Who will win the NL Central: Chicago Cubs

In recent years, one of the toughest divisions in baseball is the National League Central.mlb-color

This year is expected to be no different with three playoff caliber teams vying for the division championship.

The three teams that are expected to compete for the NL Central crown include the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs.

The other two teams in the division, the Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Brewers, are both rebuilding and are expected to not compete for a playoff spot this season.

I expect the Chicago Cubs to win the division this season.

Last year, the Cubs finished in third place in the division with a 97-65 record, which was a 24 game improvement from the 2014 season.

They advanced to the postseason for the first time since 2008, making it all the way to the National League Championship Series, where they fell to the New York Mets.

That spike in success was largely credited to reigning NL Manager of the Year Joe Maddon, who was hired before the 2015 season.

If you look online to see what the experts are saying, you will see that the Cubs are not only the unanimous favorite to win the NL Central, but also the favorite to win the World Series.

This is in large part due to the additions that General Manager Theo Epstein brought in to an already talented roster.

Epstein dished out nearly $290 million this offseason on players such as right fielder Jason Heyward, second baseman Ben Zobrist, center fielder Dexter Fowler and veteran starting pitcher John Lackey.

Both Heyward and Zobrist turned down more money from other suitors for the opportunity to play in the windy city.

Returning to the Cubs this season are reigning rookie of the year Kris Bryant, Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta and top-five finisher in most valuable player voting, Anthony Rizzo.

Bryant will be looking to build off of a rookie campaign, where the 26 home runs, hit for a .275 average and drove in 99 runs.

Rizzo is coming off of a year where he hit 31 home runs with 101 RBIs and a .278 average.

Arrieta, who is coming off of a breakout season, won 22 games with a 1.77 earned run average in 229 innings pitched.

Joining Arrieta and Lackey in the Cubs starting rotation this season are Jon Lester, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks.

The Cubs also have one of the best lineups in all of baseball with no glaring weaknesses.

One of the key returnees from last season is slugger Kyle Schwarber.

After being called up last season from the minor leagues, Schwarber hit 16 home runs with 43 RBIs in just 69 games. 

The Cubs lineup is so stacked that no one even talks about shortstop Addison Russel, who was the games No. 3 prospect just last spring.

What also has me leaning toward the Cubs in this division is that they have the fourth-best farm system in all of baseball, according to ESPN’s Keith Law.

The Cubs roster is loaded with both pitching and positional depth.

Although I expect the NL Central to come down to the final weeks of September, I expect the Chicago Cubs to take the division crown.

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