NL Central final report card grades

Cardinals Exercise Lackey's Option

College Contributor Network

With the 2014 baseball season in the books, I've been dishing out end of year grades for each division and now, after running the rule over the AL East, AL Central, AL West and NL East, it's the NL Central's turn to face the music.

Chicago Cubs
Grade: D

Yes, you could've not watched baseball all year and correctly predicted that the Cubs came in last in their division. But where you would be wrong is with their potential. For once in almost a decade the Cubbies have a good team with young and healthy talent coming together.

The back end of Chicago's rotation is promising, and they need to work on finding power arms. But yes, I am saying that the pieces are there for Chicago to make some noise next year. Cue Joe Maddon.

Cincinnati Reds
Grade: D+

Coming into the year, the Reds were going to take the NL Central. Zoom ahead six months and Cincinnati was almost dead last. By no means does that drop off warrant a good grade.

Johnny Cueto did have a fantastic year, and he'll be in the Cy Young conversation with Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright, but that's about all the team would do in 2014. I'm sorry Ohio, next year once again.

Milwaukee Brewers
Grade: B-

Potentially the National League version of the Oakland A's, the Brewers came into September with a season-long division lead, and then decided to score 2.65 runs per game to finish the year 82-80. The entire year was spent deciding on whether or not the Brewers were for real.

One more time though, the Cardinals came from behind to steal the division. Milwaukee will go into the 2015 season with much of the same guys, and hope that the solid offensive production can stay consistent for six months instead of five.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Grade: B

The second year of the rebirth of the Pittsburgh Pirates ended in a Wild Card playoff loss to the eventual world champion Giants. The Bucs will definitely be a contender for the NL Central pennant in the 2015 year.

The offensive weapons the team has when healthy are dangerous, but the pitching rotation will need to find a clearly defined ace that can lead the rest of the starters to better performances down the stretch.

St. Louis Cardinals
Grade: A

The fact that the somewhat rebuilding Redbirds even made the playoffs is a win in and of itself. Early on, the dominant 2013 offense disappeared and the team struggled to find runs and teeter-tottered in the division.

Adam Wainwright may have been the only solid rock on the team all-year, but failed to find his groove in the postseason. Younger prospects filled in gaps and, with help from the playoff regular guys, St. Louis lost in six to the eventual World Series Champions.

A tornado of questions surrounds the front office now because so much mid-season player shifting was done to navigate the team to the playoffs. Mike Matheny may be gone, and all of a sudden, the team looks very different than the team that took the field Opening Day of 2013.

Andrew Morris is a sophomore at Syracuse University. People refer to him in the third person and he has an everlasting love for Orange, Major League Baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland A's, Golden State Warriors, and Indianapolis Colts. Follow him on Twitter: @Andrewmo123
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