Down
enlarge
Tom Verducci: Cubs, Rangers will face off in World Series
1:02 | MLB
Tom Verducci: Cubs, Rangers will face off in World Series
SI MLB Staff
Wednesday March 30th, 2016

Every year for SI's baseball preview issue, our MLB staff asks rival scouts to size up and break down each team's rosters anonymously and freely. Here are their takes on every club in the National League; you can find their opinions on the American League's squads here.

Teams are presented in alphabetical order.

Lineup & Defense

Welington Castillo solidifies the defense. He hit better than they thought he would, but can he maintain that pace? I doubt it.... Paul Goldschmidt's bat control is elite, and he's able to use the whole field. He'll hit the mistakes for power and hit pitchers' pitches the other way. He has above average range, very good hands, good feet around the bag. I've got no reason to think he's not gonna be in the mix for MVP.... Chris Owings has some sneaky pop. He can play both spots up the middle, but he might fit best at second base. He's got better hands than he does feet; his feet get him in trouble moving laterally.

They thought coming into camp last year Yasmany Tomas was gonna play third. That didn't last long. Even in leftfield he's gonna cost you some. He's a fairly one-dimensional player; he has power over hit and a limited defensive package. There were strides toward the end of the year, though, with his patience and his pitch recognition.... A.J. Pollock is a top five centerfielder. He gets really good reads and takes good routes, and he has a balanced approach at the plate. You can beat him with good stuff in, but he can make in-at-bat adjustments. You might get him once, but you hit that same spot again, he's gonna get you.


"Paul Goldschmidt's bat control is elite, and he's able to use the whole field. He'll hit the mistakes for power and hit pitchers' pitches the other way. I've got no reason to think he's not gonna be in the mix for MVP."


Rotation & Bullpen

Zack Greinke has been sharp this spring. He's able to command his entire repertoire and repeat his delivery and execute his pitches. He's got fastball, curveball, cutter/slider, change; they're all plus.... That was a pretty hefty price tag for Shelby Miller. He's more of a 2 or a 3 than an ace. Fastball command has always been an issue for him, but when he can get to his secondary stuff, it's good.... Patrick Corbin has both breakers and a changeup, with nothing below average. His stuff plays up due to his fastball command.... Rubby De La Rosa has inconsistent stuff; he's power over precision.

Lineup & Defense

They'll be fighting the Phillies for the worst record in the NL. They're obviously playing for 2017 or '18.... Dansby Swanson is going to hit. He has a low-maintenance swing, middle-of-the-field approach; the bat stays in the strike zone. I doubt he'll be up this year; I don't think they want to have the clock ticking on him too soon.... Ender Inciarte is a solid everyday centerfielder. He still has to work on hitting lefthanded pitching and just staying on the ball a little bit, but he sprays the ball around the ballpark.... Leftfield is going to be a challenge for Hector Olivera. He's a decent athlete, but he's learning the position. He's very aggressive at the plate, and his swing is geared for line drives and gap to gaps, not so much for home runs.

I love Freddie Freeman. He can be an MVP if they get some guys around him.... Erick Aybar has swung the bat well this spring, his body looks good, his defense looks good. He's a quick-twitch, switch-hitting guy. Solid defender, soft hands. He's been a pleasant surprise.... Nick Markakis was such a good player with Baltimore, but he has really battled injuries. He's got no power left. He's lost some speed. He's lost some arm strength in right field. But he can still give you a good at bat, he's still a tough out.

Rotation & Bullpen

Julio Teheran is pencil thin, and he's thrown 200 innings each of the last two years. So you worry about his durability. I'm really concerned about where his stuff's going to end up. There's not a great finish to the delivery, and it's not a delivery where he's using his legs.... Aaron Blair has a chance to be a workhorse. His stuff isn't lights out, he's 89 to 93 with a little bit of sink, a breaking ball and a nice changeup, but he's got a durable look to him. He'll probably start at Triple A.

