- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

1. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Projected lineup
SS Tony Womack
RF Danny Bautista
LF Luis Gonzalez
1B Mark Grace
CF Steve Finley
3B Jay Bell
2B Craig Counsell
C Damian Miller
Rotation
Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Rick Helling, Brian Anderson, Todd Stottlemyre
Closer
Byung-Hyun Kim
2001 Record: 92-70, 1st place
Manager: Bob Brenly (2nd season, 92-70 record)
Key additions: OF Jose Guillen (FA/Devil Rays), RHP Rick Helling (FA/Rangers), LHP Mike Myers (trade/Rockies)
Key losses: OF Jack Cust (trade/Rockies), RHP Albie Lopez (FA/Braves), OF Reggie Sanders (FA/Giants)
Key questions: Can Johnson and Schilling continue to dominate? Can they withstand Matt Williams' broken foot? Can Kim shake off his disastrous World Series performance?
Key stat: D'backs were 31 games over .500 when Johnson or Schilling started, nine games under when they didn't.
The lowdown: As Mel Brooks said, "It's good to be the king." The Snakes are enjoying the fruits of their first World Series championship and seem determined to make it happen again. There are major obstacles Williams' injury underscores how fragile this aging team is. But anytime you've got the best 1-2 pitching punch in baseball and a talented, veteran supporting cast, you've got a chance to repeat. If they can remain healthy, they could do it again.

2. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Projected lineup
CF Tsuyoshi Shinjo
SS Rich Aurilia
LF Barry Bonds
2B Jeff Kent
1B J.T. Snow
RF Reggie Sanders
3B David Bell
C Benito Santiago
Rotation
Livan Hernandez, Russ Ortiz, Jason Schmidt, Kirk Rueter, Kurt Ainsworth
Closer
Robb Nen
2001 Record: 90-72, 2nd place
Manager
Dusty Baker (10th season, 745-649 record)
Key additions: 3B David Bell (trade/Mariners), OF Reggie Sanders (FA/Diamondbacks), OF Tsuyoshi Shinjo (trade/Mets), RHP Jay Witasick (trade/Yankees)
Key losses: LHP Shawn Estes (trade/Mets), 1B Andres Galarraga (FA/Expos), IF Desi Relaford (trade/Mariners), OF John Vander Wal (trade/Yankees)
Key questions: When will Kent return from his mysterious wrist injury? Is Shinjo a viable everyday leadoff hitter? How many will Bonds hit into McCovey Cove this year?
Key stat: Forgotten because of the 73 homers, Bonds drew a record 177 walks in 2001.
The lowdown: Say what you will about Bonds' greatness, this team still can't get over the hump. They were in the division and wild card race down to the wire last fall, but fell short just as Barry was launching No. 73 into the center field bleachers. Sanders should be an improvement in right field, and they have the makings of a solid rotation, but you're still left wondering if they've got enough in them to surpass the Diamondbcacks.

3. LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Projected lineup
CF McKay Christensen/Tom Goodwin
2B Mark Grudzielanek
RF Shawn Green
LF Brian Jordan
C Paul LoDuca
1B Eric Karros
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Cesar Izturis/Alex Cora
Rotation
Kevin Brown, Andy Ashby, Hideo Nomo, Kazuhisa Ishii, Odalis Perez
Closer
Paul Quantrill/Matt Herges
2001 Record: 86-76, 3rd place
Manager: Jim Tracy (2nd season, 86-76 record)
Key additions: RHP Kazuhisa Ishii (FA/Japan), SS Cesar Izturis (trade/Blue Jays), OF Brian Jordan (trade/Braves), RHP Hideo Nomo (FA/Red Sox), LHP Odalis Perez (trade/Braves), RHP Paul Quantrill (trade/Blue Jays), OF Dave Roberts (trade/Indians)
Key losses: RHP Terry Adams (FA/Phillies), RHP James Baldwin (FA/Mariners), RHP Chan Ho Park (FA/Rangers), RHP Luke Prokepic (trade/Blue Jays), RHP Jeff Shaw (retired), OF Gary Sheffield (trade/Braves)
Key questions: Is there a leadoff hitter in the house, please? Will Jordan bring a more positive attitude than Sheffield had? Are Brown and Ashby healthy?
Key stat: Brown and Ashby combined to make 21 starts last season.
The lowdown: Like their longtime rivals up the coast, the Dodgers haven't been able to get over the hump in recent years. So they made one of the winter's biggest trades, sending the surly Sheffield to Atlanta for Jordan. Jordan's numbers should be comparable to Sheffield's; his effect in the clubhouse could be the difference. L.A. also needs Brown and Ashby to make it through the season in one piece, which is always a question mark. If they do, and if Japanese import Ishii is the real deal, they'll be in the hunt.

