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Inbox: Could Dodgers use one more starter?

Beat reporter Ken Gurnick answers fans' questions

Would you agree with me that we need a reliable starter who will help us to the top? If so, who?
-- CUB 213 @kdizzin

Every team needs another reliable starter. The Dodgers already might have the best rotation in the National League, but they reportedly targeted Corey Kluber when it appeared the Indians might entertain offers. Sonny Gray isn't Kluber, but he would help balance a rotation that is overly left-handed.

Would you agree with me that we need a reliable starter who will help us to the top? If so, who?
-- CUB 213 @kdizzin

Every team needs another reliable starter. The Dodgers already might have the best rotation in the National League, but they reportedly targeted Corey Kluber when it appeared the Indians might entertain offers. Sonny Gray isn't Kluber, but he would help balance a rotation that is overly left-handed.

:: Submit a question to the Dodgers Inbox ::

I have referred to the Dodgers in my thoughts as "the great experiment" for the last couple of years -- build a roster of very good players and have them put on the face that it is OK to sit a lot of games because of sabermetric matchups. That can work in the regular season, but it seems to be a failure in the playoffs. On the surface, it seems L.A. lost the World Series because L.A. didn't hit, but I think the season philosophy of sitting players was the major contributor to the problem. Except for players who are totally into amounts of money paid as opposed to their legacy, why would a superstar in their prime sign with the Dodgers?
-- Steve Perry, Concord, N.C.

Not sure analytics can quantify whether platooning during the regular season reduces a player's performance in the postseason, when the competition level is greatly elevated. Rare is the player who isn't looking for the most money. But it's also a rare player who gladly accepts sitting on the bench. Any player joining the Dodgers should expect to be subject to matchups and platooning and factor that into contract decisions.

Is Bryce Harper still an option?
-- Ashley Ann Wilson #BryceHarperADodger? @AllTTV2015

Not any more or less than he's been. The Dodgers seem to have no appetite for 10-year-contract bidding wars. Harper seems to have no appetite for a short-term deal. If those positions don't change, there's no fit. Maybe the market convinces Harper to soften his position. I don't see the Dodgers softening theirs.

Video: Collier discusses latest news with Harper, Nationals

What do you believe the Dodgers will address through free agency from this point forward? Any particular names beyond Bryce or Manny Machado to watch out for/known connection to L.A.?
-- Ben Haber @HaberBen

If you look at president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman's history with the Dodgers, almost all key acquisitions have been through trades. He generally targets second-level free agents like Joe Kelly and steers clear of bidding wars for top-tier talent. The Dodgers seemingly need a right-handed outfield bat and possibly a right-handed starting pitcher. Considering the amount of unsigned free agents remaining, maybe that's where they will wind up. But the trade pool is deeper.

Are the Dodgers rolling with Alex Verdugo at right field this upcoming season? 1988 & counting.
-- @LAconfiDent1al

If he wins the job in Spring Training. Keep in mind that he was virtually a non-factor down the stretch last year and wasn't on the postseason roster. Being the organization's "top" prospect does not mean a guaranteed job. Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez are proven Major Leaguers. Verdugo has potential, but is unproven.

Is it a possibility that the Dodgers are still in the mix for J.T. Realmuto even though we traded for Russell Martin?
-- Eric Lee @EricLee99073430

Not if Miami continues to insist on Cody Bellinger in return. For all of the Realmuto trade rumors, the Marlins don't seem interested in dealing him unless somebody overpays, and that's not likely to be the Dodgers.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Sonny Gray

Bart leads list of Top 10 Catching Prospects

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2019 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

There's a good amount of turnover on this year's Top 10 Catching Prospects list compared to the 2018 version. That starts at the top, with a member of the 2018 Draft Class, Joey Bart, leading the way.

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2019 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

There's a good amount of turnover on this year's Top 10 Catching Prospects list compared to the 2018 version. That starts at the top, with a member of the 2018 Draft Class, Joey Bart, leading the way.

Video: Top Prospects: Joey Bart, C, Giants

Francisco Mejia, now with the Padres, continues to be a mainstay, sitting in the top two for the third straight season. Keibert Ruiz of the Dodgers, the A's Sean Murphy and Danny Jansen from the Blue Jays are the other holdovers from last year's Top 10. Graduation caused some serious turnover, with Carson Kelly, now with the D-backs, Jorge Alfaro (Phillies), Chance Sisco (Orioles) and Victor Caratini (Cubs) all moving on to larger big league contributions.

Top 10 Prospects by Position

The Top 10 (ETA)
1. Joey Bart, Giants (2021)
2. Francisco Mejia, Padres (2019)
3. Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers (2020)
4. Sean Murphy, A's (2019)
5. Danny Jansen, Blue Jays (2019)
6. Ronaldo Hernandez, Rays (2021)
7. Miguel Amaya, Cubs (2021)
8. Daulton Varsho, D-backs (2020)
9. MJ Melendez, Royals (2021)
10. Andrew Knizner, Cardinals (2019)
Complete list »

Top tools

Hit: Mejia (60)
Mejia has hit at pretty much every stop in the Minors, starting with his 50-game hitting streak and .342 average in 2016. Following his trade to the Padres last year in the Brad Hand deal, he showed what the fuss was about by hitting .328 with Triple-A El Paso en route to making his San Diego debut. His ability to swing the bat from both sides of the plate is well ahead of his defense behind it.

Video: Top Prospects: Francisco Mejia, C, Padres

Power: Bart (60)
The No. 2 overall pick in last June's Draft, Bart not only has a strong college power resume, with double-digit home runs as a sophomore and a junior, but he showed that it would translate immediately in the pro game when he hit 13 home runs in just 45 Northwest League games during his pro debut. He has the potential to hit at least 25 homers annually.

Run: Varsho (55)
There are some who feel Varsho is athletic enough to play second base if catching doesn't work out, and he certainly did nothing to dampen that evaluation during his first full year. Varsho stole 19 bases in 22 tries in just 80 California League games. He then went on to swipe eight more during his Arizona Fall League stint.