Lineup & Defense

They've sent in their ring sizes already. I don't even know why we're playing the season.... It certainly looks like a championship lineup. Kris Bryant will be a superstar, take another step forward. He's gonna be a 30-, 40-home run guy with a better average, and his defense is underrated. All-Star player for many years to come.... Anthony Rizzo has reduced his strikeouts the last three years, which is key, getting more selective. I think he'll also hit around .300 with 30 to 40 homers.... Kyle Schwarber is a well-below-average defensive catcher; he'll kill you in leftfield, and I'm not sure he's great at first. But he's a prolific hitter.

It's crazy to pay Jason Heyward nearly $200 million. But he's a solid all-around player, no doubt.... Dexter Fowler teases you. He'll make a great defensive play, and all of a sudden three or four catchable balls fall in. Come on, guy. It's like someone who can fly but can't run.... Addison Russell is an All-Star-caliber shortstop, but 149 strikeouts to 42 walks? He's gotta close that gap.... Javier Baez has some power, and he can play short, second, the outfield. With Ben Zobrist entrenched at second, maybe Joe Maddon will use Baez the way he used to use Zobrist back in Tampa.


"Kris Bryant will be a superstar, take another step forward. He's gonna be a 30-, 40-home run guy with a better average, and his defense is underrated. All-Star player for many years to come."


Rotation & Bullpen

I don't care how much you hit, you can't win the World Series without quality pitching, and I'm a little concerned about theirs.... Jake Arrieta's problem was always throwing strikes on a consistent basis. He made a slight adjustment in his delivery, a little more cross-body. It worked, and it'll keep working.... John Lackey is just a horse, but was his low ERA last year due to that fricking Cardinal magic? Can Lackey, Jon Lester and Jason Hammel be consistent enough? If they get hurt or have below average years, then that's an equalizer.

Lineup & Defense

They still have Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart.... Aside from pitching, the biggest question is whether Devin Mesoraco is going to be able to catch after hip surgery. If he can catch with those hips, they're still a decent offensive team, provided that they keep Jay Bruce and that Billy Hamilton takes some walks. If Mesoraco can't catch, you can maybe try him at third or leftfield. But you start moving guys out of position, you really have a problem.... They did a good job getting some guys for Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier. Scott Schebler, the outfielder they got from the Dodgers, can fill in. Outfielder Jesse Winker can hit.

Hamilton needs to learn how to bunt. He can steal 100 bases, just has to take walks. He can fly. He's ridiculous. I'll take the bet on him.... Phillips needs a challenge. He might get a little complacent. But the bat hasn't slowed down. I think he's going to be there.... I hate to throw Votto under the bus; he just is what he is. I wish he would drive in more runs. Or lead them off. There's your on-base guy.... It's going to be a long process in that division, where everyone wins 100 games.

MORE MLB: Check out all 30 team previews for the 2016 season

Rotation & Bullpen

It's probably going to be a long year for them. Their pitching is not experienced. They're going to be careful bringing Homer Bailey (below) back from Tommy John surgery.... It's going to be rough with the young pitching staff. A couple of their prospects, like Robert Stephenson, haven't done what they wanted them to do yet. Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, they're going to be all right, but not right away. But Michael Lorenzen threw the hell out of the ball the other day. He's got a great arm, and he's a great athlete. He was at 98. Elevated the fastball when he got two strikes on guys.... Their bullpen, with Jumbo Diaz and J.J. Hoover, I don't know. Doesn't give you a warm fuzzy feeling.

Lineup & Defense

I think Tom Murphy is close. Last year was a huge step for him. He's had shoulder issues in the past, but that's behind him. He gets high regard for his work habits and leadership, he checks all the boxes in terms of catcher intangibles, and he's got some righthanded sock.... First base is going to be a bit of a sore spot for them. Ben Paulsen and Mark Reynolds are what they are: platoon-type guys. If they can work the matchups right, maybe it works well enough.... DJ LeMahieu, for a guy his size, continues to make strides defensively on his ability to take angles and make reads. You wouldn't expect a below-average runner to have the plus range that he does.... Nolan Arenado has special eye-hand coordination, he's very strong and he has good hands. He's maybe the best I've seen at that position, a complete player.

Carlos Gonzalez has looked really good. His timing is right, he's got as pretty a lefthanded swing as there is. He can get a little overaggressive at times and lose his zone.... Charlie Blackmon has tamed that swing down quite a bit, quieted his lower half, which has allowed his hands to work a little better. It's not a low-maintenance approach; he's going to have some streaks where he's going good and some cold ones.


