March 30, 2011
Capsules of National League teams, listed in order of finish last year:WESTSan Francisco Giants2010: 92-70, first place, World Series champions.
Manager: Bruce Bochy (5th season).
He's Here: SS Miguel Tejada.
He's Outta There: INF Juan Uribe, SS Edgar Renteria.
Projected Lineup: CF Andres Torres (.268, 16, 63, 26 SBs), 2B Freddy Sanchez (.292, 7, 47), 1B Aubrey Huff (.290, 26, 86),C Buster Posey (.305, 18, 67 after May callup and becoming NL Rookie of the Year), LF Pat Burrell (.266, 18, 51 after joining Giants in early June), 3B Pablo Sandoval (.268, 13, 63), RF Cody Ross (.269, 14, 65, NLCS MVP after coming to Giants off waivers from Florida in August), SS Miguel Tejada (.269, 15, 71 for Baltimore and San Diego).
Rotation: RH Tim Lincecum (16-10, 3.43, 212 1-3 innings, 231 Ks), LH Jonathan Sanchez (13-9, 3.07, 193 1-3, 205 Ks), RH Matt Cain (13-11, 3.14, 177 Ks), LH Barry Zito (9-14, 4.15, 150 Ks), LH Madison Bumgarner (7-6, 3.00, 18 starts).
Key Relievers: RH Brian Wilson (3-3, 1.81, majors-leading 48 saves in 53 chances), LH Jeremy Affeldt (4-3, 4.14, 53 games), RH Sergio Romo (5-3, 2.18), LH Javier Lopez (4-2, 2.34, 77 games), RH Santiago Casilla (7-2, 1.95, 52 games).
Hot Spots: 3B will continue to generate interest early in the year as a slimmed-down, determined Sandoval looks to bounce back from a down year. He spent the winter improving his fitness to make sure he could win a starting job after the Giants made it clear he was no guarantee unless he got his act together in the offseason. Zito was left off the roster for all three postseason rounds and is eager to get back to the old form that earned him 2002 AL Cy Young Award honors across the bay with the Oakland Athletics. He is starting the fifth season in a 126 million, seven-year contract. Will Burrell -- back on a bargain 1 million, one-year deal -- keep the job in left field or does utilityman Mark DeRosa return to form after missing most of last season with a wrist injury that required surgery? Tejada has been a good fit so far as one of few new faces on the team.
Outlook: The Giants will try to repeat their improbable run of last fall, when everyone just happened to peak at the right time and the Padres tumbled. A strained side shelved Wilson late in spring training. The NL West is pitching-rich, but no one might be able to match San Francisco's rotation. It's hard to think two-time NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum will go through another month like his career-worst five-start losing streak last August. ... Minus a superstar, this self-declared bunch of castoffs and misfits made a remarkable postseason showing to capture their first World Series title since 1954 and first since moving West in 1958. Then they retained much of their roster heading into 2011. ... Tejada, who began his big league career across the bay with Oakland, steps in at shortstop to replace departed World Series MVP Renteria.
------San Diego Padres2010: 90-72, second place.
Manager: Bud Black (5th season).
He's Here: 2B Orlando Hudson, SS Jason Bartlett, 1B Brad Hawpe, OF Cameron Maybin, RHP Aaron Harang, RHP Chad Qualls, RHP Dustin Moseley, C Rob Johnson, INF Jorge Cantu, OF Eric Patterson.
He's Outta There: 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SS Miguel Tejada, 2B David Eckstein, RHP Jon Garland, RHP Chris Young, C Yorvit Torrealba, INF Jerry Hairston Jr., OF Scott Hairston, RHP Adam Russell, LHP Cesar Ramos, RHP Kevin Correia, RHP Edward Mujica, RHP Ryan Webb.
Projected Lineup: RF Will Venable (.245, 13, 51), SS Jason Bartlett (.254, 4, 47), 2B Orlando Hudson (.268, 6, 37), LF Ryan Ludwick (.211, 6, 26 in 209 ABs after trade from St. Louis), 1B Brad Hawpe (.245, 9, 44 with Colorado and Tampa Bay), 3B Chase Headley (.264, 11, 58), CF Cameron Maybin (.234, 8, 28 with Florida), C Nick Hundley (.249, 8, 43).
Rotation: RH Mat Latos (14-10, 2.92, 189 Ks), LH Clayton Richard (14-9, 3.75), RH Tim Stauffer (6-5, 1.85), RH Aaron Harang (6-7, 5.32 with Cincinnati), LH Wade LeBlanc (8-12, 4.25) or RHP Dustin Moseley (4-4, 4.96 with Yankees).
Key Relievers: RH Heath Bell (6-1, 1.93, 47 saves in 50 chances), RH Mike Adams (4-1, 1.76), RH Luke Gregerson (4-7, 3.22), RH Chad Qualls (3-4, 7.32 with Arizona and Tampa Bay), RH Ernesto Frieri (1-1, 1.71).
Hot Spots: Offense, No. 5 starter, backup catcher. The Padres have to hit better than they did last year, when their offensive woes were aggravated by Petco Park's spacious dimensions. And now they'll be without the 31 homers and 101 RBIs by All-Star slugger Adrian Gonzalez, who was traded to Boston. The battle for the fifth start is coming down to LeBlanc, who pitched only once after Aug. 30, and newcomer Moseley. The Padres were counting on Gregg Zaun to back up Hundley, but he retired during spring training. Light-hitting Rob Johnson likely will be given a shot as backup catcher.
Outlook: San Diego might be hard-pressed to win 90 games again as it did last year, especially without Gonzalez. The Padres overachieved last year until late August, when a 10-game losing streak cost them momentum. They remained in contention until the final day, when a loss at San Francisco eliminated them from the playoff race. GM Jed Hoyer has strengthened the Padres up the middle, but several players -- Ludwick, Hudson, Bartlett, Hawpe, Maybin and Headley -- will have to rebound from sub-par seasons if the Padres are to contend. Even if the bats come alive, Padres will be relying on their strengths, pitching and defense.
------Colorado Rockies2010: 83-79, third place.
Manager: Jim Tracy (3rd season).
He's Here: RHP Matt Lindstrom, INF Ty Wigginton, 2B Jose Lopez, RHP Felipe Paulino.
He's Outta There: C Miguel Olivo, 2B Clint Barmes, RHP Manny Corpas, 3B Melvin Mora, LHP Joe Beimel, LHP Jeff Francis, OF Jay Payton.
