Friday, February 17, 2012

Reaction: NL Central Positional Breakdown

This article fits under my Reaction heading of my blog.  Read more of my Reactions here.

 A little over a week ago, ESPN had an article detailing the various depth charts in the NL Central and then comparing and ranking each position for all six teams.  Here are the results.  Per position, I'll add my own reaction and comments.

1. Yadier Molina, Cardinals
2. Devin Mesoraco/Ryan Hanigan, Reds
3. Geovany Soto, Cubs
4. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
5. Rod Barajas, Pirates
6. Humberto Quintero/Jason Castro, Astros

This seems about right.  Molina is definitely on top of the NL Central and is one of the best all-around catchers in baseball.  Mesoraco offers tons of potential and Hanigan is steady even if he isn't flashy.  The two together should provide the Reds solid play from their catcher.  I would probably give Lucroy the nod over Soto, as Soto seems to be getting by on name recognition here and Lucroy had a very good year last year.  Barajas is steady like Hanigan, although not as good and the Pirates don't have a Mesoraco.  He does beat out the mess in Houston that includes former 1st round pick  Jason Castro who has been unable to stay healthy thus far in his career.

First base
1. Joey Votto, Reds
2. Lance Berkman, Cardinals
3. Carlos Lee, Astros
4. Garrett Jones, Pirates
5. Bryan LaHair, Cubs
6. Mat Gamel, Brewers

I also don't have much issue with this list.  Votto was the NL MVP the year before last for a reason.  He's still phenomenal and could still get better.  Berkman is old but was rejuvenated in St. Louis last year.  Not having to play in Left Field should only help him.  Lee has a terrible contract as Houston fans will tell you, but isn't an awful player in reality.  Jones probably shouldn't be starting at first base for a major league team (and he may not) but neither should LeHair or Gamel either.  Still, since Gamel still has potential, I might push him as high as fourth.

Second base
1. Brandon Phillips, Reds
2. Rickie Weeks, Brewers
3. Neil Walker, Pirates
4. Jose Altuve, Astros
5. Darwin Barney, Cubs
6. Skip Schumaker/Daniel Descalso, Cardinals

I'd actually go with Weeks ahead of Phillips.  Health is an issue with Weeks, but when healthy he's at least marginally better than Phillips.  Of those two, whoever isn't first has to be second, both are excellent second baseman.  Neil Walker has turned himself into an established slightly above-average second baseman.  Alutve is tiny but man can he hit.  He could be higher on this list next year ahead of Walker.  Barney had a solid rookie campaign last year and should have a better year than any of the options St. Louis has.

Third base
1. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers
2. David Freese, Cardinals
3. Scott Rolen, Reds
4. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
5. Ian Stewart, Cubs
6. Jimmy Paredes, Astros

Ramirez is getting older but had a resurgent year last year.  If he can keep that up in Milwaukee he should again be at the top of the class.  I'll move Rolen up to number two.  His glove is just sick.  I'll go optimistic and move Alvarez up to #3 and hope he makes me look smart by realizing his still insane potential.  30+ homeruns isn't out of the question. That puts Freese, the hero of last year's world series at #4.  Despite that 'low' ranking he should be a steady performer at 3B for the Cardinals.  Ian Stewart also has good potential still and a change of scenery might unlock it.  Paredes was a nice surprise last year for the Astros and could shoot up this list next year

1. Starlin Castro, Cubs
2. Rafael Furcal, Cardinals
3. Clint Barmes, Pirates
4. Zack Cozart, Reds
5. Jed Lowrie, Astros
6. Alex Gonzalez, Brewers

Castro is still young as hell and can only get better with a chance to be a superstar, especially if his plate discipline approves.  The clear choice for #1.  Furcal had a poor season last year.  Barmes did not and is actually two years younger.  I'll take Barmes and his elite glove at #2 and put Furcal at #3.  I'll also swap #4 and #5.  Cozart is younger but I'm not sure how much potential he has.  I actually like Lowrie's potential more - he was a top prospect for a reason - he only needs to stay healthy.  Moving to Houston could help him with that.  The Brewers will again use a crappy veteran at shortstop for the second year in a row.

Left field
1. Ryan Braun, Brewers
2. Matt Holliday, Cardinals
3. Alex Presley, Pirates
4. J.D. Martinez, Astros
5. Chris Heisey/Ryan Ludwick, Reds
6. Alfonso Soriano, Cubs

I agree with article author David Schoenfield here.  Braun may miss 50 games, but Holliday isn't getting any younger and missed 38 games last year.  When on the field, Braun is one of the best players in baseball, so he stays on top here.  Holliday has to stay at #2 though because he's still dang good. He hasn't posted an OBP under .387 since 2005.  I'll go ahead and go anti-homerism here. I like J.D Martinez alot, so I'll give him a slight nod over his fellow young outfielder Pirate Alex Presley.  The Reds get the #5 spot by default due to Soriano's .289 OPB last year. 44 players hit for a better average than that OBP last year.

