Ranking Each MLB National League Team's Starting 9

Daniel Hudson@daniel3417Correspondent IIIMarch 28, 2012

Ranking Each MLB National League Team's Starting 9

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    As much I love the pageantry of football and the personality of basketball, there's simply nothing like Major League Baseball. It's truly our nation's pastime. What better way to kick off the 2012 season than with a rundown of the National League's top lineups?

    I used information from ESPN and MLB Depth Charts to develop the lineups, and the rest is all with my own mind. In other words, reader beware.

    Note also that these starting nines (eights without the pitcher) aren't necessarily the Opening Day lineups.

    They are what I believe the basic roster will be throughout the year, minus random prospects being called up when (SPOILER ALERT!) teams like the New York Mets and San Diego Padres fall out of contention.

    Be sure to check my mirror to this articlethe AL rankings!

No. 16: Chicago Cubs

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    C: Geovanny Soto

    1B: Bryan LaHair

    2B: Darwin Barney

    3B: Ian Stewart

    SS: Starlin Castro

    LF: Alfonso Soriano

    CF: Marlon Byrd

    RF: David DeJesus

    The Chicago Cubs may have the best team song, but they have the worst starting nine in the National League. I expect new GM Theo Epstein to change that over the next few years.

No. 15: Houston Astros

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    C: Jason Castro

    1B: Carlos Lee

    2B: Jose Altuve

    3B: Chris Johnson

    SS: Jed Lowrie

    LF: J.D. Martinez

    CF: Jordan Schafer

    RF: Brian Bogusevic

    In their last year as a member of the National League Central, the Houston Astros aren't likely to fair much better than in recent years. Who is going to DH for them when they move to the American League West? I'm not sure they have eight quality hitters now, much less nine.

No. 14: San Diego Padres

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    C: Nick Hundley

    1B: Yonder Alonso

    2B: Orlando Hudson

    3B: Chase Headley

    SS: Jason Bartlett

    LF: Carlos Quentin

    CF: Cameron Maybin

    RF: Will Venable

    If the fact that Major League Baseball doesn't have a salary cap is supposed to benefit "big market" teams, then why pray-tell are the San Diego Padres so bad? Big, beautiful city. Oh well. Maybe next year.

No. 13: New York Mets

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    C: Josh Thole

    1B: Ike Davis

    2B: Daniel Murphy

    3B: David Wright

    SS: Ruben Tejada

    LF: Jason Bay

    CF: Andres Torres

    RF: Lucas Duda

    Davis was prepared to have a breakout year in 2011 before an injury ended his season. I'm probably being generous ranking the New York Mets this high, but I like him and David Wright. I also think Andres Torres is a good fit.

No. 12: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    C: A.J. Ellis

    1B: James Loney

    2B: Mark Ellis

    3B: Juan Uribe

    SS: Dee Gordon

    LF: Juan Rivera

    CF: Matt Kemp

    RF: Andre Ethier

    There are too many question marks in the Los Angeles Dodgers' starting nine. Can Dee Gordon keep up what he did at the end of 2011 for an entire season? Is Andre Ethier going to be more consistent? Will Matt Kemp continue his growth as an elite outfielder or regress like in 2010?

No. 11: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    C: Rod Barajas

    1B: Garrett Jones

    2B: Neil Walker

    3B: Pedro Alvarez

    SS: Clint Barmes

    LF: Alex Presley

    CF: Andrew McCutchen

    RF: Jose Tabata

    The biggest reason the Pittsburgh Pirates are ranked on the lower side of the National League is their youth. I'm definitely a buyer of the Pirates in the future though, with players like McCutchen to lead the way and Tabata and Alvarez ready to regain their rookie forms.

No. 10: Washington Nationals

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    C: Wilson Ramos

    1B: Adam LaRoche

    2B: Danny Espinosa

    3B: Ryan Zimmerman

    SS: Ian Desmond

    LF: Michael Morse

    CF: Roger Bernardina

    RF: Jayson Werth

    If the Washington Nationals had a legitimate leadoff man, they'd be a serious threat in the National League East. As it stands, they have a slew of speedy players who bat .240 and hit 15 homers and others who bat .280 and hit 25 homers.

No. 9: Philadelphia Phillies

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    C: Carlos Ruiz

    1B: Ty Wiggington

    2B: Chase Utley

    3B: Placido Polanco

    SS: Jimmy Rollins

    LF: John Mayberry, Jr.