Video: Top Prospects: Daulton Varsho, C, D-backs

Arm: Mejia, Murphy (70)
Mejia has thrown out 33 percent of potential basestealers in his Minor League career. Last year, that was down to 28.9 percent, though he also spent less time behind the plate compared to other seasons. Murphy threw out 34.3 percent in 2018, which actually brought his career percentage down to 35.5 percent.

Video: Top Prospects: Sean Murphy, C, Athletics

Field: Murphy (65)
Murphy would be the runner-up on the All-Defense Prospect Team thanks to his all-around work behind the plate. In addition to his arm detailed above, he's agile with excellent blocking, receiving and game-calling skills. He gets very high marks for his ability to work with a pitching staff.


Ceiling: Melendez
The 2017 second-round pick showed off all of his skills during his first full season. He finished fifth in the South Atlantic League in home runs and slugging percentage, and he should tap into his raw power even more as he refines his approach. Behind the plate, Melendez used his plus arm to throw out nearly 42 percent of those trying to steal last season.

Video: Top Prospects: M.J. Melendez, C, Royals

Floor: Ruiz
Murphy could be a candidate if you wanted to focus solely on defense -- his glove will make him a big leaguer. But Ruiz's bat, with the ability to hit for average and power, provides a little more certainty that he'll be a big league regular at the position.

Video: Top Prospects: Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers

Rookie of the Year candidate: Jansen
There are several on this list ready to contribute in 2019, but Jansen appears to be the only one heading into the season as the No. 1 backstop on the depth chart. He had a solid big league debut in August and September last year to build a foundation for his first full year in the big leagues.

Video: Top Prospects: Danny Jansen, C, Blue Jays

Highest riser: Hernandez
Hernandez began 2018 as the Rays' No. 20 prospect, but was up to No. 7 by the end of the season. Now he's jumping onto this Top 10 list for the first time after a year that saw him hit 21 home runs in his full-season debut while throwing out 36 percent of runners trying to steal.

Video: Top Prospects: Ronaldo Hernandez, C, Rays

Humblest beginnings: Knizner
The Cardinals have a knack for finding late-round talent and it looks like they've done it again with Knizner, a seventh-round pick in 2016. The North Carolina State product was a third baseman until he began his catching career as a sophomore and now he's ready to be a big leaguer, thanks to a .310/.373/.460 line and a 36.2 percent caught stealing rate.

Video: Top Prospects: Andrew Knizner, C, Cardinals

Most to prove: Mejia
Yes, Mejia has hit pretty much everywhere he's been in the Minors, but he has a .583 OPS in 76 big league plate appearances, a small sample size for sure. That, combined with questions about his ability to catch full-time and showing he was worth trading for, makes the spotlight a little brighter on him in 2019.

Keep an eye on: William Contreras, Braves
The younger brother of Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, William had a very strong first taste of full-season ball, earning a promotion to the Class A Advanced Florida State League at age 20. He has a solid approach at the plate with some pop (11 homers in 2018) in addition to a strong arm and solid receiving skills behind it.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

30 best defensive prospects -- 1 for each team

MLB Pipeline recently unveiled its annual All-Defense Team, but there were only so many spots to fill. It made us realize there were so many outstanding defenders across all 30 organizations.

Evaluating defense is still very much subjective, with metrics measuring fielding still imperfect. Still, each system has glovework that stands out more than others, and we considered many to present one best defender from each organization.

MLB Pipeline recently unveiled its annual All-Defense Team, but there were only so many spots to fill. It made us realize there were so many outstanding defenders across all 30 organizations.

Evaluating defense is still very much subjective, with metrics measuring fielding still imperfect. Still, each system has glovework that stands out more than others, and we considered many to present one best defender from each organization.

American League East

Orioles: Cadyn Grenier, SS, No. 9
Grenier's stellar glovework at shortstop was key in helping Oregon State win the 2018 College World Series, and in the process, he established himself as one of the best defensive prospects in the Draft before going to the Orioles as the No. 37 overall pick. With good hands, plus arm strength and plenty of range, Grenier has all the ingredients needed to stick at the position long term.

Red Sox: Bobby Dalbec, 3B, No. 6
Dalbec has always possessed a strong arm and has worked hard to improve his agility and range at third base, with several Red Sox officials rating him as a plus defender and scouts outside the organization grading him more as solid. He also owns prodigious raw power and ranked second in the Minors in extra-base hits (70) and RBIs (109) last year, and fourth in homers (32).

Yankees: Estevan Florial, OF, No. 1 (MLB No. 45)
Florial has some of the best all-around tools in the Minors, with well-above-average raw power, speed and arm strength. He continues to improve as a center fielder, projecting as a plus defender, and has an exceptionally strong arm for the position.

Rays: Lucius Fox, SS, No. 9
While there's no shortage of standout defenders in the highly athletic Rays system, Fox, a top-flight athlete with plus-plus speed, could be the best. He's played shortstop exclusively as a pro and committed 15 errors in 105 games last season while reaching Double-A at age 21. His athleticism makes him an electrifying defender, and he has the requisite physical tools to remain at the position for the long haul.

Video: EAST@WEST: Fox showcases range, slick glove in 3rd

Blue Jays: Kevin Vicuna, SS, unranked
The Blue Jays felt so good about Vicuna's defense in 2017 that they had the then-19-year-old handle shortstop duties for Class A Advanced Dunedin from April 23-June 1, even though Vicuna previously had never played above the Rookie Gulf Coast League. He's an athletic and, at times, flashy defender, with quick, twitchy hands that help him absorb anything hit his way and a quick release that causes his average arm strength to play up across the infield.

