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Counting To Five
2004-11-29 22:07
by Will Carroll

I took a waltz through the rosters tonight, digging to see the recently turned in 40-man rosters. I'll wave off on trying to do any cogent analysis of something as esoteric as the Rule 5 draft - I'll wait on Dayn Perry, Joe Sheehan, or Bryan Smith to put something together before ... then I'll ask Kevin Goldstein who the heck these guys are once they're picked in Anaheim.

What stood out to me, as normally happens, is the pitching. For some teams, the rotation is pretty much set. For others, I don't have the faintest clue how it's going to come together. I'll ignore bullpens for now. Those are unset for almost everyone and let's face it, those decisions should be made in spring training. Bullpens are being put together now, but mostly in the sense that there will be three or four set and enough bodies to sort out once March comes around again.

There's a common theme here - teams usually have four solid starters and then either a young guy or a question mark. I'll just shake my head somberly and point to the work Rany Jazayerli has done documenting just how a four-man rotation would help the team with the balls to try it.

So, let's take a quick look at National League rotations, pre-Meetings:
NL East:
Atlanta: Mike Hampton, John Thomson, Horacio Ramirez, John Smoltz (?), Jose Capellan. (Pretty ugly with the expected loss of Russ Ortiz and Jaret Wright. I imagine Capellan's slot will be filled with a free agent and I'm just guessing that Smoltz will end up in the rotation.)

Philly: Brent Myers, Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, Gavin Floyd, Cory Lidle. (Pretty set with some injury concern.)

Mets: Tom Glavine, Kris Benson, Steve Trachsel, Victor Zambrano, Aaron Heilman. (Not bad, really. I'd like them better with Al Leiter, but the Mets are likely to grab someone off the market to take Heilman's slot. At some point, Peterson's system will start filling in and these are pretty decent placeholders.)

Marlins: Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Dontrelle Willis, Logan Kensing, Nate Bump. (Man, that goes downhill quickly. They'll miss Carl Pavano a lot and Willis needs a comeback. I do like Burnett a lot in his first full season back from elbow surgery.)

Nationals: Livan Hernandez, Tony Armas Jr., Zach Day, John Patterson, Sun-Woo Kim. (I expected worse. Certainly, it's not good, but it's not bad and reasonably set. There's just no depth, unless Jon Rauch suddenly becomes a pitcher or Clint Everts does a Brandon Claussen miracle heal.)

NL Central:

Cardinals: Chris Carpenter, Jeff Suppan, Jason Marquis, Dan Haren, Rick Ankiel. (No, this won't be the rotation next April but if Carpenter is healthy, this isn't horrible. Again, Jocketty's "studs and scrubs" strategy leaves the Cards with no depth ... until they sign or trade for the ace they need.)

Astros: Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Wade Miller, Brandon Backe, Peter Munro. (I actually couldn't find a status on Munro, so who knows there. Roger Clemens would certainly help, but there's plenty of depth in case he's not or if Miller's arm doesn't come back.)

Cubs: Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Greg Maddux, Carlos Zambrano, Sergio Mitre. (Pardon a Cubs rant here, but Andy Sisco and Ricky Nolasco are both exposed to the Rule 5, as is one of my fave prospects, Luke Hagerty. If these guys couldn't make the 40-man this year, the Cubs should have realized that last year and used it at the deadline. The Cubs are dead loaded with pitching and Mitre probably won't be in that slot if Angel Guzman is ready.)

Pirates: Kip Wells, Josh Fogg, Oliver Perez, Mark Redman, John Van Benschoten. (Wow. That's not bad right there. Perez is one of my favorite young pitchers, there's some depth that will start in Indy, and while none of these is an "ace", Perez certainly could be. The Bucs could surprise some people.)

Brewers: Ben Sheets, Ben Hendrickson, Doug Davis, Victor Santos, Chris Capuano. (Damian Miller's in for a surprise after catching the D-Backs, Cubs, and A's over the last few seasons. Sheets may have broken out, but the rest of this is, well, yuck. Mike Maddux will need a lot more to work with to do anything resembling winning and there's not much coming.)

Reds: Aaron Harang, Jose Acevedo, Brandon Claussen, Luke Hudson, Jung Bong. (Paul Wilson never looked so good. They'll bring in a couple Wilson types, surely, who will immediately become the so-called ace. Expect a constant shuffle of starters from the pen and Louisville as the Reds underachieve again. Their best hope is development.)

NL West

Dodgers: Jeff Weaver, Brad Penny, Kazuhisa Ishii, Edwin Jackson, Joel Hanrahan (Jeez, this got ugly quick. Penny may or may not pitch and without him, this gets abysmal. They'll surely sign one, maybe two free agents but even that might not be enough. Getting the ball to Yhency Brazoban and Eric Gagne might get real dicey. THIS is the real opportunity for a four-man rotation.)

Giants: Jason Schmidt, Kirk Rueter, Brett Tomko, Jerome Williams, Noah Lowry. (Not bad and there's depth. Jesse Foppert should be back sometime early next season challenging for a rotation spot and the Giants always seem to have more pitching prospects coming. Not great, but very good.)

Padres: Jake Peavy, Brian Lawrence, Adam Eaton, Darrell May, Justin Germano. (Another perfect opportunity for a solid four-man will go down with a free agent signing. Again, not bad. Much better with David Wells at the top. Peavy should build on last year and if someone's going to be this year's Ben Sheets, it's him.)

Rockies: Joe Kennedy, Jason Jennings, Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, Chin-hui Tsao. (Introducing the cannon fodder! Francis is good, I'm told, and the rest have something good about them, but they play in Colorado where it's still the big sabermetric puzzle. I say find nine guys who can throw three innings every third day at league average - adjusted - and spend big on hitters. Screw it, win 20-19. The home-road "split squad" idea intrigues me as well, though it seems less practical.)

D-Backs: Randy Johnson, Brandon Webb, Casey Fossum, Casey Daigle, Andrew Good. (Man, how'd I leave off the D-Backs in my initial post? The back end BLOWS and there's not much coming. Daigle's only advantage is having Jenny Finch around and fans leave happy after catching HR balls. The big trick is Johnson - the D-Backs have to deal him, but more importantly, have to get back some credible pitching. Being in Arizona should help them recruit some cheaper back-end talent to make it through, but they have to start developing players at some point.)

So there you have it. I'll stroll through the AL at some point. I know there's likely errors and the free agent market will mix this up, but it's interesting to see where the teams are. Some surprises in there, I'd say.

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