Every season Major League Baseball has new players that emerge as x-factors for their teams. This article will examine the potential x-factors for the NL Central.
CHICAGO CUBS X-FACTOR: CODY BELLINGER
To say that Cody Bellinger has struggled the past few seasons would be a massive understatement. Bellinger is a former MVP in the National League. And when the Dodgers designated Cody, the baseball world knew someone would take a chance. Bellinger was injured during the 2020 World Series and hasn’t been the same. However, Bellinger is finally healthy and should bounce back to that MVP form. A healthy Cody Bellinger could be an impactful difference-maker in Chicago. Thus Cody Bellinger is the Chicago Cubs’ x-factor.
CINCINNATI REDS X-FACTOR: JONATHAN INDIA
There won’t be much in the way of positives in Cincinnati in 2023. One thing that will be a potential plus will be the further development of Jonathan India. India is a former rookie of the year and has the potential to be an essential piece to a competitive Reds team. 2023 likely won’t be the window of competition for the Reds. But for Cincinnati, improvement will come in the form of their x-factor, Jonathan India.
MILWAUKEE BREWERS X-FACTOR: JESSE WINKER
The Milwaukee Brewers have had a curious off-season. Milwaukee would trade away Kolten Wong in favor of Jesse Winker. Both players didn’t have the greatest campaigns in 2022. However, the Brewers are banking on a bounce-back season from Winker. Jesse Winker has all the ability to be a prominent force in Milwaukee’s lineup. As the Brewers’ x-factor, Winker will be the player most directly responsible for the direction of the Brew Crew. The top half of the NL Central will be competitive with the Brewers, Cardinals, and Cubs. And for the Brewers to be successful, Winker must get back to the form from a couple of seasons ago when he produced an OPS+ of 143.
PITTSBURGH PIRATES X-FACTOR: BRYAN REYNOLDS
Bryan Reynolds’s trade talk had dominated this offseason for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Thus Reynolds becomes the x-factor for the Pirates. When Reynolds requested a trade, the Pirates front office reaffirmed their desire to keep him and build a winning team around him. While many in the baseball community doubt that idea, trading Reynolds is the most critical and franchise-impacting decision of the offseason. And it’s for that reason that Bryan Reynolds is the Pittsburgh Pirates’ x-factor.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS X-FACTOR: WILLSON CONTRERAS
One of the most challenging things in sports is replacing a legend. And that is the task that Willson Contreras is about to undertake with the St. Louis Cardinals. Contreras is set to replace Yadier Molina. For the Cardinals, Contreras will provide another plus bat for their lineup. Something they could have used during the 2022 Wildcard series against the Phillies. Willson Contreras was the best catcher on the free agent market, and the Cards capitalized on their vacancy. How Willson responds to the pressure of replacing Yadi will contribute to naming Willson Contreras as the Cardinals’ x-factor.