"Nolan Arenado has special eye-hand coordination, he's very strong and he has good hands. He's maybe the best I've seen at that position, a complete player."


Rotation & Bullpen

You've got to worry about health with Jorge De La Rosa. He used to be a guy who tickled the mid-90s; now he's a low-90s guy and has a plus changeup, and both breaking balls change speed. He's more of a finesse guy now.... Chad Bettis made huge strides last year. They revamped his delivery last spring training, and it paid dividends. It's not front-of-the-rotation stuff but good enough to give you value in the middle.... They never seem to commit—are they rebuilding or are they in a holding pattern? I will say I think they are improving the system.

Lineup & Defense

Supposedly Yasiel Puig's more mature on the field and off the field. You would hope so. He could be Yoenis Cespedes, he could be Mike Trout, he could be Bryce Harper if he could play under control, calm down a little bit.... Corey Seager's the game's best prospect for a reason. He's a Troy Tulowitzki, Cal Ripken Jr.-sized shortstop, and he could play like that. I can't put him ahead of Carlos Correa, though they're in the same category.

Joc Pederson swings from his ass, trying to hit it not just out but outta this world, into the next universe. He does get some walks, but a .210 average is a .210 average.... Yasmani Grandal's terrible second half was health-related, mainly his left shoulder. He had off-season surgery on it. He might lead all catchers in home runs, with around 25.... I think the Giants win the division, and Arizona might be better too.

MORE MLB: NL breakout candidates | NL busts | NL rookies to watch

Rotation & Bullpen

Losing Zack Greinke in free agency would cripple anybody, no matter how much money you have. Then you lose Brett Anderson to injury, and holy crap, the rest of your rotation is Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood, Mike Bolsinger? You got question marks there, where before you had Boom-Boom.... Clayton Kershaw is the single most irreplaceable pitcher in baseball. If they lose him, they're done.

Maybe we'll see Julio Urias this year. Top pitching prospect in baseball. Plus fastball, at times plus-plus. Sharp-breaking curveball, downward, tight rotation. A good demeanor on the mound. He's like Jose Fernandez and Doc Gooden, just a 19-year-old freak.... They didn't go out and add anybody of note to the bullpen. Kenley Jansen was pretty dominant most of the year, but you look at the other guys—God, who knows what's it's gonna be.

Lineup & Defense

It's not a sexy group outside of Jose Fernandez, but it's really solid, especially with that defense of Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria up the middle.... There was a split camp as to where Gordon's career was going, and I was one guy who was proved wrong. He's a perennial All-Star. His batting average on balls in play was high, and I don't think he's a .300 hitter, but speed also doesn't go into slumps.

Marcell Ozuna came to camp in good shape, but most important, he kept his mouth shut. The tools are there, and he's only going to improve.... Justin Bour came out of nowhere last year. We'll see if he can make adjustments. He's going to make you pay if you make a mistake, but if you don't make a mistake, he can be pitched to.... Christian Yelich is a future batting champ. Last year you saw him make adjustments and mature. A big breakout season is coming.


"There was a split camp as to where [Dee] Gordon's career was going, and I was one guy who was proved wrong. He's a perennial All-Star. I don't think he's a .300 hitter, but speed also doesn't go into slumps."


Rotation & Bullpen

It all starts with Jose Fernandez. I'm not quite ready to put him in that upper echelon yet. Let's see him do it over a full season, and let's see what the league can do adjustment-wise. If you notice he's fighting the strike zone and command early in the game, hone in on that—if you're patient, you have a shot.... Wei-Yin Chen was so steady for Baltimore, and the move to the bigger ballpark plus the solid defenders up the middle—he could have a big year. I love how he attacks the zone but stays out of the middle of the plate.... Jarred Cosart has a ceiling to be a solid No. 3, but he just can't stay healthy.... Tom Koehler is a gamer—it seems like he gives you six strong every outing.... The bullpen scares me. One injury blows up the whole thing.

