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Chicago Cubs: Anthony Rizzo, First Baseman
Anthony Rizzo is one of the up-and-coming stars for the Chicago Cubs, but the club may be pushing him to succeed too early. The Cubs don’t have all of the pieces he needs around him, and it’s tough to judge a player with so little experience in his career.
Rizzo won’t succeed unless he has more pieces around him, and that’s sure to come in the near future. The Cubs aren’t going to contend for an NL Central this year, but that doesn’t mean that Rizzo can’t continue to develop in a positive fashion. That’ll just make the Cubs’ jobs easier going forward.
Cincinnati Reds: Bronson Arroyo, Starting Pitcher
The Cincinnati Reds are in a fine position to contend for the pennant this upcoming season. But the starting rotation is going to have to hold up the entire season—although there isn’t any doubt that they couldn’t.
There are questions, however, surrounding Aroldis Chapman as a starting pitcher, but the rest of the rotation is intact. Bronson Arroyo needs to be a rock-solid No. 3 starter for the Reds to make it further than they did in last year’s postseason. He pitched very well last season and could be a big difference-maker in 2013.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun, Outfielder
Ryan Braun is one of the best players in baseball, but he seems to be in a bit of legal trouble as of late. Braun has been continually linked to performance-enhancing drugs and may be in a bit of a pickle this time.
Last time, he slid back into third base, but this time around he might be tagged out at home. If Braun is proven innocent again, he’ll be the most important player on the Milwaukee Brewers. If he gets suspended, Milwaukee is in trouble. And then there’s the chance that if he does play, he doesn’t succeed, although that’s an unlikely scenario.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Garrett Jones, First Baseman
The Pittsburgh Pirates almost made the playoffs last season. But unfortunately for them, almost doesn’t count, and the Pirates couldn’t keep up their hot, early pace throughout the entire season.
If the Pirates are going to make the playoffs in 2013, they’ll need some help from all of their players, but Garrett Jones specifically. Jones is on the rise and needs to continue his recent success with another big season. Jones is a good hitter who needs to work on his eye this spring, working to draw more walks and strike out less frequently.
St. Louis Cardinals: Jake Westbrook, Starting Pitcher
With Chris Carpenter likely out for the season and Kyle Lohse still a free agent, there will be a ton of added pressure on the St. Louis Cardinals’ starting rotation. Shelby Miller could compete for a job, as will Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal, but the bulk of the pressure will land on Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright.
Westbrook, a veteran right-hander, needs to have a big year. He’s pitched decently for St. Louis the past couple of years, but he needs to have a fantastic year to improve the Cardinals’ championship hopes.