AL Central

White Sox: Nick Madrigal, 2B, No. 5 (MLB No. 49)
The White Sox may try Madrigal at shortstop, because he has the hands and actions to thrive there, but his average arm makes him a better fit at second base. With his quickness and instincts, he could be a Gold Glove Award winner at the keystone, and he also rated as the best pure hitter in the 2018 Draft, where he went No. 4 overall.

Video: Top Prospects: Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox

Indians: Eric Haase, C, No. 27
Haase reached the Majors for the first time late last season, seven years after the Indians took him in the seventh round of the 2011 Draft. Though he's blossomed on both sides of the ball during the past two seasons, it's been Haase's defensive gains that have helped him climb the Tribe's depth chart. After throwing out 37 percent of attempted basestealers in 2017, Haase improved that mark to nearly 49 percent in '18 (33 of 68).

Tigers: Jake Rogers, C, No. 12
The Tigers got Rogers as part of the Justin Verlander deal, and in Rogers' first full season with the organization, he cemented himself as the game's best defensive catching prospect, earning a spot on MLB Pipeline's All-Defense Team for the second year in a row. He threw out 55.6 percent of potential basestealers in 2018, upping his career rate to 48.5 percent.

Royals: Sebastian Rivero, C, unranked
M.J. Melendez is very athletic for a catcher and has a chance to become a plus defender with an arm to match. Yet South Atlantic League managers rated Rivero, his teammate at Lexington last summer, the low Class A circuit's best defensive backstop in a Baseball America survey last year. The Royals liken Rivero to a young Salvador Perez, and in addition to his physical ability, Rivero also draws raves for his leadership skills, intelligence and work ethic.

Twins: Gilberto Celestino, OF, No. 14
Signed by the Astros for $2.5 million in 2015, Celestino made his United States debut in '17, then got dealt to the Twins in the Ryan Pressly trade last season. He's drawn comparisons to Albert Almora Jr. for his instincts in center, and coaches in Elizabethton feel he's one of the best defenders they've ever seen.

AL West

Astros: Myles Straw, OF, No. 15
Straw has double-plus speed that gives him tremendous range in center field, where his plus arm also stands out at a position not noted for strong throwers. That quickness also plays well on the bases (he topped the Minors with 70 steals in only 79 attempts in 2018) and allows him to beat out hits (he led the Minors with a .358 batting average in '16).

Angels: Jordyn Adams, OF, No. 6
The Angels signed Adams away from playing football and baseball at North Carolina, and he immediately put his tools on display during his pro debut and during instructs. He's still raw, but the Angels feel he has elite range and the highest ceiling as a defender in the organization.

A's: Nick Allen, SS, No. 15
Allen was viewed by many scouts as perhaps the best defensive prospect available in the 2017 Draft, and he's done nothing to diminish that reputation after signing for more than double slot value as the A's third-round pick. There is no doubt among scouts that Allen can stick at shortstop. He's already a plus defender there, with outstanding range that leads to many highlight-reel plays and plus arm strength that allows him to make throws from all over the diamond.

Mariners: Evan White, 1B, No. 5
It's not often a first baseman is mentioned as one of the premier defensive players in the Minors, but that's the reality with White, who recently was named to the All-Defense Team. All signs point to him becoming a Gold Glove Award winner at the position, as he's athletic with outstanding footwork, a strong arm and plus range. His ability to pick throws is elite, and he makes every infielder on his team better as a result.

Video: Top Prospects: Evan White, 1B, Mariners

Rangers: Jose Trevino, C, No. 28
Trevino won Rawlings Minor League Gold Gloves in both 2016 and '17, before surgery on his non-throwing shoulder last July squashed any chances of a three-peat. He's an outstanding receiver and blocker, gets the most out of his strong arm with a quick release and accurate throws and also earns high marks for his ability to run a pitching staff.

National League East

Braves: Cristian Pache, OF, No. 6  (MLB No. 68)
Pache is generally considered to be the best defender in the Minor Leagues, leading our All-Defense Prospect Team. He has the speed and instincts to be a Gold Glove center fielder to go along with a right fielder's arm.

Video: Mayo looks at MLB Pipeline's 2019 All-Defense Team

Marlins: Jose Devers, SS/2B, No. 13
The cousin of Red Sox third basemen Rafael Devers, Jose was acquired by the Marlins last offseason in the blockbuster trade that sent Giancarlo Stanton to the Bronx. While he doesn't have his cousin's offensive profile, Devers is a far superior defender, with the soft hands, slick footwork and strong arm needed to be a big league shortstop. He showcased his defensive prowess last season, committing only seven errors and posting a .971 fielding percentage as an 18-year-old in full-season ball.

Mets: Andres Gimenez, SS, No. 1 (MLB No. 55)
The shortstop on our All-Defense Team, Gimenez reached Double-A in 2018 as a teenager. While he needs to add strength offensively, he has everything he needs to play shortstop defensively in the big leagues. He has plus hands, range and the internal clock to allow him to slow the game down.

Phillies: Luis Garcia, SS, No. 14
Signed for $2.5 million in July 2017, Garcia had a tremendous debut in the Gulf Coast League in '18 on both sides of the ball. He has a strong arm to go along with terrific hands and feet, and speed that gives him excellent range to stay at shortstop long term. He's only going to get better as he matures.

Nationals: Victor Robles, OF, No. 1 (MLB No. 4)
Revered as one of the top defenders in the Minor Leagues and a member of MLB Pipeline's All-Defense Team, Robles has game-changing abilities in center field. His near top-of-the-scale speed gives him range for days in center field, and he's made strides in improving both his reads and routes in the past two years. His plus-plus arm is among the strongest in the Minors, and he totaled 29 outfield assists from 2016-17 before an injury-plagued campaign in '18.

Video: Top Prospects: Victor Robles, OF, Nationals

NL Central

Cubs: Miguel Amaya, C, No. 1 (MLB No. 87)
Amaya's defensive ability and makeup led the Cubs to sign him for $1.25 million out of Panama in 2015, and he continues to impress even though he has been pushed aggressively in the Minors. His aptitude to frame and block pitches is advanced for a teenager, and his arm strength has improved to at least solid and plays up because of his quick transfer and accuracy.

