SPRING TRAINING | Projecting the Braves, Other NL Lineups

1:48 PM, Mar 13, 2013   |    comments
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The Atlanta Braves will rely on outfielders (from left) Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton to provide a sizable chunk of their run production this season. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)


Steve Gardner, USA TODAY Sports

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Outfielders B.J. and Justin Upton will instantly make the Atlanta Braves lineup more imposing
  • With a .381 career on-base percentage, Reds OF Shin-Soo Choo should be a threat to score 100 runs
  • After stealing 40 bases in 124 games with Minnesota, OF Ben Revere will get the green light in Philly

An early look at projected batting orders from 1 to 8 for each National League team:

ATLANTA BRAVES

  1. SS Andrelton Simmons
  2. RF Jason Heyward
  3. LF Justin Upton
  4. 1B Freddie Freeman
  5. CF B.J. Upton
  6. C Brian McCann
  7. 2B Dan Uggla
  8. 3B Juan Francisco/Chris Johnson


The Upton brothers instantly make this lineup much more imposing; both have 30-homer power and excellent speed. Andrelton Simmons hit .289, making the jump from Class AA to the majors, but injuries limited him to 166 at-bats. Heyward is coming off a 27-homer, 21-steal season, and at age 23 there's room for growth. McCann (shoulder surgery) isn't likely to be ready for opening day. C-OF Evan Gattis has been sizzling all spring and could make the jump from ClassAA.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

  1. CF Adam Eaton
  2. 3B Martin Prado
  3. 2B Aaron Hill
  4. C Miguel Montero
  5. 1B Paul Goldschmidt
  6. LF Jason Kubel
  7. RF Cody Ross
  8. SS Cliff Pennington


Manager Kirk Gibson wants to ratchet up the intensity, and Eaton could set the tone. An on-base machine in the minors, the 5-8 speedster should have the green light to create havoc on the basepaths. Ex-Brave Prado boasts an elite contact rate and could surpass his career-high of 15 homers in a more hitter-friendly park. Hill has raised his game since coming to Arizona (.517 slugging percentage) in 2011. Paul Goldschmidt, the NL's top fantasy first baseman last season, combines power with sneaky speed (18 steals).

CHICAGO CUBS

  1. CF David DeJesus
  2. SS Starlin Castro
  3. 1B Anthony Rizzo
  4. LF Alfonso Soriano
  5. RF Nate Schierholtz/Scott Hairston
  6. C Welington Castillo
  7. 3B Ian Stewart
  8. 2B Darwin Barney


The Cubs are rebuilding, but there's plenty to like with a pair of 23-year-olds in the middle of the lineup. Castro set career highs in home runs (14) and stolen bases (25) last season, but his average dropped below .300 for the first time in his three big-league seasons. Rizzo hit 38 homers a year ago, 15 after being called up. OF prospect Brett Jackson could push David DeJesus or take over in left if Soriano is traded.

CINCINNATI REDS

  1. CF Shin-Soo Choo
  2. 2B Brandon Phillips
  3. 1B Joey Votto
  4. LF Ryan Ludwick
  5. RF Jay Bruce
  6. 3B Todd Frazier
  7. SS Zack Cozart
  8. C Ryan Hanigan


With a .381 career on-base percentage, Choo should be a threat to score 100 runs. Votto's participation in the World Baseball Classic indicates his offseason knee surgery no longer is a concern. Bruce has increased his home run and RBI totals in four consecutive seasons. Speedster Billy Hamilton is expected to be the starting center fielder in 2014, but an injury could accelerate his timetable.

