You know the drill: I’m running through the divisions, singling out players worth of watching. Today, the NL Central is our focus.
Cincinnati Reds: I’m going to avoid going with the obvious choice of Joey Votto here and go with one of my favorite players: Scott Rolen. I don’t know why, but I’ve always liked Rolen. I think he’s been underrated in the grand scheme of things and he had a solid year last year, posting a .367 wOBA in 537 PAs. Here’s my proof, by the way, of Rolen’s underrated-ness.
St. Louis Cardinals: Lance! Another player who’s been massively underrated in his career, I’m very interested to see Lance Berkman in his return to the NL after a brief stopover in the AL with the Yankees. Yes, I’ll admit that, perversely enough, I’m most interested (morbidly excited?) to see if Berkman can return to the outfield as the Cardinals plan on playing Puma in right. On a “nicer” note, we’ll have to watch Berkman’s power and see if it comes back. His career IsoP sits at a fantastic .250, but it was all the way down to .166 in 2010. Can Berkman rediscover his power stroke? I hope so.
Milwaukee Brewers: Yawn. Zack Greinke. This one’s obvious. After a ridiculous 2009 (9.4 fWAR), ZG was worth “only” 5.2 fWAR this year. Slacker. Maybe a move to the NL Central will kick him back up to godly territory.
Houston Astros: Wandy Rodriguez. He just signed a three year extension, dashing any hopes we had of a mid-season trade, but Wandy’s a solid lefty. He’s been worth 7.6 fWAR in the last two years, shining for a relatively paltry Houston staff. His groundball rate has improved each of the last few years, too, so that’s something to keep an eye on; he needs a strong GB% in that park.
Chicago Cubs: Carlos Pena. Pena had an odd year with the stick in 2010. He hit .196 and struck out 32.6% of the times he walked up to the plate, but still had a 14.9% walk rate, a .325 OBP, and a .211 IsoP. Pena’s BABIP dropped from .298 in ’08 to .250 in ’09, to .222 in ’10. That’s horrendously low, but his career BABIP is only .279. And, a low BABIP is bound to happen when you hit that many homers (98), take that many walks (292), and whiff that many times (487) in a three year span. Another newcomer to the NL Central, let’s see if Pena can rediscover his 2007-09 form.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Again, we’re going obvious: Andrew McCutchen. There is no one else worth watching on the Pirates. RAB’s Joe Pawlikowski pointed out something about McCutchen that turned out to be one of my favorite things in 2010. The Pirates, as whole, were worth 2.8 fWAR in 2010. Andrew McCutchen‘s 2010 fWAR? 3.3. Let’s see if he can do it again in 2011. If he can, it’ll be horrendously awesome.