Know Your Enemy: An early look at the NL Central

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St. Louis Cardinals

Oct 11, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina hits a single against the San Francisco Giants in the 7th inning in game one of the 2014 NLCS playoff baseball game at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals have been the most consistent team in recent history in the entire league. They have appeared in the NLCS for the past four years, winning the World Series in 2011. Last season, they lost in five games to the eventual champion San Francisco Giants. All-Star catcher Yadier Molina was injured in the second game of that series. It was a loss they couldn’t overcome.

Shortly after their season ended, star prospect Oscar Taveras died tragically in a car crash in the Dominican Republic. Taveras was likely going to be the Opening Day starting right fielder for the Cardinals, but they found a replacement quickly by trading pitcher Shelby Miller to the Atlanta Braves for Jason Heyward. The Cards will look to Heyward to make the offense more potent since they were near the bottom of the league in runs per game last season.

The starting rotation remains solid at the top with ace Adam Wainwright. The 33-year-old posted a 2.38 ERA last season and was third in Cy Young voting. The rest of the rotation could be a bit of a wild card though. John Lackey is 36 now and had an ERA near 4 last season and young phenom Michael Wacha spent time on the disabled list last season with a shoulder injury.

Even with the unknown factors going into spring training, it looks like the Cardinals will most likely win the division for their third consecutive season. They have strong leaders in Molina and Wainwright and they find a way to win games every season.

Next: Pittsburgh Pirates