2011 MLB Spring Training: 10 Teams Whose Roster Outlooks Have Changed the Most

Jim MancariCorrespondent IMarch 16, 2011

2011 MLB Spring Training: 10 Teams Whose Roster Outlooks Have Changed the Most

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    With the MLB season right around the corner, teams are busy showcasing their newly acquired talent during spring training.

    A handful of teams significantly improved their rosters as they gear up for a potential World Series run.

    However, other teams shook up their rosters in order to clear some payroll while giving their young prospects a shot.

    In either case, we should see a ton of new faces donning new uniforms this season.

    Here are 10 teams that saw their roster outlook change the most this offseason.

10. Kansas City Royals

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    Following the Zack Greinke trade, the Kansas City Royals will have a new, youthful look to their roster.

    In that trade, the Royals picked up exciting young shortstop Alcides Escobar and speedy outfielder Lorenzo Cain.

    These two have already been penciled in for starting roles. On a team that doesn't have high expectations heading into 2011, Escobar and Cain will be able to learn through their mistakes.

    The Royals also added veteran right-fielder Jeff Francoeur, who can provide some offensive punch but also strikes out as much as anyone.

    Another Jeff, Jeff Francis, will be expected to lead an inexperienced starting rotation. Former A's starter Vin Mazzaro also joins the fold.

    Royals' left-handed pitching prospect Mike Montgomery and third-base prospect Mike Moustakas have been on the fast track to the majors and should see some time in the big leagues.

    Many youthful faces will take the field at Kauffman Stadium this year.

9. Atlanta Braves

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    The Atlanta Braves not only have a few new additions to their roster, but they will also be shaking up some of the pieces they already had.

    Despite an All-Star performance last season from second baseman Martin Prado, the Braves acquired the slugging Dan Uggla to take over at second.

    Uggla will be an offensive force in the middle of Atlanta's lineup.

    Prado meanwhile will shift to left field. He has only played three games in the outfield his entire career, so the Braves are hoping that his athleticism will make him a serviceable outfielder.

    Rookie Freddie Freeman is expected to take over at first base. Freeman has been a hitting machine this spring.

    With the retirement of Billy Wagner, the Braves will have to fill a void in their closer's role. Johnny Venters and rookie Craig Kimbrel have been battling all spring to determine who assumes the role.

    Both were impressive last season and can combine to form a dominant tandem late in the game.

    Though the Philadelphia Phillies appear to be the early favorites in the N.L. East, don't count out the Braves.

8. Chicago Cubs

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    Like the Royals, the Chicago Cubs were involved in a major offseason trade involving a starting pitcher. The Cubs netted Matt Garza from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for a good chunk of minor league talent.

    Garza will provide stability atop Chicago's rotation that already includes Ryan Dempster and the rejuvenated Carlos Zambrano.

    Garza should adapt well to the N.L. and keep the Cubs in contention all season.

    Garza's former teammate, Carlos Pena, signed with Cubs to play first base. Wrigley Field should be no match for Pena's power.

    The Cubs also added a familiar face in Kerry Wood. Wood is coming off a fantastic season with the New York Yankees and should fit nicely into a setup role ahead off Carlos Marmol.

    The Cubs feel they are built to win now, and these new faces should help.

7. Chicago White Sox

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    Over on the South Side of Chicago, the White Sox will look to challenge the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers for the A.L. Central crown.

    The team signed Adam Dunn to play 1B/DH. Dunn brings 40+ HR potential to an already potent lineup.

    Though Dunn was the only major offensive acquisition, the White Sox significantly improved their pitching staff.

    While he's not a new face, Jake Peavy is finally healthy and ready for a big year. The 2007 N.L. Cy Young award winner has become the forgotten man due to his injury troubles.

    In the bullpen, 2010 All-Star setup man Matt Thornton will close games now that Bobby Jenks is out of town. Rookie Chris Sale and newly-acquired Jesse Crain will provide a sturdy bridge to Thornton.

    Expect big things out of the White Sox in 2011.

6. Oakland Athletics

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    The Oakland Athletics are starting to resemble their playoff caliber teams of the late 1990s-early 2000s.

    The young starting pitching is there, so the A's addressed their offense this offseason.

