The NL Central has long held the distinction of hosting some of the game’s greatest sluggers.
Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire held court before the arrivals of Adam Dunn, Carlos Lee and Derrek Lee.
But with the decisions of Albert Pujols & Prince Fielder to sign lucrative free agent contracts in L.A. and Detroit, respectively, the question arises as to which player takes over the crown as the NL Central’s greatest slugger?
Here’s how I see it:
1.) Ryan Braun – Suspension withstanding, Braun’s MVP season in 2011 earns him top honors. He welds enormous power, gets on base and drives in runs like clockwork. (.332, 33 HR, 111 RBI)
2.) Joey Votto – The former NL MVP is on the heels of the current one. And should Braun’s 50-game ban stand, Votto takes the top spot by default in 2012. (.309, 29 HR, 103 RBI)
3.) Lance Berkman – The Big Puma, at 36-years young, showed enough pop last season to make third on the list. He carried the Cards in a big way down the stretch helping pull-off one of the biggest regular–and postseason–comebacks in MLB history. (.301, 31 HR, 94 RBI)
4.) Jay Bruce – The Reds’ youngster had a breakout campaign in 2011. Other than an enormous amount of strikeouts (158), Bruce has all the makings of becoming one of the division’s brightest stars and best bats. (.256, 32 HR, 97 RBI)
5.) Aramis Ramirez – Age and injuries have considerably slowed down the premier clutch hitter. At 33, however, he should be far from washed up. If healthy, it’s possible Ramirez could post another big year of 30-plus HR, 100-plus RBI and an above .300 average. But health is a very big ‘if’ factor.