Spring Review: A Final Look at Each MLB Team

A week after a two-game tease in Japan, the regular season finally is into full swing. The spring is over and rosters are set and in this final spring installment, we'll look back to the beginning of March and recap some of the new acquisitions, position battles and impressive rookie performances. <br>

Anaheim Angels:
Bartolo Colon began the spring with a rough outing against the A's and he ended it with a sub-par effort against the Brewers. In between the bookends were similar outings. The incoming ace ended the spring with a 5.16 ERA in 22.2 innings. The bad news is that he allowed 40 baserunners. The good news is that he struck out 20 batters. The best news? He'll be much better during the regular season.

Baltimore Orioles:
Miguel Tejada began the spring on fire and remained hot even without the help of the Florida weather. In 72 spring at-bats, Tejada hit .375 with 11 extra-base hits and 15 RBI. The two other major offensive signings, Javy Lopez and Rafael Palmeiro, produced mixed results. Lopez hit .318 with three homeruns but Palmeiro hit just .237 with zero homeruns and five doubles. If the Orioles are to make a push in the strong AL East, all three will need to perform at their best throughout the year.

Boston Red Sox:
Many people, including myself, were skeptical of whether or not David Ortiz would be able to repeat his offensive outburst in 2003. Ortiz did his best to quiet his critics with a power-packed spring. In 60 at-bats, Ortiz had seven homeruns and five doubles while hitting .283. That sort of extra-base to at-bat ratio is impossible to maintain over the course of the season but Ortiz has shown that he still has the power potential.

Chicago White Sox:
Neil Cotts, Jon Rauch, and Dan Wright opened the spring battling for the fifth spot in the Chicago rotation. Even though he did not post the best ERA (4.12), Wright won the job. Cotts (2.45 ERA) appears to have won a spot in the bullpen but Rauch (4.50) was assigned to Triple-A. This will remain a situation to keep an eye on during the season as Wright could be replaced immediately if he struggles.

Cleveland Indians:
After a sizzling beginning of the spring, Travis Hafner cooled off considerably. He opened with six hits, including two homeruns in his first nine at-bats. Since then he has hit just .222 with one homerun in 55 at-bats. Hafner is still expected to be a full-time player and will outperform his 2003 numbers, but the outlook is not quite as bright as it once was. Expect a productive but streaky season.

Detroit Tigers:
Carlos Pena also started the spring hot but, unlike Hafner, he maintained his level of performance. Pena ended the spring hitting .284 in 67 at-bats with five homeruns and 12 total extra-base hits. Pena always had the potential to be an outstanding player and 2004 looks like it may be his breakout season.

Kansas City Royals:
Zack Greinke got people so excited with his first outing of the spring that they forgot that he is just a 20-year old kid who still needs some polishing. After opening with a scoreless outing lasting 1.2 innings, Greinke allowed eight runs in ten innings. He ended the spring with a 6.17 ERA in 11.2 innings. He struck out eight but struggled with his command, walking seven. Greinke is still an outstanding prospect, one of the best in baseball. He will start the year in Triple-A and if the Royals need some pitching help later in the year he could be called up for good.

Minnesota Twins:
Joe Nathan entered the spring as the favorite to earn the closer role and after some doubt, he locked up the job. Many believed that Jesse Crain would win the job but after a brief and disappointing spring it became clear that the job belonged to Nathan. Crain still projects as a strong closer down the road, it just won't be right away.

New York Yankees:
There is no doubt that Alex Rodriguez will hit and play solid defense. There isn't much doubt about any aspect of his game. Even with a slow spring in which he hit .289 with just three extra-base hits, he still projects to have an outstanding season in New York's powerful lineup.

Oakland Athletics:
Some questioned if Eric Chavez would be able to maintain his focus given his contract situation. During the spring that was resolved with the signing of a six-year, $66 million contract. Even with that out of the way, Chavez had a strange March. In 64 at-bats, he hit just .234 but also hit seven home runs and 11 total extra-base hits. Chavez is sure to regain his batting average when the regular season begins and could be on the verge of his best season yet.

Seattle Mariners:
With the decision to open the season with a 12-man pitching staff, two positions became available. Thanks to his large contract, Kevin Jarvis was given one of the open spots. The other came down to Randy Myers and Terry Mulholland. Mulholland piled up 20 innings with a 4.05 ERA but Myers locked up his spot through his own performance. Myers allowed just four baserunners in his 8.2 scoreless innings. If he is able to carry that success into the regular season, the Mariners will have another arm to make the pen even stronger. Scary.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays:
B.J. Upton did not get much of a chance to compete for a job this spring because the Devil Rays were convinced that they wanted him to spend some time in the minors. Even though Upton might be ready to contribute right now, the D-Rays are making the right move for the long-term. Remember the name, he will be the next big shortstop in baseball.

Texas Rangers:
After a slow start to the spring, Alfonso Soriano showed the skills which made him one of the most dangerous players in baseball in seasons' past. He ended the spring hitting .369 in 65 at-bats. On top of that, he had eight extra-base hits, three stolen bases, and 14 runs scored. Soriano will not be able to replace Alex Rodriguez but he will be able to help ease the loss.

Toronto Blue Jays:
Dustin McGowan, see Zack Greinke. Like Greinke, McGowan started out with 1.2 scoreless innings but went on to remind everyone that he is just a developing prospect. After his first outing he threw just four innings and allowed six runs. Also like Greinke, McGowan should begin the year in Triple-A and could be in the big league rotation for good some time in the second half.