Projected Lineup: CF Dexter Fowler (.260, 6, 36), RF Seth Smith (.246, 17, 52), LF Carlos Gonzalez (.336, 34, 117, 111 runs, 26 SBs), SS Troy Tulowitzki (.315, 27, 95 in 122 games), 3B Ian Stewart (.256, 18, 61), 1B Todd Helton (.256, 8, 37 in 118 games), 2B Jose Lopez (.239, 10, 58 with Seattle) or Eric Young Jr. (.244, 0, 8), C Chris Iannetta (.197, 9, 27 in 61 games).
Rotation: RH Ubaldo Jimenez (19-8, 2.88, 214 Ks), LH Jorge De La Rosa (8-7, 4.22), RH Jhoulys Chacin (9-11, 3.28), RH Jason Hammel (10-9, 4.81), RH Esmil Rogers (2-3, 6.13, 66 in 28 games)
Key Relievers: RH Huston Street (4-4, 3.61 ERA, 20 saves in 25 chances), RH Rafael Betancourt (5-1, 3.61), RH Matt Lindstrom (2-5, 4.39, 2329 saves with Houston), RH Matt Belisle (7-5, 2.93, 91 Ks in 92 innings), RH Felipe Paulino (1-9, 5.11 in 19 games with Houston), LH Franklin Morales (0-4, 6.28, 35 games) or LH Rex Brothers (2-1, 3.91 in 24 games with Double-A Tulsa).
Hot Spots: RF, back end of the rotation, setup men, 2B. Fowler and Gonzalez are pretty much certainties to patrol cavernous Coors Field, while Smith and Ryan Spilborghs are in contention for the RF spot. Aaron Cook threw the rotation into a state of flux after fracturing bones in the ring finger on his throwing hand when he caught it in a door. That opens the door for Rogers to sneak into the mix. The impressive spring of Brothers will make the decisions concerning the back half of the bullpen interesting. Brothers, Morales, Matt Reynolds and Matt Daley are contending for jobs. Lopez appears to be the starter at second, but the Rockies like Young's blazing speed.
Outlook: The Rockies opened up their wallets in the offseason, locking up Tulowitzki and Gonzalez to long-term deals after they each turned in MVP-worthy performances in 2010. The team also re-signed the flame-throwing lefty De La Rosa, who joins Jimenez, the staff ace, and up-and-coming star Chacin to form one of the most promising young rotations in baseball. The bullpen will again be a strength, especially after adding Lindstrom from the Astros. Paulino, another acquisition from Houston, will join the bullpen as well, giving the team a nice bridge to Betancourt, the eighth-inning specialist, and then to Street. Despite the offensive prowess of Tulo and CarGo, the Rockies can't rely on them alone. They're counting on rebound seasons from Smith and Stewart, along with Helton, who's been plagued by a chronically sore back. To save wear and tear on Helton, the Rockies will rotate in Wigginton and Jason Giambi. With Olivo gone, the job behind the plate belongs exclusively to Chris Iannetta. For once, there's no safety net such as an Olivo or a Yorvit Torrealba.
------Los Angeles Dodgers
2010: 80-82, fourth place.
Manager: Don Mattingly (1st season).
He's Here: INF Juan Uribe, RHP Jon Garland, RHP Matt Guerrier, RHP Blake Hawksworth, C Dioner Navarro, OF Marcus Thames, OF Tony Gwynn Jr.
He's Outta There: C Russell Martin, LHP George Sherrill, INF Ryan Theriot, C Brad Ausmus.
Projected Lineup: SS Rafael Furcal (.300, 8, 43, 22 SBs) , LF Jamey Carroll (.291, 0, 23), RF Andre Ethier (.292, 23, 82) , CF Matt Kemp (.249, 28, 89), 2B Juan Uribe (.248, 24, 85 with San Francisco), 1B James Loney (.267, 10, 88), LF Marcus Thames (.288, 12, 33 in 82 games with Yankees), C Rod Barajas (.240, 17, 47 with Mets and Dodgers).
Rotation: LH Clayton Kershaw (13-10, 2.91, 212 Ks), RH Chad Billingsley (12-11, 3.57), LH Ted Lilly (10-12, 3.62 with Cubs and Dodgers), RH Hiroki Kuroda (11-13, 3.39), RH Jon Garland (14-12, 3.47 200 IP with Padres).
Key Relievers: RH Jonathan Broxton (5-6, 4.04, 22 saves in 29 chances), LH Hong-Chih Kuo (3-2, 1.20, 12 saves) RH Matt Guerrier (5-7, 3.17, 1 save with Twins), RH Kenley Jansen (1-0, 0.67, 4 saves, 25 games), RH Vicente Padilla (6-5, 4.07 in 16 starts).
Hot spots: Third base. Blake might not be ready for opening day because of a slow recovery from a rib injury. Uribe, projected as the starting second baseman, would move to third and Carroll would start at second base. Bullpen. Padilla had surgery on his pitching elbow Feb. 24 and likely will begin the season on the disabled list.
Outlook: The dispute about the team's ownership that overshadowed last season continues on. A judge in the dispute between Frank McCourt and his former wife, Jamie, finalized his decision that their marital property agreement is invalid in January, allowing her to seek half of the team. While there were fears the McCourts' contentious divorce might slow spending, the team committed more than 80 million in offseason signings. Will Broxton reclaim his role as closer after losing it last season? Will Barajas be the everyday starter after former All-Star Martin wasn't offered a contract?
Arizona Diamondbacks2010: 65-97, last place.
Manager: Kirk Gibson (2nd season).
He's Here: 3B Melvin Mora, LF Xavier Nady, 3B Geoff Blum, 2B-OF Willie Bloomquist, C Henry Blanco, 1B Russell Branyan, 1B Juan Miranda, LHP Armando Galarraga, LHP Zach Duke, LHP Joe Paterson, RHP David Hernandez, RHP J.J. Putz.
He's Outta There: 3B Mark Reynolds, 1B Adam LaRoche, 2B Augie Ojeda, OF Randy Ryal, RHP Brandon Webb, RHP Rodrigo Lopez, RHP Blaine Boyer, RHP David Carasco.
