- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2008

NL EAST

ATLANTA BRAVES

Last year: 84-78 (3rd)

Manager: Bobby Cox (27th year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

2B Kelly Johnson

CF Mark Kotsay

3B Chipper Jones

1B Mark Teixeira

RF Jeff Francoeur

LF Matt Diaz

C Brian McCann

SS Yunel Betancourt

PROJECTED ROTATION

RHP John Smoltz

RHP Tim Hudson

LHP Tom Glavine

LHP Mike Hampton

RHP Jair Jurrjens

Closer: RHP Rafael Soriano

Current ace: He may turn 41 this year, but John Smoltz remains one of the game’s best. The future Hall of Fame right-hander hasn’t posted an ERA over 3.50 since 1994, a remarkable run of consistency.

Future ace: Cole Rohrbough, a 20-year-old lefty drafted last summer out of Western Nevada Community College, dominated rookie ball and low-Class A and could rise through the system quickly.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Last year: 71-91 (5th)

Manager: Fredi Gonzalez (2nd year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

SS Hanley Ramirez

2B Dan Uggla

RF Jeremy Hermida

LF Josh Willingham

1B Mike Jacobs

3B Jose Castillo

C Mike Rabelo

CF Cameron Maybin

PROJECTED ROTATION

LHP Scott Olsen

LHP Andrew Miller

RHP Sergio Mitre

LHP Mark Hendrickson

RHP Ricky Nolasco

Closer: RHP Kevin Gregg

Current ace:Scott Olsen is hardly ace material, but he’s the best the Marlins have to offer at this point after trading away Dontrelle Willis and Josh Beckett in the last two years.

Future ace: The good news is that he’s already in the big leagues. Miller, one of the guys acquired from Detroit in the Willis trade, could quickly become No. 1 on this staff.

NEW YORK METS

Last year: 88-74 (2nd)

Manager: Willie Randolph (4th year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

SS Jose Reyes

2B Luis Castillo

3B David Wright

CF Carlos Beltran

1B Carlos Delgado

RF Ryan Church

LF Endy Chavez

C Brian Schneider

PROJECTED ROTATION

LHP Johan Santana

RHP Pedro Martinez

RHP John Maine

LHP Oliver Perez

RHP Orlando Hernandez

Closer: LHP Billy Wagner

Current ace: They didn’t pay Johan Santana $137.5 million to be their No. 5 starter. This guy is already a two-time Cy Young Award winner, and he’s still only 29.

Future ace: He’ll have a hard time overcoming Santana, but RHP Mike Pelfrey has got the ability to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, and he’s just about ready for full-time duty in the majors.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Last year: 89-73 (1st)

Manager: Charlie Manuel (7th year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

SS Jimmy Rollins

CF Shane Victorino

2B Chase Utley

1B Ryan Howard

LF Pat Burrell

RF Jayson Werth/Geoff Jenkins

3B Pedro Feliz

C Carlos Ruiz

PROJECTED ROTATION

RHP Brett Myers

LHP Cole Hamels

RHP Kyle Kendrick

LHP Jamie Moyer

RHP Adam Eaton

Closer: RHP Tom Gordon

Current ace: It’s been an unusual couple of years for Brett Myers, who has gone from starter to closer and now back to starter again. But this much is certain: When he’s on, he’s very good.

Future ace: He won’t start on Opening Day this year, but Cole Hamels will get the honor plenty of times before his career is over. He already won 15 games at age 23.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

Last year: 73-89 (4th)

Manager: Manny Acta (2nd year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

SS Cristian Guzman

CF Lastings Milledge

3B Ryan Zimmerman

1B Nick Johnson

RF Austin Kearns

LF Elijah Dukes

C Paul Lo Duca

2B Ronnie Belliard

PROJECTED ROTATION

LHP Odalis Perez

RHP Tim Redding

LHP John Lannan/LHP Matt Chico

RHP Jason Bergmann

RHP Shawn Hill

Closer: RHP Chad Cordero

Current ace: They came to camp hoping either Shawn Hill or John Patterson would be the guy. But Hill isn’t going to be ready for Opening Night, and Patterson was released.

Future ace: Lefty Ross Detwiler, last year’s first-round draft pick, already made his big-league debut in September. It won’t be long before he’s pitching in D.C. on a permanent basis.

