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National League

Staff Writer Brad Atkinson

KJNL Dynasty Baseball League Season Preview – National League

 

Note: This introduction is the same as the American league one.

 

**Disclaimer – All thoughts and analysis below are based on the knowledge, opinions and gut instinct of the KJNL Houston Astros GM (sometimes known as Brad Atkinson) and may be biased in many, many ways . . . if you are somehow offended by some of the material below feel free to stuff my e-mail/IM inbox full of hateful messages, but also expect anything you write to be part of future columns . . . bribes are accepted and flattery will get you everywhere, I’m totally for sale J **

 

Now that the legal jargon is out of the way, let’s get on with the meat shall we?

 

The preview will go as follows. As based on the rosters posted on kjnlbaseball.tripod.com I will show projected starting lineups (all batting positions, top 4 SP and top 3 RP) for each team, give a few thoughts on the methods the team is building its roster by (or at least how it appears), point out any obvious holes, list briefly any MLB ready MiLB players and give the ability for the team to function in the upcoming FA auction period. Then at the end I will make predictions for the playoff races based on my obviously limited expertise in the dynasty baseball realm. Then everyone will (or should) be able to comment on my comments and we can all get closer and more competitive as a league. Or it will all degenerate into an arguing free for all at which point we will all be happy that we live all across the country because the soaring gas prices make driving and or flying 1000 miles to beat someone’s ass totally stupid economically.

 

NL East

 

Atlanta Braves

 

The Braves drafted their home town team and I would call that team a mixed team more than an expensive team, but it really doesn’t matter because as he told me in the first few weeks of the league “I don’t like to have to count on any one team too heavily, they have a bad week, you have a bad week, it’s not good for winning.” I’m probably paraphrasing of course, since the conversation took place some 4 months ago, but trade he did, a lot and always to his benefit. Preying on the inexperienced owners who weren’t sure of the values of certain draft picks, the Braves amassed all of his MiLB draft picks early and was done picking minor leaguers in the first 4 rounds. His MLB team has few Braves to be found and all of them are either young guys with lots of upside or studs. It’s honestly hard to tell whether many of the players on this solid team were drafted or traded for by just looking.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Mike Napoli

Los Angeles (AL)

1B

Mark Teixeira

Atlanta

2B

Howie Kendrick

Los Angeles (AL)

SS

Michael Young

Texas

3B

Miguel Cabrera

Detroit

OF

Torii Hunter

Los Angeles (AL)

OF

Vladimir Guerrero

Los Angeles (AL)

OF

Gary Sheffield

Detroit

Util

Andruw Jones

Los Angeles (NL)

SP

Johan Santana

New York (NL)

SP

Tim Hudson

Atlanta

SP

Chad Billingsley

Los Angeles (NL)

SP

Rich Harden

Oakland

RP

Bobby Jenks

Chicago (AL)

RP

BJ Ryan

Toronto

RP

Pat Neshek

Minnesota

 

Wow!! Comparable to the Mariners lineup in the AL, it looks like the Braves might be the team to beat over here in the NL. Of course I’ll save my actual predictions for after I have reviewed all of the teams. The lineup is All-Star filled and balanced, maybe a bit light on speed, but not by much. Unlike the Mariners however, this team has a bench to match and a MiLB system built to produce players sooner rather than later. Look for the Braves to be making more moves or to be releasing some real quality players come next off-season. Bench players not listed above: Edwin Encarnacion, Lastings Milledge, Yunel Escobar, Wily Mo Pena, Joe Blanton and Jo-Jo Reyes.

 

Obvious holes: Mike Napoli, C, is still projected to platoon for the Angels. Jeff Clement is in the minors here for the Braves, but word out of Seattle is that with Kenji Johjima in the starting role, Jamie Burke as a solid back-up and Jose Vidro slotted in at DH that Clement is looking at another year in AAA, barring injuries. SP depth is slightly limited, but I am being nitpicky here.

 

MLB ready MiLB: This system is full of them thanks to early MiLB draft picks. Brandon Jones and Jordan Schafer were said to be in the CF mix in Atlanta before the Kotsay signing. Jay Bruce will have a shot at CF in Cincy against Freel and Hopper. Brandon Wood could get a shot on the left side of the infield for the Angels. Adam Jones will start in the OF for Baltimore barring an injury or a complete meltdown. Clement was discussed above and could push his way for AB’s. Daric Barton will be given the 1B opening day nod in Oakland. Johnny Cueto will spend the spring battling for a 5th rotation spot in Cincy and Matt Antonelli is looking good for taking over 2B in San Diego.

