clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The biggest remaining hole on every National League roster

There's still time for each NL team to fix its roster. Here's what they should consider doing.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

On Wednesday, we talked about the biggest remaining roster hole on every American League team. Number of angry emails from Royals fans: 0. So, I screwed something up.

Luckily, I get another shot, this time with the biggest remaining roster holes in the National League. This is something of a different endeavor because the NL is where all the lousy teams are. You thought you walked into a math class, but found the detention hall of baseball instead. There are more than a couple nose-pickers.

To the holes!


Biggest hole

The ... the everything? I don't mean to be rude, but it's not like this isn't what the Braves were going for. If you're going to execute a rebuilding plan -- one that involves dealing away a preternaturally talented 26-year-old shortstop -- you shan't be worried about too many roster holes. They already had a wondrous collection of curated arms, and they added a gaggle more and the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, too. They've done what they wanted to do.

Most of the names in the lineup at least have a whiff of familiarity (Michael Bourn, Erick Aybar), and you can understand why they would want someone like Bud Norris to be capable and help them resist the urge to call up a young pitcher too soon. So, give me third base as the biggest hole for now. Adonis Garcia slugged .497 in limited action last year, but he'll be 31, and his minor-league stats suggest his ceiling is ... Chris Johnson. Which is a fine magic trick.

Time and resources to fix it?

Nah. Even if they were interested -- or if they wanted to try the Hector Olivera experiment at third themselves -- they would probably be better served fishing around for bullpen arms, just in case one of them pans out before July 31.


Biggest hole

The National League sure doesn't offer up a lot of hope alphabetically. The Brewers might lose 100 games this year. There are exactly two hitters in the lineup you might expect to be above average. One of them is 32, and the other one is coming off a disappointing, injury-marred season.

That would make you feel a bit down until you got to the rotation, which is somehow worse. Jimmy Nelson, Wily Peralta, Taylor Jungmann and Zach Davies are exactly the kinds of pitchers the Brewers should be messing around with, but if one of them becomes a long-term fixture, it'll be a success. If two of them pitch well enough to build around, it'll be a resounding success. In between, there will be runs and earned runs, and lots of them.

Time and resources to fix it?

I suppose I didn't mention a specific roster hole. Use your imagination. And, uh, sure, there's all the time and resources in the world to fix it. They just have to be patient. Before getting there, they might trade Jonathan Lucroy and a couple others, too.


Biggest hole

Even with Lance Lynn out for the season, somehow the Cardinals have a deep rotation. Every year, they fight injuries, engage in roster skullduggery and come out clean on the other side. It's impressive and irritating.

Everyone agrees, then, that starting the season with Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk in the outfield is a step down from last year's lineup with Jason Heyward. Except, Piscotty had a 129 OPS+ and Grichuk had a 133 OPS+. Every year, they fight injuries, engage in roster skullduggery and come out clean on the other side. It's impressive and irritating.

Time and resources to fix it?

Sure, especially in a market that's still soaked in outfielders. Considering how excellent Piscotty and Grichuk were last year, though, it's hard to argue that it's $100 million for an outfielder or doom. The real issue is the depth behind them, but I'm sure the Cardinals are rolling out new outfielders from the glob of outfielder dough they keep in the fridge. They're probably fine.


Biggest hole

Everyone is giddy about the Cubs' lineup depth, and for good reason. Here's a reminder that in the National League Wild Card Game, the biggest game of the last decade for the franchise, Tommy La Stella hit fifth. That probably doesn't mean anything for the 2016 Cubs, but I was dying to point it out.

I've been looking at a lot of projected lineups for this project. This is the first one that has me stumped. The Jorge Soler/Miguel Montero/Addison Russell back of the lineup is filled with potential, and their contributions are almost incidental. Their No. 1 starter is a high-quality, high-upside No. 1, their No. 2 is a high-quality, high-upside No. 2, and that pattern follows throughout the rest of the rotation. They don't exactly have the Yankees' bullpen, but they're deep there, too.

Here are the 2016 Cubs, seemingly without a major roster hole.

Time and resources to fix it?

I mean, what could go wrong?