NL CENTRAL

CHICAGO CUBS

Last year: 85-77 (1st)

Manager: Lou Piniella (21st year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

LF Alfonso Soriano

SS Ryan Theriot

RF Kosuke Fukudome

1B Derrek Lee

3B Aramis Ramirez

2B Mark DeRosa

C Geovany Soto

CF Felix Pie

PROJECTED ROTATION

RHP Carlos Zambrano

LHP Ted Lilly

LHP Rich Hill

RHP Ryan Dempster

RHP Jon Lieber

Closer: RHP Kerry Wood

Current ace:Carlos Zambrano had a wildly up-and-down 2007, but he remains one of the most-talented hurlers in the game, one who earned a $91.5 million extension from the Cubs.

Future ace: Jeff Samardzija was an All-American at Notre Dame, but he chose baseball because he has the arm to be a big-league pitching stud.

CINCINNATI REDS

Last Year: 72-90 (5th)

Manager: Dusty Baker (15th year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

CF Corey Patterson

SS Jeff Keppinger

CF Ken Griffey Jr.

2B Brandon Phillips

LF Adam Dunn

3B Edwin Encarnacion

1B Joey Votto

C David Ross

PROJECTED ROTATION

RHP Aaron Harang

RHP Bronson Arroyo

RHP Matt Belisle

LHP Jeremy Affeldt

RHP Josh Fogg

Closer: RHP Francisco Cordero

Current ace:Aaron Harang doesn’t garner a lot of attention, but he’s won 16 games and struck out 200-plus batters each of the last two seasons.

Future ace: Homer Bailey doesn’t just have a great name. The right-hander, a first-round pick in 2004, has all the stuff to become a No. 1 starter.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Last Year: 73-89 (4th)

Manager: Cecil Cooper (2nd year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

CF Michael Bourn

2B Kaz Matsui

SS Miguel Tejada

1B Lance Berkman

LF Carlos Lee

RF Hunter Pence

3B Ty Wigginton

C J.R. Towles

PROJECTED ROTATION

RHP Roy Oswalt

RHP Chris Sampson

LHP Wandy Rodriguez

RHP Woody Williams

RHP Brandon Backe

Closer: RHP Jose Valverde

Current ace:Roy Oswalt is small in stature, big in guts. The little right-hander pitches his heart out and is one of the top competitors in the game.

Future ace: Originally a shortstop, Felipe Paulino was converted into a pitcher, and for good reason: The 24-year-old right-hander’s fastball has been clocked over 100 mph.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Last year: 83-79 (2nd)

Manager: Ned Yost (6th year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

2B Rickie Weeks

CF Mike Cameron

1B Prince Fielder

LF Ryan Braun

RF Corey Hart

3B Bill Hall

SS J.J. Hardy

C Jason Kendall

PROJECTED ROTATION

RHP Ben Sheets

RHP Jeff Suppan

RHP Carlos Villanueva

RHP Dave Bush

RHP Chris Capuano

Closer: RHP Eric Gagne

Current ace: Ben Sheets has been designated the Brewers’ ace for seven years, but he’s surpassed 200 innings pitched just three times. He must stay healthy to give this team a chance.

Future ace: Yovani Gallardo had a nice rookie debut in 2007 and should become a rotation staple. But he had knee surgery in February and won’t start the season on time.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Last year: 68-94 (6th)

Manager: John Russell (1st year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

CF Nate McLouth

SS Jack Wilson

2B Freddy Sanchez

1B Adam LaRoche

LF Jason Bay

RF Xavier Nady

3B Jose Bautista

C Ronny Paulino

PROJECTED ROTATION

LHP Tom Gorzelanny

RHP Ian Snell

LHP Zach Duke

LHP Paul Maholm

RHP Matt Morris

Closer: RHP Matt Capps

Current ace: Tom Gorzelanny, a consistent, young lefty, was a 14-game winner on a bad Pirates team last season, and at 25, should only get better.

Future ace: Brad Lincoln is the latest in a long line of Pirates pitching prospects who have loads of potential but required major arm surgery (Tommy John).

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Last year: 78-84 (3rd)

Manager: Tony La Russa (31st year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

RF Ryan Ludwick

CF Rick Ankiel

1B Albert Pujols

3B Troy Glaus

LF Chris Duncan

C Yadier Molina

2B Adam Kennedy

SS Cesar Izturis

PROJECTED ROTATION

RHP Adam Wainwright

RHP Braden Looper

RHP Joel Pineiro

RHP Kyle Lohse

RHP Anthony Reyes

Closer: RHP Jason Isringhausen

Current ace: Chris Carpenter won a Cy Young in 2005 but blew out his elbow on Opening Night 2007 and had Tommy John surgery. He won’t return until midsummer at the earliest.

