2024 Division Outlook: NL Central

One league and three divisions down, one league and three more divisions to go. The 2024 MLB Season is right around the corner, and it's time to preview and highlight the five squads that make up the National League Central, a division that looks to be up for grabs in 2024.
St. Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers
St. Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers / John Fisher/GettyImages
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Welcome back to another round of the division preview series, this time heading over to the NL and taking on the National League Central. The National League Central has a lot of young talent, an area where the division shines. The division has no powerhouses, mirroring its American League partner, leaving the division up for grabs. This makes it a competitive division in a unique manner, as I honestly could see three different teams making a bid for the crown, with all five being closer than you may think. With all that being said, let's dive into the five teams that make up the National League Central.

Chicago Cubs

Cody Bellinger, Dansby Swanson, Justin Steele, Nick Madrigal
Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Key Additions
- Manager Craig Counsell
- OF/1B Cody Bellinger
- LHP Shota Imanaga
- RHP Hector Neris
- RHP Yency Almonte
- INF Michael Busch

Key Loses
- RHP Marcus Stroman
- 3B/1B Jeimer Candelario

The Chicago Cubs are in a prime position to take home their first division crown since 2020, and I believe they will do exactly that. The Cubs seemed to be a lock to make the postseason last year, but a dreadful end of season collapse led to their playoff hopes disappearing before them. After a strong offseason that saw them retain Cody Bellinger and bring in star NPB southpaw Shota Imanaga and rival manager Craig Counsell, the Cubs need to capitalize on a somewhat weak division with no notable powerhouses. After serving as the manager for the Milwaukee Brewers from 2015-2023, Craig Counsell is ready for a new challenge with the Cubs, after signing a record breaking manager deal.

The Cubs lineup isn't one that will make headlines or be the strongest in the game, but is comprised of contributors throughout, establishing itself as a more under the radar offense. Counsell's lineup will be headlined by former NL MVP Cody Bellinger, who reaped the benefits of a resurgent 2023 season, posting a 134 wRC+ and 4.0 fWAR. Fellow free agent signings Seiya Suzuki and Dansby Swanson join Bellinger to assemble the core of the Cubs' lineup. Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ are two underrated hitters that always get the job done, and Christopher Morel is expected to flourish after a breakout power season last year. Michael Busch, the former Dodgers' top prospect, was acquired this offseason and can easily become an underrated pickup by Jed Hoyer. Veterans like Garrett Cooper, Mike Tauchman, Yan Gomes, and Patrick Wisdom complete the Cubs offensive attack.

In my opinion, pitching is where the Cubs could fall short, as I'm not too impressed by their 2024 rotation. Justin Steele broke out in a big way last year, finishing fifth in the NL Cy Young race, and will lead the Cubs rotation this year. Behind him will be two more southpaws in Jordan Wicks and Shota Imanaga, along with veterans Kyle Hendricks and Jameson Taillon. With Taillon slated to begin the season on the IL, Javier Assad will have his name called upon to start the season as the Cubs fifth starter. Their bullpen will be serviceable, as free agent signing Hector Neris will help improve the unit from their shaky season last year. Like I said earlier, I'm not too high on the Cubs staff as a unit. Regardless, I have them winning the division this year, as I still believe enough in this team as a whole, and you can never count Craig Counsell out when it comes to finding the postseason.

Team MVP: Cody Bellinger

Team Cy Young: Justin Steele

Team X-Factor: The starting rotation

The Nationals will host the Cubs for three games from August 30-September 1, and visit historic Wrigley Field for four games from September 19-22.