Biggest hole

The Shelby Miller trade made fans and writers ooh and aah about the new, high-cost rotation, but shouldn't the Diamondbacks be a little concerned that Welington Castillo is hitting fifth? And that Yasmany Tomas is hitting behind him without a safety net? And that their keystone combo seems like a great way to squeeze out 1,000 plate appearances of .275 on-base percentage?

That written, the easiest hole to fix at this point would be second base, with Howie Kendrick still on the market. Even a play for Jimmy Rollins as a super utility backup plan would make sense.

Time and resources to fix it?

There's time, but I'm not sure how much money is left after the Zack Greinke deal. I know they have TV money, but that was one whopper of a contract.


Biggest hole

They could always use another high-risk pitcher with potential, just in case the other dozen don't work out. They can do IT around the offices until they're needed. Once that's fixed, they can focus their efforts on the bullpen, or perhaps second base.

The Dodgers don't necessarily need another bullpen arm, considering they're putting together the best rotation Oklahoma City has ever seen, but Chris Hatcher isn't the steady eighth-inning pitcher you might expect from the biggest payroll in baseball. The Aroldis Chapman non-trade was proof that the Dodgers don't disagree.

Time and resources to fix it?

Absolutely. The Rays know that bullpen arms are a luxury that the rich teams will shed prospects for, and they have two of the better relievers in baseball. If a trade for one of them doesn't happen before April, it will be a minor surprise.


Biggest hole

That depends on what you think of Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco. Now that Denard Span is entrenched in center, Pagan should get the bulk of the left field at-bats, even though it's possible, if not probable, that Blanco is better both at the plate and in the field.

And there's a reasonable argument to be made that the Giants shouldn't mess around with either of them, not when Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes are still out there. The Giants are already 99/100ths in. The extra 1/100th would only cost scores of millions, so what's the holdup?

Time and resources to fix it?

Oh, there's time. But there isn't money. The Giants are already going to pay the competitive-balance tax for the second straight season, and the ownership group is made up of dozens of investors, not a single billionaire with a hole in his soul that only sports can fix. They'll stick with Pagan, with Blanco as a perfectly acceptable backup plan.


Biggest hole

Ostensibly, that would be the fifth starter, but the Marlins just signed Edwin Jackson for that role. Hey, don't laugh, it's a smart gamble.

FIP since 2012

Edwin Jackson, 3.98
Jeff Samardzija, 3.69
Mike Leake, 4.12

If you're a believer that FIP correlates with luck, both good and bad, Jackson is a similar pitcher for about $85 million less, and he's going to a friendly ballpark.

The rest of the roster makes sense, even if the Marlins should be skeptical of Justin Bour holding down the cleanup spot for a team that wants to contend.

Time and resources to fix it?

Nah. They're done.


Biggest hole

It seems weird to dismiss Juan Lagares just a year after he was rewarded with a handsome extension. He got that money for a reason, and a lot of Internet smartypantses thought it was a good reason. Should one lousy offensive performance and a dip in defensive metrics change that permanently?

Maybe. And if that's the case, maybe we should all look at how easy it is to react to a season or two of defensive metrics. The sample size is analogous to a full season of batting average, and it's not like we expect a hitter to hit .330 the season after he hits .330. There are Gwynn/Boggs exceptions, but they're Hall of Fame rare. It's possible we, and the Mets, overrated Lagares based on two seasons of gaudy defensive numbers.

Or it's possible that he's still awesome.

Time and resources to fix it?

Time, sure. Resources, nah. They'll stick with Lagares, and we should take the time to remember that it's not like they're sticking with Melvin Upton, Jr. or another player with a lengthy history of recent disappointment. We're still just talking about one down year.


Biggest hole

The trade for Ben Revere fixed a hole at the top of their lineup and in the outfield, but it chipped away at the already thin bullpen. Drew Storen wasn't exactly thrilled with his situation, so this isn't to suggest that he needed to stick around, but after Jonathan Papelbon, the Nationals are lacking relievers with sustained records of success.

Shawn Kelley is the bullpen's big addition, and he's a big deal now that he's been slathered with Padres bullpen tonic, but it's still a thin group, especially when the inevitable injury happens.

Time and resources to fix it?

Yes and yes. Like the Dodgers up there, the Nationals will be active on the trade market, even if there aren't a lot of quality arms left in free agency. They should have a prospect bidding war with the Dodgers, IMO.