    CF: Shane Victorino

    RF: Hunter Pence

    It's tough to project the long-term starting lineup for the Philadelphia Phillies. Obviously, Ryan Howard figures to be a major contributor if he can get healthy, but I have serious concerns about that, as you can see. Utley and Rollins have also had injury issues early on.

No. 8: Milwaukee Brewers

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    C: Jonathan Lucroy

    1B: Mat Gamel

    2B: Rickie Weeks

    3B: Aramis Ramirez

    SS: Alex Gonzalez

    LF: Ryan Braun

    CF: Nyjer Morgan

    RF: Corey Hart

    The Milwaukee Brewers have four very good players in Weeks, Ramirez, Braun and Hart, but the loss of Prince Fielder to the Detroit Tigers is going to hurt more than they are letting on. I'm interested to see how Braun produces when he's off PEDs, too. (Oops, did I just say that??)

No. 7: Miami Marlins

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    C: John Buck

    1B: Gaby Sanchez

    2B: Omar Infante

    3B: Hanley Ramirez

    SS: Jose Reyes

    LF: Logan Morrison

    CF: Emilio Bonafacio

    RF: Giancarlo Stanton

    The newly named "Miami" Marlins are adding a new dimension to their starting lineup: being good. Yes, this is a quality group of nine capable of going as far as Ramirez's sour attitude is willing to take them, which I am wary of.

    But I love that "Mike" is now "Giancarlo." That's good for 10 more homers.

No. 6: St. Louis Cardinals

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    C: Yadier Molina

    1B: Lance Berkman

    2B: Tyler Greene

    3B: David Freese

    SS: Rafael Furcal

    LF: Matt Holliday

    CF: Jon Jay

    RF: Carlos Beltran

    The defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals' chances of a repeat rest on one man—Lance Berkman. He found the fountain of youth last year and batted .301 with 31 homers. If he can have another solid season, he will help the Cardinals limit the pain of losing Albert Pujols.

No. 5: San Francisco Giants

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    C: Buster Posey

    1B: Aubrey Huff

    2B: Freddy Sanchez

    3B: Pablo Sandoval

    SS: Brandon Crawford

    LF: Melky Cabrera

    CF: Angel Pagan

    RF: Nate Schierholtz

    Just last year, the San Francisco Giants were one of the weaker National League lineups, but after one season, Sandoval showed he is here to say, Cabrera (re)found his swing and youngsters Crawford and Schierholtz showed the reason they were so highly touted. Add all that to the Giants' pitching...

No. 4: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    C: Miguel Montero

    1B: Paul Goldschmidt

    2B: Aaron Hill

    3B: Ryan Roberts

    SS: Stephen Drew

    LF: Jason Kubel

    CF: Chris Young

    RF: Justin Upton

    If you told me this time last year that the Arizona Diamondbacks would crack the top four of the 2012 National League starting lineups, I'd call you crazy. But the coming-of-age of Upton, the breakout of Montero and the signing of Kubel make the D-Backs a team to watch, especially in that thin desert air.

No. 3: Atlanta Braves

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    C: Brian McCann

    1B: Freddie Freeman

    2B: Dan Uggla

    3B: Chipper Jones

    SS: Tyler Pastornicky

    LF: Martin Prado

    CF: Michael Bourn

    RF: Jason Heyward

    I'm a firm believer in the sophomore slump in baseball. Therefore, I have to believe that Freeman will take a step backward, but at the same time, Heyward will take a huge step forward. The Atlanta Braves are balanced nicely with young talent and veteran know-how.

No. 2: Colorado Rockies

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    C: Ramon Hernandez

    1B: Todd Helton

    2B: Marco Scutaro

    3B: Casey Blake

    SS: Troy Tulowitzki

    LF: Carlos Gonzalez

    CF: Dexter Fowler

    RF: Michael Cuddyer

    The addition of Cuddyer to the Mile Hile City is going to begin paying dividends immediately for the Colorado Rockies. The National League has few truly balanced starting lineups, but the Rockies certainly have one. Tulowitzki and Gonzalez might be the two best teammates in the NL.

No. 1: Cincinnati Reds

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    C: Ryan Hanigan

    1B: Joey Votto

    2B: Brandon Phillips

    3B: Scott Rolen

    SS: Zach Cozart

    LF: Chad Heisey

    CF: Drew Stubbs

    RF: Jay Bruce

    The Cincinnati Reds have the National League's top starting nine. They have power in Bruce, speed in Stubbs and all around quality hitting in Votto. Phillips is an underrated second basemen, while Cozart and Heisey are ready to grow from prospects to All-Stars.

    Big Red Machine 2.0.