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Blueprint for Each MLB Team to Handle Its Biggest Weaknesses in 2013

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2013

Blueprint for Each MLB Team to Handle Its Biggest Weaknesses in 2013

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    The MLB offseason is over, and spring training is here, the time when teams evaluate the rosters they built over the winter and determine which 25 guys give them the best chance to win from the onset.

    Regardless of what offseason improvements, every team still has at least one area that poses some level of concern entering the season, whether it is an intangible issue such as leadership or a more obvious glaring roster hole.

    So here is a look at each MLB team's biggest weakness right now, and what the team will do to handle it moving forward.

Baltimore Orioles

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    Biggest Weakness: Power at the DH position.

    The Orioles traded for Jim Thome at the deadline last season in an attempt to fill their need to add a power bat, and after non-tendering Mark Reynolds, they are once again in need of a some additional pop.

    Wilson Betemit and Danny Valencia will open the season platooning at DH, and chances are their combined numbers will leave a lot to be desired.

    Signing someone like Carlos Lee is one option the team could pursue, as is giving Conor Jackson an extended look after signing him to a minor league deal.

Boston Red Sox

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    Biggest Weakness: Starting pitching

    The well-known names are certainly there for the Red Sox, with a rotation made up of Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster.

    While that group was largely disappointing last season, the team has enough money invested in them that it doesn't have much choice but to ride it out with them.

    The best course of action for the Red Sox would be to open the season with those guys in the rotation and give them every chance to succeed, but to not be afraid to demote one of them to the bullpen in favor of someone like Allen Webster or Rubby De La Rosa if they struggle. 

New York Yankees

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    Biggest Weakness: Catcher

    When the Yankees were outbid by the Pirates for the services of catcher Russell Martin, who signed a two-year, $17 million deal with Pittsburgh, the Yankees opted to address the position in-house.

    There were options on the market in A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Napoli, but the Yankees didn't view any of them as worthy of the contracts they were seeking.

    Instead, they'll go with a platoon of Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli to open the season in what could very easily turn out to be an offensive black hole.

    Their best hope will be the quick progression of catching prospect Austin Romine, who missed all but 31 games last season. He has offensive potential and could very well be their best option by midseason.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Biggest Weakness: Run production

    The Rays have enjoyed some success on the strength of their pitching staff the past several seasons, but they clearly needed to upgrade their offense to make a serious run at a title.

    While guys like Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce are solid players, they've lacked a true No. 2 run producer alongside Evan Longoria.

    They may have found that guy this offseason though in outfield prospect Wil Myers, who was acquired from the Royals for James Shields and Wade Davis. He could be in Tampa by midseason and should make a serious impact from the get-go.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Biggest Weakness: Fifth starter

    Adding R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle alongside Brandon Morrow has given the Blue Jays a terrific starting rotation.

    The fifth spot on the staff is still a question mark, though, as last year's Opening Day starter Ricky Romero struggled mightily last season in going 9-14 with a 5.77 ERA.

    He'll get the first shot at the No. 5 starter job, but if he falters, the team could turn to J.A. Happ or Chad Jenkins early on and then Kyle Drabek once he returns from Tommy John surgery.

    It's a question mark, but the team has plenty of options behind Romero should he falter, so they appear to be in good shape.

     


Chicago White Sox

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    Biggest Weakness: Catcher

    For the past eight seasons, A.J. Pierzynski served as the everyday catcher and was one of the leaders of the White Sox.

    However, the team opted to let him walk in free agency after he turned in a career year in 2012, and the Rangers signed him to a one-year, $7.5 million deal.

    Now, the White Sox will turn catching duties over to 27-year-old Tyler Flowers, who has hit .205/.307/.388 in 273 at-bats over parts of four big league seasons.

    Beyond Flowers, the team doesn't have much of a fall-back plan as 30-year-old Hector Gimenez will be the backup, and 25-year-old Josh Phegley is the only other catcher on the 40-man. Adding a veteran with some experience this spring may be in the team's best interest.

Cleveland Indians

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    Biggest Weakness: Starting pitching

    The Indians have taken big steps to improve their offense this offseason, adding Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs, Jason Giambi and Ryan Raburn.

    However, their rotation will likely be what holds them back this season. While the additions of Brett Myers and Daisuke Matsuzaka will help, they are still without a proven rotation.

    Ubaldo Jimenez will once again front the staff, but he's been terrible since joining the Indians. Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister are both inconsistent but should open the season with a rotation spot.

    The team's biggest hope is the rapid development of top prospect Trevor Bauer, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks in a three-team trade for Shin-Soo Choo. 

Detroit Tigers

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    Biggest Weakness: The ninth inning role.

    Weakness may not be the best word, as the Tigers have a number of pitchers capable of filling the ninth inning role, but it is the biggest question mark entering the season.