Lineup & Defense

Unless Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Aaron Hill really carry them, I think they're going to be in that 90- to 100-loss area. They do have prospects on the way.... I think Braun rebounds from last season's health issues and has a solid season: .275, 25 to 30 homers. I wouldn't say his bat speed is any different from the past. He won't have a whole lot of protection in the lineup, that's for sure.... Lucroy is a very good player, coming off a concussion and other injuries last year. They've talked about him playing first base. If he can't be the terrific defensive catcher he was a few years ago, it really hurts them. There's a lot of talk about clubs acquiring him—but the asking price is pretty steep, and that's why he's still there.

Chris Carter can put on a show in BP, just crazy-type power. But anytime there's a plus-plus fastball—95 or above, which almost everybody has these days—he'll have a tough time catching up.... Domingo Santana in right, that was a quality pickup for them. Way too many strikeouts, but bat speed, everything else, he's got it all.... Orlando Arcia, their No. 1 prospect, has a chance to be a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop, hit for average, steal some bases. I think he'll be up sometime this year.

MORE MLB: How Jake Arrieta came back from the baseball dead

Rotation & Bullpen

Wily Peralta is a quality righthanded starter. Power fastball, improved changeup: He's the one guy on the staff who could start for anybody, with Matt Garza hurt so much. The rest are very erratic and inconsistent from outing to outing.... Closer? They don't really have one. Jeremy Jeffress is a guy that's up to 100 miles per hour, but it's always been command, which is why he has only one save in his career. Could be Will Smith, who is one of the better lefthanded setup men in the game. I don't know if there will be a lot of save opportunities here anyway.

Lineup & Defense

Travis d'Arnaud continues to mature as a catcher, game handler and offensive presence. He understands what his guys bring and how to work hitters.... If Lucas Duda stays healthy, he's a very dangerous power guy and will produce runs in the middle of the order.... Neil Walker is like Daniel Murphy, although I think he is an upgrade defensively, a bit steadier.... Shortstop might be one point of weakness. Asdrubal Cabrera and Wilmer Flores don't have the range you're looking for, but both are pretty good hitters.

David Wright gives good veteran at bats in the middle of the lineup, but he's not the impact player he once was. He still gets big hits when he has to, and it's a psychological benefit to have him in the order.... Yoenis Cespedes is a really good leftfielder but just average in center. That defense could bite them in the ass at some point. Cespedes is a dangerous hitter, but he's kind of up and down.


"[Jacob] deGrom is so athletic in his delivery, everything works so easily. He's got a plus fastball, a plus curveball, a plus slider, a plus changeup. He's not afraid to mix them, and he throws a lot of strikes."


Rotation & Bullpen

Their Fab Four starters might be one of the most talented young groups ever assembled.... Matt Harvey is driven to say, "Look at me, I'm the No. 1 guy." He's got Jacob deGrom nipping at his heels. deGrom is so athletic in his delivery, everything works so easily. He's got a plus fastball, a plus curveball, a plus slider, a plus changeup. He's not afraid to mix them, and he throws a lot of strikes.... I would go DeGrom, Harvey, Noah Syndergaard (below) in terms of stuff right now. But it's 1A, 1B, 1C.... If everything clicks for Steven Matz, he could be 1D.

Bartolo Colon makes pitching look like playing catch in the backyard. His fastball has a 5- to 6-mph range, where he adds a little, he takes a little off.... With the late life and power on Jeurys Familia's splitter and slider and the velocity on his fastball, there are nights when hitters don't have a chance against him.

Lineup & Defense

Maikel Franco is the real deal, a profile corner infielder who's going to hit for power. Defense is an area he needed to improve, and he has markedly.... I would love to see them move Ryan Howard to an AL club, where he can DH. He hasn't looked good this spring. Darin Ruf has been really impressive at first base. I don't know if it will happen, but he should play a lot.... I'm a big fan of J.P. Crawford as a shortstop, but he's not ready offensively. Freddy Galvis is a nice stopgap who will end up being a valuable utility middle infielder.... I was glad they were able to move Chase Utley and give Cesar Hernandez the chance to play. He can hit up in the order and steal bases.... Odubel Herrera plays a little bit unbridled, but he's an impactful offensive player because of his speed and his ability to hit. In their park, his ball carries.

