Unfinished Business: NL East and Central

This is my last blog in this series of unfinished business. It’s my take on potential issues and concerns that remain with big league clubs prior to the start of Spring Training.

I clearly admire what the Braves have been doing to bolster their pitching in preparation for the arrival of their new stadium. However, I have some real concerns about their ability-or lack thereof- to score runs this coming season. Where’s the beef?
Where’s the sizzle? I see issues with a quick recovery from neck surgery for Nick Markakis, issues with B J Upton rebounding to hit quality pitching, and a fairly mediocre hitting infield with the exception of Freddie Freeman. Lots of offensive questions lead me to believe the Braves need some help. Quickly. Regarding prospect position players, I do like Jose Peraza and Rio Ruiz for the future. But I don’t see much in the way of trading chips for the present.

For me, the Marlins are a team on the move. A team fans will love to watch. If I have any issue, it’s with their bench. The rotation will get a huge boost when Jose Fernandez returns in mid-season. Mat Latos’ health is a bit of a concern. But the team could hum.

The Mets need a shortstop. For the fourth year in a row I believe the Mets need a shortstop. Jose Reyes left in November 2012. He hasn’t been replaced. They could also use some 1B depth. But I love the starting pitching. I think Juan Legares is an outstanding defensive CF and they have some nice pieces. Unfinished? Shortstop IMO.

The Phillies really have to find a way to get younger quicker. So do I. But that aside, I’m not sure how they enter a new season with the few moves they’ve made. It’s time to take the best offers for Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. And Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. They didn’t get much younger adding Grady Sizemore and Aaron Harang. There may be deals to be made for prospects-and perhaps the prospects will inject some much needed vim, vigor and victories. Or maybe there aren’t deals to be made. But one would think Hamels and Lee could fetch the future. Utley is a very valuable player for a dedicated fan base. But if he can bring help for tomorrow, the fan base may be forgiving.

The Nationals are an extremely balanced teams that could really beat up on their NL East opponents. The only hiccup may occur in left field while they await the return of Jayson Werth from shoulder surgery. The rotation is outstanding. The pen is outstanding. The lineup is dangerous. Everything clicks like my teeth when I visit Chicago in January.

I think the Cubs pitching will be better than most analysts have indicated. I also think their farm system is as good or even better than advertised. Issues? Unfinished business? Not much. Left field is a minor concern for about half a season. Third base is a concern until the Cubs are satisfied that Kris Bryant is ready to see big league sliders and breaking balls on a regular basis. Probably…mid May. At catcher, I didn’t see the need for Miguel Montero over Wellington Castillo (who’s out of options, by the way) but I’m not the Cubs. I really like Castillo. And David Ross. Need I say more?
Jorge Soler is a monster of a hitter. Anthony Rizzo remains underrated IMO. Javier Baez has to learn to hit the cutter, slider, off-speed pitches and recognize them quicker. But the Cubs have few flaws. Go watch Soler. And when he’s promoted, go watch Bryant. And eventually Schwarber and Russell and Almora and McKinney and Alcantara and Edwards and on and on and on.

The Reds? Yikes. What happened to the Reds? On paper, they don’t seem that bad. They have good players. Depth is my issue. If Joey Votto gets hurt again or Jay Bruce or Todd Frazier or…you get my drift, right? The rotation is ??? Beyond Cueto I begin to worry. Age is creeping up on the club. They aren’t old, by any means. But the creep is starting. Brandon Phillips is 33. Marlon Byrd 37. Joey Votto 31. Skip Schumacher 35. Bryan Pena 33. Jason Bourgeois 33. Depth is my issue.

I think the Brewers fixed their 1B issue with the acquisition of Adam Lind. The guy can clobber right-handed pitching. Especially at Miller Park. They made a great deal to get insurance for Jean Segura and Scooter Gennett with Luis Sardinas. I do like this club. I don’t totally like the starting pitching, as I think they’re counting on Jimmy Nelson to do more than I’ve seen from him. And I don’t think they have the No. 6, No. 7 or No. 8 starters that every club seems to need these days. Pitching. Unfinished business.

My concern with the Pirates is very simple-what do they do about 1B if Pedro Alverez is not really sold on changing positions? Is that where Corey Hart comes in? And can he hit after his injuries? I think they contend. Waiting in the wings will be Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham-and if Charlie Morton gets healthy, Charlie Morton if they need more starting pitching. So they do have some pitching depth. Sean Rodriguez is the sleeper. He can play everywhere. Including 1B. So the unfinished business may be mitigated with Hart and Rodriguez. This is a good club. But keep an eye on Alvarez. I hope it works for him.

The Cardinals remain the Cardinals. Always in contention. Always knowing what they’re doing. They do need Jason Heyward to hit. And they need Adam Wainwright to stay healthy. And Michael Wacha to rebound. And Trevor Rosenthal to throw strikes. But for me, there aren’t any real flaws. It’s a solid club that will depend on average performances from their guys-which they’ll get. And some will exceed that. I’m not a huge fan of Jhonny Peralta’s defense at shortstop, but they can live with it. And thrive.
Unfinished business? Very little.

Thanks for reading this series. And when you go to bed tonight, remember this: The Equipment Trucks Are About To Arrive At Your Team’s Spring Training Park. Did you get the capital letters? That means it’s important. To me, to you and to your entire family. It’s Almost Baseball.

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and at MLBPipeline.com. My followers and readers are the Best.

That’s it. I’m done.

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