Reds: Mike Siani, OF, No. 9
The Reds' fourth-round pick got first-round money to sign because of his all-around tools. But his defensive skills have long stood out, and he might have been the best defensive outfielder in the 2018 Draft class, with the ability to cover a ton of ground in center and an arm that allowed him to throw low-90s fastballs from the mound in high school.

Brewers: Payton Henry, C, No. 11
A sixth-round pick in 2016 who signed for nearly twice his slot value, Henry threw out nearly 44 percent (46 of 105) of attempted basestealers and had only six passed balls in his first full season. A quick release and a strong, accurate arm help Henry to combat the running game, and evaluators have been impressed with how he's developed a receiving style that utilizes his big, athletic frame. Henry is also praised for his energy and leadership skills.

Pirates: Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, No. 2 (MLB No. 48)
Hayes was the third baseman on our All-Defense Team, and for good reason. He entered pro ball as one of the better defenders at the hot corner, but he's gotten even better as he's committed himself to his conditioning, adding to his agility and range to make him the best in the Minors at the position.

Cardinals: Delvin Perez, SS, No. 28
The Cardinals' first-round pick in 2016 has had trouble finding any traction offensively, but there are no concerns about his defensive chops. He gets plus grades on his arm and his overall fielding, thanks to a plus arm when he needs it, above-average hands and plus speed that helps him cover a lot of ground.

NL West

D-backs: Geraldo Perdomo, SS, No. 21
Perdomo's United States debut in 2018 was solid all-around, and he even earned a promotion from the Arizona Rookie League to the Pioneer League in the process. Tall and rangy, the teenager has shown the tools to stay at shortstop long term with outstanding range, actions and hands to go with a strong arm.

Rockies: Yonathan Daza, OF, No. 18
Thanks to his plus speed and fine instincts, Daza covers a lot of ground in center field, and he possesses a plus-plus arm that stands out at his position. He's also a career .310 hitter who won the Class A Advanced California League batting title in 2017 with a .341 mark.

Dodgers: Will Smith, C, No. 5
An outstanding athlete for a catcher, Smith has already shown that he's capable of playing third base and filling in at second. He has very soft hands and impressive agility, making him a fine receiver and framer, and he has a solid arm that plays better than that because of his fast footwork.

Padres: Buddy Reed, OF, No. 13
A member of MLB Pipeline's All-Defense Team, Reed's 70-grade speed and long, gliding strides allow him to cover huge swaths of territory in center field -- and he showcased that with his catch in last year's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. Reed also has a strong arm and recorded 12 outfield assists in 2018, surpassing his combined total from his first two seasons.

Video: WLD@USA: Reed wired up, makes great grab at the wall

Giants: Joey Bart, C, No. 1 (MLB No. 23)
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 Draft, Bart draws more attention with his bat, but his work behind the plate is impressive as well. He has improved markedly since high school, when scouts wondered if he could stay at catcher, enhancing his agility and receiving and improving the accuracy of his strong arm.

Jim Callis is a reporter for Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

First Spring Training workout dates for all clubs

Major League Baseball has revealed the first Spring Training workout dates for pitchers and catchers and those for the full squads for all 30 clubs. MLB also announced game times for all Cactus and Grapefruit League action in February and March.

Major League Baseball has revealed the first Spring Training workout dates for pitchers and catchers and those for the full squads for all 30 clubs. MLB also announced game times for all Cactus and Grapefruit League action in February and March.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The A's, fresh off their surprise run to the 2018 American League Wild Card Game, will be the first club to have its pitchers and catchers report. They'll do so on Monday, Feb. 11, followed by the Indians and Mariners on Feb. 12 and the remainder of MLB clubs in the days following. Oakland and Seattle will travel to Tokyo to stage two exhibition games each against Japanese teams on March 17-18, followed by the first two games of the 2019 regular season on March 20-21 at Tokyo Dome.

Complete Spring Training schedule

Oakland and Seattle will hold their first full-squad workouts on Saturday, Feb. 16, in Arizona, with the rest of MLB following suit in the days after. The Braves will be the last club to hold its first full-squad workout, doing so on Thursday, Feb. 21. The A's and Mariners open Cactus League action with a matchup on Feb. 21, and the Rays and Phillies open up Grapefruit League action the following day. The Red Sox and Tigers will play exhibition games against college teams on Feb. 22.

Here are first-workout dates for pitchers and catchers and full squads for each team:

Angels: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Astros: Feb. 14/Feb. 18
Athletics: Feb. 11/Feb. 16
Blue Jays: Feb. 14/Feb. 18
Indians: Feb. 12/Feb. 18
Mariners: Feb. 12/Feb. 16
Orioles: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Rangers: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Rays: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Red Sox: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Royals: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Tigers: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Twins: Feb. 14/Feb. 18
White Sox: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Yankees: Feb. 14/Feb. 19

Braves: Feb. 16/Feb. 21
Brewers: Feb. 14/Feb. 19
Cardinals: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Cubs: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Diamondbacks: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Dodgers: Feb. 13/Feb. 19
Giants: Feb. 14/Feb. 19
Marlins: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Mets: Feb. 14/Feb. 18
Nationals: Feb. 14/Feb. 19
Padres: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Phillies: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Pirates: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Reds: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Rockies: Feb. 13/Feb. 18

Matt Kelly is a reporter for based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

How Russell Martin could rebound in 2019

Finding the launch angle sweet spot key in catcher's return to L.A.

A year ago, the Dodgers made a surprise trade to reacquire Matt Kemp, and the veteran outfielder enjoyed a rebound season by putting up his best offensive numbers since his first stint with Los Angeles, in 2014.

Now it's Russell Martin's turn to be back in Dodger blue -- and perhaps author a late-career resurgence.

