Restoring the rosters: No. 3 – Atlanta

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
No. 15 – San Francisco
No. 14 – Texas
No. 13 – Cleveland
No. 12 – Minnesota
No. 11 – Arizona
No. 10 – Los Angeles (AL)
No. 9 – Toronto
No. 8 – Boston
No. 7 – Colorado
No. 6 – Montreal/Washington
No. 5 – New York (AL)
No. 4 – Philadelphia
Once I put all of these rosters down on paper a month ago and started trying to grade them, it was obvious right away that there was a clear top two. After that, it was really hard to separate the next eight teams making up the rest of the top 10. The Braves initially figured into the middle of that pack. That they ended up at No. 3 was in large part due to a 21-year-old who was shipped off by the team before even making it out of Rookie ball.
Rotation
Adam Wainwright
Tommy Hanson
Kevin Millwood
Jason Marquis
Kenshin Kawakami
Bullpen
Neftali Feliz
Dan Meyer
Kris Medlen
Joey Devine
Zach Miner
Joe Nelson
Jo-Jo Reyes
That 21-year-old is Feliz, of course. He’s allowed five hits and one walk in 22 innings for the Rangers, giving this pen a huge boost. Medlen’s emergence hasn’t hurt either, even if his ERA is suddenly back up again because of some dreadful mishandling from manager Bobby Cox.
The rotation is obviously impressive, even with Tom Glavine no longer in the mix. Wainwright is a Cy Young candidate, and Hanson has a 3.07 ERA as a rookie. Even Kawakami has a 3.97 ERA in his 25 starts. He beat out Kyle Davies, Charlie Morton, Reyes and Matt Harrison for the last spot. Jason Schmidt and Chuck James weren’t considered.
Lineup
SS Yunel Escobar
LF Mark DeRosa
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
RF Jermaine Dye
1B Adam LaRoche
CF Andruw Jones
2B Rafael Furcal
Bench
INF Martin Prado
1B-OF Garrett Jones
OF Jeff Francoeur
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
SS Elvis Andrus
The lineup is plenty strong and flexible, with only really center field as an area of concern. If Andruw’s body can’t take the pounding these days, then one would have to try Francoeur, Kelly Johnson or Jordan Schafer there. Maybe Jason Heyward next year, though the game’s No. 1 prospect is going to be a right fielder for the Braves.
I put Furcal at second base for defense, but he’s been outplayed by Prado this year and Johnson may also be a better option going forward. Or one could sacrifice some defense and go with DeRosa there, opening up left field for the still red-hot Jones or Francoeur.
Chipper is the mainstay, of course. He’s the only player on one of the top three teams in these rankings to have won a World Series with the club that drafted him.
Summary
While it seems like their minor league system hasn’t been as strong in the aughts as it was in the 90’s, the Braves have continued to churn out talent. It’s just too bad so much of it is currently playing in Texas. The Mark Teixeira trade was a huge failure that’s going to handicap the club for years to come. Since their postseason streak ended in 2006, the Braves have won 79, 84 and 72 games. They’re on pace to finish over .500 this year, but they’ve seen their postseason chances drop sharply recently because of their struggles to score runs. Help is on the way in the form of Heyward, first baseman Freddie Freeman and Schafer. The Braves will need to trust their young talent this time, as filling in with veterans just hasn’t worked out very well for them.

2017 Preview: The American League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League East

Boston may have the most talent and, in Mookie Betts, the best player. The Yankees have the best farm system. Baltimore has all the dingers and the best closer. Toronto may have the best collection of heels, at least in the view of fans of the other AL East teams.  The Rays have the best . . . hmm. I’ll get back to you on that.

Anyway, here are our previews for the American League East:

Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.