MORE MLB: Meet Ray Searage, the man working miracles for Pittsburgh

Rotation & Bullpen

I'm a big fan of Aaron Nola; he has a chance to be a top-end starter. For a young pitcher he has good feel for how to control bat speed—to add or subtract velocity on fastballs and breaking balls. It's very impressive.... Charlie Morton and Jeremy Hellickson are respectable starters who will give them five or six innings and compete.... For a bad team, the back end of the bullpen was pretty good last year. They don't have that now.

Lineup & Defense

Gregory Polanco has all the ability in the world, but he's got a long swing, and the advance scouts realize that. Opponents are pounding him in. To his credit, he makes adjustments, but he still has to shorten that swing and has to do a better job hitting lefthanded pitching. He profiles best in centerfield, but they've got Andrew McCutchen there.... David Freese was a good signing because Jung Ho Kang is not going to be ready for Opening Day, and the kid Alen Hanson has been shaky in the field. Freese is not what he used to be, but he's still a pretty good third baseman.

Jordy Mercer is a better hitter than people give him credit for. He's got a little bit of pop, though he'll get some home runs taken away from him by that ballpark.... Kang is one of the best fastball hitters in the league. There's some timing involved with that big leg kick he's got, but he could hit 20-plus home runs.


"[Gerrit] Cole is very competitive, almost to a fault sometimes because he is very emotional, but he's got Cy Young stuff. He has a huge fastball, a really good slider."


Rotation & Bullpen

This winter the Pirates tried to trade for a pitcher to complement Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano, but they didn't land a top guy. I'm worried about their three-through-five starters. You've got the young kids, Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon, but they're not ready.... Cole is very competitive, almost to a fault sometimes because he is very emotional, but he's got Cy Young stuff. He has a huge fastball, a really good slider.... Jon Niese probably has the best stuff of the back-end guys. He's got a good cut fastball and a nice change.

Glasnow just outstuffed guys in the minors, but he has some finishing off to do in Triple A. He's got to work on the running game. He's a long-limbed guy, and he has really struggled to throw quality strikes and be quick to the plate.... The bullpen could get overworked. Jared Hughes, Tony Watson and Mark Melancon have been ridden pretty hard. I worry about those guys given the back of the rotation.

Lineup & Defense

Their team is more balanced now. They got a veteran shortstop in Alexei Ramirez. They just don't have a lot of thumpers.... I worry about Matt Kemp and his hips, but he's been swinging the bat much better than he had. I think his shoulder is finally good.... Wil Myers has been hurt. But he has real power. We loved him in high school. He can run, and he says he likes first base.... Yangervis Solarte can hit, but he might be one of the worst fielders I've ever seen in my life. There's not a routine play hit to him. It's kind of a surprise if he catches it, and even if he catches it, he'll throw it away. He hits well enough to play every day, God love him.... Jon Jay is a solid player. He's not quite an everyday guy, but he's going to have to play every day.

Rotation & Bullpen

They traded away a lot of their good offensive players, but I think their pitching can save them. Those are three legitimate arms. James Shields tried to do too much last year. He's O.K., though he walks a few too many.... Tyson Ross is coming into his own. He's really good.... The guy who's the puzzle is Andrew Cashner. For throwing as hard as he does, he just can't get through five innings. I saw a game where he had 96 pitches in 31/3 innings. His fastball moves, it's 95, 96, but when things go wrong, he doesn't handle it well. He should be better.... Fernando Rodney has just got to throw it over the plate. If I were a pitching coach, there wouldn't be enough Maalox around. You're always on edge. But you talk about premium stuff. He still throws 97 with that changeup you can't hit.

Lineup & Defense

How much will Buster Posey be able to stay behind the plate? The pitching suffers when he's not back there.... Brandon Belt has good feet, good awareness around the bag. You always think there's more in there offensively. He's got bat speed, got leverage, got power. Lefthanded breaking stuff gives him problems because he doesn't cover the outer half.

They've got three shortstops out there with Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford and Matt Duffy. Crawford plays above his ability. Where I really think he's developed is offensively, by shortening up his swing. Duffy's bat speed is marginal, and he's already maximized the things he can do to compensate—he stands short to the ball, he's almost a no-stride guy. If you get last year again, you'll be happy.... Hunter Pence is my favorite guy on this team. I just don't know how he does it. You watch his practice swing, and it's so awkward. I'd like to ask the scout who found him, How did you ever figure this would work?