Projected Lineup: CF Chris Young (.257, 27 HR, 91, 28SB), SS Stephen Drew (.278, 15, 12 3B, 61), 2B Kelly Johnson (.284, 26, 71), RF Justin Upton (.273, 17, 69), C Miguel Montero (.266, 9, 43), 1B Juan Miranda (.219, 3, 10 in 15 games with Yankees; .285, 15, 43 with Triple-A ScrantonWilkes-Barre) or Russell Branyan (.237, 25, 57 with Cleveland and Seattle), 3B Melvin Mora (.285, 7 45 with Colorado), LF Xavier Nady (.256, 6, 33 with Chicago Cubs).
Rotation: RH Ian Kennedy (9-10, 3.80), RH Daniel Hudson (8-2, 2.45 with Arizona and White Sox), RH Barry Enright (6-7, 3.91), LH Joe Saunders (9-17, 4.47 with Angels and Arizona) RH Aaron Heilman (5-8, 4.50 as reliever), or LH Armando Gallaraga (4-9, 4.49 with Detroit).
Key Relievers: RH J.J. Putz (7-5, 2.83, 3 saves with White Sox), RH David Hernandez (8-8, 4.30), LH Joe Paterson (5-3, 3.03 San Jose and Fresno), RH Juan Gutierrez (0-6, 5.08), RH Esmerling Vasquez (1-6, 5.20), RH Sam Demel (2-1, 5.35).
Hot Spots: The batter's box, where it was "1, 2, 3 strikes you're out" in record numbers for Arizona. No team in baseball history struck out more, a significant factor as well as a depressing symbol for the ineptitude of a franchise that has finished last in the NL West two years in a row. The team's most significant acquisition could be general manager Kevin Towers, who traded away perennial record strikeout breaker Reynolds and did not attempt to re-sign the No. 2 offender LaRoche. Task number two was to remodel the worst bullpen in baseball, bringing in young left-hander Paterson and righty Hernandez, who has been lights out this spring, and the addition of an experienced closer in Putz. Problem 3 addressed by Towers was a bland, even uncaring clubhouse. Enter topflight character veterans Blum, Mora, Bloomquist, Galarraga and Branyan.
Outlook: Towers is used to making the most of small budgets and the one he has in Arizona, he notes, is actually a bit more than what he's had in past jobs. Crucial will be a young rotation headed by Kennedy (26) Hudson (24) and Enright (23). The coaching staff has been disappointed in the slow spring of lefty Saunders, who came from the Angels in the Dan Haren trade. He's needed to add some effective experience to the mix. In the field, three players battled to the wire at first base. Mora is the new 3B. Arizona has experience and strength up the middle with Johnson at second, an obviously contented Drew at shortstop and Young in center. The man in right, Upton, has everything he needs to be a star -- except the numbers. But remember, he's only 23, too. The jury is still out the unconventional style of Gibbon, entering his first full season, but he's surrounded himself with a veteran cast of coaches. Arizona could have the stuff of a San Diego-like resurrection. We'll see.
EASTPhiladelphia Phillies2010: 97-65, first place, lost in NLCS.
Manager: Charlie Manuel (7th season).
He's Here: LHP Cliff Lee, 2B Luis Castillo, OF-INF Delwyn Young, INF Michael Martinez.
He's Outta There: OF Jayson Werth, RHP Chad Durbin, LHP Jamie Moyer.
Projected Lineup: CF Shane Victorino (.259, 18 HRs, 69 RBIs, 34 SBs), 3B Placido Polanco (.298, 6, 52), SS Jimmy Rollins (.243, 8, 41 in 88 games), 1B Ryan Howard (.276, 31, 108), LF Raul Ibanez (.275, 16, 83), RF Ben Francisco (.268, 6, 28), C Carlos Ruiz (.302, 8, 53), 2B Wilson Valdez (.258, 4, 35) or Luis Castillo (.235, 0, 17 in 86 games with Mets).
Rotation: RH Roy Halladay (21-10, 2.44 ERA, 219 Ks, unanimous NL Cy Young winner), LH Cliff Lee (12-9, 3.18 with Seattle and Texas), RH Roy Oswalt (13-13, 2.76 with Houston and Phillies), LH Cole Hamels (12-11, 3.06, 211 Ks), RH Joe Blanton (9-6, 4.82).
Key Relievers: RH Brad Lidge (1-1, 2.96, 27 saves in 32 chances), RH Ryan Madson (6-2, 2.55), RH Jose Contreras (6-4, 3.3), LH J.C. Romero (1-0, 3.68).
Hot Spots: RF, 2B. The Phillies are hoping Francisco can replace the departed Werth in right field and give the offense comparable production. John Mayberry Jr. and rookie Domonic Brown, who will start the season in the minors after having hand surgery, could also end up playing right. A knee injury that has sidelined five-time All-Star second baseman Chase Utley leaves a big void in Philadelphia's lineup. Utley's return is uncertain, so the Phillies are counting on super-sub Valdez or possibly Castillo, a former All-Star who was released by the Mets. Neither could replace Utley's bat. Rollins, a former MVP, may move down from the leadoff spot to hit third during Utley's absence.
Outlook: The Phillies entered spring training as the consensus favorites to win the World Series after adding Lee to an already formidable starting rotation. However, injuries to Utley, Brown and Polanco have depleted an offense that is coming off a down year and must overcome losing Werth in the middle of the lineup. Lidge also has been bothered by an injury, and that raises concerns about the bullpen. With the four aces and Blanton, the Phillies should be in every game. But if the hitters don't pick up the slack, they'll have to rely on that pitching to win 1-0, 2-1 many nights. Expectations in the city are high. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and fans expect a few more championships. Anything less than a parade down Broad Street won't be considered a successful season for the four-time NL East champs.
------Atlanta Braves2010: 91-71, second place, wild card.
Manager: Fredi Gonzalez (1st season).
He's Here: 2B Dan Uggla, 1B Freddie Freeman, RHP Scott Linebrink, LHP George Sherrill, INF-OF Joe Mather.
He's Outta There: INF-OF Omar Infante, LHP Billy Wagner, 1B Derrek Lee, OF Melky Cabrera, OF Matt Diaz, 1B Troy Glaus, RHP Takashi Saito, LHP Mike Dunn, RHP Kyle Farnsworth, OF Rick Ankiel.
