According to most online sportsbooks, the National League Central race will be a three-team affair this year between the defending division champion Milwaukee Brewers, the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds.
The other three NL Central Division teams seem destined for also-ran status.
In a somewhat surprising development Cincinnati is listed as a +125 favorite at 5Dimes on the NL Central odds menu this season. Cincy won the Central two years ago, but then stumbled to 79-83 last year.
This off-season the Reds added former Padre Mat Latos to an already decent rotation, but they got some bad news when new closer Ryan Madson was declared out for the season with a bad elbow.
St. Louis is the second favorite at 5Dimes to win the Central at +215. The Cardinals rallied late last year to make the playoffs, then survived a couple near-death experiences and won the World Series.
But the Cards suffered more significant losses over the off-season that almost any seball, as Albert Pujols bolted for LaLa Land, Manager LaRussa retired and pitching coach Duncan took a leave of absence.
And as they welcomed back SP Adam Wainwright this spring, they lost fellow starter Chris Carpenter to a shoulder injury.
Milwaukee stands as the third choice at 5Dimes to win this division this year at +220. But the Brew Crew also took a big hit this off-season when slugger Prince Fielder left for the greener (and more profitable) pastures of Detroit.
Milwaukee still fields a nice starting rotation and a solid bullpen, and they got great news when NL MVP Ryan Braun's suspension was rescinded. They also think they replaced some of Fielder's production when they signed former Cub Aramis Ramirez.
Rounding out the NL Central odds board are the Chicago Cubs, now under the tutelage of former Boston World Series architect Theo Epstein, are getting +1450; The Pittsburgh Pirates, who showed more promise last year than they had in many a moon, are listed at +1,900; and the Houston Astros, after losing 106 games last year, losses, are lined at +7,500 to win the Central in their National League swan song season.