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ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (1998: 665 runs, .245 Equivalent Average)

Lineup (with projected Equivalent Average)
LF Tony Womack .251
CF Steve Finley .267
1B Travis Lee .307
3B Matt Williams .268
RF Luis Gonzalez .269
2B Jay Bell .276
SS Tony Batista .273
C Kelly Stinnett .273

There’s nothing rosy about this team’s future offensively; they’ll
be poisonous, but only to their pitching staff, which stands to lose
lots of 3-2 contests this season. Organizational Dictator Buck Showalter
gets lots of adoring press, and sometimes his no-nonsense manner is
refreshing, but since arriving in Arizona he has shown no sign that he can
fix what is broken with an offense that ranked as the league’s worst in 1998.
The offseason additions to an already old and bad team show how the D-Backs
are taking two steps back for every one they take forward: new CF Steve
Finley wasn’t even a plus player last year, and he probably won’t be during
the four years of his new contract. "Leadoff hitter" Tony Womack
is the NL’s equivalent to Detroit’s Brian Hunter–speed to burn and little
ability to steal first. Look for Showalter to play lots of one-run strategies
with this bunch this year. Actually, with the talent Arizona has assembled at
the plate (their worst hitters may actually be batting leadoff, second, and
cleanup), and with reasonable speed on the basepaths, that’s actually a good
idea.

Projected offensive rank in NL West: fifth


COLORADO ROCKIES (1998: 826 runs, .261 EqA)

CF Darryl Hamilton .261
1B Todd Helton .297
RF Larry Walker .331
LF Dante Bichette .265
3B Vinny Castilla .278
C Jeff Reed .281
2B Mike Lansing .254
SS Neifi Perez .245

Things may be looking up for this team’s offense. Jim Leyland is less
likely to screw around with bunting runners over and double steals and
all the other managerial hijinks that Don Baylor found so fascinating, so
the Rockies could see something of a watershed year. As an offense, the
team is obviously old/experienced and somewhat impatient at the plate, and
that probably isn’t going to change. Leyland may very well try to exploit
his "platoon" of Jeff Reed and Kirt "The Human Out
Machine" Manwaring
at catcher by giving both similar playing time,
in a throwback to the Spanky/Sluggo days in Pittsburgh. In this case,
that’d be a major mistake. Look for the team to again put up gaudy thin-air
numbers that mask the fact that only Larry Walker is appreciably above-average
at his position. If the team gets a clue and bats Hamilton first and Helton
second, Walker could easily put up 150 RBI.

Projected offensive rank in NL West: third


LOS ANGELES DODGERS (1998: 669 runs, .255 EqA)

2B Eric Young .265
CF Devon White .260
LF Gary Sheffield .338
1B Eric Karros .281
RF Raul Mondesi .290
C Todd Hundley .298
3B Adrian Beltre .294
SS Mark Grudzielanek .241

Davey Johnson inherits a team that actually has quite a few similarities
to the Rockies: one bankable superstar in Gary Sheffield, a potentially
awesome corner infielder in Adrian Beltre, and a team with few other major
positives offensively. Probably 90% of the difference between the two
teams
is Todd Hundley at catcher, who could easily make the Dodger faithful
forget
Mike Piazza if his elbow is sound. Unfortunately, he’s already missing
time
this spring due to the elbow, and if he hits like he did last year, I’d
rather
have Jeff Reed. The top of the Dodger lineup could give the Diamondbacks
a run
for their money as worst in the division if the team insists on playing
Eric
Young and Devon White in the top two slots. This offense is one
superstar away from being a positive, and if both Hundley and Beltre hit
like
they can, it could be one of the best in the NL.

Projected rank in NL West: second


SAN DIEGO PADRES (1998: 749 runs, .274 EqA)

2B Quilvio Veras .282
LF Reggie Sanders .273
RF Tony Gwynn .298
1B Wally Joyner .286
3B George Arias .270
C Carlos Hernandez .219
SS Chris Gomez .264
CF Ruben Rivera .230

The league champions have undergone major personnel changes in the
offseason, and the new faces are bound to be jarring to San Diegans
who were so familiar with last year’s players. While the moves the
team made were on the whole reasonable, they aren’t likely to help
the offense this season, because the replacements for Ken Caminiti,
Steve Finley, and Greg Vaughn aren’t top-notch players themselves.
With Tony Gwynn likely to slide further, and Wally Joyner a part-time
contributor at this point, the offensive outlook of this team is fairly
bleak. To add to the unfortunate prognosis, not only did the team
sign the wildly overrated Carlos Hernandez to a shiny new contract and
anoit him the team’s front line catcher, but there is talk about batting
him fifth with regularity–a move that would be Zimmerian in its
foolishness. The more time pinch hitter extraordinaire Jim Leyritz
(projected for a .270 EqA) puts in behind the plate and platooning with
Joyner at first, the better off this team is going to be.

Projected rank in NL West: fourth


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (1998: 845, .278 EqA)

CF Marvin Benard .267
3B Bill Mueller .283
LF Barry Bonds .350
2B Jeff Kent .287
RF Ellis Burks .287
1B J.T. Snow .289
SS Rich Aurilia .252
C Brent Mayne .249

The perennially underrated Giants return largely intact for another
"surprising" run at the division title. Their success in recent years
has been almost completely the result of a consistent and occasionally
excellent offense, and that’s exactly what the team should bring to
the table in 1999. The largely hands-off Dusty Baker is exactly
what an offense like this needs: he doesn’t go crazy for Pokey
Reese
-quality players, his lineups are reasonable (Bill Mueller, in
particular, wouldn’t be nearly as effective anywhere else in the lineup)
and his players, to a man, love playing for him. There’s plenty to quibble
with regarding his in-game strategy, but he’s going to get a good performance
out of his team every season.

Projected rank in NL West: first

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