"Hunter Pence is my favorite guy on this team. I just don't know how he does it. I'd like to ask the scout who found him, How did you ever figure this would work?"


Rotation & Bullpen

Madison Bumgarner is a horse, but they rode him pretty hard. You pray he'll hold up, but if there's one guy who can do it, it's him. He can pitch up in the zone effectively because he gets that late life.... The ballpark should help Johnny Cueto. He banks on deception. His velocity ticked back a little—it used to be mid-90s, now it's 92 or 93—and his slider's not as tight.... Jeff Samardzija is big, durable. You're looking more at innings than stuff with him. His stuff is playing down from his peak. I haven't seen the velocity or the life.

Matt Cain is their trump card—if he can come back healthy [from elbow irritation and a bone spur in his ankle]. He was a power fastball, plus slider guy in his prime, but if he's an average major league starter now, you'd be happy.... I have some concerns that Sergio Romo's been around so long that hitters know what he's up to. It's slider, slider, slider you to death.

Lineup & Defense

They are working Matt Holliday at first base so Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Tommy Pham can all get at bats in the outfield. Matt's not game ready yet, but he's a good enough athlete with good hands. It's just a timing thing for him.... Piscotty's numbers will be as good as last year if not better. He's been bred the Cardinal Way and that means he puts together good at bats and has a quiet approach but can get aggressive.... Kolten Wong has to mature as a hitter. You don't want to take away his strength—jumping on fastballs early in the count—because he has surprising pop, but he could improve his plate discipline.

Shortstop is a big question mark while Jhonny Peralta is out. Aledmys Diaz, the rookie, is coming off a really strong fall league and is putting together very good at bats. Jedd Gyorko has good hands but not the perfect body for the position, so range is going to be the question.... Matt Carpenter is just a pest at the top of the order. He makes pitchers work, fouls balls off, gets on base and puts together seven-, eight-, nine-pitch at bats.

Rotation & Bullpen

The Cubs are already printing playoff tickets but you can't sleep on this rotation: five guys who are going to give you a chance to win every day.... I don't know if Michael Wacha is going to throw more cutters or add another weapon to continue maturing. He's learning that from Adam Wainwright—you have to add a cutter or a two-seamer, make slight adjustments, to keep dissecting the league.... Mike Leake brings innings and that's what they need. He doesn't have frontline stuff, but he's not really a fifth starter. Even when he has bad outings, he has the ability to maintain himself and give you five or six quality innings.

MORE MLB: Rival scouts give their takes on every AL team

Lineup & Defense

Bryce Harper continually gets better. He wants to be one of those guys who has a statue made of him. Everybody on that team respects how he plays the game and how good he is.... Jayson Werth has always been a lead-by-example guy who plays the game hard. A big part of their success is going to be keeping him and Ryan Zimmerman on the field.... Anthony Rendon is another huge bounce-back guy. He can win an MVP. He hits for power, plays solid defense.... With the depth of this lineup, Daniel Murphy will be an offensive force. The better he hits, the less you notice his defense.

I've always liked Wilson Ramos, but I keep looking for him to go to the next level. There's always some sort of nagging injury or some regression where he mails in a couple of games and you get pissed off at him.... In a deep lineup, where a lot of guys can drive him in, Ben Revere is a real asset because of his speed. That could become a really nice platoon for them in centerfield with Michael Taylor, who has raw power, bat speed and athleticism.

Rotation & Bullpen

Stephen Strasburg has ace stuff, but he's pitched more like a No. 2 or 3.... Max Scherzer looks healthy; everything is working. I think you can expect another performance like last year's.... Lucas Giolito could end up being the Noah Syndergaard of 2016 down the stretch. Big body, strong kid, great work ethic, great competitor.... I don't know what happened behind closed doors [with Jonathan Papelbon], but if they were able to mend that fence, it wouldn't be the first time guys got in a bad, ugly shoving match in the dugout and moved forward the next year to reach a common goal.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.