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Chicago Cubs facing a 'year of reckoning' in 2019

Chicago Cubs facing a 'year of reckoning' in 2019
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon looks on during an exhibition game against the Kansas City Royals on March 6. (Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

A look at every team in the National League Central and their 2019 predicted order of finish.

1. CHICAGO CUBS

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2018 | 95-68, 2nd in Central

Last year in playoffs | 2016

The lovable, feel-good Cubs descended into a gloomy spring as they welcomed back shortstop Addison Russell from a suspension for violating the sport’s domestic violence policy. Manager Joe Maddon does not have a contract beyond 2019. The team won 95 games in 2018 but lost in the wild-card game. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein called this a “year of reckoning” for a reason.

2019 Chicago Cubs

Projected batting order

Player Position
Player1. Ben Zobrist PositionSecond base
Player2. Kris Bryant PositionThird base
Player3. Anthony Rizzo PositionFirst base
Player4. Javier Baez PositionShortstop
Player5. Kyle Schwarber PositionLeft field
Player6. Willson Contreras PositionCatcher
Player7. Jason Heyward PositionRight field
Player8. Ian Happ PositionCenter field

Pitching

Starting rotation Throws
Starting rotationJon Lester ThrowsLeft-handed
Starting rotationKyle Hendricks ThrowsRight-handed
Starting rotationJose Quintana ThrowsLeft-handed
Starting rotationCole Hamels ThrowsLeft-handed
Starting rotationYu Darvish ThrowsRight-handed
Starting rotationCloser Throws
Starting rotationPedro Strop ThrowsRight-handed
Starting rotationSetup Throws
Starting rotationCarl Edwards, Jr. ThrowsRight-handed

2. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

2018 | 88-74, 3rd in Central

Last year in playoffs | 2015

After missing the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, the Cardinals made perhaps the most significant addition for the 2019 season, trading for former Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. He will join a lineup that already featured all-star infielder Matt Carpenter, and aid the defense behind talented young pitchers such as Jack Flaherty and John Gant. The Cardinals moved to extend staff ace Miles Mikolas this spring. They may aim to do something similar with Goldschmidt as the summer progresses.

2019 St. Louis Cardinals

Projected batting order

Player Position
Player1. Matt Carpenter PositionThird base
Player2. Paul DeJong PositionShortstop
Player3. Paul Goldschmidt PositionFirst base
Player4. Marcell Ozuna PositionLeft field
Player5. Dexter Fowler PositionRight field
Player6. Yadier Molina PositionCatcher
Player7. Kolten Wong PositionSecond base
Player8. Harrison Bader PositionCenter field

Pitching

Pitching rotation Throws
Pitching rotationMiles Mikolas ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationJack Flaherty ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationAdam Wainwright ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationMichael Wacha ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationJohn Gant ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationCloser Throws
Pitching rotationJordan Hicks ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationSetup Throws
Pitching rotationAndrew Miller ThrowsLeft-handed

3. MILWAUKEE BREWERS

2018 | 96-67, 1st in Central

Last year in playoffs | 2018

The Brewers used an unorthodox strategy in 2018, often abandoning the concept of starting pitchers en route to a berth in the National League Championship Series. The offense was powered by National League MVP Christian Yelich. The team remains intact for 2019, with the addition of former Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal.

2019 Milwaukee Brewers

Projected batting order

Player Position
Player1. Lorenzo Cain PositionCenter field
Player2. Christian Yelich PositionRight field
Player3. Jesus Aguilar PositionFirst base
Player4. Travis Shaw PositionThird base
Player5. Ryan Braun PositionLeft field
Player6. Mike Moustakas PositionSecond base
Player7. Yasmani Grandal PositionCatcher
Player8. Orlando Arcia PositionShortstop

Pitching

Pitching rotation Throws
Pitching rotationJhoulys Chacin ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationChase Anderson ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationZach Davies ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationCorbin Burnes ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationFreddy Peralta ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationCloser Throws
Pitching rotationCorey Knebel ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationSetup Throws
Pitching rotationJosh Hader ThrowsLeft-handed

4. CINCINNATI REDS

2018 | 67-95, 5th in Central

Last year in playoffs | 2013

The Reds zagged this winter, loading up on players entering free agency by acquiring outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp and pitcher Alex Wood from the Dodgers. The addition of Puig should bolster a lineup that already featured a strong core of first baseman Joey Votto, third baseman Eugenio Suarez and second baseman Scooter Gennett. And Wood will improve a rotation that also added Sonny Gray as the Reds aim to be competitive in 2019.

2019 Cincinnati Reds

Projected batting order

Player Position
Player1. Jesse Winker PositionLeft field
Player2. Joey Votto PositionFirst base
Player3. Eugenio Suarez PositionThird base
Player4. Scooter Gennett PositionSecond base
Player5. Yasiel Puig PositionRight field
Player6. Scott Schebler PositionCenter field
Player7. Jose Peraza PositionShortstop
Player8. Tucker Barnhart PositionCatcher

Pitching

Pitching rotation Throws
Pitching rotationLuis Castillo ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationSonny Gray ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationAlex Wood ThrowsLeft-handed
Pitching rotationTanner Roark ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationAnthony DeScialfani ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationCloser Throws
Pitching rotationRaisel Iglesias ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationSetup Throws
Pitching rotationJared Hughes ThrowsRight-handed

5. PITTSBURGH PIRATES

2018 | 82-79, 4th in Central

Last year in playoffs | 2015

You think your team didn’t do much this winter? They probably did more than the Pirates. After making a surprising trade for pitcher Chris Archer last summer, Pittsburgh did not make major augmentations to its core for 2019. The Pirates will be competitive, but likely under-armed in the National League Central.

2019 Pittsburgh Pirates

Projected batting order

Player Position
Player1. Adam Frazier PositionSecond base
Player2. Starling Marte PositionCenter field
Player3. Corey Dickerson PositionLeft field
Player4. Francisco Cervelli PositionCatcher
Player5. Colin Moran PositionThird base
Player6. Josh Bell PositionFirst base
Player7. Lonnie Chisenhall PositionRight field
Player8. Erik Gonzalez PositionShortstop

Pitching

Pitching rotation Throws
Pitching rotationJameson Taillon ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationTrevor Williams ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationJoe Musgrove ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationChris Archer ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationJordan Lyles ThrowsRight-handed
Pitching rotationCloser Throws
Pitching rotationFelipe Vazquez ThrowsLeft-handed
Pitching rotationSetup Throws
Pitching rotationKeone Kela ThrowsRight-handed
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