Projected Lineup: LF Martin Prado (.307, 15, 66), CF Nate McLouth (.190, 6, 24), 3B Chipper Jones (.265, 10, 46), 2B Dan Uggla (.287, 33, 105 with Florida), C Brian McCann (.269, 21, 77), RF Jason Heyward (.277, 18, 72, 11 SBs), SS Alex Gonzalez (.250, 23, 88 with Toronto and Atlanta), 1B Freddie Freeman (.319, 18, 87 with Triple-A Gwinnett).
Rotation: RHP Derek Lowe (16-12, 4.00), RH Tommy Hanson (10-11, 3.33), RH Tim Hudson (17-9, 2.83), RH Jair Jurrjens (7-6, 4.64), LH Mike Minor (3-2, 5.98).
Key Relievers: RH Craig Kimbrel (4-0, 0.44 ERA, 1 save, 40 Ks in 20 2-3 IP), LH Jonny Venters (4-4, 1.95), RH Peter Moylan (6-2, 2.97), RH Scott Linebrink (3-2, 4.40 with White Sox), LH Eric O'Flaherty (3-2, 2.45).
Hot Spots: CF, 3B, closer. The Braves are counting on McLouth to recapture the form he showed three years ago in Pittsburgh (.276, 26 HRs, 94 RBIs, 46 doubles, 23 SBs). If not, there's a big hole in the middle of the outfield. But the most important hitter in the lineup is Jones, who got off to such a miserable start last season he considered retirement. He began hitting, only to sustain a season-ending knee injury. Coming back from major surgery as approaches his 39th birthday, Jones won't be able to play every day. But if he looks a bit like the Chipper of old -- he sure did in spring training -- and stays relatively healthy, that will be a big boost to the offense. Last season, the Braves had Wagner to close out games, and he was one of the best in the business. But Wagner has retired, leaving youngsters Kimbrel and Venters to share the role for now. They certainly have the stuff to do it -- especially Kimbrel -- but haven't been tested in a lot of pressure situations.
Outlook: The Braves reached the playoffs for the first time in five years, only to lose to eventual World Series champion San Francisco in the opening round. They'll find it tough to overcome defending NL East champion Philadelphia, especially with the Phillies adding Cliff Lee to an already-stellar rotation, but Atlanta feels it has its own version of the Big Four with Jurrjens recovered after an injury-plagued season. The team addressed one of its major issues by trading for Uggla, adding a much-needed right-hander power hitter. But a healthy Jones is still a key, and the team doesn't have much speed no matter who's in the lineup. Kimbrel certainly had the look of a closer when he came up late in the season, but the fact is he has only one career save. He'll have his hands full trying to replace the reliable Wagner, who ended his career with a brilliant 37-save season. And, of course, there's a huge change in the dugout. Bobby Cox retired after more than two decades as the Braves manager. He was replaced by protege Fredi Gonzalez, the former Florida Marlins skipper.
------Florida Marlins2010: 80-82, third place.
Manager: Edwin Rodriguez (1st full season).
He's Here: INF Omar Infante, RHP Javier Vazquez, C John Buck, RHP Shawn Hill, RHP Ryan Webb, RHP Edward Mujica, LHP Mike Dunn, LHP Randy Choate, LHP Dustin Richardson, INF Greg Dobbs.
He's Outta There: 2B Dan Uggla, OF Cameron Maybin, LHP Renyel Pinto, RHP Jose Veras, RHP Jorge Sosa, LHP Will Ohman, LHP Taylor Tankersley, C Ronny Paulino, INF Chad Tracy, OF Brett Carroll.
Projected Lineup: CF Chris Coghlan (.268, 5, 28 in 91 starts), 2B Omar Infante (.321, 8, 47 for Atlanta), SS Hanley Ramirez (.300, 21, 76, 32 SBs), RF Mike Stanton (.259, 22, 59 in 100 games), LF Logan Morrison (.283, 2, 18 in 62 games), 1B Gaby Sanchez (.273, 19, 85), C John Buck (.281, 20, 66 for Toronto), 3B Emilio Bonifacio (.261, 0, 10, 12 SBs in 73 games).
Rotation: RH Josh Johnson (11-6, NL-leading 2.30 ERA, 186 Ks in 183 2-3 IP), RH Ricky Nolasco (14-9, 4.51), RH Anibal Sanchez (13-12, 3.55), Chris Volstad (12-9, 4.58), RH Javier Vazquez (10-10, 5.32 for the Yankees).
Key Relievers: RH Leo Nunez (4-3, 3.46, 30 saves in 38 chances), RH Clay Hensley (3-4, 2.16, 7 saves), RH Ryan Webb (3-1, 2.90 for San Diego), RH Edward Mujica (2-1, 3.62 for San Diego), RH Brian Sanches (2-2, 2.26), RH Burke Badenhop (2-5, 3.99), LH Mike Dunn (2-0, 1.89 for Atlanta), LH Randy Choate (4-3, 4.23 for Tampa Bay).
Hot Spots: 3B and CF. Good-fielding, light-hitting prospect Matt Dominguez was given a chance to win the job at third in spring training, but he struggled at the plate. One alternative is light-hitting utilityman Bonifacio; another is to move newcomer Infante from second to third. The Marlins hope Coghlan can settle in at center field, his third position in three big league seasons, as he comes back from knee surgery in August.
Outlook: Florida may not be able to keep up with the Phillies in the NL East, but second-year big leaguers Stanton, Morrison and Gaby Sanchez provide a firm foundation as the Marlins prepare for their move into a new ballpark next year. The young trio will have a chance for lots of RBIs batting behind Ramirez, who's eager to bounce back from a sub-par season after hitting an NL-best .342 in 2009. The rotation anchored by Johnson should be a strength, and the bullpen looks much improved with the offseason additions of Webb, Mujica, Dunn and Choate. The Marlins also sought to upgrade their perennially shaky defense, but that may not happen if Dominguez is in the minors and Coghlan has a steep learning curve in center.
------New York Mets2010: 79-83, fourth place.
Manager: Terry Collins (1st season).
He's Here: RHP Chris Young, LHP Chris Capuano, C Ronny Paulino, RHP D.J. Carrasco, LHP Tim Byrdak, RHP Taylor Buchholz, OF Scott Hairston, RHP Jason Isringhausen, OF Willie Harris, 2B Brad Emaus, RHP Pedro Beato, INF Chin-lung Hu.