A year ago, the Dodgers made a surprise trade to reacquire Matt Kemp, and the veteran outfielder enjoyed a rebound season by putting up his best offensive numbers since his first stint with Los Angeles, in 2014.

Now it's Russell Martin's turn to be back in Dodger blue -- and perhaps author a late-career resurgence.

Less than a month after sending Kemp on to Cincinnati, the club swung a trade with Toronto on Friday to land Martin, who referenced Kemp's 2018 All-Star season in his comments to reporters.

"There's something about putting on that Dodgers uniform that can bring out the magic in you," said Martin, who turns 36 next month and has one year remaining on his contract. "I hope to get some of that magic this year."

There is no "magic," of course. But there is reason to think that with some minor adjustments, Martin can achieve the rebound he seeks in his first season with the Dodgers since 2010.

In 2015 and '16 with the Blue Jays, Martin was basically a league-average hitter, posting identical weighted runs created-plus (wRC+) of 101. But that dropped to a 91 wRC+ last year, putting Martin about 10 percent below average while slashing .194/.338/.325. Given that MLB catchers as a group had an 84 wRC+, and that Martin is well respected for his work behind the plate, he certainly can contribute to the Dodgers without boosting his bat. But if he does, it would help the club make up for the departure of Yasmani Grandal.

Video: TB@TOR: Martin launches a go-ahead solo homer in 8th

"Last year was obviously a down year [offensively], but digging into it more, the quality of at-bat is elite and the batted ball profile is still strong," Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said of acquiring Martin, per's Ken Gurnick.

The first point is certainly true. Of the more than 300 batters who saw 500 or more pitches out of the strike zone last season, Martin had the lowest chase rate (10.2 percent), beating out second-place Joey Votto. He also ranked among the MLB leaders in walk rate (15.9 percent), with a strikeout rate (23.3 percent) not far above the MLB average.

Friedman's second point, about Martin's batted ball profile, is also true -- in one sense. He still has plenty of thump in his bat:

Martin's 2018 MLB ranks, per Statcast™
Min. 200 batted balls (281 batters)
Average exit velocity: 90.6 mph (T-42nd)
(On line drives + fly balls): 95.4 mph (T-36th)
Hard-hit rate (95+ mph): 43.0% (T-52nd)

Martin actually hit the ball harder on average -- and hit it hard more often -- than in 2016 or '17. His average launch angle (10.1 degrees), while below the MLB rate (11.7), also was higher than before. Combine Martin's walk and strikeout rates with his hard-hit rate and average launch angle, and you get a profile strikingly similar to that of the Mets' Brandon Nimmo, who hit .263/.404/.483 (149 wRC+).

The thing about averages, though, is that they don't tell the full story.

Consider the following leaderboard, which FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan previously pointed to:

Lowest rate of batted balls hit between 5-35 degrees, 2018
Min. 200 total batted balls (281 batters)
1. Russell Martin: 30.0 percent
2. Orlando Arcia: 31.2 percent
3. Eric Hosmer: 31.6 percent
4. Travis Jankowski: 32.2 percent
5-T. Avisail Garcia: 32.4 percent
5-T. Ian Desmond: 32.4 percent
MLB average: 40.9 percent

Hitting the ball at a launch angle below five degrees produces ground balls, resulting in a .242 MLB-wide slugging percentage last season. Hitting it above 35 degrees produces high fly balls and popups, resulting in an .058 batting average. That leaves a sweet spot in between that accounted for about 88 percent of all extra-base hits in 2018.

Focusing only on Martin's hard contact (exit velocity of 95-plus mph), fewer than half of his batted balls fell into that sweet spot, putting Martin in the bottom eight percent of MLB hitters. Simply put, even when Martin hit the ball hard, he produced too many easy outs.

Back in 2017, Martin made hard contact roughly the same number of times as in '18, but nearly 70 percent of those batted balls fell into the ideal launch angle range. That put him in the top eight percent of MLB hitters.

Perhaps Martin himself can make the adjustments necessary to move back in that direction. Perhaps the Dodgers, with their analytical approach and new hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc in place, can aid that quest.

There's not a huge gap to overcome. The difference between Martin's 2017 and '18 seasons, over roughly 300 at-bats, was about eight hits and 18 total bases.

The odds are against any 36-year-old catcher, and Martin could continue to decline, losing playing time to Austin Barnes or another late addition. But with a tweak to Martin's launch angle, his return to L.A. could turn out to be a sweet one.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Russell Martin

The Hall of Fame ballot results are ...

Six writers were among those eligible to cast ballots in the 2019 Hall of Fame vote conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

• Complete Hall of Fame coverage

Six writers were among those eligible to cast ballots in the 2019 Hall of Fame vote conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

• Complete Hall of Fame coverage

As many as four candidates -- and possibly more -- could be elected, according to the public ballots amassed online. Here's a look at how the six voted, and at the bottom you can see what the totals look like among this group:

T.R. Sullivan
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Edgar Martinez
5. Fred McGriff
6. Mike Mussina
7. Mariano Rivera
8. Billy Wagner
9. Larry Walker
10. Michael Young

There are many offensive players who could/should be elected based on their career numbers. I strongly believe McGriff is unfairly overlooked because he was one of the last great hitters before the offensive explosion of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Mussina also thrived as a starting pitcher in the American League right in the thick of that era. It should not have taken him this long to be elected. I'm not big on comparables, but Wagner was every bit as good of a reliever as Rivera or Trevor Hoffman.

Video: MLB Tonight on Mike Mussina's Hall of Fame case

Mark Feinsand
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Edgar Martinez
5. Mike Mussina
6. Manny Ramirez
7. Mariano Rivera
8. Curt Schilling
9. Gary Sheffield
10. Omar Vizquel

Three of the players I voted for a year ago -- Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones and Jim Thome -- were inducted into the Hall, so the holdovers (Bonds, Clemens, Edgar, Mussina, Manny, Schilling and Sheffield) took up the first seven spots on my ballot.

