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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St. Louis Cardinals

Nolan Gorman, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt
St. Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin Berl/GettyImages

Key Additions
- RHP Sonny Gray
- RHP Kyle Gibson
- RHP Andrew Kittredge
- RHP Lance Lynn
- RHP Keynan Middleton
- SS Brandon Crawford
- INF Matt Carpenter

Key Loses
- RHP Adam Wainwright
- OF Tyler O'Neil

The Cardinals, especially after their offseason, have bene categorized as a retirement home, and it isn't hard to see why. They brought in the Twins second ace from last year, Sonny Gray, who finished second in the AL Cy Young race, along with veterans Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn. They brought back fan favorite Matt Carpenter, along with signing long time San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford. Despite having a powerful offense last season, the Cardinals were held back by an extremely weak pitching staff, hence the major pitching free agent signings. It was seeming as if Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol was going to be on the hot seat in 2024, but St. Louis already extended him through the 2026 season. Being brutally honest, especially when compared to the teams that make up the division around them, the Cardinals are a less exciting team.

2022 NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt is ready to anchor this lineup, aided by fellow star Nolan Arenado. The duo will do most of the damage for the Cardinals in 2024, with the duo being two of the strongest offensive threats of the last decade. Willson Contreras and Tommy Edman are two more veterans to aid the St. Louis linuep, with Contreras being a lethal power bat and Edman turning into a defensive wizard over the last couple seasons. Despite a strong veteran presence, the Cardinals lineup will feature some young talent, with Nolan Gorman, Alec Burleson, Jordan Walker, Victor Stoll II, and Masyn Winn all expected to be in the Opening Day lineup. Gorman and Walker have shown a lot of promise over the last year, but need to lock down some consistency, along with Wynn. The Cards have been hit by the injury bug already, as Tommy Edman, Dylan Carlson, and Lars Nootbar all expected to start the season on the IL. I don't have much else to say about the St. Louis lineup, as I expect them to quietly get the job done once again.

As mentioned above, the pitching is where most of the problems existed for the Cardinals last season. Hoping to rid that demon, the Cardinals brough in three starters via free agency, headlined by Sonny Gray. Gray joins the three hitters mentioned above as someone who will start the season on the IL, hurting the Cards pitching already. That leaves Miles Mikolas, Lance Lynn, Steven Matz, and Kyle Gibson to carry the heart of the rotation to start the year. This isn't a hot take, but I have relatively low expectations for all those guys, as none of them blow me away as starting pitchers. Despite a seemingly weak rotation, the bullpen for the Cardinals looks to be strong for the most part, hopefully saving the pitching staff. With the offense getting the job done again, it'll be up to the pitching of the Cardinals to take them to the next level.

Overall, the Cardinals look to be a slightly above average team heading into 2024. While they could easily contend for the division crown, they could also easily falter and watch themselves fall into the lower half of the division and league.

Team MVP: Paul Goldschmidt

Team Cy Young: Sonny Gray

Team X-Factor: Rotation

The Nationals will host St. Louis for a four game set from July 5-8, and travel to the midwest and play at Busch Stadium for three games from July 26-28.

The National League Central will be a fun division in 2024, something that can be said about the division due to the abundance of young talent within it. No powerhouses in the division is leaving the NL Central to be up for grabs in 2024, and I expect the division to be very close as a result of that, with this being how I predict the division to shape up:

1. Chicago Cubs (87-75)
2. Cincinnati Reds (84-78)
3. St. Louis Cardinals (82-80)
4. Milwaukee Brewers (79-83)
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (72-90)