NL spring training capsules
Editor's note: Rosters as of Feb. 15; new players in CAPS
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Projected bullpen: RHP Craig Kimbrel, LHP Jonny Venters, RHP Eric O'Flaherty, RHP Kris Medlen, RHP Peter Moylan, RHP Cristhian Martinez, RHP Arodys Vizcaino, Todd Redmond, RHP Anthony Varvaro, LHP DUSTY HUGHES, RHP ADAM RUSSELL
Spring issues: The Braves hope Hudson will be ready to go after offseason back surgery. Jurrjens and Hanson both are returning from injuries that sidelined them last September. Jurrjens or Prado could be shopped again during the spring. Rookie Pastornicky might be a reach as an everyday shortstop. The Braves need big comeback year from Heyward. As usual, no one knows how much can be expected from Chipper Jones.
Spring issues: The Marlins need Johnson to be back from arm issues to be ace of new manager Ozzie Guillen's rotation. Ramirez's attitude amid transition to third base will be closely watched. Zambrano supposedly has velocity back in offseason throwing. Charting ticket sales for new ballpark will be a big spring training subject.
New York Mets
Projected bullpen: RHP FRANK FRANCISCO, RHP JON RAUCH, RHP RAMON RAMIREZ, RHP Bobby Parnell, RHP Pedro Beato, RHP Miguel Batista, LHP Tim Byrdak, RHP Manny Acosta, RHP D.J. Carrasco, RHP FERNANDO CABRERA, RHP Josh Stinson
Key departures: LHP Chris Capuano, RHP Ryota Igarashi, LHP Pat Misch, RHP Jason Isringhausen, RHP Chris Young, RHP Dale Thayer, RHPTaylor Buchholz, C Ronny Paulino, INF Jose Reyes, INF Nick Evans; OF Angel Pagan, OF Willie Harris, OF Jason Pridie
Spring issues: No one knows to what level Santana will come back from arm troubles. The Mets need significant bounce-back years from people like Bay and Wright. Ownership's uncertain financial situation makes depth very thin with little chance to spend money for help. The Mets would love to see some of their young pitching prospects (Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, et al.) make some noise.
Projected bullpen: RHP JONATHAN PAPELBON, RHP Antonio Bastardo, RHP Jose Contreras, RHP CHAD QUALLS, LHP DONTRELLE WILLIS, RHP Michael Stutes, LHP JEREMY HORST, RHP David Herndon, RHP Justin De Fratus, LHP Joe Savery, RHP BRIAN SANCHES, LHP RAUL VALDES
Spring issues: Howard is not expected back until mid-May at the earliest, so early first basemen will likely revolve around Mayberry, Wigginton and Thome. Questions at the bottom of rotation with Worley, whose performance slipped as the league saw more of him, and Blanton, who's coming back from injuries. There are no guarantees that the aging Contreras will come back from injuries, which makes Qualls an important pickup for middle relief. Age is creeping up on people like Utley and Polanco, who were dogged by injuries in 2011.
Washington NationalsProjected lineup: C Wilson Ramos, 1B Adam LaRoche, 2B Danny Espinosa, SS Ian Desmond, 3B Ryan Zimmerman, LF Michael Morse, CF Jayson Werth; RF Bryce Harper
Projected rotation: RHP Stephen Strasburg, RHP GIO GONZALEZ, Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan, RHP EDWIN JACKSON; Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler. Projected bullpen: Drew Storen; Tyler Clippard, BRAD LIDGE, RYAN PERRY, Sean Burnett, Henry Rodriguez, Tom Gorzelanny, Chris Stammen, Ryan Mattheus, CHAD DURBIN, Yunesky Maya
Spring issues: Rookie Harper is even money to make the club coming out of spring training. Strasburg is believed to be ready to go but will likely open season with an innings limit. The Nationals continue to shop for a center fielder and have starting pitching to offer. To contend, the Nats can use a bounce-back year from the highly paid Werth.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Projected bench: C Welington Castillo, JASON JARAMILLO, Steve Clevenger; INF Jeff Baker, Adrian Cardenas, ANTHONY RIZZO, ALFREDO AMEZAGA, EDGAR GONZALEZ, MATT TOLBERT, Josh Vitters; OF Reed Johnson, Tony Campana, JOE MATHER, DAVE SAPPELT.
