National League East capsules
Capsules of National League East teams, listed in order of finish last year:
2014: 96-66, first place, lost to San Francisco in Division Series.
Manager: Matt Williams (second season).
He’s Here: RHP Max Scherzer, INF Yunel Escobar, RHP Casey Janssen, OF Tony Gwynn Jr., 2B Dan Uggla, 3B Ian Stewart.
He’s Outta Here: 1B Adam LaRoche, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, RHP Tyler Clippard, RHP Rafael Soriano, LHP Ross Detwiler, OF Nate Schierholtz, OF Steven Souza Jr.
Projected Lineup: CF Denard Span (.302, 5 HRs, 37 RBIs, 31 steals, 39 2Bs, NL-high 184 hits), 3B Anthony Rendon (.287, 21, 83, 39 2Bs, NL-high 111 runs), RF Bryce Harper (.273, 13, 32), 1B Ryan Zimmerman (.280, 5, 38), LF Jayson Werth (.292, 16, 82), SS Ian Desmond (.255, 24, 91), C Wilson Ramos (.267, 11, 47), 2B Yunel Escobar (.258, 7, 39 with Rays).
Rotation: RH Max Scherzer (18-5, 3.15 ERA, 252 Ks with Tigers), RH Jordan Zimmermann (14-5, 2.66, no-hitter in regular-season finale), RH Stephen Strasburg (14-11, 3.14, 242 Ks), RH Doug Fister (16-6, 2.41), LH Gio Gonzalez (10-10, 3.57).
Key Relievers: RH Drew Storen (2-1, 1.12, 11/14 saves), RH Casey Janssen (3-3, 3.94, 25 saves with Blue Jays), RH Aaron Barrett (3-0, 2.66), LH Matt Thornton (1-3, 1.75 with Yankees and Nationals), RH Craig Stammen (4-5, 3.84), LH Jerry Blevins (2-3, 4.87, .160 BA vs. LH), RH Tanner Roark (15-10, 2.85 as a starter).
Hot Spots: Health and Bullpen. Half of the everyday lineup — Span, Werth, Rendon and Escobar — plus fourth outfielder Nate McClouth missed significant time in spring training because of injuries. Strasburg and Storen lost some work, too, with more minor problems. It’s possible that Werth, Rendon, Span and McClouth will be out on opening day. Keeping everyone healthy and available will go a long way toward allowing the Nationals to win as much as they hope to. Losing LaRoche leaves a hole in the heart of the lineup that could be filled if players such as Harper, Zimmerman and Ramos avoid the injuries that kept them sidelined for chunks of last season. The bullpen lost about 200 innings with the departures of All-Star setup man Clippard, Soriano and Detwiler; Janssen, Toronto’s closer last season, could fill Clippard’s role. Storen, who regained the closer’s job from Soriano late last season, faltered in October in 2012 and 2014.
Outlook: A popular pick to run away with the NL East, finally win a playoff series and take home the World Series trophy. The rotation already was the majors’ best last season, and general manager Mike Rizzo added 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner Scherzer via a $210 million contract. Scherzer gets the nod for opening day, but there will be little drop-off through the rest of the starting staff, which is so strong that a 15-game winner in 2014, Roark, heads to the bullpen. If Harper, Zimmerman (who is shifting to 1B), Werth and Desmond can hit to their abilities in the postseason — something that, among that quartet, only Harper did during an NLDS loss to the San Francisco Giants a year ago — the Nationals figure they are the team to beat. Worth keeping an eye on: Will the team agree to new contracts with Desmond, Zimmermann, Fister or Span, trade them, or let them walk after the season as free agents?
2014: 79-83, tied for second place.
Manager: Fredi Gonzalez (fifth season).
He’s Here: OF Nick Markakis, RHP Shelby Miller, OF Jonny Gomes, OF Eric Young Jr., INF Jace Peterson, LHP Eric Stults, RHP Mike Foltynewicz, RHP Jim Johnson, RHP Jason Grilli, C A.J. Pierzynski, OF Zoilo Almonte, INF Alberto Callaspo, RHP Michael Kohn, RHP Arodys Vizcaino.
He’s Outta Here: OF Justin Upton, OF Jason Heyward, C Evan Gattis, RHP Ervin Santana, RHP Aaron Harang, RHP David Carpenter, RHP Jordan Walden, RHP David Hale, RHP Gavin Floyd, 2B Tommy La Stella, C Gerald Laird, C Ryan Doumit, INF Ramiro Pena, OF Emilio Bonifacio, RHP Anthony Varvaro, INF Tyler Pastornicky, GM Frank Wren (fired with a week to go in 2014 season).