He's Outta There: 2B Luis Castillo, LHP Oliver Perez, LHP Pedro Feliciano, LHP Hisanori Takahashi, C Henry Blanco, RHP John Maine, OF Chris Carter, RHP Elmer Dessens, INF-OF Fernando Tatis, LHP Raul Valdes, RHP Sean Green, 2B Joaquin Arias.
Projected Lineup: SS Jose Reyes (.282, 11, 54, 30 SBs), CF Angel Pagan (.290, 11, 69, 37 SBs), 3B David Wright (.283, 29, 103, 19 SBs, 161 Ks), RF Carlos Beltran (.255, 7, 27 in 64 games), LF Jason Bay (.259, 6, 47 in 95 games), 1B Ike Davis (.264, 19, 71 ), C Josh Thole (.277, 3, 17 in 73 games) or Ronny Paulino (.259, 4, 37 in 91 games with Florida), 2B Luis Hernandez (.250, 2, 6 in 17 games) or Brad Emaus (.290, 15, 75 in Double-A and Triple-A with Toronto) or Daniel Murphy (injured last season; .266, 12, 63 in 2009).
Rotation: RH Mike Pelfrey (15-9, 3.66, 204 IP), LH Jonathon Niese (9-10, 4.20), RH R.A. Dickey (11-9, 2.84), RH Chris Young (2-0, 0.90 in 4 starts with Padres), LH Chris Capuano (4-4, 3.95 in 24 games, 9 starts, with Milwaukee).
Key Relievers: RH Francisco Rodriguez (4-2, 2.20, 25 saves in 30 chances), RH D.J. Carrasco (3-2, 3.68 with Pittsburgh and Arizona), RH Bobby Parnell (0-1, 2.83), RH Manny Acosta (3-2, 2.95, 1 save), LH Tim Byrdak (2-2, 3.49 with Houston), RH Jason Isringhausen (injured last season; 0-1, 2.25 in 9 games with Rays in 2009), RH Taylor Buchholz (1-0, 3.75 in 9 games with Colorado and Toronto).
Hot Spots: Shortstop. While there are major question marks at 2B and C, in the rotation and middle relief, and with Beltran's balky knees, the biggest player-personnel decision facing new GM Sandy Alderson and his Moneyball lieutenants concerns Reyes' future. A homegrown All-Star with rare and electrifying skills, the speedy but oft-injured Reyes can become a free agent after the season and there is talk he wants a Carl Crawford-type contract (142 million). Can the Mets, muddled in a financial mess due to ownership's dealings with Bernie Madoff, afford such a commitment? Will Alderson think Reyes is worth a huge contract? And if the Mets fall out of contention by midseason as many expect, will they try to trade Reyes for young talent?
Outlook: Following two straight losing seasons and four without a playoff berth, the Mets cleaned house last fall. Collins was given his third shot as a big league manager after going 444-434 during 1990s stints with the Astros and Angels. The club was uncharacteristically frugal during the offseason, making no big-name roster moves. Behind the headlines, however, much-needed changes were made in amateur scouting, player development and strength and conditioning. During spring training the team dumped a pair of overpriced flops in Castillo and Perez, swallowing 18 million. That should appease angry fans a bit, but they'll still have to be patient -- not always an easy sell in New York. With ace Johan Santana expected to be sidelined until at least mid-to-late summer following shoulder surgery, the rotation looks thin. Bay will try to regain his power stroke after missing the final two months last season with a concussion. Rodriguez has an image to repair after attacking his girlfriend's father at Citi Field. Who will be healthy (and happy) on this team? Who knows? Regardless, not much is expected for the first time in a while. This is a transition year for the Mets as they wait for more than 45 million in inflated contracts to come off the payroll for 2012, including Beltran.
------Washington Nationals2010: 63-93, last place.
Manager: Jim Riggleman (2nd full season).
He's Here: OF Jayson Werth, 1B Adam LaRoche, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, RHP Todd Coffey, OF Rick Ankiel, INF-OF Jerry Hairston Jr., INF Alex Cora, PH Matt Stairs.
He's Outta There: 1B Adam Dunn, OF Josh Willingham, 2B Adam Kennedy, INF-OF Willie Harris, C Wil Nieves, OF Justin Maxwell, RHP Miguel Batista, LHP Scott Olsen, RHP Tyler Walker.
Projected Lineup: SS Ian Desmond (.269, 10, 65, 17 SBs), CF Rick Ankiel (.232, 6, 24 in 211 ABs with Kansas City and Atlanta) or Nyjer Morgan (.253, 0, 24, 34 SBs), RF Jayson Werth (.296, 27, 85, NL-high 46 doubles with Philadelphia), 3B Ryan Zimmerman (.307, 25, 85), 1B Adam LaRoche (.261, 25, 100 with Arizona), LF Mike Morse (.289, 15, 41), C Ivan Rodriguez (.266, 4, 49) or Wilson Ramos (.278, 1, 5 in 79 ABs with Minnesota and Nationals), 2B Danny Espinosa (.214, 6, 15 in 103 ABs).
Rotation: RH Livan Hernandez (10-12, 3.66 ERA, 211 2-3 IP in 33 starts), LH John Lannan 8-8, 4.65), RH Jason Marquis (2-9, 6.60), RH Jordan Zimmermann (1-2, 4.94), LH Tom Gorzelanny (7-9, 4.09 with Cubs).
Key Relievers: LH Sean Burnett (1-7, 2.14 ERA, 73 games), RH Tyler Clippard (11-8, 3.07, 78 games, 112 Ks), RH Drew Storen (4-4, 3.58, 54 games), RH Chad Gaudin (1-4, 5.65, 42 games with Oakland and Yankees), RH Collin Balester (0-1, 2.57, 17 games).
Hot Spots: Starting rotation, CF, offense without Dunn. The Nationals figure they can keep sending Hernandez out to the mound, and he'll eat up innings and keep them in games, no matter how old he is. And that's pretty much the only given in the rotation. Otherwise, Lannan and Gorzelanny are coming off up-and-down seasons, and Zimmermann and Marquis are coming back from operations. Stephen Strasburg, of course, is working his way back from reconstructive elbow surgery and might only make a few appearances in September -- if he pitches at all in 2011. Ankiel, Morgan and Roger Bernadina have been competing to start in center, and Jerry Hairston Jr. appears set to play there against lefties. None is an ideal solution, and while the Nationals would like Morgan to lead off, it's not clear they think he's ready to look again like the player he was in the second half of 2009. Replacing Dunn's year-in, year-out production of 38 homers and 100 RBIs won't be easy, but the Nationals hope to be better baserunners and go first-to-third more, helping manufacture runs.
