All-decade teams: Picking the ultimate roster for each NL Central franchise
Over the next week, theScore's MLB editors will roll out a series that assembles the best roster for every franchise during the 2010s.
These rosters include eight position players, five starters, two relievers, and a closer. All WAR statistics in tables are only for the player with that franchise since the 2010 campaign, and only performances since that year were considered when building rosters. Players must have spent a minimum of one full season with their club.
We continue with the National League Central:
|2B||Rickie Weeks Jr.||11.8|
After the Brewers' 2011 squad - fueled by an MVP season from Braun and a monster campaign from Fielder - lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, Milwaukee went six straight seasons without a playoff appearance. That was until Yelich arrived on the scene. Yelich was the NL MVP in 2018 during his first season with the Brewers, who nearly reached the World Series that year. The 28-year-old might have taken home the honor this past season too if it hadn't been for an unfortunate late-season injury.
Greinke's season-and-a-half in Milwaukee left fond memories for fans of the Brew Crew, but Hader has been a standout for the franchise since his big-league debut. Since 2017, Felipe Vazquez is the only reliever worth more WAR than Hader, whose K/9 is just slightly lower than that of relief-pitcher leader Dellin Betances through that same stretch. Hader has established himself as one of baseball's most feared pitchers in just three seasons in Milwaukee, and the 25-year-old has plenty of mileage remaining on his left arm.
Aside from Soriano, this Cubs lineup is comprised entirely of players from the 2016 World Series-winning squad. Rizzo, Bryant, Baez, et al. constitute a Cubs core responsible for 471 wins and four playoff appearances since 2015. Most of these players are products of a Chicago farm system that churned out other superstars in the making like Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez.
While the Cubs took a homegrown approach to position players through their most successful years of the past decade, the front office's savvy free-agent spending and trades helped build a solid rotation. It all started with the 2014 acquisition of Lester. His signing showed the Windy City faithful that times were changing and the Cubs were ready to win - and win they did with Lester on the hill. Since arriving in Chicago, the veteran southpaw is 74-41 with a 3.54 ERA in 941 2/3 innings pitched. His Cubs tenure also includes two All-Star appearances, two top-ten finishes in NL Cy Young voting, and a 2016 NLCS MVP award.
St. Louis Cardinals
Most of Pujols' production in St. Louis came before 2010, but he's still a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Holliday was an exceptionally talented player for the Cardinals and Carpenter has also had some incredible years at Busch Stadium. Over the past 10 years, though, none of these guys stand up to Molina. One of the greatest defensive catchers of this generation, Yadi won seven Gold Gloves and averaged 131 games a season this past decade. His contributions also go beyond his play. He's been the team's leader, the heart and soul of the franchise, and he lives and breathes the Cardinal Way. Molina is baseball in St. Louis.
When you think about the best pitchers of the past decade, Wainwright likely isn't the first to come to mind, but he has been elite. For the decade, he ranks 18th among starters in WAR, 10th in wins, 20th in FIP, and 16th in home runs allowed per nine. But perhaps most astonishing is that - with the exception of a couple of seasons - the 38-year-old has managed to produce well past his prime, most recently winning 14 games and posting a 4.19 ERA in 2019. Since the beginning of 2010, Wainwright leads all Cardinals starters in wins (116), innings pitched (1,454 2/3), WAR (27.7), and FIP (3.31).
After a very rough stretch of losing seasons continued into the beginning of this past decade, the Pirates finally began to turn things around in 2013. That also just happened to be the year McCutchen was named NL MVP. Cutch was far and away the Pirates' best player of the 2010s, leading the team to three straight postseason appearances from 2013-15. He earned five consecutive All-Star nods from 2011-2015 and was widely considered one of baseball's best all-around players. His superstar contributions still weren't enough to get Pittsburgh over the hump, though. The Pirates haven't been to a championship series since 1992 and last won the World Series in 1979.
Before Cole parlayed a stellar showing with Houston into a record-breaking deal for a pitcher with the Yankees, the dominant right-hander was head of the Pirates' staff. The former No. 1 overall draft choice pitched well during his five seasons in the Steel City, with his 2015 campaign (19-8, 2.60 ERA, 202 strikeouts) standing above the rest. From 2013-17, Cole led the Pirates in wins (59), innings pitched (782.1), and WAR (15.4). Burnett, meanwhile, finishes a close second for Pirates pitcher of the decade. Three of Burnett's last four MLB seasons came in Pittsburgh, where he authored some of his best work: His ERA (3.34), WHIP (1.27), FIP (3.23), and K/9 (8.6) with the Pirates were all better than his final career averages.
Votto hasn't just been the best player to dress in a Reds uniform since 2010, he's been one of baseball's top players, period. Since 2010, only Mike Trout and Buster Posey have been worth more WAR than Cincinnati's first baseman, whose .428 on-base percentage and 17.0 walk percentage are tops among all players during that stretch. Add six All-Star Games, a Gold Glove, and 2010 NL MVP honors into the mix, and Votto has cemented his place in the history books alongside other Reds greats like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Barry Larkin.
The Reds have had their fair share of solid pitchers since 2010. Cueto led the team in wins and WAR before he was traded to the Royals in 2015. Bailey threw two no-hitters before his career took a tumble. And Castillo is one of the most dynamic young hurlers in the game today. But no pitcher has made a bigger difference during his Reds tenure than Chapman. The Cuban Missle joined Cincinnati's big-league club in 2010 and immediately became one of MLB's most exciting arms thanks to his record-setting fastball velocity and wipeout slider. From 2010-15 (his time with the Reds), Chapman was worth 11.3 WAR, struck out a ridiculous 15.4 per nine, and managed a 2.17 ERA and 1.97 FIP while saving 146 games.