 

FA Projection: without a lot of holes to fill and $7.5M in cap room to work with look for the Braves to either go after filling that catcher hole with one big bid . . . more likely though is to wait until the season starts and go his favorite route of the trade for a hot Catcher.

 

Chicago Cubs

 

The Cubs went the cheap team route in the team draft, but there are few cheap teams out there with top end talent like the Florida Marlins. They traded away Dontrelle and Miggy Cabrera, just like the real Marlins did and while I like the Dontrelle move I am not as big on the Cabrera one. The Cubs also drafted veteran studs to fill in lineup holes and took a chance on Alex Gordon.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Bengie Molina

San Francisco

1B

Justin Morneau

Minnesota

2B

Dan Uggla

Florida

SS

Hanley Ramirez

Florida

3B

Alex Gordon

Florida

OF

Johnny Damon

New York (AL)

OF

Shane Victorino

Philadelphia

OF

Josh Willingham

Florida

Util

Jeremy Hermida

Florida

SP

Justin Verlander

Detroit

SP

John Lackey

Los Angeles (AL)

SP

Chris Young

San Diego

SP

Mark Buehrle

Chicago (AL)

RP

Chad Cordero

Washington

RP

Kevin Gregg

Florida

RP

Brad Hennessey

San Francisco

 

Great starting rotation, Buehrle is coming off an off year, but the rest are studs. The bullpen is solid, two closers and some holds guys . . . but there are questions about every one of them and their roles in 2008. The batting lineup will go the way that the youth does. Hermida, Uggla, Ramirez, Willingham and Gordon are all prone to the streakiness and inconsistency of youth and there isn’t a whole lot in the way of backup if they go down . . . on the other hand the veterans are as solid as they come . . . Morneau, Damon and Molina should all be 500 AB, average year for each of them . . . just like they have been for the last 3 years.

 

Obvious holes: No real holes here, just a lot of dependence on young players.

 

MLB ready MiLB: There are some possible contributors ready here. Soria should close in KC. Bourn will start in center for Houston and if he does what they think he can he may lead the league in SB and runs. Erick Aybar is set to compete with Cesar Izturis and Brandon Wood for the Angels SS job and Elijah Dukes may finally get his shot with Washington.

 

FA Prediction: The Cubs have some $31M in cap room and some depth holes to fill. If there were any FA’s out there that were high on their list I feel confident that they would have drafted them, they could make some rumblings, but they might be confident to stand pat too.

 

St. Louis Cardinals

 

The Cardinals took the hometown team, who I think can officially be described as an expensive team, most of their young, cheap talent can still be put under the heading of unproven, and their mainstays are mostly over $8M per player with the exception of David Eckstein. They have supplemented the Cardinals draft pick with draftees that are mid-range to cheap on salary and long on talent. I think the Cardinals have only executed a few trades.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Yadier Molina

St. Louis

1B

Albert Pujols

St.Louis

2B

Placido Polanco

Detroit

SS

David Eckstein

Toronto

3B

Scott Rolen

Toronto

OF

Aaron Rowand

San Francisco

OF

Jose Guillen

Kansas City

OF

MHM

??

Util

MHM

??

SP

Felix Hernandez

Seattle

SP

Jered Weaver

Los Angeles (AL)

SP

Adam Wainwright

St. Louis

SP

Mulder/Carpenter

St. Louis

RP

Jason Isringhausen

St. Louis

RP

Huston Street

Oakland

RP

MHM

??

 

The MHM’s on this team are mostly there because I am not as familiar with the St. Louis lineup as I should be. All four of the Cardinals young OF are here on the roster and so is Cameron Maybin. One of them will fill in the 3rd OF and another in the Util slot. The MHM in the RP slot is because of the possibility of some holds guys being there, but no one that jumps out at me. The bats outside of the MHM’s are veteran and solid, but there is no real speed there. The starters have high ceilings but may not reach them this year, or they may all explode and have great years. Two solid closers combined with Pujols, Rowand, Rolen, Polanco and Guillen are the heart of this team.

 

Obvious holes: Yadier Molina is a defensive specialist at catcher, as is Eckstein at SS. Rolen’s glove has never been questioned but injuries have de-railed him of late. The same with Mulder and Carpenter, Carpenter won’t be back until August at the earliest. In my opinion, this team needs a fantasy style catcher, a fantasy style SS and a good, veteran starter.