4. COLORADO ROCKIES

Projected lineup
CF Juan Pierre
2B Jose Ortiz
RF Larry Walker
1B Todd Helton
3B Todd Zeile
LF Todd Hollandsworth/Benny Agbayani
C Ben Petrick/Tony Eusebio
SS Juan Uribe
Rotation
Mike Hampton, Denny Neagle, Shawn Chacon, John Thomson, Jason Jennings
Closer
Jose Jimenez/Todd Jones
2001 Record: 73-89, 5th place
Manager: Buddy Bell (3rd season, 155-169 record)
Key additions: OF Benny Agbayani (trade/Mets), C Tony Eusebio (FA/Astros), RHP Todd Jones (FA/Twins), RHP Jose Paniagua (trade/Mariners), LHP Dennys Reyes (trade/Reds), RHP Rick White (FA/Mets), 3B Todd Zeile (trade/Mets)
Key losses: LHP Brian Bohanon (FA/Reds), 3B Jeff Cirillo (trade/Mariners), RHP Dan Miceli (FA/Rangers), LHP Mike Myers (trade/Diamondbacks), LHP Gabe White (trade/Reds)
Key questions: Can Pierre and Ortiz set the table for the big boys behind them? Can the Nos. 3-5 starters take some pressure off Hampton and Neagle? Will the pitching staff have an ERA under 5.00?
Key stat: Hampton, a pitcher, had a .582 slugging percentage in 2001. Nah, that altitude thing is overrated.
The lowdown: The Rockies will once again attempt to prove that you can win without pitching. And they will once again fail miserably. Hampton was a solid pitcher in Houston and New York. In Denver, he went 14-13 with a 5.41 ERA, proving he has more value as a hitter. Randy Johnson might not be able to keep his ERA under 5.00 at Coors Field, a harsh reality surpassed only by this one: The Rockies might never be able to win in this town.

5. SAN DIEGO PADRES

Projected lineup
2B D'Angelo Jimenez
CF Mark Kotsay
RF Ryan Klesko
1B Phil Nevin
LF Bubba Trammell/Ray Lankford
3B Sean Burroughs
C Wiki Gonzalez
SS Ramon Vazquez
Rotation
Kevin Jarvis, Bobby J. Jones, Brian Tollberg, Brian Lawrence, Brett Tomko
Closer
Trevor Hoffman
2001 Record: 79-83, 4th place
Manager: Bruce Bochy (8th season, 564-533 record)
Key additions: LHP Alan Embree (FA/White Sox), C Tom Lampkin (trade/Mariners), RHP Brett Tomko (trade/Mariners), SS Ramon Vazquez (trade/Mariners)
Key losses: C Ben Davis (trade/Mariners), OF Tony Gwynn (retired), OF Rickey Henderson (FA/Red Sox)
Key questions: Like the Orioles with Cal, will this franchise find its identity without Gwynn? Can Klesko adjust to life in RF every day? You call that a starting rotation?
Key stat: Padres led the majors with 145 errors last season.
The lowdown: Was it only four years ago that the Padres made the World Series? How quickly things can change. Now that Gwynn is coaching at San Diego State, there's little reason to head out to the ballpark this year. The lineup isn't half-bad, and Hoffman is legitimately one of the top closers in the game. But the rotation is a mishmash of inexperience and inadequacy. With 76 games to come against the tough NL West, the Pads could be in for a rough year.


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