That left me with up to three open spots to fill. Rivera was an obvious choice for one of them in his first time on the ballot, as was Halladay, who, despite a modest win total (203), was one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation. Although I delved into their statistics to confirm what I already knew, these two were no-brainers.

Video: Roy Halladay's case for the Hall of Fame

The final spot was a little more difficult. After a first examination of the 26 players, I narrowed down my choice to Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff, Andy Pettitte, Scott Rolen, Vizquel, Larry Walker and Vernon Wells. (OK, Wells wasn't really on my list, but he was one of my favorite players I ever covered, so I considered using my last spot for him for about 30 seconds.)

Although I probably would have voted for five or six of these players had the ballot been open-ended and without the 10-man limit, my choice ultimately came down to two: Pettitte and Vizquel.

Pettitte is viewed by many as a borderline candidate, a take I can't argue with. While his candidacy might be seen differently by voters, I think he belongs in the conversation. (Based on my voting history, I'm obviously not holding his HGH admission against him.) Having seen similar players such as Jorge Posada, Kenny Lofton and Johan Santana fall off the ballot in their first years, I considered voting for Pettitte in an effort to help him get the requisite 5 percent for him to be on the ballot again next year.

Ultimately, Vizquel's excellence in the field (he took home 11 Gold Gloves and is in the conversation as the best defensive shortstop ever) won out. He might not have been an offensive force, but Vizquel was far from an automatic out, finishing his career with 2,877 hits. Pettitte had a great career and will likely be in the mix for my vote again next year, but my belief that Vizquel should be in the Hall outweighed my hopes of seeing Pettitte remain on the ballot.

Jeffrey Flanagan
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Andruw Jones
5. Edgar Martinez
6. Mike Mussina
7. Manny Ramirez
8. Mariano Rivera
9. Curt Schilling
10. Larry Walker

It was difficult leaving off McGriff and Rolen, but we only get 10 spots, which is why I've always favored a binary system -- simply yes or no to each candidate. As for the PED issue, my stance hasn't really changed: If what they did (or didn't) do is so egregious, the Hall of Fame should take those players off the ballot. Don't make us be the morality judges.

Video: MLB Network debates Bonds, Clemens' merits for HOF

Richard Justice
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Edgar Martinez
5. Mike Mussina
6. Mariano Rivera
7. Scott Rolen
8. Curt Schilling
9. Billy Wagner
10. Larry Walker

Easy calls on nine of the 10. All belong in the Hall. As for Wagner, he's one of greatest closers ever, and if they're part of the game (same for DHs), the best of them should be in the Hall. I didn't like leaving off Andruw Jones, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent, Omar Vizquel, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield, who at least deserve to be in the conversation longer.

Jon Paul Morosi
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Edgar Martinez
5. Fred McGriff
6. Mike Mussina
7. Mariano Rivera
8. Scott Rolen
9. Curt Schilling
10. Larry Walker

I voted for Bonds and Clemens, as I have every year. For now, at least, my policy regarding players tied to PED use remains unchanged: I do not vote for players suspended under MLB's drug policy from 2005 to present, but I support the best all-around players from the complicated era that preceded it.

Rivera is one of the clearest first-ballot Hall of Famers in history, and Halladay's dominant peak (in a hitter-friendly ballpark, against AL East competition) makes him worthy of the Hall. McGriff, overlooked for far too long, hit more home runs -- with a better adjusted OPS -- than first-ballot Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Carl Yastrzemski; McGriff is eminently qualified for Cooperstown.

My toughest decision came among Rolen, Vizquel and Sheffield for the last of my 10 spots. I opted for Rolen, given the overall quality of his career, at a position underrepresented in the Hall. Rolen is one of only three third basemen in history with at least seven Gold Gloves and seven All-Star appearances. The others are Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt.

Video: MLB Network on Edgar Martinez's case for the HOF

Chris Haft
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Roy Halladay
4. Jeff Kent
5. Edgar Martinez
6. Mike Mussina
7. Mariano Rivera
8. Curt Schilling
9. Omar Vizquel
10. Larry Walker

Rivera's career forestalls debate. And if you feel free to vote for closers, you should feel free to vote for other specialists, such as Martinez the designated hitter. I dismounted my moral high horse regarding Bonds and Clemens two or three years ago. I needed some persuasion to vote for Walker; by contrast, I remained stubbornly loyal to Kent. Mussina embodied consistency; Schilling dominated the postseason and Halladay finished 98 games above .500 in just 390 starts. As for Vizquel, I pity those who can't or won't comprehend his excellence.

Vote totals of the 6 writers

With 75 percent of the vote needed for entry to the Hall, Bonds, Martinez, Rivera, Mussina, Clemens, Halladay, Schilling and Walker received enough support -- the first six appearing on all six ballots, and the other two appearing on five of six ballots (83 percent) -- from writers.

Barry Bonds -- 6 votes
Roger Clemens -- 6
Roy Halladay -- 6
Edgar Martinez -- 6
Mike Mussina -- 6
Mariano Rivera -- 6
Curt Schilling -- 5
Larry Walker -- 5
Fred McGriff -- 2
Manny Ramirez -- 2
Scott Rolen -- 2
Omar Vizquel -- 2
Billy Wagner -- 2
Andruw Jones -- 1
Jeff Kent -- 1
Gary Sheffield -- 1
Michael Young -- 1

Each team's lineup if season started today

We're less than a month away from Spring Training, so it's a good time to project what each club's Opening Day lineup will look like, or at least what it would look like if the season started today. With the help of all 30 beat writers, here's a roundup of how they might shake out.


We're less than a month away from Spring Training, so it's a good time to project what each club's Opening Day lineup will look like, or at least what it would look like if the season started today. With the help of all 30 beat writers, here's a roundup of how they might shake out.