 

MLB ready MiLB: Brandon Morrow and Luke Hochevar should both have roles on their respective teams, Morrow most likely in his set-up role from last year (settling the MHM there) and Hochevar in the KC rotation. The rest are probably at least a year away, though Wladimir Balentien could get a look in Seattle with Adam Jones gone to Baltimore if one of the three starters out west (Ibanez, Ichiro, Wilkerson) goes down.

 

FA Projection: The Cards have some $16M+ of bidding power . . . I expect them to use it to fill the holes as stated above.

 

Cincinnati Reds

 

The Reds selected the Blue Jays out of the team draft. I would qualify that as a mixed pick . . . Glaus, Ryan, Wells, Halladay and Burnett are expensive while McGowan, Accardo, Hill, Rios and Lind are not. The Reds have gone through a recent ownership change and the two managing styles seem to prefer the trade to the draft . . . although realistically, the latest management team didn’t really get that chance.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Josh Bard

San Diego

1B

Kevin Youkilis

Boston

2B

Aaron Hill

Toronto

SS

Orlando Cabrera

Chicago (AL)

3B

David Wright

New York (NL)

OF

Vernon Wells

Toronto

OF

Adam Dunn

Cincinnati

OF

MHM

??

Util

Chipper Jones

Atlanta

SP

Roy Halladay

Toronto

SP

Brett Myers

Philadelphia

SP

Aaron Harang

Cincinnati

SP

??

??

RP

Brad Lidge

Philadelphia

RP

Todd Jones

Detroit

RP

Cla Meredith

San Diego

 

The MHM at the 3rd OF spot is not a particularly skilled one . . . Reed Johnson back off a big injury along side the constant platoons of Matt Stairs and Ross Gload. I can’t find a 4 SP on the roster, Chad Durbin and Josh Towers are both candidates, but they aren’t on their listed team’s depth charts. The three that are there are among the most solid in the league, if Myers turns back to form. The bullpen is solid with two save guys and two holds guys, but no real depth behind them. Overall this roster seems short and may be incomplete.

 

Obvious holes: Starting pitching, the three that are here are wonderful, but they may not be enough to contend with other teams rotating at least 5 starters. 3rd OF is a major weakness anytime you are hoping that Gload, Stairs or Reed Johnson can become a solid fantasy contributor day in and day out.

 

MLB ready MiLB: Burton, O’Flaherty and Logan provide even more bullpen depth for a team where this is already a strength. Abreu will be on the MLB roster out of spring training, but may not have a spot except on the bench. Bobby Livingston got a lot of experience in 10 starts last year, but his name is not among those competing for the rotation in Cincinnati.

 

FA Projection: With $12M to bid with I am not sure that the Reds can fill the holes they need to fill unless they spend very wisely . . . depending on how the new GM wants to handle it they will either be big and splashy or quiet, but effective.

 

Bold NL East Prediction:

 

This is a one team race . . . the Braves. The Cubs can challenge the Braves if ALL of their youth comes through with solid years, the numbers that the Cub youngsters put up will determine whether the Cubs are challenging the Braves, competing for a wild card spot or out of it all together.

 

NL West

 

Colorado Rockies

 

The Rockies had a simple strategy . . . take the World Champs (a mixed team believe it or not, with the emergence of Pedroia, Youkilis, Ellsbury and Papelbon on the cheap side), draft cheap, young and talented and only make a deal when it obviously benefits your team. Simple and effective, expect nothing less from the Commish.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Dioner Navarro

Tampa Bay

1B

Lance Berkman

Houston

2B

Dustin Pedroia

Boston

SS

Troy Tulowitzki

Colorado

3B

Mike Lowell

Boston

OF

Manny Ramirez

Boston

OF

Travis Buck

Oakland

OF

Jacoby Ellsbury

Boston

Util

David Ortiz

Boston

SP

Josh Beckett

Boston

SP

Diasuke Matsuzaka

Boston

SP

Jeremy Guthrie

Baltimore

SP

Francisco Liriano

Minnesota

RP

Jonathan Papelbon

Boston

RP

Hideki Okajima

Boston

RP

Johnathan Broxton

Los Angeles (NL)

 

A strong young lineup peppered slightly with older power punchers, whether that be on the pitching side or on the hitting side. There are a few question marks surrounding the lineup. Can many of these 2007 rookies build on their performances into 2008? That’s the main question. Berkman, Lowell, ManRam and Big Papi should combine for 375 runs, 130 HR and nearly 500 RBI easily . . . and that’s a hell of a total to build your team around. The bullpen is guaranteed to get the saves out of Boston, and a lot of holds this year. Honestly, this team COULD contend now, but it’s really built to dominate the future.

