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With Nolan Arenado traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, the National League Central player rankings shift a bit. Or depending on whom you ask, the eight-time Gold Glover just might slide everyone else down.
7. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
Rizzo was lights out from 2013-2019, and then COVID hit. We have to remember that the Cubs’ All-Star first baseman battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 18 and likely had more on his mind than baseball.
Combine the distractions of COVID and the short season, and you have the perfect storm for a down year. But now that baseball expects fans to return and it seems life is sorta coming back to normal, “normal” Rizzo probably returns too.
Anthony Rizzo just sent this baseball to another planet pic.twitter.com/JbhoxyxwvO— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) March 3, 2021
6. Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers
I really don’t like having a player on my list who opted out last season, but Cain is too important to the success of the Milwaukee Brewers to leave him off. He’s penciled in at lead-off everyday and plays an electric centerfield that offered that team stability for three straight seasons.
Whether he’s rusty after missing last season or not, Lorenzo Cain is still young enough to produce. The 34-year-old centerfielder also gets a lot better now that the Brewers signed Gold Glove outfield Jackie Bradley Jr. to a two-year, $24 million deal this offseason. Expect Cain to focus on helping fellow outfielder Christian Yelich bounce back after a lackluster 2020.
5. Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs
He had a down year with the bat, but is still one of the best defensive catchers in the sport. Much like his division rival Yadier Molina, his bat is merely a bonus. What makes Contreras so compelling is that he can carry the Cubs for a month at a time.
Last year, Cubs’ shortstop Jay Baez couldn’t hit water if he fell out a boat, so Contreras picked up the slack for a couple months until the team eventually succumbed to injuries.
He’s prime time talent that may be lost to the market in the coming years.
Willson Contreras hits a 3 run dinger in the 9th to tie it 😳😳 pic.twitter.com/SpGQqYbTkR— Kent (@RealKentMurphy) April 3, 2017
4. Javy Baez, Chicago Cubs
I know I just said Baez pretty much disappeared last year, but I have an excuse for him. Baez quite literally needs the fans at the park, as anyone who has watched him can see. Without fans, he struggled to play with the usual flavor and excitement that rubbed off on his results.
But now that fans are expected to be back, out will come the 2019 Javy Baez we all remember.
Javy Baez as a lefty. pic.twitter.com/EDJAufWnNu— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) March 8, 2021
3. Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals
Goldy didn’t care whether there were fans or ads for the Kia Soul in the stands. The guy rakes, and he’s a vacuum at first base. And this may sound unfair, but the acquisition of superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado makes Goldschmidt’s job practically a cake walk. Same is true when Arenado slots third in that lineup on Opening Day.
If Paul Goldschmidt is the starting first baseman at the All-Star Game, I wouldn’t be shocked at all. Gotta chance to pick up Goldy in Fantasy Baseball? Do it yesterday.
FOR A FIFTH STRAIGHT GAME!!!— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) July 27, 2019
Paul Goldschmidt is the hottest hitter on the planet!
2. Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
When he’s on, he’s a top three baseball player in the world. Last year, he couldn’t get his bat on track, but with Cain back in the fold, Yelich should be in the conversation for MVP by July.
He’s a threat to steal 40 bases every year and is actually underrated defensively. It doesn’t hurt that his bounce back season attempt takes place in the absolute boom box that is American Family Field in Milwaukee. Balls fly in there like a Jada Pinkett-Smith vacation.
1. Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals
The No. 1 here is also the second on this division list to have been dealt in the past year. What Nolan Arenado brings to the Cardinals is impossible to put into words until Opening Day.
No one cared about him during his eight years in Colorado because he was raking at “Coors Field” where baseballs go to leave the stadium. Fortunately for the Cardinals, Arenado didn’t struggle on the road the way other great Rockies players did.
Nolan Arenado’s 1st hit as a Cardinal! pic.twitter.com/tZiaL2OUY8— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) March 2, 2021
I’m just going to put this out there now: Nolan Arenado, barring injury, is winning the National League MVP.