In an article written by Jayson Stark on ESPN this morning, he ranks the N.L. Central fifth in the six divisions in baseball. From the article:

Everyone we polled ranked this division fifth. But when you look at the projected records, it’s clear there’s an argument it’s better than that.

           Projected division record: 407-403, .502 (3rd)
           Projected record vs. non-division opponents: 217-213, .505 (3rd)
           Projected 90-win teams: one (Reds)
           Projected .500 or better teams: two (Reds, Cardinals)
           Vegas rank: 5th
           Payroll rank: 5th
           Power ranking: 4th (tied with NL West)
           Poll ranking: 5th

Once again, the Astros have left their mark on an entire division. Only this time it’s by leaving it. According to Szymborski, if the Astros were still part of this mix, they would drop the winning percentage of the whole division by an incredible 25 points — to .477, which would be the worst of any division in baseball. But without them, this has the potential to be one of the deepest divisions in the game. In the NL Central’s best-case scenario, you’d find two excellent teams (Reds and Cardinals), two teams hovering around Mount .500 (Brewers and, if you dream the dream just right, the Pirates) and one much-improved team (the Cubs). On the other hand, the Brewers have taken a step back. The Pirates “aren’t in the same stratosphere with the Reds and Cardinals,” said one exec. And the Cubs are a long way from contention. So how good is this division, really? That all hinges on how good the top two teams turn out to be. “Here’s how I look at it,” said one NL executive. “The Reds are the best team in the division. The Cardinals are the best organization in the division, because they’ve got so much depth. … You can flip a coin on who wins the division and which one gets one of the wild cards.”