February 17th, 2014
Spring Training camps are open and baseball is in the air in both Arizona and Florida.
Prior to the beginning of spring games, I thought I would share share my thoughts on the player I think will be key for each club in the coming season.
Today I look at the National League.
While all eyes will be on Mark Trumbo and Paul Goldschmidt, I really think the most important player for the Diamondbacks will be Miguel Montero. Can he rebound from a very difficult 2012? Can he provide protection and drive in runs? Will he be a force at the plate?
For me, a solid Evan Gattis behind the plate would be extremely helpful in moving the Braves beyond Brian McCann and into a new era. Will he hit consistently? If so, the team can allow Christian Bethancourt more development time.
Starlin Castro is a crucial component of the Cubs until Javier Baez is ready to take on a full time role. At that point, the team will have a decision to make. Maybe one of them changes positions. Until then, Castro can really help if he hits and plays with energy.
Can Billy Hamilton get on base and be a catalyst for the Reds? If he can, think of the stolen bases and runs he will produce. If he can’t get on base, his role could change dramatically. Bunting more will help. Seeing more pitches will help. He can fly.
For me, a healthy Justin Morneau will mean a great deal to the Rockies. If they can get good production from him, it will provide even more offense that will likely be needed in the hitter-friendly Coors Field. Those pitchers need all the runs they can get.
A return to health for Matt Kemp can make the entire season for the Dodgers. Along with the other dynamic players in the lineup and on the mound, the team is poised to excel. But Kemp’s bat is important.
Christian Yelich setting the table and providing protection for Giancarlo Stanton will be really important to the Marlins. Stanton needs to see pitches to be effective. If Yelich gains the respect of pitchers with his own big bat, watch out!
A healthy Aramis Ramirez is important to the Brewers as long as he’s their third baseman. The team is not deep in corner infielders. If Ramirez is on the shelf again this season, it stretches an already thin roster even more. He’s important.
Who’s the real Ike Davis? Can he still hit and hit with power? If Davis can perform, it will take some pressure off David Wright and Curtis Granderson. His resurgence is important to the entire Mets lineup. This is a huge season for Davis.
Ryan Howard has lost weight and should be healthy. If he can stay on the field, can he still hit? And can he hit the long ball? Think what a healthy Howard will do for a Phillies team that is aging and trying to remain relevant. Without him? Issues.
Few people can hit the ball as far or as hard as Pedro Alvarez. If he can get hot and stay hot, he can help Andrew McCutchen and the rest of the Pirates gain a return to the Postseason. A consistent Alvarez will mean a great deal to the club.
I ask the same question of Chase Headley as I asked of Ike Davis? Who’s the real guy? I think Headley has it in him to lead the Padres to a big season. His bat is important in a venue that is very pitcher friendly. He’s a key guy in the lineup.
What can the Giants expect from Pablo Sandoval? He’s such a great natural hitter. But if he can keep the weight off, he can be even greater. He’s much more agile than people think and he plays a fine third base. But he has to hit and hit and hit for them to win.
For me, Jhonny Peralta is a key to the Cardinals. Can he drive in the big runs they will need with the loss of Carlos Beltran and David Freese? Can Peralta get to balls in the hole and help those fabulous pitchers or will his range become an issue?
The Nationals could sure use a solid Adam LaRoche at first base. If he hits to his capabilities, it can take some of the pressure off Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper. If LaRoche is a force, it allows Jayson Worth to see many more good pitches to hit.
Next time I’ll take a look at my keys for the American League.
As always, thanks for reading my work here, at MLBPipeline.com and on twitter @BerniePleskoff.