Blue Jays
Initially, the Jays will be looking for a healthy, bounce-back year from second baseman Devon Travis and continued growth from shortstop Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and left fielder Teoscar Hernandez to support a lineup anchored by first baseman Justin Smoak, right fielder Randal Grichuk and designated hitter Kendrys Morales. But at some point soon, the real fun begins when the next wave of Jays stars reach Toronto -- outfielder Vladimir Guerrero Jr., infielder Bo Bichette and catcher Danny Jansen are all expected to arrive in 2019. Jansen likely will start the season with the Jays, and the other two won't be far behind. -- Gregor Chisholm


1. Devon Travis, 2B
2. Justin Smoak, 1B
3. Kendrys Morales, DH
4. Randal Grichuk, RF
5. Teoscar Hernandez, LF
6. Kevin Pillar, CF
7. Brandon Drury, 3B
8. Danny Jansen, C
9. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., SS

Video: Bo Bichette discusses his goals for 2019, Vlad Jr.

For years, the Orioles were anchored by a core group of positions players who Buck Showalter would regularly arrange into one of baseball's most powerful offensive units. Now with the O's fully in rebuilding mode, the only guarantee about new manager Brandon Hyde's first lineup is that it will look very different.

Seven of the nine members of last year's Opening Day lineup are out of the organization, but the fact that dozens of free agents remain on the market gives the Orioles ample time to bolster a roster that, as of now, projects to be only a fraction as productive as it was a year ago. The current group could receive a boost if Mark Trumbo recovers from offseason knee surgery in time for late March. Top prospects Yusniel Diaz or Ryan Mountcastle could also play their way into the mix, should they impress enough in camp to crack the club's Opening Day roster. -- Joe Trezza


1. Cedric Mullins, CF
2. Jonathan Villar, 2B
3. Trey Mancini, DH
4. Chris Davis, 1B
5. DJ Stewart, RF
6. Renato Nunez, 3B
7. Joey Rickard, LF
8. Richie Martin, SS
9. Chance Sisco, C

Due to the team's versatility, manager Kevin Cash will have a lot of quality options with his lineup card. Mallex Smith, who had a .357 on-base percentage in the leadoff spot in 2018, was traded to Seattle in November, which creates a hole at the top of the lineup for the Rays. With Smith gone, outfielder Kevin Kiermaier could be the first in line to get a crack at the leadoff spot. Kiermaier struggled at the plate to begin last season and then was sidelined for two months with a torn ligament in his right thumb. The 28-year-old outfielder finished the season with a .217 batting average, but had an encouraging end to his season, posting a .306/.371/.597 slash line in September.

In this lineup, Tommy Pham would hit third with designated hitter Ji-Man Choi hitting cleanup. In just 25 at-bats in the cleanup role last season, Choi posted a .450/.520/.850 slash line. Willy Adames and Yandy Diaz provide a good combination of contact and power in the fifth and sixth spots, while Meadows, who hit .250 in 10 games with the Rays last season, provides some power from the left-hand side in the seventh slot. Mike Zunino and Joey Wendle (or Daniel Robertson, depending on the pitcher) would round out the team's lineup. -- Juan Toribio


1. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
2. Matt Duffy, 3B
3. Tommy Pham, LF
4. Ji-Man Choi, DH
5. Willy Adames, SS
6. Yandy Diaz, 1B
7. Austin Meadows, RF
8. Mike Zunino, C
9. Joey Wendle, 2B

Red Sox
The World Series champs are in the enviable position of returning their entire allotment of position players, except for Ian Kinsler. But there's good news on that front also, as the hope is that second baseman and veteran leader Dustin Pedroia can return to the lineup after missing all but three games last season due to a left knee injury.

This lineup is deep and balanced, with power and speed, and has the ability to put the ball in play consistently. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez should again present major headaches to the opposition on a near nightly basis. Andrew Benintendi and Betts will be flip-flopped from their spots from a year ago, with the hope it will create more RBI opportunities for the latter. This could be a big growth year for the 22-year-old Rafael Devers. -- Ian Browne


1. Andrew Benintendi, LF
2. Mookie Betts, RF
3. J.D. Martinez, DH
4. Xander Bogaerts, SS
5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
6. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
7. Rafael Devers, 3B
8. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
9. Christian Vazquez, C

One year after the Yankees became the first team to have a dozen players reach double digits in the home run department, the Bronx Bombers again appear primed to boast impressive power, even without adding a megastar like Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. The projected order skews heavily toward right-handed bats, which is odd considering Yankee Stadium's configuration, but most have the ability to power the ball to right-center field. Troy Tulowitzki will have first crack at shortstop, but DJ LeMahieu provides a capable option at second base, shortstop and third base. -- Bryan Hoch


1. Brett Gardner, LF
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Aaron Hicks, CF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. Gary Sanchez, C
6. Miguel Andujar, 3B
7. Gleyber Torres, 2B
8. Luke Voit, 1B
9. Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Video: MLB Tonight on how LeMahieu fits in with Yankees


The Indians' lineup will feature plenty of new names in 2019, but one familiar face will be back with the Tribe. After spending last season with the Phillies, Carlos Santana was traded to the Mariners briefly before coming back home to Cleveland in exchange for Edwin Encarnacion.