    After Jose Valverde struggled down the stretch, the team opted to let him walk in free agency. However, returning from last year's team are solid arms in Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke and Al Alburquerque.

    However, the most likely man to fill the job is flame-throwing prospect Bruce Rondon. The 22-year-old posted a 1.53 ERA, 11.2 K/9 and 29 saves over three minor league levels last season.

Kansas City Royals

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    Biggest Weakness: Second base

    The Royals have built an impressive core of homegrown position players, but they have yet to find a long-term option at second base.

    Chris Getz is the front-runner for the position after hitting .275/.312/.360 over 189 at-bats last season, and he has a real shot at earning everyday at-bats.

    However, he could split time with Johnny Giavotella, who was expected to seize the position last year. He hit just .238/.270/.304 in 181 at-bats in the majors, yet he hit .323/.404/.472 with 10 home runs and 71 RBI in Triple-A.

    Someone from that duo will need to step forward and claim the position, or prospect Christian Colon may very well steal it from them by midseason.

Minnesota Twins

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    Biggest Weakness: Starting pitching

    The Twins had one of the worst starting rotations in the league last season, and they turned their attention to improving it this offseason.

    Vance Worley was acquired from the Phillies along with prospect Trevor May for center fielder Ben Revere. Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey were signed as free agents.

    They'll join Scott Diamond in the rotation, but that is essentially a collection of No. 3 starters, and the team may not be much better off than they were last season.

    Prospect Kyle Gibson missed most of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he could make an impact now that he's healthy. Still, a lot will have to break right for the staff.

Houston Astros

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    Biggest Weakness: Big league talent

    It may be a sweeping generalization of sorts, but the Astros' biggest weakness is a top-to-bottom lack of talent at the major league level.

    They have some solid prospects on the way in Jonathan Singleton, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Jarred Cosart among others, but they are still at least a few years from respectability.

    For the time being, they'll be led by the likes of Jose Altuve, Bud Norris and Carlos Pena. Unless someone develops a time machine, there's not much the Astros can do at this point.

Los Angeles Angels

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    Biggest Weakness: No. 3 starter

    The Angels have had a busy offseason, and one of the biggest areas they addressed was their starting rotation.

    Gone are Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, and in their place are veterans Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton.

    The team still has two of the AL's top starters fronting the staff in Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, but they will need one of the three newcomers to step up as a solid third option. Hanson has the highest upside of the three if he can bounce back, while innings-eating Vargas may be the safest bet of the three.

Oakland Athlteics

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    Biggest Weakness: Second base

    A year ago, the A's had a busy offseason in which they were willing to listen to offers on practically anyone, with Jemile Weeks the only player deemed untouchable (h/t Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports). 

    Weeks hit .303 and stole 22 bases in 97 games with the A's in 2011, but his average plummeted to .221 last season, and he wound up back in Triple-A.

    He'll have a chance to reclaim the position this spring, competing with Scott Sizemore, Adam Rosales, Eric Sogard and prospect Grant Green for the job. Someone will need to step up though, or the position will again be an offensive hole.

Seattle Mariners

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    Biggest Weakness: Run production

    For the past three seasons, the Mariners have ranked dead last in the American League in runs scored and have struggled mightily up and down the lineup.

    Adding Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse will help things in the short term, but the team will need others to step up alongside them if it is to avoid being among the worst offenses in baseball once again.

    Former top prospects Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley will need to start to realize their potential, and upcoming prospects Mike Zunino and Nick Franklin will need to make an impact.

Texas Rangers

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    Biggest Weakness: Offensive firepower

    For the past several seasons, the Rangers have had one of the most feared lineups in all of baseball. While they still have a decent group of bats led by Adrian Beltre, the offseason departures of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli have certainly been a blow.

    A.J. Pierzynski was signed to replace Napoli, but the team failed to land an impact bat to replace Hamilton in the middle of the order and wound up settling for signing an aging Lance Berkman to a one-year deal.

    The x-factor for the Rangers offense this season will be the progression of top prospects Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar. If they can play their way into everyday at-bats by midseason and make a serious impact in the lineup, the Rangers could once again be carried by their offense.

Atlanta Braves

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    Biggest Weakness: Leadership

    With the retirement of future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones and trade of Martin Prado to the Diamondbacks in the Justin Upton deal, the Braves not only took a hit offensively but also in the intangible area of clubhouse leadership.

    Starter Tim Hudson and catcher Brian McCann are now the elder statesmen of the team, and someone will have to step forward as a leader.

    Those two should help ease the loss and provide a veteran presence, while budding star Jason Heyward is the type of intelligent, professional player who could embrace the role of team leader moving forward.