COLORADO ROCKIES

  1. CF Dexter Fowler
  2. 2B Josh Rutledge
  3. LF Carlos Gonzalez
  4. SS Troy Tulowitzki
  5. RF Michael Cuddyer
  6. 1B Todd Helton/Tyler Colvin
  7. C Wilin Rosario
  8. 3B Chris Nelson/Jordan Pacheco


Fowler hit .300 for the first time last season, but it came with a major league-leading .390 average on balls in play. Despite averaging 135 games, Gonzalez is the only player in the majors with at least 20 homers and 20 steals in each of the past three seasons. Rosario led all catchers in home runs with 28 (in 396 at-bats). 3B prospect Nolan Arenado could claim the starting job sooner rather than later.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

  1. SS Hanley Ramirez
  2. 2B Mark Ellis
  3. 1B Adrian Gonzalez
  4. CF Matt Kemp
  5. RF Andre Ethier
  6. 3B Luis Cruz
  7. LF Skip Schumaker/Jerry Hairston Jr.
  8. C A.J. Ellis


Ramirez isn't the ideal leadoff man, but he or Ellis will have that role unless SS Dee Gordon forces his way into the lineup. Kemp is working his way back to full strength after offseason shoulder surgery. Don't give up on him if he starts slowly. OF Carl Crawford (elbow) might not be ready by opening day.

MIAMI MARLINS

  1. LF Juan Pierre
  2. 3B Placido Polanco
  3. RF Giancarlo Stanton
  4. 1B Logan Morrison
  5. CF Justin Ruggiano
  6. C Rob Brantly
  7. 2B Donovan Solano
  8. SS Adeiny Hechavarria


Stanton will get his home runs, but the Marlins might have trouble scoring otherwise - especially if Morrison (knee surgery) isn't there to offer lineup protection. Pierre should be good for a decent average and his usual 30 steals - though he could sit against some left-handers in favor of OF Gorkys Hernandez. Sleeper alert: Brantly hit .290 as a rookie and will move into a full-time role behind the plate.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

  1. RF Norichika Aoki
  2. 2B Rickie Weeks
  3. LF Ryan Braun
  4. 3B Aramis Ramirez
  5. C Jonathan Lucroy
  6. CF Carlos Gomez
  7. 1B Hunter Morris/Alex Gonzalez
  8. SS Jean Segura


Aoki was a major value pick last season when he won a full-time job and stole 30 bases. Weeks' overall numbers weren't great in 2012, but he did have a huge second half (51 runs, 13 home runs, 10 stolen bases). A fluke injury cost Lucroy 50 games last year or he'd be among the NL's top three catchers. 1B Corey Hart will miss at least the first month of the season. Prospects Taylor Green and Morris and veterans Bobby Crosby and Gonzalez are in the mix for the job.

NEW YORK METS

  1. CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis/Collin Cowgill
  2. 2B Daniel Murphy
  3. 3B David Wright
  4. 1B Ike Davis
  5. LF Lucas Duda
  6. RF Mike Baxter/Marlon Byrd
  7. C John Buck
  8. SS Ruben Tejada


Someone needs to set the table for Wright and Davis. Center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis might have been the front-runner for the leadoff spot until he injured his knee. Cowgill is a better stolen-base threat anyway. OF-IF Jordany Valdespin was a valuable pinch-hitter last season and could be an option, as well. Byrd, 35, is a non-roster invitee whose hot spring not only gives him a chance to make the team, but start as well. How long will the Mets wait to promote top prospect and power-hitting catcher Travis d'Arnaud?

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

  1. CF Ben Revere
  2. SS Jimmy Rollins|
  3. 2B Chase Utley
  4. 1B Ryan Howard
  5. 3B Michael Young
  6. RF Domonic Brown
  7. LF Darin Ruf/John Mayberry Jr.
  8. C Erik Kratz


After stealing 40 bases in 124 games with the Minnesota Twins, Revere should have the green light. If Utley and Howard can stay healthy, they're serious rebound candidates - though don't expect a return to their previous production levels. Delmon Young's ankle injury likely means Brown will get his long-awaited chance to play every day, though Laynce Nix is an option. Kratz will start most games while regular catcher Carlos Ruiz serves a 25-game drug suspension to start the season.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

