Spring Training Update: NL Central

Athlon's Charlie Miller goes around the NL as the regular season approaches.

Athlon's Charlie Miller goes around the NL as the regular season approaches.

-by Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

As the regular season approaches, Athlon will go around the majors with updates from every division. Today, we focus on the NL Central.

Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are as healthy coming out of spring training as they have been in a few years…Andrew Cashner has been given a spot in the rotation. He was okay in the spring, but veteran Carlos Silva was horrendous leaving the door open for Cashner. Silva has been released with $13.5 million left on his contract…Jeff Baker hit .395 in 38 at-bats this spring. Blake DeWitt suffered through a .163 average in 43 spring at-bats. Looks like the second base question answered itself…Starlin Castro hit three home runs in 125 games with the Cubs last season. This spring the shortstop leads the team with four round trippers and 12 RBIs.

Cincinnati Reds
Under-the-radar prospects Devin Mesoraco and Dave Sappelt impressed the reds this spring, although neither really had a chance to make the team. Sappelt has pregressed quickly in the minors moving from A to AAA last season with an 89-game stop at AA where he hit .362. The speedy outfielder will be in the majors at some point with some role by the end of the season. He was 17-for-32 (.532) in the spring. Mesoraco got more at-bats than any other catcher, and the 2007 first round pick appears to be the catcher of the future, probably 2012.

Houston Astros
The theme of the Astros’ camp this spring has been injuries. Starting catcher Jason Castro tore his ACL and will miss most, if not all of the season. Starting shortstop Clint Barmes, a key acquisition in the offseason, broke his hand and will miss at least the first month…Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles both had strong springs in Castros’ absence…The Astros believe that young first baseman Brett Wallace has turned a corner and is poised for a strong breakout season.

Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have three starting pitchers who started on Opening Day in 2010. Zack Greinke will start the season on the DL, but Yovani Gallardo and Shaun Marcum will be a solid 1-2 until Greinke returns…Corey Hart is nursing a strained rib cage muscle and will miss at least a series to begin the season. The Brewers recently acquired Nyjer Morgan from Washington for outfield depth.

Pittsburgh Pirates
For a team that has suffered through a record 18 straight losing seasons, including a 105-loss season in 2010, the lineup and rotation are pretty set — for better or worse…Catcher Chris Snyder will begin the season on the DL with a back injury. Veteran Ryan Doumit will play in his place. The Pirates will try to trade Doumit when Snyder returns…Kevin Correia could be a huge boost to manager Clint Hurdle’s staff…The back end of the bullpen is in the capable hands of Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek.

St. Louis Cardinals
After tossing 9.1 scoreless innings and allowing just one hit in the spring, Fernando Salas was optioned to the minors. He’ll be back…Kyle McClellan has had a strong spring and the Cardinals are confidant he’ll be a capable fifth starter…Kyle Lohse has looked good as well. On the other hand, Jake Westbrook, who had pitched well, got blown up in his most recent outing against the Marlins…Jaime Garcia, who has yielded 23 hits in just 13 innings is beginning to concern manager Tony La Russa…Youngster Matt Carpenter was hitting .340 when he was sent out to minor league camp, giving the confidence he can be an everyday major leaguer in the near future.

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<p> Athlon updates all the action in the heated NL Central division.</p>

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