MLB has helpfully provided projected starting lineups for all major league clubs as we embark on this new season. After you’ve perused the MLB post, I’ll highlight some of the changes in the lineups of each of the NL teams (see my earlier post for the AL rundown). More after the jump.
The BRAVES start the season with a two new faces on the infield and one in the outfield. 2017 rookies Ozzie Albies and Rio Ruiz are expected to hold down the second and third base jobs respectively, though Ruiz has started the season in the minors, with veteran Ryan Flaherty seeing the early action at the hot corner. Preston Tucker, acquired from the Astros, takes over the outfield spot vacated by Matt Kemp.
Three Brave starters return from the 2017 team, with veterans Brandon McCarthy and Anibal Sanchez filling the other rotation spots. Sanchez enters the season having split nearly 1600 career innings almost exactly evenly between the Marlins and Tigers. McCarthy’s 1100+ innings before this season were split six ways, with over 150 IP for five of those franchises. Quiz: who are the other three active starting pitchers with 150+ IP for 5 or more franchises?
The BREWERS begin the season with two new outfielders and an aging Ryan Braun now relegated to part time duty at first base. Lorenzo Cain takes over in center field for Keon Broxton, now demoted to the minors, while Christian Yelich has moved into Braun’s spot in left field. Jhoulyz Chacin and rookie Brandon Woodruff are the new faces in the rotation.
Cain and Yelich, each with 15+ steals in 3 of the last 4 seasons, will complement a Brewer attack that led the NL last season in stolen bases. There could well be six or more Brewers reaching 15 steals this year, something not seen in Milwaukee since the 1992 season.
The CARDINALS return with almost the same lineup that was in last year’s playoff hunt into the final days of the season. The one new face is in the outfield where Marcell Ozuna takes over for the departed Stephen Piscotty. Three starters return from last year’s rotation with hope that rookie Jack Flaherty and 2017 rookie Luke Weaver can fill the other two spots. Veteran Adam Wainwright starts the season on the DL, replaced by journeyman Miles Mikolas, who last saw major league duty in 2014.
Ozuna’s career best 37 home runs and 124 RBI last year were both more than half of his career totals before that season. Ozuna’s 14.1 WAR as a Marlin is the franchise career record for a center fielder.
The CUBS return the same lineup that reached the NLCS last year, with 2017 rookie Ian Happ expected to hold down the everyday CF job, after playing 54 games there last year. The Cub rotation has hired guns Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood replacing the departed Jake Arrieta and retired John Lackey. Quiz: before Darvish, who was the last WS game 7 starter to surface the next season with a new team?
The D-BACKS welcome the return of shortstop Nick Ahmed after missing the last three months of the 2017 season due to injury. Ahmed’s return allows Ketel Marte to move over to second base to take over for the departed Brandon Drury. Veteran Jarrod Dyson replaces the outfield spot (but not the bat) of the departed J.D. Martinez, with new acquisition Steven Souza expected to push incumbent right-fielder David Peralta for playing time. Alex Avila takes over behind the plate for Chris Iannetta.
The Arizona rotation returns intact. Each of the D-Backs’ five starters logged 25 starts last year, making that team the franchise’s first to have four under-30 pitchers reach that threshold, an accomplishment this year’s club hopes to repeat. Last year’s team was also only the second by any franchise with four pitchers of any age reaching 25 starts with a 135 ERA+; the first such team was the 1997 Braves, with three of those pitchers future HOFers.
The DODGERS welcome the return after four seasons of outfielder Matt Kemp, who is expected to share playing time in CF with incumbent Joc Pederson. Third baseman Justin Turner begins the season on the DL. Kemp’s 21.7 WAR ranks third in the modern era among Dodger center-fielders, while his 182 home runs are the second highest total in that group.
The Dodger rotation returns intact. Clayton Kershaw leads all Dodgers in WAR, ERA+ and W-L% thru age 29; only dead ball era pitcher Jeff Pfeffer has a better ERA. Kershaw moved past Hal Newhouser to lead all left-handers in WAR thru age 29, and stands 5th in WAR thru age 29 among all modern era pitchers.
The GIANTS feature a new look outfield with the additions of Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson. If they and incumbent Hunter Pence stay healthy, it will be the third time in four years and tenth time in franchise history that the Giants have had three outfielders aged 31 or older log 100+ games; of the previous 9 such seasons, 8 have come since 1997. Evan Longoria will be a welcome addition at third base where the Giants recorded a woeful .568 OPS last season, easily the worst in baseball and 87 points lower than the next-to-last Braves; only the 2011 Mariners have had a lower OPS at third base in the past 34 seasons.
New ownership group with the MARLINS but the same management approach as Miami has again sold off its top young assets. In this instance, all of last season’s best outfield in baseball are gone, with the underwhelming trio of Lewis Brinson, Derek Dietrich (last year’s third baseman) and Cameron Maybin taking their place; how tough it must be to be a Marlins fan. On the infield, Starlin Castro takes over at second base for the departed Dee Gordon, with 2017 rookie Brian Anderson expected to become the everyday third baseman. Catcher J.T. Realmuto begins the season on the DL.