Miami Marlins

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    Biggest Weakness: Young positional talent to rebuild with

    The Marlins opted to blow things up this winter after a disappointing season last year, and as a result, they're likely in for a long season in 2013.

    Giancarlo Stanton is still there to put on a show offensively, and a healthy Logan Morrison could be an impact bat as well. /but beyond those two, the Marlins have a lot of questions for 2013 and moving forward.

    Jake Marisnick and Christian Yelich are among the top outfield prospects in baseball, and Adeiny Hechavarria will get every chance to be the starting shortstop, but outside of those guys, the team doesn't have much in the way of young positional talent to step up.

    They've assembled a good group of young arms, but they'll need to turn their attention to offense in the drafts ahead and perhaps in trading guys like Ricky Nolasco.

New York Mets

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    Biggest Weakness: Outfield production

    This offseason, the Mets have non-tendered Andres Torres, released Jason Bay and let Scott Hairston walk in free agency and signed no one to replace them in what was already a thin outfield.

    Lucas Duda returns to start at one of the corner spots, but he saw his numbers drop from .292/.370/.482 as a rookie in 2011 to .239/.329/.389 in 100 more at-bats last season.

    Joining him in the starting lineup will be some combination of Mike Baxter, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Andrew Brown and Collin Cowgill, and there is nothing in the way of an impact prospect knocking on the door.

    Their best bet will be hoping newly-acquired Cowgill will thrive in his first extended big league look and Nieuwenhuis can return to the form that had him hitting .325 at the end of April last season as the surprise rookie of the league.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Biggest Weakness: Age

    The Phillies are certainly not short on superstar-caliber talent: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young.

    However, those eight guys have an average age of 33.5 for the upcoming season, with the 29-year-old Hamels the only one under the age of 30.

    As such, health and decline are serious concerns, and while they have the horses to make one more serious title run, the Phillies could be blowing things up by midseason as they begin the franchise's next step.

Washington Nationals

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    Biggest Weakness: Starting pitching depth

    Looking up and down the Nationals projected roster, it's not easy to find a weakness. Danny Espinosa is a bit of a question mark at second base but still has some of the best power at the position and a good glove, and the catcher spot is up in the air with Wilson Ramos returning.

    Really though, the only area I see that could be an issue is the starting rotation should the team be hit with some injuries. 

    Last season, they had John Lannan camped out in Triple-A ready to step into the rotation and also had Chien-Ming Wang pushing for a rotation spot.

    Now, both of those guys are gone, and the team replaced the durable Edwin Jackson in the rotation with an injury risk of sorts in Dan Haren.

    Hard-throwing reliever Christian Garcia is transitioning to starter in the minors, and Ross Ohlendorf was signed to a minor league deal, but relying on either of those guys to fill a rotation spot is risky at best.

Chicago Cubs

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    Biggest Weakness: Third base

    The Cubs are still in the early stages of a wide-scale rebuild, but they did a nice job improving their rotation in the short term this offseason after the staff was downright terrible last season.

    Outside of the staff, they have young, core players or decent stopgap veterans at every position outside of third base for the coming season (and catcher, but Welington Castillo has a chance to be a core guy).

    After taking a chance on Ian Stewart bouncing back last season and watching him play just 55 games and hit .201, the Cubs opted to give him another go on a one-year deal.

    He'll platoon with Luis Valbuena, who hit .219 while receiving the bulk of the at-bats last season as the team continues to hope Josh Vitters will be the long-term answer. He certainly didn't look like it in a late-season audition last year, hitting .121 and striking out 33 times in 99 at-bats.

    They got a solid third-base prospect from the Rangers in Christian Villanueva for Ryan Dempster, and top prospect Javier Baez may still wind up playing third in the majors, but for now the team will just have to muddle through another season of the above mentioned trio of guys.

Cincinnati Reds

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    Biggest Weakness: Veteran leadership

    Like the Nationals, the Reds are a team that is without a glaring weakness on paper after entering the offseason with all of their key pieces returning and then making some solid moves to fill their major needs.

    Moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation is a risky move, but the Reds have covered themselves regardless of how it goes. Jonathan Broxton was signed to close if he succeeds and sticks there, while Mike Leake was retained to step back into the rotation if he struggles.

    The biggest issue I see are the losses of Scott Rolen and Miguel Cairo. Neither was particularly productive last season, but both were important leaders for the team. Someone like Brandon Phillips or Joey Votto is more than capable of filling the leadership void, but there is no question those were the glue guys that every good team needs.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Biggest Weakness: Starting pitching experience

    The Brewers' biggest weakness entering the offseason was undoubtedly their bullpen, but the additions of Mike Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny and Burke Badenhop this offseason should help improve it significantly.