Future ace: Wainright recorded the final out of the 2006 World Series and performed well last year in his first crack at starting. He’s got great breaking stuff.

NL WEST

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Last year: 90-72 (1st)

Manager: Bob Melvin (6th year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

CF Chris Young

2B Orlando Hudson

1B Conor Jackson

LF Eric Byrnes

3B Mark Reynolds

SS Stephen Drew

RF Justin Upton

C Chris Snyder

PROJECTED ROTATION

RHP Brandon Webb

RHP Dan Haren

LHP Randy Johnson

LHP Doug Davis

RHP Micah Owings

Closer: RHP Brandon Lyon

Current ace: Take your pick. Dan Haren could be an ace, Randy Johnson has been an ace, but Brandon Webbis the ace of this staff. His trademark sinker can be devastating.

Future ace: Jarrod Parker hasn’t thrown a professional pitch yet, but the D’backs gave the 19-year-old righty a $2.1 million signing bonus last summer because they believe in him.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Last year: 90-73 (2nd)

Manager: Clint Hurdle (7th year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

CF Willy Taveras

SS Troy Tulowitzki

1B Todd Helton

LF Matt Holliday

3B Garrett Atkins

RF Brad Hawpe

2B Jayson Nix

C Yorvit Torrealba

PROJECTED ROTATION

LHP Jeff Francis

RHP Aaron Cook

RHP Ubaldo Jimenez

RHP Kip Wells

LHP Franklin Morales

Closer: RHP Manny Corpas

Current ace: Jeff Francis quietly won 17 games last year, then made a real name for himself during the postseason. A big left-hander with good stuff, he’s only 27.

Future ace: Jimenez burst onto the scene late last season and wound up in the playoff rotation. He’s got electric stuff, including a fastball that reaches triple digits.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Last year: 82-80 (4th)

Manager: Joe Torre (27th year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

CF Juan Pierre

SS Rafael Furcal

C Russell Martin

2B Jeff Kent

CF Andruw Jones

1B James Loney

RF Andre Ethier/Matt Kemp

3B Nomar Garciaparra

PROJECTED ROTATION

RHP Brad Penny

RHP Derek Lowe

RHP Chad Billingsley

RHP Hiroki Kuroda

RHP Esteban Loaiza

Closer: RHP Takashi Saito

Current ace: The Dodgers signed Jason Schmidt to a monster contract a year ago. But a shoulder tear limited him to six starts, and he won’t be ready to start this year on time.

Future ace: Clayton Kershaw is a big, strapping lefty who was the organization’s top pick in 2006 and has a combination of stuff and tenacity to become a No. 1 in the majors.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Last year: 89-74 (3rd)

Manager: Bud Black (2nd year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

RF Brian Giles

2B Tadihito Iguchi

3B Kevin Kouzmanoff

1B Adrian Gonzalez

SS Khalil Greene

CF Jim Edmonds

LF Scott Hairston

C Josh Bard

PROJECTED ROTATION

RHP Jake Peavy

RHP Chris Young

RHP Greg Maddux

LHP Randy Wolf

RHP Justin Germano

Closer: RHP Trevor Hoffman

Current ace: There may not be a better pitcher in the NL than Jake Peavy, the reigning Cy Young Award winner. A fierce competitor with a nasty arsenal, he’ll be around for years.

Future ace: Right-hander Matt Latos has the skills to pitch well in the big leagues, but the 2006 pick fell to the 11th round because of questionable maturity and high monetary demands.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Last year: 71-91 (5th)

Manager: Bruce Bochy (14th year)

PROJECTED LINEUP

LF Dave Roberts

SS Brian Bocock

RF Randy Winn

C Bengie Molina

CF Aaron Rowand

2B Ray Durham

1B Daniel Ortmeier

3B Kevin Frandsen

PROJECTED ROTATION

LHP Barry Zito

RHP Matt Cain

RHP Tim Lincecum

RHP Kevin Correia

LHP Jonathan Sanchez

Closer: RHP Brian Wilson

Current ace: The Giants threw a lot of money at Barry Zito last winter, then watched him go 11-13. The lefty will need to regain his old form to merit that huge contract.

Future ace: Tim Alderson, one of the Giants’ three first-round picks last summer, is a 6-foot-7 righty with pinpoint control. Only 19, he’s several years away, but he could be a good one.

Mark Zuckerman

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