NL Central season preview

The Reds and Brewers will take it down to the wire in this wide-open division

Updated: March 28, 2011, 4:28 PM ET
ESPN The Magazine
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezReigning NL MVP Joey Votto will have the Reds right back in the NL Central mix.

Conventional wisdom says you need strength up the middle. The Brewers hope the CW is wrong. Their catcher (Jonathan Lucroy), shortstop (Yuniesky Betancourt) and centerfielder (Carlos Gomez) have a combined career .671 OPS. Despite that, Milwaukee's addition of righthanders Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum could make this division baseball's only four-team race.

Of course, the Brew Crew will have to topple the Reds (defending division champs), featuring MVP Joey Votto, along with the Cards and Cubs. In St. Louis, ace Adam Wainwright is out for the season (elbow surgery) and Albert Pujols' impending free agency could be a distraction. While the Cubs finally have promising young talent in Tyler Colvin and Andrew Cashner, they still have old, overpaid talent in Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome. The Astros have been teetering on the edge of disaster for years and could finish last for the first time since 1991.

That would mean progress for the Pirates.