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MLB Scouts Talk Anonymously About NL Central Teams for 2017

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Athlon Sports' 2017 baseball magazine delivers full MLB team previews, fantasy baseball insight, schedules, and predictions for every team. Click here to order your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

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The World Baseball Classic is over and spring training is entering the home stretch, which means the 2017 MLB season is just around the corner. Final cuts will soon be made as teams determine their 25-man rosters before breaking camp in Florida and Arizona.

Once again, Athlon Sports’ 2017 Baseball Preview magazine has all 32 teams covered, including some candid analysis from scouts on the teams and specific players. These scouting reports are just part of the content that can be found in this year’s magazine, which is available on newsstands everywhere and online.

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NL Central

Chicago Cubs

“Really, there are no weaknesses here. What’s so frustrating is that they’re not only the best team, but they’ve got control of young, productive players for a long time. They’re so deep that you’ll see a starter on the bench every day, and Joe Maddon will find a way to keep everyone happy. They’ll miss David Ross in the clubhouse, but Willson Contreras can really hit. Their rotation last year was probably as good as it can be, and with Jake Arrieta in his walk year, you wonder what happens if he gets off to a slow start and it looks like he’s costing himself money. Wade Davis is a little bit of a question mark because of the forearm problem last summer, but if he’s not healthy, they can always go get what they need at the deadline. There are ninth-inning, high-leverage guys available every July, and we know the Cubs will be aggressive.”

Cincinnati Reds

“Joey Votto is a borderline Hall of Famer, a guy who really cares and truly one of the smartest players in baseball. But it’s painful to watch him, too, because he’s so different from the rest of that team, which is very poor. They seem to be making some smarter moves now, but not to the level of some other rebuilding teams. Guys like Dilson Herrera and Jose Peraza have bounced around a little bit, and by no means are they can’t-miss prospects. But they’re young and they have a chance to be above-average major leaguers. Finding out should be the Reds’ priority. Billy Hamilton had a nice second half, and he has two off-the-chart skills — speed, and because of that, defense. If he gets on base enough, he could be part of a blockbuster trade, because there’s no one quite like him.”

Milwaukee Brewers

“They’re not trying to win this year, and I would expect them to be sellers again at the deadline. Orlando Arcia is going to be their shortstop, and he’ll be part of their next good team. But there aren’t a lot of those players on the big-league team now. Adding guys like Travis Shaw and Eric Thames was the right thing to do; it wouldn’t surprise me if these guys are average or above-average big leaguers. Ryan Braun is still a very good offensive player, of course, and he’s OK in left; I expect he’ll be playing for a big-market team at some point. Jonathan Villar overperformed last year, and I think that’s the best we’ll see of him. Junior Guerra and Zach Davies have a chance to be in a rotation for a while, and if they perform well, they’ll look to shop them. I expect them to make Corey Knebel the closer. He’s got big stuff when he’s healthy.”

Pittsburgh Pirates

“I think they’re primed for a bounce-back season. Their pitching fell apart last year, but they could have a really nasty top three if Gerrit Cole is healthy and Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow click behind him. Glasnow’s command isn’t there yet, and he may never have it, but like Taillon, he has really good stuff. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Felipe Rivero is their closer. He has command issues, but that changeup is a real weapon with the fastball at 96 and his slider. Andrew McCutchen was completely lost last year; I don’t know if it was the hand injury or what, but he couldn’t catch up to velocity, and they played him too shallow in center, which backfired. But there’s still a superstar in there, and with Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, they really could have three All-Star outfielders.”

St. Louis Cardinals

“I’m always a little skeptical of a player you could have gotten for half the price a year ago, but they didn’t overpay by too much for Dexter Fowler. He gets on base, he switch-hits, and if he’s below average in center, it’s only by a little. Moving Matt Carpenter to first base is a surprise to me, but it does help sort out the rest of that roster. I like their rotation a lot, even with Adam Wainwright on the decline. He can still be effective, and Carlos Martinez is the real deal. So is Alex Reyes. He might be the best pitching prospect in baseball. They gave Brett Cecil a lot of money as their main lefty in the bullpen, but he’s very good, and so is Seung-hwan Oh. The Cardinals got Oh from South Korea and Aledmys Diaz from Cuba — without a lot of hype — on multiyear deals that are providing a lot of value. There’s a reason they’re still a model organization.”