Spring issues: The Cubs would love to see Rizzo force his way into the lineup with a big spring. Much of the bullpen is uncertain with the likelihood that new manager DALE SVEUM and GM JED HOYER will be looking at a steady stream of new bodies throughout spring and the season. Garza remains a possible trade commodity as Chicago continues to trim back payroll in the early stages of rebuilding. If Stewart washes out, third base is a huge hole.
Spring issues: The Reds are counting on Latos returning to ace status he earned two years ago in San Diego. Rolen will supposedly arrive at spring training with his oft-injured left shoulder close to 100 percent. Mesoraco is considered a top prospect who could earn the starting catching job. Chapman's progress as a starting pitcher will be fascinating to watch.
Projected bench: C Humberto Quintero, CHRIS SNYDER; INF Brett Wallace, Matt Downs, Chris Johnson, Marwin Gonzalez, DIORY HERNANDEZ, JOE THURSTON, OF JACK CUST, Jason Bourgeois, J.B. Shuck; FERNANDO MARTINEZ, TRAVIS BUCK, JUSTIN RUGGIANO, BRAD SNYDER.
Spring issues: Virtually every position is a work in progress for a club that on paper is the weakest in baseball. One area the Astros feel good about is their collection of young bullpen arms. Wallace will get a spring trial at third base. Veteran starters Myers and Rodriguez will likely continue to be shopped by new GM JEFF LUHNOW. Also very available but with few likely takers is 1B Lee.
Projected bench: C George Kotteras, MIKE RIVERA; INF CESAR IZTURIS, Taylor Green, Zelous Wheeler, Eric Farris, BROOKS CONRAD, TRAVIS ISHIKAWA; OF Carlos Gomez, Logan Schafer, NORICHIKA AOKI, COREY PATTERSON.
Key departures: P Takashi Saito, LaTroy Hawkins, Mitch Stetter, Sean Green; INF Prince Fielder, Yuniesky Betancourt, Craig Counsell, Casey McGehee, Felipe Lopez, Josh Wilson; OF Jerry Hairston, Mark Kotsay, Brandon Boggs.
Spring issues: The Brewers will soon know the fate of Braun, whose looming 50-game suspension obviously would create a huge hole with which to open the season. Milwaukee is banking on Ramirez picking up some of the offense vacated by Fielder, though Ramirez in recent years has been a very slow starter. Gamel is largely untried at first base, although the Brewers have a solid defensive option in Ishikawa. Solid starting pitching depth gives Milwaukee a chance to make some moves for help down the road.
Key departures: P Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Jose Ascanio, Jose Veras, Aaron Heilman, Joe Beimel, Brian Burres, Nelson Figueroa; C Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder, Dusty Brown; INF Ronny Cedeno, Derrek Lee, Pedro Ciriaco; OF Ryan Ludwick.
Spring issues: Rotation depth is iffy, with the Pirates recently talking about getting A.J. Burnett from the Yankees, who would eat much of his contract. Pittsburgh is hoping this is the year Alvarez will finally start delivering on the hype. There's been little apparent progress toward tying up Andrew McCutchen to a long-term deal, which means the Pirates might listen to offers if yet another season starts unraveling.
St. Louis Cardinals
Spring issues: Craig is likely to miss at least the first month of season following knee surgery, so depth could be compromised early for new manager MIKE MATHENY. Wainwright is expected to be 100 percent when the season opens. The Cardinals have continued to have discussions with free agent Roy Oswalt, which could result in shopping Westbrook. Without Pujols, St. Louis needs a better season from Holliday and the same kind of production as last year from Berkman. The Cardinals will give the athletic Greene a shot at winning second base in spring, which would free up Schumaker for a utility role in the infield and outfield.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Key departures: P Jarrod Parker, Jason Marquis, Micah Owings, Zach Duke, Ryan Cook, Alberto Castillo, Armando Galarraga; INF Sean Burroughs, Melvin Mora, Xavier Nady; OF Collin Cowgill, Ryan Langerhans.