    Instead, the starting rotation may be the biggest question mark entering the season, as the team lacks a proven starter behind ace Yovani Gallardo.

    Chris Narveson and Marco Estrada qualify as veterans, but they are far from seasoned starters, while youngsters Michael Fiers, Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg and Mark Rogers all made starts at the big league level last year. 

    The Brewers should have enough depth to emerge with a solid five-man staff eventually, but they may wind up shuffling their rotation early and often, much like the Orioles last season, before they find the right mix of guys.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Biggest Weakness: Consistent offense behind Andrew McCutchen

    Last season, Andrew McCutchen essentially carried the Pirates offense by himself through the first half of the season, and while it was their pitching that inevitably did them in, more consistent offense alongside McCutchen would have gone a long way as well.

    No major additions were made, so it will once again fall to Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Garrett Jones to provide the secondary offensive punch.

    If they can produce from the onset and stay healthy, the Pirates should be able to once again make a serious run at a winning season and could finally get over the hump in 2013.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Biggest Weakness: Starting rotation

    Letting Kyle Lohse walk in free agency (though he has yet to sign anywhere) and then losing Chris Carpenter indefinitely has left the Cardinals rotation as a major question mark.

    Adam Wainwright will be back to lead the staff, and he'll be joined by Jaime Garcia, who battled injury last season, and Jake Westbrook, who is an average starter at best.

    From there, some combination of 18-game-winner-turned-postseason-reliever Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal will fill out the staff.

    Miller and Rosenthal both have tremendous upside, and Lynn and Kelly both proved themselves to varying degrees last season. So while it is not the sure thing it would have been with Lohse and Carpenter, the staff should be just fine.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Biggest Weakness: Offensive production at shortstop

    After dealing Stephen Drew last year, the Diamondbacks' biggest need this offseason was to find a long-term solution at shortstop.

    They got their guy in former Reds prospect Didi Gregorius, but seeing as he's not yet major league ready with the bat, the team also added Cliff Pennington.

    Pennington is the classic all-glove, no-bat shortstop, and while he has double-digit steal speed, he'll struggle to hit .250. He'll be flanked by veterans Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald, neither of whom are much more than utility players at this point.

    It all comes down to how quickly the 23-year-old Gregorius, who hit .265/.324/.393 last season between Double-A and Triple-A, is ready to step in as he could be up by midseason with a strong start.

Colorado Rockies

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    Biggest Weakness: Starting pitching

    The Rockies have a solid offense, and it will only get better with the return of Troy Tulowitzki after the superstar shortstop played in just 47 games last season.

    However, their starting rotation is another story after the team's starters combined for a 5.81 ERA last season and the team failed to make any major additions this offseason.

    Jorge De La Rosa (three starts), Juan Nicasio (11 starts) and Jhoulys Chacin (14 starts) all missed time with injuries last season, so getting them back healthy appears to be the team's plan for improved starting pitching.

    If they can prove to be 100 percent, and young left-hander Drew Pomeranz can take a step forward in his development, it's a group that could surprise. That remains a significant "if," though. 

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Biggest Weakness: Chemistry

    The Dodgers have assembled quite a collection of stars, adding Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke dating back to last July to a roster that already featured the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.

    They'll have to contend with the reigning champion Giants and a solid Diamondbacks team in the NL West, but the pieces are there for the Dodgers to not only contend for the postseason but for a title.

    It is all a matter of how quickly the group is able to come together as a team. We've seen in the past that simply throwing together a high-priced collection of names does not always result in the playoffs, let alone a title, so they certainly have work to do before they can live up to their potential.

San Diego Padres

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    Biggest Weakness: Frontline starting pitching

    The Padres have a pair of solid starters in Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard, but they are middle-of-the-rotation guys on good teams.

    Beyond those two, some combination of Jason Marquis, Freddy Garcia, Eric Stults, Tyson Ross and Casey Kelly will fill out the rotation.

    The team has one of the deepest minor league systems in all of baseball, but even there, they lack top-end talent. Kelly has the best chance of emerging as an ace-caliber starter long-term.

    At some point, the Padres will likely have to sign or trade for a staff ace once they reach a point where they are ready to contend, but for now the guys they have in place should be at least passable as they continue to develop their young talent.

San Francisco Giants

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    Biggest Weakness: Run production

    Many expected the Giants to make a splash and add an impact bat in left field this offseason, but instead they simply re-signed a trio of key players and brought back former center fielder Andres Torres to platoon with Gregor Blanco in left.

    Buster Posey will once again be asked to do much of the heavy lifting in the middle of the lineup, and while Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence are both solid hitters, they are second-tier guys.

    With their pitching, the Giants will once again be serious title contenders, and they should have enough offense to get by once again, but signing a big bat certainly would have taken some pressure off of the reigning MVP Posey.

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