 

Obvious holes: A little weak in saves, until Saito retires of course and at catcher. Dioner Navarro is now 24 years old and is reaching that “put up or shut up” time in his career when his batting problems can no longer be excused because of his age.

 

MLB ready MiLB: Joey Votto and Homer Bailey should both have starting jobs in Cincy this year, but there are question marks around them. Meloan could contribute out of the Dodger bullpen, but odds are that he will get another September callup this year.

 

FA Projection: Not sure if any catchers are out there, or closers as these are the holes that the Rockies have, but $21M in cap room either means a good look at the FA market or more likely, saving room to pay these young studs as they grow up and begin to dominate the league.

 

Houston Astros

 

The Astros also drafted their home town team, a sort of a theme in the NL it seems, and I would call that an expensive draft choice. All of their quality players (and there are not very many of them) are fairly expensive to deal with. The Astros then went on a trading frenzy that hasn’t stopped yet with two more trades in the last two days. In the drafts they tend to focus on mid-range to cheap salary players that are talented.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Brian McCann

Atlanta

1B

James Loney

Los Angeles (NL)

2B

Kazuo Matsui

Houston

SS

Miguel Tejada

Houston

3B

Ty Wigginton

Houston

OF

Eric Byrnes

Arizona

OF

Hunter Pence

Houston

OF

Josh Hamilton

Houston

Util

MHM

??

SP

Roy Oswalt

Houston

SP

AJ Burnett

Toronto

SP

Ted Lilly

Chicago (NL)

SP

Brandon Backe

Houston

RP

Trevor Hoffman

San Diego

RP

Joe Borowski

Cleveland

RP

Heath Bell

San Diego

 

A solid team and one of the rare instances in the KJNL league where the MHM is not a burden, but a boon. Included at the DH MHM are Frank Thomas, Randy Winn, Michael Cuddyer and Lyle Overbay . . . all quality players and they show the depth of bats in this organization. Oswalt is the obvious ace here, while Burnett and Lilly are solid but not spectacular. Backe has some injury questions surrounding him, but Brian Bannister and Wandy Rodriguez can fill the hole if need be. One of the strongest bullpens in the league as Jon Rauch and Chad Qualls are also on the roster, the Astros can shift between holds and saves depending on where they need to compete on a week to week basis.

 

Obvious holes: 2B, Matsui had a decent year for the Rockies this year and the Astros are counting on that again in a similar lineup. If Matsui goes down then Ty Wigginton’s 2B eligibility can come in handy if a replacement 3B is found. Back of the rotation is a little weak with Backe coming off Tommy John, Bannister entering his second year and the Jekyll and Hyde show that is Wandy Rodriguez.

 

MLB ready MiLB: JR Towles should be the starting Catcher in Houston this year and provides great McCann insurance. Brian Wilson is supposed to be the closer in San Francisco this year if he doesn’t have a meltdown in spring training . . . like he did last year. Troy Patton, Juan Gutierrez, Felipe Paulino and Kevin Slowey will all compete for starting jobs this year . . . though only Patton and Slowey are expected to have a good chance. Josh Anderson might have an outside shot at getting CF or a 4th OF spot with Atlanta if he keeps up his hot hitting ways from September.

 

FA Prediction: The Astros have around $7M in cap room according to the site . . . look for them to make one big signing, and maybe a couple of very small ones to fill holes.

 

 Los Angeles Dodgers

 

The Dodgers drafted a cheap team with a couple of expensive players in the Indians. They haven’t made a lot of trades and have been content to draft quality and some fairly expensive players in building their roster. They aren’t carrying very many pitchers at all.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Victor Martinez

Cleveland

1B

Paul Konerko

Chicago (AL)

2B

Ian Kinsler

Texas

SS

Johnny Peralta

Cleveland

3B

Hank Blalock

Texas

OF

Grady Sizemore

Cleveland

OF

Ichiro Suzuki

Seattle

OF

Jermaine Dye

Chicago (AL)

