First Place: Chicago Cubs
You may find this odd coming from a site dedicated to fans of the Chicago Cubs, but it is honest at this moment. The Cubs are the odds-on favorite to win the NL Central in 2017.
Last year was about pitching and defense. Best ERA. Lowest opponent’s batting average. Most runs saved. It all worked together. Add some timely hitting, and you get a 103-win season.
It will be near impossible to return to that level in 2017. The top four starters in the rotation are proven players, but they pitched above career averages in many cases. And, while adding Wade Davis and Koji Uehara improve the bullpen, closing the game may be an issue. Davis will be the closer day one, but has been inconsistent this Spring.
The offense will be key. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell showed why they are the best infield in baseball. Losing David Ross means Willson Contreras plays on a near-daily basis. Another youngster, Albert Almora Jr., is playing amazing ball this Spring and is looking to be the next standout player on the team.
But the biggest addition for the team this year comes from the disabled list. Kyle Schwarber. The potential for 40 homers, 100 RBI and 75 runs scored is within the magic wand he calls a bat. The Cubs should put up big numbers this year.
What the experts say:
Bleacher Report: 101-61, first place
ESPN: 98-64, first place
Fangraphs: 94-64, first place
SB Nation: first place
Sports Illustrated: first place
Sporting News: first place
USA Today: 99-63, first place