Outlook: After consecutive 100-plus-loss seasons, the Nationals made a 10-win improvement last year and they assume they can't help but keep getting better, thanks to cornerstone Zimmerman, 126 million man Werth and LaRoche's significant help on defense. They still have to wait on two big pieces of the future, though: Strasburg and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft, OF Bryce Harper, who looked superb in spring training and is expected to start the season in Class A. GM Mike Rizzo says he's entered "Phase 2" of improving the perennially last-place Nationals, but there are still plenty of unknowns, including: How will the young middle-infield duo of Desmond (majors-worst 34 errors) and Espinosa (offseason hand surgery) progress?
------CENTRALCincinnati Reds2010: 91-71, first place, lost in divisional round.
Manager: Dusty Baker (4th season).
He's Here: SS Edgar Renteria, OF Fred Lewis, OF Jeremy Hermida, LHP Dontrelle Willis.
He's Outta There: RHP Aaron Harang, SS Orlando Cabrera, LHP Arthur Rhodes, OF Laynce Nix, OF Willie Bloomquist.
Projected Lineup: CF Drew Stubbs (.255, 22, 77, 30 SBs in 36 tries), 2B Brandon Phillips (.275, 18, 59), 1B Joey Votto (.324, 37, 113), 3B Scott Rolen (.285, 20, 83), RF Jay Bruce (.281, 25, 70), LF Jonny Gomes (.268, 18, 86), SS Paul Janish (.260, 5, 25 in 82 games), C Ramon Hernandez (.297, 7, 48).
Rotation: RH Edinson Volquez (4-3, 4.31 ERA in 12 games back from elbow surgery), RH Homer Bailey (4-3, 4.46, 19 games), RH Bronson Arroyo (17-10, 3.88, 33 games), LH Travis Wood (5-4, 3.51, 17 games), RH Mike Leake (8-4, 4.23, 24 games).
Key Relievers: RH Francisco Cordero (6-5, 3.84 ERA, 40 saves in 48 chances), LH Aroldis Chapman (2-2, 2.03, 15 games), RH Nick Masset (4-4, 3.40, 82 games), LH Dontrelle Willis (1-2, 4.98 in 9 games with Detroit, 1-1, 6.85 in six games with Arizona), RH Logan Ondrusek (5-0, 3.68, 60 games).
Hot Spots: SS, top of rotation, late relief. Janish is expected to get the majority of playing time at shortstop, but World Series MVP Edgar Renteria signed in the offseason and could play a lot if Janish struggles. Volquez got a late start in spring training because of visa problems. RH Johnny Cueto will start the season on the DL with a sore shoulder, giving Bailey a bigger role at the outset. Chapman and his 105-mph fastball will be in the bullpen from the outset, with the Reds hoping he can help fill Rhodes' setup role.
Outlook: The defending NL Central champions brought their roster back virtually intact and spent more than 150 million in the offseason to lock up their young players long-term. If they continue to develop and they stay reasonably healthy, the Reds ought to be in contention in a division that was the NL's weakest last year. Bruce and Stubbs struggled early in the season, then became key components in the Reds' closing run to their first playoff berth in 15 years. Baker thinks the experience of winning the division title and reaching the playoffs, where they were swept by Philadelphia, should give them the confidence to try for another.
------St. Louis Cardinals2010: 86-76, second place.
Manager: Tony La Russa (16th season).
He's Here: OF Lance Berkman, SS Ryan Theriot, INF Nick Punto, RHP Miguel Batista, C Gerald Laird.
He's Outta There: SS Brendan Ryan, RHP Brad Penny, LHP Dennys Reyes, RHP Jeff Suppan, RHP Blake Hawksworth, Util Felipe Lopez, C Jason LaRue, 3B Pedro Feliz, Util Joe Mather, INF Aaron Miles, C Matt Pagnozzi, OF Randy Winn, RHP Mike MacDougal.
Projected Lineup: 2B Skip Schumaker (.265, 5, 42, 16 SBs), CF Colby Rasmus (.276, 23, 66, 12 SBs), 1B Albert Pujols (.312, 42, 118, 39 doubles, 115 runs, 103 BB), LF Matt Holliday (.312, 28, 103, 45 doubles), RF Lance Berkman (.248, 14, 58 with Astros, Yankees), C Yadier Molina (.262, 6, 62), 3B David Freese (.296 in 240 ABs, 4, 36), SS Ryan Theriot (.270, 2, 29, 20 SBs with Cubs, Dodgers).
Rotation: RH Chris Carpenter (16-9, 3.22, 179Ks in 235 IP), RH Jake Westbrook (10-11 overall, 4-4, 3.48 in 12 starts with STL), LH Jaime Garcia (13-8, 2.70, 3rd in NL rookie of year voting), RH Kyle Lohse (4-8, 6.55 in 18 starts), RH Kyle McClellan (1-4, 2.27 as setup man).
Key Relievers: RH Ryan Franklin (6-2, 3.46, 2729 saves), RH Jason Motte (4-2, 2.24, 2 saves, 54 Ks in 52 1-3 IP), RH Mitchell Boggs (2-3, 3.61), LH Trever Miller (0-1, 4.00), LH Brian Tallet (2-6, 6.40 with Toronto), RH Miguel Batista (1-2, 3.70 with Nationals).
Hot Spots: 1B, RF, SS, 3B, rotation depth. Pujols' contract status could be a distraction -- and affect his play -- after he cut off negotiations at the start of spring training possibly leading him toward trying free agency. But Pujols, his teammates and La Russa scoffed at the idea it will be an issue this season. The 35-year-old Berkman is set for regular OF duty for first time since 2004 and is coming off career-worst offensive numbers while struggling with knee woes in '10. La Russa is hopeful he can play in two-thirds of games and make the routine plays. Theriot is a regular at SS again after shifting to 2B last year. At 3B, Freese is coming off surgery to both ankles. McClellan promoted from relief role to fifth starter as replacement for 20-game winner Adam Wainwright, who underwent reconstructive elbow surgery earlier in the spring. Lohse has totaled 10 wins the last two seasons while hampered by forearm injury that required surgery last year.