Center field
1. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
2. Drew Stubbs, Reds
3. Nyjer Morgan/Carlos Gomez, Brewers
4. Jon Jay, Cardinals
5. Marlon Byrd, Cubs
6. Jordan Schafer, Astros

Braun is really freakin good, but McCutchen might be the best player in the NL Central next year, and that's with Joey Votto included in the mix.  After that, Stubbs is another up and coming young gun with enough other skills, especially with his glove, to overlook his terrible strike out rate.  Neither Nyjer Morgan nor Carlos Gomez are particularly amazing, but between them the Brewers should get solid play in centerfielder, especially defensively, next year.  I'll go ahead and bump Schafer up to number four.  He needs to get his head on straight and stay healthy, but a new team in Houston will give him every chance to succeed.  (side note: I really like what Houston is doing and am glad they will be moving to the AL West).  Jon Jay comes in at #5 cause he's younger, cheaper, and less sucky than Marlon Byrd.

Right field
1. Corey Hart, Brewers
2. Carlos Beltran, Cardinals
3. Jay Bruce, Reds
4. Jose Tabata, Pirates
5. David DeJesus, Cubs
6. Brian Bogusevic, Astros

I've never been a huge fan of Corey Hart.  Instead, I'll give Beltran the nod as the top guy here.  I think he'll be able to stay healthy enough to have at least one more really good year.  After that, I'll go with Bruce, who is still super young and has been poised to breakout for a while.  I think this year is the year.  Despite my not-nice words towards Hart, he has had two solid seasons the past two years and is easily the pick for #3 here.  Tabata needs to stay on the field and if he can add power could shoot up this list, especially considering his age.  I'll take the safer option here in DeJesus rather than the wildcard in Bogusevic.

No. 1 starter
1. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals
2. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
3. Mat Latos, Reds
4. Matt Garza, Cubs
5. Brett Myers, Astros
6. Jeff Karstens, Pirates

I have to disagree here.  I think Gallardo isn't even the best pitcher on his team.  That instead goes to Greinke, who I also think is the best pitcher in the division.  Look past his 3.83 ERA and look instead at his 2.56 xFIP.  A 10.54 K/9 is insane and he only walks 2.36 BB/9.   He's 28 and should be entering his prime as well.  After that I'll give the nod to Garza who had a similar year to Carpenter last year, but is going the right way on an age curve.  After that Carpenter, then Latos who is young and still needs to realize his potential. #5 and #6 are a toss-up, so I'll just leave it as is.

No. 2 starter
1. Zack Greinke, Brewers
2. Johnny Cueto, Reds
3. Jaime Garcia, Cardinals
4. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros
5. Ryan Dempster, Cubs
6. Charlie Morton, Pirates

Gallardo in this spot is #1.  Cueto would be #1 if he stays healthy, but #2 is appropriate as well.  After that I'll take Garcia, who strikeouts more batters than one would think with very good groundball numbers.  At #4 I'm gonna elevate Morton.  He's also entering his prime and if he can stay consistent for a full year, he could be really good.  Then Wandy, who's still a solid pitcher, and Dempster.

No. 3 starter
1. Shaun Marcum, Brewers
2. Bud Norris, Astros
3. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
4. Homer Bailey, Reds
5. Paul Maholm, Cubs
6. James McDonald, Pirates

I guess Wainwright is here on the Cardinal's list due to injury, but if he's their #3 pitcher he has to be #1 on this list.  After that give me Marcum, who's a solid and steady pitcher with a bit of upside.  After that Norris misses alot of bats, giving him great potential if he can refine the rest of this game.  I'll go with McDonald after that because he can also miss bats when he's on.  He just needs to add stamina.  After that, Maholm is a quintessential #3 pitcher and as such I can't put him last, even if he lacks upside.  As a former top prospect, Baily has been a disappointment. I see that trend continuing.

No. 4 starter
1. Randy Wolf, Brewers
2. Mike Leake, Reds
3. Kyle Lohse, Cardinals
4. Travis Wood, Cubs
5. Erik Bedard, Pirates
6. J.A. Happ, Astros

Erik Bedard should be #1 here.  He should also be higher on the Pirates list, but if he's the #4 pitcher and he can even give the Pirates 160 innings, no one comes close.  After that, I'll take the young Mike Leake over the older Randy Wolf.  In fact, give me Lohse over Wofl as well; I think he's less likely to collapse than Wolf.  After that, I like Happ more than Wood.  This list is pretty close sans Bedard.

No. 5 starter
1. Chris Narveson, Brewers
2. Bronson Arroyo/Aroldis Chapman, Reds
3. Jake Westbrook, Cardinals
4. Jordan Lyles/Henry Sosa, Astros
5. Chris Volstad, Cubs
6. Kevin Correia, Pirates

I've always liked Lyles, so I'd bump him up to #1.  After that it's just a mess.  I like Westbrook ahead of the Reds combination.  Volstad might respond to a change of scenery and I'd probably move him to #4 so go ahead and move the Reds combo to #5 while leaving Narveson at #2.  Correia was an all-star. That was a joke.  This author got it right.  He's the worst starting pitcher in the division.

1. John Axford, Brewers
2. Ryan Madson, Reds
3. Joel Hanrahan, Pirates
4. Jason Motte, Cardinals
5. Carlos Marmol, Cubs
6. Brandon Lyon, Astros

It's weird seeing Hanrahan here, but honestly the first three could be ranked in any order each time I look.  I'll just leave it.  Marmol has such filthy stuff that I'm putting him ahead of Motte.  Lyon is on the bottom of the pile.

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