Arizona Diamondbacks:
Instead of just one new member of the D-Backs' rotation, there will be two. Steve Sparks won the fifth starter job after posting a 2.84 ERA in 19 innings. Shane Reynolds was expected to act as the fourth starter but after a very poor spring (16.2 IP, 14.04 ERA) he has been demoted to the bullpen. Surprise candidate Casey Daigle will act as the team's fourth starter after posting a 3.74 ERA in 21.2 innings. The D-Backs will need all they can get out of Randy Johnson and Brandon Webb if they are to be competitive.

Atlanta Braves:
J.D. Drew's first week of the spring had Atlanta fans everywhere asking "Gary Sheffield who?" While Drew couldn't keep up his powerful first week, he still had an outstanding spring. In 44 at-bats, he hit .364 with five homeruns and eight total extra-base hits. He also added 16 RBI and stole a base. If Drew is finally able to put together a completely healthy season, look out.

Chicago Cubs:
Considering that Corey Patterson is coming off a torn ACL which cost him much of 2003, he had an outstanding spring. He hit just .263 but showed excellent extra-base power, smacking three homeruns and 10 doubles. He even added a stolen base to show that he still has his speed. Since his breakout 2003 season got cut short, he'll look to continue what he had started in 2004.

Cincinnati Reds:
The battle for the rotation between Jose Acevedo, Aaron Harang, and Brandon Claussen turned out not to be much of a battle at all. Claussen threw fairly well in his 14 innings but Harang and Acevedo were better. In 29.2 innings, Acevedo had an ERA of 3.34 while Harang posted a 1.82 ERA in 24.2 innings. Claussen will begin the year in Triple-A but could quickly take over for another member of the rotation as the Reds go with the youth.

Colorado Rockies:
Preston Wilson struggled with various injuries throughout the spring. He only played enough to compile 10 at-bats, but in those at-bats were three hits, all of which were homeruns. If his knees can hold up he has the ability to improve on his 2003 numbers. Now that's a scary thought.

Florida Marlins:
Of the new faces in the Florida lineup, none have had a better spring than Ramon Castro. In 49 at-bats, Castro clubbed six homeruns and 4 doubles and also stole a base. His batting average was just .265 but he slugged .714. Castro is no Ivan Rodriguez but he can help ease the loss and will help the Marlins remain in contention.

Houston Astros:
Octavio Dotel enters the regular season with a lot of pressure on his shoulders. The Astros expect him to replace Billy Wagner as the closer, a job which Dotel has struggled some with in the past. In 13 spring innings, Dotel posted a 4.15 ERA and saved three games. However, four of the six runs he allowed came on one swing of Adam LaRoche's bat. Take out that one pitch and Dotel had an outstanding spring.

Los Angeles Dodgers:
James Loney didn't follow Dustin McGowan and Zack Greinke's example. After starting spring on fire he kept it up and continued turning heads. The 19-year old first base prospect ended the spring hitting .343 in 35 at-bats with six extra-base hits. Loney isn't a candidate to help the Dodgers this year but he could break onto the scene in a big way in 2005.

Milwaukee Brewers:
Thanks to his strong spring, Chris Capuano earned the fourth spot in the Milwaukee rotation. In 17 spring innings, he posted a 3.18 ERA and allowed just 17 baserunners. The fifth spot will be occupied by Wes Orbermueller. He did not have a good spring, posting a 5.50 ERA in 18 innings. Capuano is a sleeper candidate this year but it would be unlikely to see Orbermueller hold his spot all season long.

Montreal Expos:
One of the best parts of the spring is watching jobs get won by players whom you least expected to be in contention. Peter Bergeron came out of nowhere to hit .364 in the spring and earn some playing time over Terrmel Sledge. Even though Sledge held his own, hitting .347, it appears that the two will split time to open the season. Bergeron likely won't be able to outplay Sledge for long so Sledge could become the full-time starter soon.

New York Mets:
Mike Piazza worked diligently on improving his defense at first base. Slowly throughout the spring he has looked more comfortable and the results are encouraging. As he catches less innings and plays at first more often, his offensive production could improve. In 56 at-bats, he hit .339 with four homeruns, four doubles, and 20 RBI. With more time at first base he will stay stronger throughout the year and could post a huge offensive season.

Philadelphia Phillies:
Cole Hamels, see James Loney. Hamels, another top flight pitching prospect, started spring with a bang, shutting down the Yankees for two innings. Like Loney, and unlike his fellow pitching prospects, Hamels continued his success in his limited spring innings. He totaled seven innings and allowed just two runs and struck out nine. Also like Loney, Hamels is not expected to see major league action in 2004. However, he could earn a rotation spot next season with a strong spring.

Pittsburgh Pirates:
The injury problems the Pirates encountered early in spring continued throughout. Jason Bay will begin the year on the DL but is only expected to miss a week or two, and Freddy Sanchez is expected to miss a month or two. Bobby Hill managed to stay healthy but is going to lose some playing time to Jose Castillo. And after a rough start, Jack Wilson is healthy and will be the full-time shortstop.

San Diego Padres:
One of the strangest events of the spring happened in San Diego. Rey Ordonez, even though he was playing well, decided to leave camp and forfeit the shortstop competition to Khalil Greene. Even if he had lost the competition to Greene, Ordonez likely would have won a back-up role for the Padres. Instead, the regular season is getting underway and he still has not found work elsewhere.

San Francisco Giants:
The Giants have to be pleased with the way things went for Jason Schmidt this spring. Even though he experienced a minor set-back and will begin the season on the DL, he isn't expected to miss more than one start. Schmidt will likely have a rough April since it will be like spring training for him. After a few starts, as long as he stays healthy, he will likely regain his form as the Giants' ace.

St. Louis Cardinals:
Matt Morris had an up and down spring. After a rough start he put it together and looked like the ace he could potentially be. If he can build off the progress he made during the spring and lead the Cardinals rotation, they will join the Astros and Cubs at the top of a very tough NL Central.

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