Outlook: If Berkman can regain his stroke the Cardinals will have a much deeper lineup card anchored by three-time MVP Pujols and Holliday, and that takes youngsters Rasmus and Freese out of high-pressure spots. Offense was to blame for last year's fade that left them five games back of surprising Central champion Cincinnati and out of the postseason for the third time in four years. They're likely to need more production given the pitching staff shakeup made necessary by Wainwright's season-ending injury. McClellan looked ready for his shot as Wainwright's replacement with an 0.53 ERA his first four spring starts and Lohse, a 15-game winner in 2008, also finally appears healthy. The 38-year-old Franklin is 65 for 72 in save chances the last two seasons with a pitch-to-contact style that could be tested given the Cardinals' willingness to sacrifice defense for scoring.
------Milwaukee Brewers2010: 77-85, third place.
Manager: Ron Roenicke (1st season).
He's Here: RH Zack Greinke, RH Shaun Marcum, SS Yuniesky Betancourt, RH Takashi Saito, LF Brandon Boggs, C Wil Nieves, RH Sean Green, 1B Mark Kotsay.
He's Outta There: Manager Ken Macha, RH Todd Coffey, RF Joe Inglett, RH Carlos Villanueva, SS Alcides Escobar, RH Jeremy Jeffress, CF Lorenzo Cain, RH Dave Bush, LH Chris Capuano, LH Doug Davis, RH Trevor Hoffman, C Gregg Zaun.
Projected Lineup: 2B Rickie Weeks (.269, 29, 83), RF Corey Hart (.283, 31, 102), LF Ryan Braun (.304, 25, 103), 1B Prince Fielder (.261, 32, 83), 3B Casey McGehee (.285, 23, 104), CF Carlos Gomez (.247, 5, 24, 18 SB in 97 games), SS Yuniesky Betancourt (.259, 16, 78 with Kansas City), C Jonathan Lucroy (.253, 4, 26).
Rotation: RH Zack Greinke (10-14, 4.17 ERA with Kansas City), RH Yovani Gallardo (14-7, 3.84, 200 Ks), RH Shaun Marcum (13-8, 3.64 with Toronto), LH Randy Wolf (13-12, 4.17), LH Chris Narveson (12-9, 4.99).
Key Relievers: RH John Axford (8-2, 2.48 ERA, 2427 saves), RH Takashi Saito (2-3, 2.83 in 56 games with Braves), RH Kameron Loe (3-5, 2.78), RH LaTroy Hawkins (0-3, 8.44 in 18 games before shoulder injury), LH Zach Braddock (1-2, 2.94), LH Manny Parra (3-10, 5.02 ERA in 42 games -- 16 starts).
Hot Spots: Rotation, bullpen, injuries. The Brewers made two of the biggest offseason trades, acquiring Greinke and Marcum, but maybe there was too much hope, too soon. Greinke broke a rib playing basketball in the offseason and Marcum has been slowed by a stiff neck and shoulder. Greinke is expected to start on the DL and general manager Doug Melvin said he was again looking for pitching help, a familiar refrain for Brewers fans. Injuries to Hart (left oblique) and Lucroy (broken pinkie finger) put their opening-day availability in jeopardy, too. The bullpen is very young since Hoffman retired and the team parted ways with Coffey.
Outlook: Roenicke, who spent 11 years in the Angels organization, received upgrades in the starting rotation that predecessor Macha never did. But, there's not much depth behind the starting five and if Greinke's injury lingers, the Brewers' optimism could fade quickly. Weeks signed a new 38.5 million, four-year contract in the offseason, leaving all the core players outside of Fielder signed or under team control through at least 2012. Fielder and the Brewers are on the same page, too. He'll make 15.5 million this year before hitting free agency with agent Scott Boras. In between, the Brewers have one of the most dynamic offenses in the league and certainly enough firepower to keep things interesting in the NL Central, but injuries and questions about the defense may keep them from reaching the postseason again after their trip in 2008 snapped a 26-year drought.
------Houston Astros2010: 76-86, fourth place.
Manager: Brad Mills (2nd season).
He's Here: SS Clint Barmes, 2B Bill Hall, LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith, LHP J.A. Happ, 1B Brett Wallace.
He's Outta There: RHP Matt Lindstrom, RHP Felipe Paulino, INF Geoff Blum, 1B Lance Berkman, RHP Roy Oswalt.
Projected Lineup: CF Michael Bourn (.265, 2, 38, 52 SBs), LF Carlos Lee (.246, 24, 89), RF Hunter Pence (.282, 25, 91), 1B Brett Wallace (.222, 2, 13 in 51 games), 3B Chris Johnson (.308, 11, 52), C Humberto Quintero (.234, 4, 20), SS Clint Barmes (.235, 8, 50 with Colorado), 2B Bill Hall (.247, 18, 46 with Boston).
Rotation: RH Brett Myers (14-8, 3.14), LH Wandy Rodriguez (11-12, 3.60), LH J.A. Happ (6-4, 3.40 with Philadelphia and Astros), RH Bud Norris (9-10, 4.92), RH Nelson Figueroa (5-3, 3.22).
Key Relievers: RH Brandon Lyon (6-6, 3.12, 20 saves, 79 games), RH Jeff Fulchino (2-1, 5.51), RH Wilton Lopez (5-2, 2.96, 68 games), LH Ryan Rowland-Smith (1-10, 6.75 as a starter).
Hot Spots: 1B, C and back end of rotation. Wallace earned the starting job at first base this spring, but the Astros will need him to improve on last year's performance if he expects to stay in the lineup. He hit just .222 in 51 games after being acquired by the Astros in July. The Astros absorbed a major blow when catcher Jason Castro suffered a season-ending knee injury in spring training. The Astros also need to see more from Happ and Norris to shore up the rotation.
Outlook: Houston needs strong starts from Pence and Lee after their poor beginnings last season helped doom the Astros. Pence won a 6.9 million salary in arbitration and the 27-year-old will need to earn it with his play and leadership on this young team in its first full season without stars Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt. The Astros are hoping to build on a solid finish to last season where they went 59-52 while relying on young talent. A big question is how Johnson will follow up a stellar rookie season after being called up in June. Hall and Barmes are new up the middle -- the Astros believe Hall is an upgrade at second base and they're also hoping he adds some punch to their offense after they finished last season near the bottom of almost every statistical category. The top two spots in the rotation are solid in Myers, who matched a career high in wins, and Rodriguez, who had a 2.11 ERA after the All-Star break.