Projected Lineup: CF Eric Young Jr. (.229, 1, 17, 30 SBs with Mets), 2B Jace Peterson (.113, 0, 0 in 27 games with Padres), RF Nick Markakis (.276, 14, 50, AL Gold Glove with Orioles), 1B Freddie Freeman (.288, 18, 78, .386 OBP), LF Jonny Gomes (.234, 6, 37 with Boston and Oakland), 3B Chris Johnson (.263, 10, 58, 159 Ks), C Christian Bethancourt (.248, 0, 9), SS Andrelton Simmons (.244, 7, 46, NL Gold Glove).
Rotation: RH Julio Teheran (14-13, 2.89, 2 shutouts), LH Alex Wood (11-11, 2.78), RH Shelby Miller (10-9, 3.74 with Cardinals), LH Mike Minor (6-12, 4.77, might start season on DL because of shoulder tightness), LH Eric Stults (8-17, 4.30 with Padres), RH Mike Foltynewicz (0-1, 5.30 with Astros).
Key Relievers: RH Craig Kimbrel (0-3, 1.61, NL-leading 47/51 saves, 95 Ks in 61 2-3 IP), RH Jason Grilli (1-5, 4.00, 12/17 saves with Pirates and Angels), RH Jim Johnson (5-2, 7.09, 2 saves with Athletics and Tigers), LH James Russell (0-2, 2.97, 1 save with Cubs and Braves), LH Luis Avilan (4-1, 4.57).
Hot Spots: Center Field. Melvin Upton Jr. — the player formerly known as B.J. Upton — missed spring training with a left foot injury and it’s not known when he’ll return. The setback further hampered his bid to bounce back from two dismal seasons after signing a $75 million, five-year contract with the Braves. If Upton could somehow turn things around, it would be a huge boost to a lineup that will have to scramble for every run it gets. In the meantime, Young, a journeyman who made a good impression in camp, gives the Braves the closest thing they have to a legitimate leadoff man. He will likely get plenty of playing time, even after Upton returns.
Outlook: The Braves usually come into the season viewed as a playoff contender. Not this time. Just two years removed from an NL East title, they began a massive rebuilding job under new GM John Hart. Atlanta will start the season with as few as eight players who broke camp a year ago, dumping sluggers Justin Upton, Heyward and Gattis while receiving only a handful of players who will help out right away. If Minor is healthy, the rotation should be solid, and Kimbrel remains one of baseball’s most dominant closers. But the offense was one of baseball’s worst a year ago, and it could be even tougher to produce runs with a lineup that now includes players such as Gomes, Young and Peterson. The Braves spent the winter primarily rebuilding their once-mighty farm system, with an eye toward being a more competitive team when they move into a new suburban stadium in 2017.
New York Mets
2014: 79-83, tied for second place.
Manager: Terry Collins (fifth season).
He’s Here: OF Michael Cuddyer, OF-1B John Mayberry Jr., LHP Sean Gilmartin, OF Alex Castellanos, C Johnny Monell.
He’s Outta Here: OF Eric Young Jr., RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka, OF Bobby Abreu, LHP Dana Eveland, RHP Gonzalez Germen, OF Andrew Brown, 1B-3B Josh Satin, C Juan Centeno.
Projected Lineup: CF Juan Lagares (.281, 4, 47, 13 SBs), RF Curtis Granderson (.227, 20, 66, team-high 141 Ks), 3B David Wright (.269, 8, 63), 1B Lucas Duda (.253, 30, 92, .349 OBP, 135 Ks), LF Michael Cuddyer (.332, 10, 31 in 49 games with Colorado), 2B Daniel Murphy (.289, 9, 57), C Travis d’Arnaud (.242, 13, 41), SS Wilmer Flores (.251, 6, 29 in 78 games).
Rotation: RH Bartolo Colon (15-13, 4.09, 202 1-3 IP), RH Jacob deGrom (9-6, 2.69, 144 Ks, 140 1-3 IP, 22 starts, NL Rookie of the Year), RH Matt Harvey (missed last season recovering from elbow surgery; 9-5, 2.27, 191 Ks, 31 BBs, 178 1-3 IP in 2013), LH Jonathon Niese (9-11, 3.40), RH Dillon Gee (7-8, 4.00, 22 starts).
