ASTROS – pitching depth.
Besides Oswalt, Houston’s rotation currently features Woody Williams, Brandon Backe, Wandy Rodgriguez and Felipe Paulino. That’s a lot of finger crossing.
The ‘Stros have Jose Valverde closing games. And that’s awesome. But other than Valverde, the bullpen offers little beyond Doug Brocail. Geoff Geary and Oscar Villarreal do not inspire confidence.
It’s easy to point to the bevy of all-star names in Houston’s lineup and think that the team’s offense might make up for it’s crappy pitching, but players like Tejada and Berkman are past their primes, while Kaz Matsui is overrated.
Verdict: The Astros need one more top of the rotation starter and some middle relief help.
CARDINALS – starting pitcher.
Go to the ESPN.com stats page. Check out the NL batting stats. The top 75 players from 2007 include just one Cardinal — Albert Pujols. That’s gotta change in 2008. How is that going to change? Three things have to happen. 1. Troy Glaus has to stay healthy. 2. Rick Ankiel has to live up to the Babe Ruth comparisons and 3. Chris Duncan has step up his game. If all three of those guys hit, and Pujols continues to be Pujols, the Cardinals will be dangerous.
Of course, those are a lot of maybes. And even if all of those things happen, that still doesn’t change the fact that St. Louis’ starting staff includes Anthony Reyes and Braden Looper.
Verdict: The Cardinals need one more top of the line starting pitcher. And a lot of luck.
BREWERS – steroids
This offseason, Milwaukee acquired Guillermo Mota, Eric Gagne and Mike Cameron. They already had Derrick Turnbow. That’s three relievers who were mentioned in the Mitchell Report, plus one CF who will start the season suspended. How do they sleep at night?
Verdict: The Brewers need to stay one step ahead of the drug testers.
REDS – Jay Bruce
Rumors abound that the Reds are considering trading their entire farm system — including OF prospect Jay Bruce — for Baltimore ace Erik Bedard. This would give Cincinnati a scary rotation led by Bedard and Aaron Harang. But it wouldn’t solve all of the team’s problems.
Last season, David Ross cought 107 games for the Reds. His OBP was .271. So there’s that.
Also, Ryan Freel is penciled in as the team’s starting CF, now that Josh Hamilton has been dealt. But what happens when Ken Griffey Jr. gets hurt? The Reds need Bruce to get major league ready quick, allowing Freel to serve as a super-sub and giving the team a little more depth and power. If Bruce pulls a Ryan Braun and shows up swinging, the Reds could be contenders, even without Bedard. (Of course, nobody in history has ever pulled a Ryan Braun to the extent that Ryan Braun pulled a Ryan Braun in 2007. But I digress.)
Verdict: The Reds need to keep Jay Bruce.
CUBS – an ace.
Outside of the continuing development of CF Felix Pie, the Cubs’s question marks are all on the pitching side. A handful of relievers, including Kerry Wood, will battle it out to be this season’s closer. Meanwhile, Jason Marquis will attempt to return to form after 2007′s late season collapse.
Chicago has a few good starting pitchers, like Rich Hill, Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly. But the team really needs at least one of those guys to step up and pitch like an ace.
Verdict: What the Cubs really need is for Carlos Zambrano to cut down on his walks.
PIRATES – a miracle.