  1. LF Starling Marte
  2. 2B Neil Walker
  3. CF Andrew McCutchen
  4. 1B/RF Garrett Jones
  5. C Russell Martin
  6. 3B Pedro Alvarez
  7. RF/1B Travis Snider/Jose Tabata/Gaby Sanchez
  8. SS Clint Barmes


Marte provides plenty of speed at the top of the order, but he'll need to prove he can get on base at a reasonable clip to stay there. Walker is a solid option at a thin position. McCutchen should be good for a 30-homer, 30-steal season but don't bank on a repeat of his .327 average. As his hit rate normalizes, he should settle into the .275-.280 range. Garrett Jones could become expendable if Sanchez can be a consistent producer at first base. Alex Presley adds to the logjam in the outfield.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

  1. CF Jon Jay
  2. RF Carlos Beltran
  3. LF Matt Holliday
  4. 1B Allen Craig
  5. C Yadier Molina
  6. 3B David Freese
  7. 2B Daniel Descalso/Matt Carpenter
  8. SS Pete Kozma/Ronny Cedeno


Beltran, Holliday and Craig are 30-homer threats. Losing shortstop Rafael Furcal for the season further complicates the middle-infield situation. Carpenter looks to add second base to his fantasy eligibility (first base, third base and outfield). If he's adequate defensively, his bat is good enough to make him a fantasy starter, possibly even in mixed leagues. If Descalso moves to short, it could open the door for 2B prospect Kolten Wong, a 2011 first-round pick who has a .300 average and .363 on-base percentage in two minor league seasons.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

  1. SS Everth Cabrera
  2. RF Will Venable/Chris Denorfia
  3. 3B Chase Headley
  4. LF Carlos Quentin
  5. 1B Yonder Alonso
  6. CF Cameron Maybin
  7. C Nick Hundley
  8. 2B Logan Forsythe


Cabrera stole 44 bases in limited playing time last season but has never hit for average. Headley's 31 home runs and league-leading 115 RBI were the product of an elevated home-run-to-fly ball rate. He probably won't match those numbers, but his ability to steal bases will keep his value high. Prospect Jedd Gyorko has played mostly third base in the minors, but he's competing with Forsythe for the starting job at second. His bat is good enough to make him worth a speculative pick. Starting catcher Yasmani Grandal will miss the first 50 games after being suspended for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone.

SAN FRANCISO GIANTS

  1. CF Angel Pagan
  2. 2B Marco Scutaro
  3. 3B Pablo Sandoval
  4. C Buster Posey
  5. RF Hunter Pence
  6. 1B Brandon Belt
  7. LF Gregor Blanco/Andres Torres
  8. SS Brandon Crawford


Posey likely will get one start a week at first base to give him a break behind the plate. Hector Sanchez is a capable backup who has pop. Scutaro was impressive after arriving in a late-season trade, but it's doubtful he can duplicate his career year at age 37. Pence hit .219 after the Giants acquired him, but he drove in 45 runs in 59 games. His career record suggests it's a small sample size fluke rather than an inability to hit in AT&T Park. Though not yet a home run threat, Belt is an excellent breakout candidate.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

  1. CF Denard Span
  2. RF Jayson Werth
  3. LF Bryce Harper
  4. 3B Ryan Zimmerman
  5. 1B Adam LaRoche
  6. SS Ian Desmond
  7. 2B Danny Espinosa
  8. C Kurt Suzuki/Wilson Ramos


Span gives the Nats the true leadoff man they've been lacking the past several seasons. Werth might have found his niche in Washington, working the count and getting on base in front of big boppers Harper, Zimmerman and LaRoche. Espinosa struggled in September while playing with a torn rotator cuff, but he's feeling much better. OF Roger Bernadina, 2B Steve Lombardozzi and 1B-OF Tyler Moore are solid contributors off the bench who could thrive if forced into starting roles by injuries.

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