Key Relievers: RH Jenrry Mejia (6-6, 3.65, 28/31 saves, 63 games, 7 starts), RH Jeurys Familia (2-5, 2.21, 5 saves, 76 games), RH Carlos Torres (8-6, 3.06, 2 saves, 73 games, 1 start, 97 IP), RH Bobby Parnell (0-0, 9.00, 1 game, season-ending elbow surgery; 5-5, 2.16, 22 saves in 2013), RH Vic Black (2-3, 2.60), RH Rafael Montero (1-3, 4.06, 10 games, 8 starts), LH Scott Rice (1-2, 5.93, 32 games, 13 2-3 IP, 12 BBs) or LH Sean Gilmartin (9-7, 3.71, 26 starts in Double-A and Triple-A with Minnesota).
Hot Spots: Shortstop, Leadoff Batter, Bullpen. New York is still trying to replace All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, the speedy leadoff man who left as a free agent following the 2011 season. Many fans clamored for GM Sandy Alderson to trade pitching for a proven shortstop this winter, but he stood pat. Flores, a young hitter with a suspect glove, gets his shot to hold down the everyday job after Ruben Tejada squandered several opportunities. Flores has the arm, but his hands and footwork are choppy at times. He’ll need to make the routine plays and provide some offense to stick in the starting lineup. And with Murphy a limited defender as well, double-play balls could become an adventure. Another prospect, Matt Reynolds, might be waiting in the wings if Flores falters. ... With no natural leadoff hitter in the lineup, the Mets hope Lagares can give them a consistent spark despite his .302 on-base percentage in two big league seasons. Lagares is a hard worker and keeps improving at the plate. ... The bullpen was supposed to be a strength — and still might be if enough arms are healthy. Josh Edgin, who posted a 1.32 ERA last year, got hurt in spring training and had season-ending elbow surgery. That leaves the relief corps without a reliable lefty. Parnell, coming back from his own Tommy John surgery, could return by May. Black (shoulder) might start the season on the disabled list. Mejia and Familia have nasty stuff at the back end, but this group may be thin early on.
Outlook: After years spent rebuilding, the Mets finally believe they have enough talent to contend for the playoffs. The biggest reason is the return of Harvey, now more than 17 months removed from Tommy John surgery. But while the team is thrilled to get its All-Star ace back, two key pitchers were lost this spring. In addition to Edgin, right-hander Zack Wheeler (11-11, 3.54 ERA) will miss the entire season following elbow surgery. Gee jumps back into the rotation after he’d been ticketed for the bullpen, and New York might just have enough pitching depth to absorb the setbacks. Cuddyer was signed to boost a sagging offense, and the Mets brought in the Citi Field fences — again — to help Granderson and Wright in right-center. Kevin Long, a Granderson favorite during his Yankees days, was hired as hitting coach. Wright aims to bounce back after a left shoulder injury contributed to his 2014 flop, while Duda tries to duplicate his breakout season. The bench is better but the defense looks shaky around Lagares, a Gold Glove winner. Good thing the pitching staff ranked third in the NL in strikeouts last year — even without Harvey. Nobody anticipates the Mets challenging Washington in the NL East, but expectations are fairly high for a team that’s never reached 80 wins in six seasons since moving into Citi Field. So with a poor start or another lackluster finish, Collins could be out of a job.
2014: 77-85, fourth place.
Manager: Mike Redmond (third season).
He’s Here: RHP Mat Latos, 1B-OF Michael Morse, 2B Dee Gordon, 3B Martin Prado, RHP Dan Haren, OF Ichiro Suzuki, RHP Aaron Crow, RHP David Phelps, INF-OF Don Kelly, RHP Nick Masset.
He’s Outta Here: 3B Casey McGehee, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, 1B Garrett Jones, RHP Anthony DeSclafani, LHP Dan Jennings, LHP Andrew Heaney, RHP Chris Hatcher, RHP Arquimedes Caminero, RHP Kevin Gregg, INF Kike Hernandez, LHP Brian Flynn.
Projected Lineup: 2B Dee Gordon (.289, 2, 34, 64 SBs, 92 runs for Dodgers), LF Christian Yelich (.284, 9, 54, 21 SBs, Gold Glove), RF Giancarlo Stanton (.288, NL-high 37, 105, 94 walks, NL-high .555 SLG, .950 OPS), 1B Michael Morse (.279, 16, 61 for Giants), 3B Martin Prado (.282, 12, 58 for Diamondbacks and Yankees), CF Marcell Ozuna (.296, 23, 85), SS Adeiny Hechavarria (.276, 1, 34), C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.220, 11, 44, 143 Ks).
