Busch Stadium (Image: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE)

Beyond Busch: NL Central Bats and MLB notes


This week Beyond Busch will cover the hitters for the teams in the National League Central and then provide a brief snippet for each of the remaining MLB teams.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs trot out shortstop Starlin Castro as their one bonafide star. Catcher Geovany Soto has some pop, as does OF Alfonso Soriano. But, Soriano still strikes out too often and walks too little. The Cubs carryover OF Marlon Byrd and 2B Darwin Barney. They added OF David DeJesus via free agency and 3B Ian Stewart through a trade. The Cubs will be giving Bryan LaHair a shot at first base with Anthony Rizzo, who was acquired from the San Diego Padres for Andrew Cashner in the picture. The Cubs will miss the bat of 3B Aramis Ramirez and could have trouble scoring runs.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds have a very nice core of talented and powerful hitters in their lineup. Led by 1B Joey Votto and OF Jay Bruce, the Reds also have OF Drew Stubbs who is a power/speed guy (22/30 in 2010 and 15/40 in 2011). Brandon Phillips, who is still one of the best second basemen in the game and 3B Scott Rolen are the veterans returning. The Reds added OF Ryan Ludwick who will compete with Chris Heisey and Todd Frazier in left field. Ryan Hanigan is a decent hitting catcher. Scoring runs shouldn’t be an issue for this group.

Houston Astros

I hate being repetitive, but the Astros are a mostly young and inexperienced team. They do have some talented players who will add another season under their belt at the least. Carlos Lee returns to play first and he is the lone power source on the team. Lee, however hit the fewest home runs in a season since 2000, and had never hit less than 24 in a season since then. OF J.D. Martinez and 3B Jimmy Paredes look to continue their growth. Paredes has to be on the lookout for Brett Wallace, who is shifting to third base, and Chris Johnson who are both looking to regain their form. OF Jordan Schafer is going to get the chance he failed to receive with the Atlanta Braves. SS Jed Lowrie comes over from the Red Sox and will play up the middle with 2B Jose Altuve. Another weak hitting team should make life difficult for starting pitchers.

Milwaukee Brewers

By the hands of an arbitrator the Brewers received excellent news yesterday when OF Ryan Braun had a possible 50 game suspension rescinded due to poor chain of command with his urine test which came back with positive results for performance enhancing drugs. With the loss of 1B Prince Fielder, the Brewers were already down a masher. The Brewers grabbed 3B Aramis Ramirez off the free-agent market and he will supply some protection for Braun. Mat Gamel will be given yet another shot at a starting job, this time at first base. Returning are 2B Rickie Weeks, OF Nyger Morgan, OF Corey Hart and C Jonathan Lucroy. The Brewers signed Alex Gonzalez to play shortstop. Even without Fielder, this team can hit and will score plenty of runs. Braun being a part of the lineup for the entire season puts the Brewers right back into the discussion to defend their NL Central crown.

Pittsburgh Pirates

CF Andrew McCutchen and 2B Neil Walker lead a young group of hitters. OFs Alex Presley and Jose Tabata look to take the next step in their careers. 1B Garrett Jones and 3B Pedro Alvarez are looking to fulfill their potential. The Bucs signed SS Clint Barmes and C Rod Barajas in the offseason to complement the younger players. If the Pirates can continue to get all-star quality production out of McCutchen and Walker plus receive improvements from the remaining players they could be ready to break their 19 season skid.

Here are notes on the remaining MLB lineups.

NL East

Atlanta Braves – How long can Chipper Jones hang on?

Miami Marlins – Great combination of speed and power throughout the lineup

New York Mets – Well, they moved in the fences…

Philadelphia Phillies – Without Ryan Howard to start and this group is getting old

Washington Nationals – Need improvement from Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth to aid Ryan Zimmermann and Michael Morse

NL West

Arizona Diamonbacks – Could be some pleasant surprises

Colorado Rockies – Solid lineup featuring Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki

Los Angeles DodgersMatt Kemp says he’s going 50/50…not if Andre Ethier has anything to say about it

San Diego Padres – Runs will be scored a plenty…elsewhere

San Francisco Giants – How about playing Brandon Belt?

AL East

Baltimore Orioles – Look for another jump from Adam Jones and Matt Wieters

Boston Red Sox – 6 through 9 looks weak

New York Yankees – Should once again be near the top of league in runs scored despite age

Tampa Bay Rays – Another well rounded group with speed and power throughout lineup

Toronto Blue Jays – Can Jose Bautista do it again? I’m not going to doubt him.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox – Can Paul Konerko continue to get better with age? Is Adam Dunn, done?

Cleveland Indians – Nice mix of young talent, budding stars and hobbled former stars

Detroit Tigers – Losing Victor Martinez offset and some by addition of Fielder

Kansas City Royals – Here comes Mike Moustakas

Minnesota TwinsJustin Morneau‘s career is hanging in the balance

AL West

Los Angeles Angels – A new beginning for El Hombre, oh wait, still can’t call him that

Oakland A’s – A’s will use Yoenis Cespedes video for drills during camp

Seattle Mariners – Has Ichiro Suzuki finally started his decline?

Texas Rangers – Best lineup top to bottom?

Next week we will check in on the managers for the Cardinals’ NL Central foes and the rest of MLB.

You can ‘Like’ Redbird Rants on Facebook here. You can follow Redbird Rants on Twitter at @FSRedbirdRants and Chris Carelli on Twitter at @Chris_Carelli.

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Tags: Adam Dunn Adam Jones Alex Gonzalez Alex Presley Alfonso Soriano Andre Ethier Andrew Cashner Andrew McCutchen Anthony Rizzo Brandon Belt Brandon Phillips Brett Wallace Bryan LaHair Carlos Gonzalez Carlos Lee Chipper Jones Chris Heisey Chris Johnson Clint Barmes Corey Hart Darwin Barney David DeJesus Drew Stubbs Garrett Jones Ian Stewart Ichiro Suzuki J.D. Martinez Jay Bruce Jed Lowrie Jimmy Paredes Joey Votto Jonathan Lucroy Jose Altuve Jose Bautista Jose Tabata Justin Morneau Marlon Byrd Mat Gamel Matt Kemp Matt Wieters Michael Morse Mike Moustakas Neil Walker Paul Konerko Pedro Alvarez Prince Fielder Rickie Weeks Rod Barajas Ryan Braun Ryan Hanigan Ryan Howard Ryan Ludwick Ryan Zimmerman Scott Rolen Starlin Castro Todd Frazier Troy Tulowitzki Victor Martinez Yoenis Cespedes

  • astrosince1975

    One Astros hitter that you failed to mention is Brian Bogusevic. He flashed some power late last season and will be given a shot at the RF job this spring. Keep an eye on Bogusevic. He could be a decent fifth or sixth place hitter in the lineup.

  • http://www.redbirdrants.com/ Chris_Carelli

     @astrosince1975
     Thanks for the heads up, I will definitely pay attention to him. What are his chances of winning the job?

  • astrosince1975

     @Chris_Carelli “Bogey” is definitely the favorite going into camp. He had a good Winter League in the Dominican. He has made major strides in recent years after starting his career as a pitcher. As a left-handed hitter he has yet to get much playing time against LHP and could possibly be part of a platoon.

  • http://www.redbirdrants.com/ Chris_Carelli

     @astrosince1975
     I love spring competitions, usually brings out the better player.