emerged as one of the most powerful divisions in baseball, and last year, three teams made the playoffs. Not surprisingly, the St. Louis Cardinals emerged as the champs. After all, they have won nine division titles while the rest of the teams have combined for just 11 with the now-departed Houston Astros ranking second with four titles. Fittingly, the Cardinals sit atop the preseason rankings for the division in 2014, and on that note, here is a closer look at the entire NL Central.

1.      St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals won the division last year and have made it to the NLCS in each of the past three seasons. This year’s team is as talented as ever with veterans like Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday teaming with rising stars like Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig. Adding prospects Kolten Wong and Oscar Tavarez to the mix won’t hurt an already-great offensive team either. St. Louis is just as deep on the mound where ace Adam Wainwright leads a young rotation that helped the Cardinals rank fourth in ERA last year. This team just doesn’t have many weaknesses.

2.      Cincinnati Reds: Injuries hit Cincinnati early and often in 2013, but the Reds still managed to make the playoffs. This year, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips are back to form a solid middle of the order, and speedster Billy Hamilton could be a huge X-factor at the top of the lineup. On the mound, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey are both reliable starters, and if Johnny Cueto can stay healthy, the rotation should be one of the best in the NL. Cincinnati’s depth isn’t great, but they should be dangerous if they can stay mostly healthy.

3.      Milwaukee Brewers: Despite the whole Ryan Braun fiasco, the Brewers actually fielded a respectable team in 2013, and an offense that ranked in the top 10 in runs scored should only be better with the former MVP back in the lineup. Carlos Gomez, Aramis Ramirez and Jonathan Lucroy are among the other established bats, and Jean Segura and Khris Davis are among the rising stars. Meanwhile, the addition of Matt Garza solidifies a rotation that already features reliable starters Kyle Lohse and Yovani Gallardo. The Brewers could surprise in 2014.

4.      Pittsburgh Pirates: After returning to the playoffs in 2013, Pittsburgh could be due for a step back in 2014. For one, the departure of Marlon Byrd leaves defending MVP Andrew McCutchen as the only steady bat for a mediocre offense. Meanwhile, the loss of starter A.J. Burnett removes a reliable presence from a rotation that was the strength of the team last year. If Wandy Rodriguez can stay healthy and Gerrit Cole can handle a full year in the rotation, a wild-card spot is still possible, but the Pirates aren’t as deep as they were a year ago.

5.      Chicago Cubs: There is a reason that the Cubs have lost at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons. The talent level on the 2014 squad is just as bad, and outside of Anthony Rizzo and possibly Starlin Castro, the lineup is joke. The pitching staff is a different story, and the additions of Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta give some depth to a decent rotation. Still, the overall roster is still in serious rebuilding mode, and scoring runs is going to be a major issue.

Prseason Odds to win the 2014 NL Central Division
St. Louis Cardinals win NL Central -160
Cincinnati Reds win NL Central +350
Pittsburgh Pirates win NL Central +385
Milwaukee Brewers win NL Central +1250
Chicago Cubs win NL Central +3300

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