    Outfielders David DeJesus and Josh Willingham were acquired via trade. DeJesus should serve as more of a table setter while Willingham will act as a thumper in the middle of the order.

    The A's also signed DH Hideki Matsui to serve as a strong left-handed presence. Matsui brings tons of postseason experience to the young team.

    A few key bullpen acquisitions should also help Oakland.

    Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour will form a righty/lefty combo setup man in front of closer Andrew Bailey.

    With the main focus in the Bay Area still on the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, the A's are out to prove that there can be two competitive teams in town.

5. Washington Nationals

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    The Washington Nationals made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason, signing Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million deal.

    Werth brings power, speed, defense and postseason experience to a team that lacked in virtually all of those categories last season.

    Though the N.L. East is still tough, the Nationals may have a chance to escape the cellar this season.

    One of the more underrated signings of this offseason was Adam LaRoche, who will fill the void at first base left by Adam Dunn.

    While his production will not rival Dunn's, LaRoche will serve as a left-handed power threat in a predominantly right-handed hitting lineup.

    A full season from Drew Storen as the closer also appears to be a move that can pay dividends for the Nats.

4. Milwaukee Brewers

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    The Milwaukee Brewers addressed their main weakness—starting pitching—in a big way this offseason.

    The Brewers acquired Shaun Marcum from the Toronto Blue Jays.

    He's coming off a year in which he set career-highs in starts (31), strikeouts per nine innings (7.60) and walks per nine (1.98).

    In addition to Marcum, the Brew Crew made arguably the most talked about deal of the offseason in acquiring Zack Greinke from the Kansas City Royals.

    However, Greinke will miss the first month of the season after suffering a broken rib from playing basketball.

    When he returns, Greinke, Marcum and Yovani Gallardo will form as good a trio as there is in the N.L.

3. Tampa Bay Rays

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    Of any team this offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays probably had the most personnel movement.

    The Rays lost Matt Garza, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano, Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler to either trade or free agency.

    However, the team also added some new faces.

    Highlighting that cast, Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez bring their veteran presence to a relatively young team. They are out to prove that they can still play at a top level despite their increasing age.

    Ramirez should be the primary DH, while Damon handles left field duties.

    At first base, the Rays will rely on Dan Johnson. Johnson only hit .190 for the Rays last season but hit well down the stretch and in the playoffs.

    Finally, veteran flame-thrower Kyle Farnsworth will lead a revamped Tampa bullpen. 

    Though the Rays seem like the forgotten team in the A.L. East, Joe Maddon will have his boys ready to play.

2. Baltimore Orioles

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    The Baltimore Orioles will feature four new faces in their starting lineup.

    Vladimir Guerrero should turn Camden Yards into a sandlot with his mighty power stroke. The Texas Rangers will likely regret letting Vlad walk.

    Another veteran slugger, Derrek Lee, will take over at first base. Lee can be a consistent run producer for the O's.

    The extremely powerful yet extremely strikeout-prone Mark Reynolds also joins the bunch. Like Vlad, Reynolds' power cannot be contained in Camden Yards.

    Finally, J.J. Hardy will be a nice addition both offensively and defensively.

    The main question for the Orioles will be their pitching staff. They added injury-prone starter Justin Duchscherer to a cast of young starters.

    The additions of Kevin Gregg and Jeremy Accardo should strengthen the bullpen.

    Buck Showalter did a fine job with this team late last year, and the outlook is very positive in Baltimore.

1. Boston Red Sox

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    The Boston Red Sox went all in this offseason after missing the playoffs in 2010.

    Boston signed speedster Carl Crawford to a mega-deal and traded for slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

    In a lineup that already featured Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew, Crawford and Gonzalez turn the Red Sox into an offensive juggernaut.

    It's a scary thought to think of how Gonzalez will terrorize Pesky's Pole.

    While these two were the front-line acquisitions, the Red Sox made other moves that strengthened their roster.

    Though he only had 19 plate appearances last year, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is poised to take over the catching duties in Boston. 

    Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler will provide the link to Jonathan Papelbon late in games.

    Coupled with great starting pitching, Boston's new acquisitions may be exactly what the team needs to make a World Series run.