NL Central Preview: Starting Pitcher #5

After a brief hiatus (thank you midterms), I’m back at the blog. Spring Training has begun and the pressure is on to get this preview done, but I think it has been pretty representative. So as we near an end, with just this one and the closer remaining, I think this little experiment has been quite the success.

Starting pitcher #5. For the Cardinals, this has changed with the recent injury to Adam Wainwright. However, I’m going to continue as I had them ranked originally and end up subtracting points for Wainwright’s injury. That doesn’t help the Cardinals who are already losing pace to the front running Milwaukee.

6. Kevin Correia, Pittsburgh (5.40, 10-10 in 26 starts)
Correia is expected to show up in a very weak Pirates rotation. There are some bright spots, but for the most part there is no clear pitching roles in their rotation. Just a whole bunch of average pitching. Correia has put up a handful of good seasons in the major leagues already in his career, but can he bring that to the Pirates?

5. Kyle Lohse, St. Louis (6.55, 4-8 in 18 starts)
The oft-injured Lohse is once again in a role where he will be heavily depended on by the Cardinals team. It was Lohse that, in 2008, pitched his way into his current four year contract in the absence of Cardinals’ ace Chris Carpenter. He will be asked to repeat that performance as the Cardinals have said good bye to their current ace Adam Wainwright. Ultimately, the season will hinge on Lohse and the new fifth starter’s performance.

4. Nelson Figueroa, Houston (3.22, 5-3 in 10 starts)
He is far from a prospect, but for Houston, Nelson Figueroa can be a stop gap until some younger talent gets ready to show up. It’s a tough spot for the Astros who have a solid 1-2-3 punch in their rotation, but very little behind it both in the 4-5 spots in the rotation and in the lineup. Figueroa came over from Philadelphia in the Roy Oswalt trade and continued to put up numbers that made 2010 his best career year in the majors. Look for him to get his shot to repeat that effort in 2011. 

3. Chris Narveson, Milwaukee (4.99, 12-9 in 28 starts)
The former Cardinals’ farm hand was brought back by the Brewers rather than bringing back their former ace Chris Capuano who was coming off of injury. After a successful 2009, pitching mostly out of the bullpen, Narveson regressed while given the opportunity to start regularly. If he improves a bit he will make a solid #5 at the tail end of the Milwaukee rotation behind the excellent front four.

2. Travis Wood, Cincinnati (3.51, 5-4 in 17 starts)
Travis Wood took a spot in the rotation mid-season and held on to it, pitching very well. In fact, in his third career game, Wood took a perfect game bid into the ninth inning against the Phillies. He would leave that game after 9 innings of 1-hit ball with the team losing 1-0 in extra innings. Cincinnati is in a great position though with their rotation. In addition to Wood, they have Aroldis Chapman and Mike Leake sitting there looking for an opportunity in the rotation as well.

1. Randy Wells, Chicago (4.26, 8-14 in 32 starts)
Wells should be the Cubs’ fifth starter. His win-loss record left quite a bit to be desired, but his ERA is solid and a second season in the rotation should help him improve. Last season he was the first Cubs rookie pitcher to win 7 games since Kerry Wood did it in 1998. For the Cubs, they need to take a good look at their young talent and that means letting Wells have his shot at the 5th starter’s role.

The points with one final position left to preview:

Milwaukee — 59 pts
St. Louis — 54 pts
Cincinnati — 51 pts
Chicago — 47 pts
Houston — 32 pts
Pittsburgh — 30 pts

Milwaukee looks to be stretching their lead in the division, leaving second-place up to a battle between St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Chicago.