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.
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.
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.
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.
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of an arbitrator the Brewers received excellent news yesterday when OF Ryan Braun had a possible 50 game suspension rescinded due to poor chain of command with his urine test which came back with positive results for performance enhancing drugs.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.
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.
Miami Marlins – Great combination of speed and power throughout the lineup
New York Mets – Well, they moved in the fences…
Arizona Diamonbacks – Could be some pleasant surprises
San Diego Padres – Runs will be scored a plenty…elsewhere
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
Cleveland Indians – Nice mix of young talent, budding stars and hobbled former stars
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
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.