Biggest hole

Shortstop? Shortstop. Here are the five-best Padres shortstops to qualify for the batting title since 2000, ordered by OPS:

  1. Khalil Greene, .795, 2004
  2. Khalil Greene, .759, 2007
  3. Damian Jackson, .721, 2000
  4. Deivi Cruz, .660, 2002
  5. Jason Bartlett, .615, 2011

Also, those are the only Padres shortstops to qualify for the batting title since 2000. They could probably use a shortstop.

Time and resources to fix it?

Yes and yes. They'll sign either Ian Desmond or Alexei Ramirez. Considering where they are in the success cycle (slightly rebuilding with a chance of okay), Ramirez probably makes more financial sense.



Biggest hole

The Phillies have young players and projects where they need to, mostly. In another year, they'll have a much better idea if Cody Asche and/or Aaron Altherr make sense for a future Phillies team, and the rotation is built in a way that eliminates the temptation to rush whichever 21-year-old has a surprising start in Double-A.

With that in mind, it's hard to see how Freddie Galvis is a long-term solution at short. He was worth 0.4 WAR in 2015, which brought his career total up to ... 0.4. It's probably unfair to assume that he's incapable of improvement, especially when he was brought up as a 22-year-old and plopped on the bench.

On the other hand, we're 4,757 plate appearances into his professional career, and his OBP over all levels -- majors, minors and winter leagues -- is still under .300, and he doesn't have the superlative defense to make up for it.

Time and resources to fix it?

They have time, and they'll spend it on waiting for J.P. Crawford. They'll have resources, and they'll save it for when the team might contend. Which might be sooner than you think.


Biggest hole

Pitching coach Ray Searage is the Dave Duncan of a new generation, fixing pitchers with his mind and making delicious stew out of rocks and fingernails. But the projected 3-4-5 is Jeff Locke, Jon Niese and Ryan Vogelsong, the bullpen could include Daniel Bard and Neftali Feliz and there's only so much wizardry to spread around.

Time and resources to fix it?

Like the Phillies, the Pirates are in a holding pattern for a prospect, waiting for Tyler Glasnow. He'll probably arrive in the middle of the season and take over for whichever of the three back-end starters is faltering. The Pirates don't do splashy signings, so unless a trade falls into their lap, they're probably set.


Biggest hole

Oh, Reds.

Time and resources to fix it?

You know, maybe that's not fair. The rotation is going to be this, most likely:

  • Anthony DeSclafani
  • Raisel Iglesias
  • Brandon Finnegan
  • Michael Lorenzen
  • John Lamb

I'm not going to argue that this makes them sleepers in the NL Central, but that's the kind of rotation that's fun to watch for a rebuilding team. There aren't any 20-year-olds over their heads, and there aren't any 38-year-olds wheezing and puffing toward the finish line. It's a rotation with promise, all around.

So, we'll put their hole as the outfield, especially in left. Scott Schebler is one of the players acquired for Todd Frazier, but he might not be a long-term fix.

He might not be a short-term fix! If Justin Upton wants to take a one-year deal and hit the open market next winter off a 40-homer year, hey, there's a solution for everyone. Most likely, the Reds will go into next offseason looking for an outfielder of the future again, if not a pair of them.


Biggest hole

Like the Reds, the Rockies are trying out the right guys in the rotation, except they have a pending free agent they can dangle in July, too. So they're set there. Let me introduce you to their first baseman, then:

There is no way that Ben Paulsen doesn't have a nickname like Jackknife Ben, and there's no way that he doesn't introduce himself with a half-smirk, a firm handshake and a "Hey, I'm Jackknife Ben." For this, he should be applauded.

He's 28, though, and he doesn't have a huge track record of minor league dominance. He'll be in the long side of a platoon with Mark Reynolds, and while they'll probably put up some pretty Coors numbers together, the Rockies will still have to figure out who will stand in Todd Helton's shadow for the next decade.

Time and resources to fix it?

Maybe, but they'll take care of that at the deadline, or when they trade one of their outfielders away. Or maybe Jackknife Ben will kick ass. It's like Jackknife Ben always says, he's here to hit some dingers and to chew some bubblegum. And he's all out of bubblegum.

/Jackknife Ben winks at you