Util

Travis Hafner

Cleveland

SP

CC Sabathia

Cleveland

SP

Fausto Carmona

Cleveland

SP

Javier Vasquez

Chicago (AL)

SP

Scott Baker

Minnesota

RP

Jose Valverde

Houston

RP

Rafael Betancourt

Cleveland

RP

Joaquin Benoit

Texas

 

A very solid, balanced lineup . . . power and speed . . . all of them except Ichiro should go for 20 HR and three of them should steal at least 25 bases. The starting pitching has a few question marks behind Sabathia. How will the youngsters fare? Who is in line behind the people listed above? The pitching bench is woefully short. The trade of Lincecum for Valverde filled a glaring need, but created a gaping hole in the lineup. The acquisition today of Borowski for Chris Ray solved the same problem without creating the same need. The starting pitching on this team must stay healthy because there is no depth to fill it in.

 

Obvious holes: Pitching depth in general, though the last couple of days have seen bullpen holes filled. If any of their pitchers gets hurt, even on the short term . . . it could be a bad week for the Dodgers.

 

MLB ready MiLB: Asdrubal Cabrera was the starting 2B for the Indians the latter part of the year and Shin Soo Choo was getting some regular AB’s as well . . . both figure to return to those roles.

 

FA projection: with $15M in cap room and a need for starting pitching, the Dodgers will do just that . . . go and get it.

 

San Francisco Giants

 

The Giants took the cheapest, most talented team out there, made a couple of trades and made their draft picks and really haven’t done a whole lot besides that. I am not sure that they even know that the FA auction has begun.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Kenji Johjima

Seattle

1B

Carlos Pena

Tampa Bay

2B

BJ Upton

Tampa Bay

SS

Harris/Frandsen

TB/SF

3B

Akinori Iwamura

Tampa Bay

OF

Carl Crawford

Tampa Bay

OF

Delmon Young

Minnesota

OF

Luke Scott

Baltimore

Util

Joe Mauer

Minnesota

SP

Scott Kazmir

Tampa Bay

SP

Jamie Shields

Tampa Bay

SP

Noah Lowry

San Francisco

SP

Shawn Hill

Washington

RP

Al Reyes

Tampa Bay

RP

Dan Wheeler

Tampa Bay

RP

Randy Messenger

San Francisco

 

A good lineup, but honestly . . . you get what you pay for. There are some stars here, but they all have huge question marks around them with the exception of Crawford, Mauer and Kazmir. When your payroll is only $29M and the salary cap is $100M, your lineup will show its deficiencies. Relying on Luke Scott, Shawn Hill and Dan Wheeler to be solid fantasy contributors on a week to week basis seems like a scary proposition to me . . . but those players should be getting regular chances and some of them for the first time in their careers . . . maybe it will boom for the Giants, I rather think it’s more likely to bust.

 

Obvious holes: SS, general pitching depth. There are only 3 relievers on the whole roster. Frandsen could be a solid fantasy contributor, but he is not guaranteed a job and Harris is iffy at best.

 

MLB ready MiLB: Evan Longoria and not much else. The Rays dealt Delmon Young to give Upton a spot in the OF, letting Iwamura move to 2B and giving Longoria the job at 3B he deserves. When/if all of these players get eligible at these positions, it could solve some of the Giants OF problems.

 

FA projection: The Giants have more than $70M to spend on free agents, but they haven’t logged in to the message board since February 18th . . . they are missing out, but look for them to be active once they figure out what they are missing.

 

Bold NL West Prediction

 

This division should be the most hotly contested one out of the four. All of the teams have solid lineups and all of the teams have questions surrounding that solid lineup. The team with the least questions is the Astros. The team with the highest upside if everyone plays to expected levels is the Rockies. The Dodgers and Giants can compete on the offensive side of the game, but their pitching depth leaves them vulnerable to the length of the season. In a race too close to call (because the youngsters on the Rockies can go in any direction) The Rockies or the Astros should win this division. I will say officially that it will be the Rockies so that I am not called biased.

 

Bold National League Prediction

 

I have the Braves winning the East and the Rockies/Astros winning the West.

 

The other team of the Rockies and Astros should be a wild card team while the final spot comes down to a race between the three teams left in the NL East . . . I really think that the Giants and Dodgers are going to struggle with their pitching depth. I give the race for the last wild card spot to the Cubs. I believe their youth will come through.

 

Predicted NL Playoff Seeds:

#1 Braves

#2 Rockies

#3 Cubs

#4 Astros