The Central Divisions in Baseball have been the most open in the last few seasons. In the American League Central, the last four seasons have seen three different division winners; the only team to repeat are the Minnesota Twins in 2019 and 2020. The National League Central has had a similar fate as the St. Louis Cardinals are the only repeating winner in both 2019 and 2022.
Both of these divisions are prime for the taking year after year. Will some of the early narratives carry on through the season? Only time will tell.
3 Buy or Sell Questions for the Central Divisions in MLB
Buy or Sell: The White Sox will finish in 4th place.
The Chicago White Sox are in a fascinating position. They are coming off of a .500 season and didn’t really add a lot this past offseason. Despite that, they are still in a very winnable division, but their core seems never healthy.
Eloy Jiménez, for instance, has only played in over 100 games once in his career. In the COVID-shortened season, he did play in 55 of 60 games. He was supposed to be a centerpiece of this lineup for years. Luis Robert Jr. has also battled injuries in his young career and has never played in more than 98 games. It’s hard to gain any momentum when young stars can’t be on the field constantly.
The pitching of the South Side squad has also become very okay over the years. The White Sox never replaced Carlos Rendon, who left the White Sox in free agency. Last year, the Sox pitching staff, outside of Dylan Cease, was below average. The next lowest ERA on the staff was Johnny Cueto, with an ERA of 3.35. So far in the young season, the White Sox pitching has been a mixed bag, but there is a lot of season left, so maybe things turn on the mound for them.
The biggest thing going for White Sox is that the division isn’t the toughest in the Major Leagues. The Twins and Guardians are in the mix, but with three wild card spots, it is possible the White Sox will get into the Postseason. There is a lot of time left for changes to be made across the board, hopefully in that the teams get healthy and they find some pitching.
Buy or Sell: The Pittsburgh Pirates are for real.
A fun team with a lot of raw potential are what the Pittsburgh Pirates have, and, in the first month of the season, they are on fire. As of writing this, the Pirates have a run differential of +24 which is tied for sixth in all of baseball. Run differential is an interesting stat that shows what a team’s record should be, and the higher the positive, the better.
The team ahead of them most are World Series contenders. The leaders in that category are the Tampa Bay Rays, with a run differential of +88, to put that into perspective.
The team’s young talent has all seemed to peak at the right time. There is a lot of good talent, all led by the newly-re-signed Bryan Reynolds, who just signed an eight-year, $106 million deal to stay in Pittsburgh. Not to mention the likes of Ke’Bryan Hayes, and Oneil Cruz. Unfortunately, Cruz got hurt and will miss a lot with a broken ankle. None of that seems to slow down their momentum this year. It does come down to what happens as the pitchers and teams adjust, but it looks promising.
Reynolds has been a force for the past few seasons. He shows zero signs of slowing down, too. That and the mix of vets and young talent could be the new up-and-coming team in the NL Central for years to come. It might not be this year, but I see a strong Pittsburgh team on the horizon in the next couple of years.
READ MORE: Buy or Sell, East Divisions
Buy or Sell: The Chicago Cubs are Playoff Contenders
I never fully understand the Chicago Cubs and the moves they make. They went out and signed Dansby Swanson and Jameson Tallion, re-signed Ian Happ to an extension, and are just playing good ball overall. Going into the spring and the season, the Cubs weren’t given much thought in the division. So far, all the nay-sayers have been proven wrong.
Something interesting was how the Cubs went out and got guys that could yield some good results in a trade or an entire season. Cody Bellinger was non-tendered by the Dodgers this past off-season. Something was almost seen as impossible a few seasons ago. However, Bellinger is doing well to start this season, grated it has only been four weeks.
The part that could get something is how he and the Cubs do as the deadline approaches. If the Cubs are out of it a trade could get some prospects back, or they are in contention for a playoff run. It’s a win-win, really, for the Cubs.
The flip side is how the other teams, mainly the Cardinals, are playing, and that’s not well. The season is incredibly long, and this could change on a dime. As of now, the Cubs are doing well. Maybe people were wrong, and the Cubs will be in the mix all year. At this point in the year, it’s fun to be hopeful and enjoy the ride.
Verdict: Sell (Barely)
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