------Chicago CubsManager: Mike Quade (1st full season).
2010: 75-87, fifth place.
He's Here: RHP Matt Garza, 1B Carlos Pena, RHP Kerry Wood, RHP Braden Looper, INF Augie Odeja, RHP Todd Wellemeyer.
He's Outta There: OF-1B Xavier Nady, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, OF Sam Fuld.
Projected lineup: 2B Jeff Baker (.272, 4, 21) or Blake DeWitt (.250, 4, 22 in 53 games with Cubs), SS Starlin Castro (.300, 3, 41), CF Marlon Byrd (.293, 12, 66), 3B Aramis Ramirez (.241, 25, 83 in 124 games), 1B Carlos Pena (.196, 28, 84 with Tampa Bay), LF Alfonso Soriano (.258, 24, 79), RF Tyler Colvin (.254, 20, 56), C Geovany Soto (.280, 17, 53).
Rotation: RH Ryan Dempster (15-12, 3.85 ERA, 215 1-3 IP, 208 Ks), RHP Carlos Zambrano (11-6, 3.33 ERA, 36 games and 20 starts; 8-0 over last 11), RH Matt Garza (15-10, 3.91 ERA, no-hitter with Tampa Bay), RHP Randy Wells (8-14, 4.26, 209 hits allowed), RH Carlos Silva (10-6, 4.22 in 21 starts) or RH Andrew Cashner (2-6, 4.80 in 53 relief appearances).
Key Relievers: RH Carlos Marmol (2-3, 2.55 ERA, 38 saves in 43 chances), RH Kerry Wood (1-4, 6.30 ERA in 23 games with Cleveland; 2-0, 0.69 in 24 games with Yankees), LH Sean Marshall (7-5, 2.65 in 80 appearances), LH John Grabow (1-3, 7.36 in 28 games), RH Jeff Samardzija (2-2, 8.38 in 7 games, 3 starts), LH James Russell (1-1, 4.96 in 57 games).
Hot Spots: Leadoff, 1B, and No. 5 starter. Can Baker or DeWitt get it started at the top of the lineup if they platoon? Cubs hoping Pena, signed to a one-year deal, can go above the Mendoza Line and add left-handed power and a great glove at first. Silva, who got off to a quick start last year, had a rough finish after being bothered by heart and elbow problems. He's scuffled this spring and scrapped with Ramirez, but earlier said he shouldn't have to compete for a spot.
Overview: Far out of the race last season and with no pressure, the Cubs played well in going 24-13 after third-base coach Quade took over on an interim basis following Lou Piniella's abrupt retirement. Garza is being counted on to be a stopper and he's struggled this spring. And which Zambrano will show up? The one who was sent to anger management counseling last year after another emotional outburst -- this one directed at teammates -- or the new and calmer one this spring? Zambrano went 8-0 down the stretch last season, helping Quade get the job on a full-time basis. No sophomore slumps please for the three Cs from last season, all of whom played well as rookies in spurts -- Cashner, Colvin and Castro. Also, how much does Soriano have left in left? His shaky fielding in the outfield is a concern, but not as much if he can add to his 24 homers from last season. What the Cubs really need as they try to end their 102-year World Series title drought is a fast start in the cold weather, especially from their two corner power hitters in Ramirez, slowed by injuries last season, and Pena. Wood, a fan favorite, was brought back on a 1.5 million contract to strengthen the bullpen and provide leadership in a clubhouse after prominent players such as Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee were traded away last season.
------Pittsburgh Pirates2010: 57-105, last place.
Manager: Clint Hurdle (1st season).
He's Here: RHP Kevin Correia, 1B Lyle Overbay, OF Matt Diaz, LHP Joe Beimel, LHP Scott Olsen, LHP Garrett Olson, INF Andy Marte, 3B Josh Fields.
He's Outta There: LHP Zach Duke, LHP Wil Ledezma, RHP Joe Martinez, 3B Andy LaRoche, INF Delwyn Young, OF Lastings Milledge.
Projected Lineup: LF Jose Tabata (.299, 4, 35), 2B Neil Walker (.296, 12, 66), CF Andrew McCutchen (.286, 16, 56, 33 SBs), 3B Pedro Alvarez (.256, 16, 64), 1B Lyle Overbay (.243, 20, 67 with Toronto), RF Matt Diaz (.250, 7, 31 with Atlanta) or Garrett Jones (.247, 21, 86), SS Ronny Cedeno (.256, 8, 38), C Chris Snyder (.207, 15, 48 with Arizona and Pittsburgh).
Rotation: LH Paul Maholm (9-15, 5.10), RH Kevin Correia (10-10, 5.40 with San Diego), RH Ross Ohlendorf (1-11, 4.07), RH James McDonald (4-6, 4.02), RH Charlie Morton (2-12, 7.57).
Key Relievers: RH Joel Hanrahan (4-1, 3.62, 6 saves), RH Evan Meek (5-4, 2.14, 4 saves, 70 games), LH Garrett Olson (0-3, 4.54 in 35 games with Seattle), LH Joe Beimel (1-2, 3.40, 71 games with Colorado), RH Daniel McCutchen (2-5, 6.12), RH Chris Resop (0-0, 3.86), RHP
Hot Spots: Hitting, pitching and fielding -- the Pirates were last in the NL in all three categories in 2010. Pittsburgh figures to be better in all three areas this year, the sign of a young team with some emerging talent. That said, they need a six-game improvement simply to avoid another 100-loss season. At least Ohlendorf started out with a win -- he beat the Pirates in salary arbitration despite his better-than-it-looked 1-11 record, drawing a raise from 439,000 to over 2 million.
Outlook: Hurdle is one of the most positive-talking people in baseball. It's hard to be around him for more than a minute without believing his team will get better. He vows to fix the Pirates' problems one at a time -- unhappy with Pittsburgh pitchers hitting only .090 last year, for example, he got them more practice in exhibition games by often turning down a DH slot and making his pitchers hit this spring. But there's a lot to fix after a record 18 straight losing seasons. The Pirates hit just .242 last season and had a 5.00 ERA. They do have a talented young core with McCutchen, Alvarez, Walker and Tabata. Pittsburgh also has cornered the market on McCutchens -- Andrew and Daniel are the only players with that last name in major league history.