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NL Central Watch: 8 Opposing Hitters the Cubs Must Beware Of in 2022

Highlighting eight hitters around the division that Cubs pitchers might want to be careful with.

Chicago Cubs NL Central Opponents Top Hitters

There have been several changes to the NL Central rosters since last season. From offseason trades to free-agent signings, the division has several new faces. With Opening Day just one week away, here are eight offensive threats in the NL Central that Chicago Cubs pitchers must beware of in 2022.

Mike Moustakas, Reds 3B/2B

Mike Moustakas hasn’t been healthy for a full season since 2019, but don’t let that fool you. When healthy, he’s a dangerous left-handed bat in any lineup.

Take 2019 for example. Moustakas played in 143 games, smashing 35 home runs with 87 RBIs and a slash line of .254/.329/.516. With Cincinnati possibly looking to trade away some of their larger contracts by the trade deadline, look for Moose to be motivated to show off. In ballparks like Great American and Wrigley Field, a healthy and motivated Moustakas can make those places look like little league fields.

Hunter Renfroe, Brewers OF

Hunter Renfroe was arguably one of the Boston Red Sox’s most valuable players last season. Renfroe has always been regarded as a very solid defensive player, but he broke out last year with 31 home runs, 96 RBIs, and an .816 OPS in 144 games. That’s a great season anywhere, but to do it in Boston is special.

Moving over to a hitter-friendly park like Milwaukee’s, don’t be surprised if Renfroe puts up similar numbers.

Tommy Edman, Cardinals 2B/OF

I feel like a lot of opposing pitchers would describe Tommy Edman, offensively, as “annoying.”

In 2021, Edman led the National League in at-bats (641) and was second in plate appearances (691), second in doubles (41), second in stolen bases (30), and top-10 in hits (168). Oh yea, those numbers all came while playing in 159 games last year.

It’s simple, Edman annoys pitchers. Don’t be surprised if the switch-hitter posts similar numbers this season as well. With his speed, and ability to put the ball in play and run the bases, Edman will be a threat to the Cubs for many years to come, unfortunately.

Bryan Reynolds, Pirates OF

No, the Pittsburgh Pirates probably will not win the World Series in 2022. In fact, they probably won’t win 60 games. But one thing is extremely likely: Bryan Reynolds will be one of the most consistent hitters in the league.

Reynolds entered the league in 2019 and didn’t seem to have a problem hitting the ball. In his rookie season, he posted a slash line of .314/.377/.503 in 134 games and finished top-five in National League Rookie of the Year voting. 2020 wasn’t too kind for him, but he rebounded in 2021 with 24 home runs, 90 RBIs, a .912 OPS, and an All-Star appearance.

Against the Cubs so far in his short career, he’s posted a .261 batting average with four home runs, 16 RBIs, and 12 walks. With trade rumors floating around Reynolds since last season, it could be enough motivation for him to have another very productive season and look for a trade out of Pittsburgh.

Joey Votto, Reds 1B

Yes, this is an easy one, but how can you have a list like this and not include Joey Votto? I’m sure a lot of fans are probably saying, “Oh but Joey Votto is old now, his MVP season was over 10 years ago.” To that, I say age is just a number to Votto.

In 2021, Votto posted MVP-like numbers: 36 home runs, 99 RBIs, .938 OPS (one point higher than his career average). Let’s also not forget about his seven-game home run streak in 2021, which included a few stops at Wrigley Field. As far as facing the Cubs in his career, let’s just say he’s enjoyed the company. In 940 plate appearances against Chicago, he owns a slash line of .312/.418/.575, with 46 home runs, 140 RBIs, and 140 walks.

Say whatever you want about his age; I don’t want to see Votto at the plate if I’m a Cubs pitcher. Like Moustakas, who knows, maybe he’s another Reds’ candidate to move at the trade deadline? Until then, Votto will always be a threat to the Cubs, even if he plays until he’s 50.

Willy Adames, Brewers SS

Willy Adames wasn’t a bad player in Tampa Bay, but once he was traded to Milwaukee, he was a completely different player. In 99 games with the Brewers last year, he hit 20 home runs with 58 RBIs and posted a slash line of .285/.366/.521.

Against the Cubs last season, he wasn’t an easy out. In 28 at-bats against Chicago, he had a .321 batting average, three home runs, 10 RBI, and a 1.103 OPS. If Adames can produce anywhere close to his 2021 production level, Cubs pitchers will certainly need to be careful with him.

Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals 1B

Paul Goldschmidt is another NL Central first baseman that I dread seeing in the batter’s box as a Cubs fan. If you’re a gambler, you can hit the lock on Goldschmidt hitting 30 home runs and 90 RBIs every season.

For his career against the Cubs, like Votto, he’s enjoyed the matchup. In 91 games against Chicago, the first baseman has 103 hits with 22 home runs, 62 RBIs, and a .997 OPS. Don’t be misled by the “well he’s a first baseman so he must be a slow runner” theory with Goldschmidt. Among active players in the league, he ranks in top-20 in stolen bases (140) and top-10 in power/speed (186.7).

Goldschmidt has been a consistent hitter his entire career, and I would not be surprised if he continues that trend in 2022.

Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pirates 3B    

If there’s one impactful player on the Pirates that most baseball fans have not heard of yet, it’s Ke’Bryan Hayes.

Hayes came into the league in 2020 and did not disappoint. In just 24 games with Pittsburgh, the third baseman had 32 hits, including 14 extra-base hits, with a video game-like slash line of .376/.442/.682. 2021 wasn’t too great for Hayes, but that was largely due to a nagging wrist injury that left him on the injured list for two months.

In his short career so far against the Cubs, he owns a .969 OPS in 37 plate appearances. If Hayes can stay healthy this season, don’t be surprised if 2022 is a coming-out party for the Pirates’ slugging third baseman.

Honorable Mentions

Andrew McCutchen (Brewers OF)

Jonathan India (Reds 2B)

Harrison Bader (Cardinals OF)

Yoshi Tsutsugo (Pirates OF/1B/3B)

RELATED: Drew Smyly to Begin Season in Cubs’ Starting Rotation

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