Rotation: RH Henderson Alvarez (12-7, 2.65), RH Mat Latos (5-5, 3.25 for Reds), RH Dan Haren (13-11, 4.02 for Dodgers), RH Jarred Cosart (13-11, 3.69 for Astros and Marlins), RH Tom Koehler (10-10, 3.81).
Key Relievers: RH Steve Cishek (4-5, 3.17, 39/43 saves), RH A.J. Ramos (7-0, 2.11), LH Mike Dunn (10-6, 3.16), RH Aaron Crow (6-1, 4.12, 3 saves for Royals), RH Bryan Morris (4-1, 0.66 for Pirates and Marlins), RH David Phelps (5-5, 4.38, 1 save for Yankees).
Hot Spots: Can the rest of the lineup force opponents to pitch to Stanton? He led the NL last year with 24 intentional walks. Morse, who had a .475 slugging percentage with the World Series champion Giants, will try to make pitchers pay for walking Stanton. Gordon has the speed to create pressure at the top of the order, but his OBP of .326 ranked 29th among leadoff hitters last year.
Outlook: The Marlins have finished last in the NL in attendance nine times in the past 10 years. They don’t know whether a winning team will draw in their 3-year-old ballpark, because they’ve never had one, and this season could test the South Florida market as never before. Miami’s outfield is perhaps the best in the majors, and the infield looks improved, with Hechavarria the lone holdover. The pitching staff is young, talented and deep, although the Marlins need for newcomers Latos and Haren to deliver as expected, at least until ace Jose Fernandez returns from elbow surgery. The Marlins have a good chance to end their streak of five consecutive losing seasons, and a playoff run is possible, but there’s still plenty of room on the bandwagon.
2014: 73-89, fifth place.
Manager: Ryne Sandberg (second season).
He’s Here: RHP Aaron Harang, RHP Chad Billingsley, RHP Kevin Slowey, OF-INF Odubel Herrera, OF Jordan Danks, OF Jeff Francoeur, LHP Joely Rodriguez.
He’s Outta Here: SS Jimmy Rollins, RF Marlon Byrd, LHP Antonio Bastardo, RHP Kyle Kendrick, C Wil Nieves.
Projected Lineup: CF or LF Ben Revere (.306, 2, 28, 49 SBs) or Odubel Herrera (.315, 2, 59, 21 SBs in Texas’ minor league system), SS Freddy Galvis (.176, 4, 12), 2B Chase Utley (.270, 11, 78, 36 2Bs), 1B Ryan Howard (.223, 23, 95), C Carlos Ruiz (.252, 6, 31), RF Domonic Brown (.235, 10, 63) or Grady Sizemore (.253, 3, 12), LF Darin Ruf (.235, 3, 8) or Sizemore or Herrera, 3B Cody Asche (.252, 10, 46).
Rotation: LH Cole Hamels (9-9, 2.46), RH Aaron Harang (12-12, 3.57 with Atlanta), RH Jerome Williams (4-2, 2.83), RH David Buchanan (6-8, 3.75), RH Kevin Slowey (1-1, 5.30 ERA with Miami) or RH Paul Clemens (0-1, 5.84 with Houston) or RH Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez (0-1, 6.75).
Key Relievers: RH Jonathan Papelbon (2-3, 2.04, 39/43 saves), RH Ken Giles (3-1, 1.18), LH Jake Diekman (5-5, 3.80), RH Justin De Fratus (3-1, 2.39).
Hot Spots: Starting Rotation. Cliff Lee’s elbow injury deprived the Phillies of a formidable 1-2 punch with Hamels. Harang had back issues early in spring training. Williams, released from two teams last year, is the No. 3 starter and there isn’t much depth. The Phillies are hoping Billingsley can rebound from two elbow operations and join the starting five in late April. If Hamels is traded, this could end up being one of the worst rotations in the majors.
Outlook: The rebuilding Phillies have their eye toward the future. They need to find out which young players will be part of the nucleus going forward. They also have a few past-their-prime veterans who could be on the move. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is on the hot seat. He has a tough task trying to unload players with big contracts for talented prospects. Amaro may not stick around for the rebuild if the ballpark is half-empty much of the summer. Former GM Pat Gillick, back in the organization as a fill-in team president, is preaching patience. But Gillick may be forced to make a change soon.