Two starters (one on the DL) return from last year’s rotation, with hope that the vacant spots can be filled by rookie Caleb Smith and journeymen Odrisamer Despaigne (79 ERA+ thru 2017) and Jacob Turner (78 ERA+). It’s going to be a long season in Miami.
The METS return with the same outfield after the resigning of Jay Bruce following his rental stint with the Indians (2017 rookie Brandon Nimmo fills in in centerfield until Michael Conforto returns form the DL). The additions of Todd Frazier (3B) and Adrian Gonzalez (1B), joined by incumbent Asdrubal Cabrera (2B), makes for a veteran infield that can help 2017 rookie Amed Rosario adjust to everyday play at shortstop. The Mets could have six players aged 31 or older log 100+ games, matching the 2002 club for the most in franchise history.
The rotation is mainly intact and still young, with the return of Noah Syndergaard after injury wiped out most of his 2017 season, and hopefully a return to form for Steven Matz who cratered to a 6.08 ERA last season after a promising rookie season in 2016.
The NATIONALS return mostly intact from the team that almost made it to the NLCS last season. Adam Eaton will move into the outfield spot of the retired Jayson Werth and veteran Howie Kendrick, added at the deadline last season, starts at second base until Daniel Murphy returns from the DL. The rotation also returns intact and remains one of the best in baseball. This is a formidable group and features a nice mix of veterans and younger talent; but, it needs to win soon as the window of opportunity is closing, with three of the top four starters now aged 31 or older.
The PADRES have undergone a remake of their infield, adding veterans Eric Hosmer (1B), Chase Headley (3B) and Freddy Galvis (SS) to join promising 2017 rookie second baseman Carlos Asuajue. Hosmer’s arrival has pushed Wil Myers to the outfield where he hopefully can improve on his defense (-2.4 dWAR in fewer than 200 outfield games over his first three seasons). Hosmer cranked 25 homers and added 90 RBI each of his last two seasons; the Padres have had only one first baseman (Myers in 2016) reach those totals since 2011, after having 8 such seasons in the 11 prior years (2000-10).
Three starters return from the 2017 club with the remaining spots expected to be filled by veteran Tyson Ross and Bryan Mitchell, the latter primarily a reliever in fewer than 100 career innings before this season. Ross returns to the Padres where he has enjoyed his greatest success, with a 112 ERA+ as a Friar but only 71 elsewhere.
The PHILLIES have added Carlos Santana to provide a veteran presence for baseball’s youngest team, which this year is looking to rookies Jorge Alfaro (C) and J.P. Crawford (SS) to fill starting roles.
Jake Arrieta looks to provide the same veteran presence for a Phillie rotation which otherwise returns intact. Arrieta will also be looking to return to his form of 2014-15 when his 2.08 ERA was second only to Clayton Kershaw among major league starters. His 3.30 ERA since then has translated into only 5.6 WAR, 35th in the majors.
The PIRATES welcome Corey Dickerson to fill the large hole created by the departure of franchise icon Andrew McCutchen. Elsewhere, rookie Colin Moran will challenge incumbent David Freese for the third base job. Dickerson joins Yoenis Cespedes and Bo Jackson as the only players to record three seasons of their first five with 20 home runs, 100 strikeouts and fewer than 40 walks.
Four starters return from last year’s rotation, with 25 year-old Joe Musgrove taking the spot vacated by veteran Gerrit Cole. Last year’s team was the first in franchise history to have three pitchers record 25 or more starts, yet fail to reach 162 IP; among them was Chad Kuhl who joined Wade Miley in tying Joba Chamberlain (2009) for the fewest IP (157.1) in a season with 31 or more starts.
The REDS return with no new faces as Jose Peraza moves to shortstop after sharing the middle infield positions last year with Scooter Gennett and the departed Zack Cozart. Peraza and Gennett each logged 75 games at second base last year, one of four teams with a pair of such second sackers; there were also four such teams in 2004, 1991 and 1984.
Three starters return from last year’s team with rookie Tyler Mahle looking to fill one of the remaining rotation spots. Mahle has allowed only 20 hits over his first 5 starts, tied with teammate Sal Romano for the third fewest among Reds with starts in each of their first 5 career games.
The ROCKIES return with two new starters as Ian Desmond, a utility man last season, moves to first base to replace the retired Mark Reynolds, and Chris Iannetta takes over behind the plate. Thru age 29, Desmond played all but 7 of his 927 games at shortstop, but had only one game there over his next two seasons (251 games); only Alex Rodriguez and Joe Sewell had fewer games at shortstop (i.e. none) at age 30-31, among the 74 players active at those ages after recording 900 shortstop games thru age 29.
Three starters return from the 2017 rotation, with the other spots targeted for Tyler Anderson, with 34 starts as a sixth starter over the last two seasons, and Chad Bettis, trying to return to the rotation spot he held in 2015 and 2016. For the second year in a row, Colorado will be looking to have all of its games started by pitchers in their age 29 or younger season. Quiz: which team did this the last two seasons? and which was the last world championship team to do this?