Spring issues: Drew's injured ankle is still an issue and he may not be ready for Opening Day. Kubel, a much-needed left-handed bat, will likely be the Opening Day left fielder, but Parra will get time there, as well. Arizona should open with one of the deepest benches in the National League. A bevy of young pitching prospects will not be far away if the rotation stumbles.
Projected bench: C Wilin Rosario, Jordan Pacheco, WIL NIEVES; INF Jason Giambi, DJ LEMAHIEU, Chris Nelson, Jonathan Herrera, Tommy Field, CHAD TRACY, BRENDAN WOOD; OF TYLER COLVIN, Eric Young, Jr., Charlie Blackmon.
Key departures: P Aaron Cook, Huston Street, Matt Lindstrom, Jason Hammel, Clayton Mortensen, Kevin Slowey, Matt Daley, Kevin Millwood, Edgar Gonzalez, J.C. Romero, Casey Weathers; C Chris Iannetta; INF Mark Ellis, Ian Stewart, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Jorge Cantu; OF Seth Smith, Ryan Spilborghs, Joe Mather.
Spring issues: The rotation is loaded with questions, beginning with De La Rosa likely not available until May at the earliest due to elbow injury. The Rockies think Nicasio will be OK after last year's concussion scare. The bullpen is iffy beginning with Betancourt, who is starting his first season as the closer. The new lineup should have more staying power if new vets like Cuddyer and Blake have anything left.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Projected bullpen: Javy Guerra, Kenley Jansen, Matt Guerrier, TODD COFFEY, Scott Elbert, Blake Hawksworth, Josh Lindblom, Ramon Troncoso, Mike MacDougal, Ronald Belisario, JOHN GRABOW, JOSE ASCANIO, ANGEL GUZMAN, WIL LEDEZMA, Michael Antonini, Shawn Tolleson.
Key departures: P Hiroki Kuroda, Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla, Jon Garland; C Rod Barajas, Hector Gimenez, Dioner Navarro; INF Jamey Carroll, Casey Blake, Aaron Miles, Eugenio Velez; OF Jay Gibbons, Marcus Thames.
Spring issues: The whole Dodgers atmosphere should improve once new ownership is in place by late spring. An iffy lineup needs bounce-back years from people like Uribe and Loney plus full-season production from Rivera and Gordon. The rotation depth is uncertain and a lot of bullpen jobs will be wide open behind second-year closer Guerra. Belisario is suspended for the first 25 games, and De La Rosa is out until midseason.
San Diego Padres
Spring issues: The Padres are counting on Alonso blossoming as a much-needed middle-of-the-lineup hitter. A lot of spring focus will be on young pitchers such as Kelly, Weiland, etc., with an eye toward them being factors later in the season. Cashner is key to adding some quality depth to a bullpen that is a work in progress in several spots. There is little financial wiggle room here to make any significant moves.
San Francisco Giants
Key departures: P Jonathan Sanchez, Ramon Ramirez, Waldis Joaquin; INF Orlando Cabrera, Mark DeRosa, Miguel Tejada, Jeff Keppinger, Bill Hall; OF Carlos Beltran, Andres Torres, Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand, Cody Ross, Darren Ford.
Spring issues: Posey's progress toward returning to everyday work as catcher will be the biggest story in camp. Sanchez is supposedly well along in recovering from his shoulder injury. Wilson is another physical concern, as he is coming back from elbow troubles. Huff could be bumped to the bench or the outfield if Belt has big spring. An awful offense should get a modest boost from newcomers Cabrera and Pagan. Crawford needs to hit just a little to hang on at shortstop.