Despite the team's high turnover rate, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez will return to the Indians' infield, providing leadership to the young roster. Both Ramirez and Lindor are coming off standout seasons, placing third and sixth in American League MVP voting, respectively. -- Mandy Bell


1. Francisco Lindor, SS
2. Jason Kipnis, 2B
3. Jose Ramirez, 3B
4. Carlos Santana, DH
5. Jake Bauers, 1B
6. Tyler Naquin, RF
7. Leonys Martin, CF
8. Jordan Luplow, LF
9. Roberto Perez, C

Video: Jose Ramirez is the No. 1 third baseman right now

Of course, the big question regarding the batting order is where manager Ned Yost will fit in speedster Billy Hamilton, who primarily hit toward the bottom of the order while with the Reds. Yost could go for the speed trifecta at 9-1-2 with Hamilton hitting ninth, and then Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi at the top. -- Jeffrey Flanagan


1. Whit Merrifield, 2B
2. Adalberto Mondesi, SS
3. Alex Gordon, LF
4. Jorge Soler, DH
5. Salvador Perez, C
6. Ryan O'Hearn,1B
7. Hunter Dozier, 3B
8. Jorge Bonifacio, RF
9. Billy Hamilton, CF

The Tigers have work to do before they can put together a lineup of young talent to go with their promising pitching prospects. But their 2019 lineup shows some promise. With Jeimer Candelario at third base and Christin Stewart likely in left field, Detroit has a pair of young run producers. On the flip side, the Tigers get veteran Miguel Cabrera back after he missed most of last season due to biceps surgery. If Nicholas Castellanos isn't traded, Detroit has a decent core to the batting order if it can identify another run producer for the fifth spot. -- Jason Beck


1. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
2. Christin Stewart, LF
3. Nick Castellanos, RF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Niko Goodrum, 2B
6. John Hicks, DH
7. Grayson Greiner, C
8. JaCoby Jones, CF
9. Jordy Mercer, SS

Minnesota finished 23rd in the Majors with 166 homers in 2018, but added a trio of right-handed sluggers with 30-homer power -- C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop and Nelson Cruz -- to address the power concerns and fill the needs at first base, second base and designated hitter on manager Rocco Baldelli's first Twins roster. -- Do-Hyoung Park


1. Jorge Polanco, SS
2. Eddie Rosario, LF
3. Miguel Sano, 3B
4. Nelson Cruz, DH
5. C.J. Cron, 1B
6. Max Kepler, RF
7. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
8. Jason Castro, C
9. Byron Buxton, CF

White Sox
This lineup on Jan. 15 could change by the end of the month or the end of the week or even the end of the day, as the White Sox continue their strong pursuit of premium free agent infielder Machado and possibly even premium free agent outfielder Harper. If they get one, let alone fulfill the long shot of reaching a deal with both, their lineup immediately looks quite different. Even if they miss out on both, the White Sox still have made significant changes to balance their lineup with the additions of left-handed hitting Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay. They also brought in catcher James McCann, who probably won't split time with Welington Castillo, but will get more than backup playing time. -- Scott Merkin


1. Jon Jay, RF
2. Yoan Moncada, 2B
3. Jose Abreu, 1B
4. Yonder Alonso, DH
5. Welington Castillo, C
6. Daniel Palka, LF
7. Tim Anderson, SS
8. Yolmer Sanchez, 3B
9. Adam Engel, CF


The Angels are expected to be without designated hitter Shohei Ohtani to begin the season, as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, which means Albert Pujols will open the year as DH. Manager Brad Ausmus said he'd like to see Mike Trout hit No. 2 in the lineup, while Zack Cozart served as leadoff hitter early last season until suffering a season-ending labrum tear in his left shoulder. There remains a competition in the infield among David Fletcher, Taylor Ward and Tommy La Stella and it'll be determined in Spring Training. -- Rhett Bollinger


1. Zack Cozart, 3B
2. Mike Trout, CF
3. Justin Upton, LF
4. Justin Bour, 1B
5. Albert Pujols, DH
6. Andrelton Simmons, SS
7. Kole Calhoun, RF
8. David Fletcher, 2B
9. Jonathan Lucroy, C

The Astros made a huge addition to their lineup last month when they signed free agent outfielder Michael Brantley, who brings a much-needed presence from the left side of the plate while being difficult to strike out. The core of Houston's powerful lineup is all right-handed --Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer -- and the addition of Brantley gives them a top five in the lineup that's perhaps the deepest in baseball, when healthy. -- Brian McTaggart


1. George Springer, CF
2. Alex Bregman, 3B
3. Jose Altuve, 2B
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Michael Brantley, LF
6. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
7. Josh Reddick, RF
8. Tyler White, DH
9. Robinson Chirinos, C

Video: AJ Hinch on Brantley's veteran approach, preparation

One of baseball's most potent offenses will feature many of the same bats that helped the A's into the postseason last year. Homer-happy Khris Davis isn't the only power hitter residing in this lineup: Matt Olson, Stephen Piscotty, Matt Chapman and Marcus Semien also routinely hit the ball out of the park, and they're flanked by productive complementary pieces, including on-base machine Nick Martini and the dynamic Ramon Laureano. -- Jane Lee


1. Nick Martini, LF
2. Matt Chapman, 3B
3. Matt Olson, 1B
4. Khris Davis, DH
5. Stephen Piscotty, RF
6. Jurickson Profar, 2B
7. Ramon Laureano, CF
8. Marcus Semien, SS
9. Chris Herrmann, C

Only four of last season's Opening Day position starters are still on the roster, though it's likely that a fifth -- Ichiro Suzuki -- will be added before the season begins. But gone are Seattle stalwarts Robinson Cano, Cruz and Jean Segura, who batted in the 2-3-4 spots in the lineup in last year's 2-1 Opening Day win over the Indians. Also gone is 2018 Opening Day catcher Mike Marjama, who was filling in for an injured Zunino, who has also been traded.

That leaves returning starters Dee Gordon -- who is shifting from center field to second base -- along with right fielder Mitch Haniger, third baseman Kyle Seager and first baseman Ryon Healy. -- Greg Johns


1. Mallex Smith, CF
2. Dee Gordon, 2B
3. Mitch Haniger, RF
4. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
5. Kyle Seager, 3B
6. Domingo Santana, LF
7. Ryon Healy, 1B
8. Omar Narvaez, C
9. Tim Beckham, SS

The Rangers are loaded with young left-handed power with Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor and Ronald Guzman, but are still susceptible to the strikeout. They could also use more help from the right side and depth at both catcher and third base. They also need a full and healthy season from Delino DeShields in the leadoff spot. -- T.R. Sullivan


1. Delino DeShields, CF
2. Elvis Andrus, SS
3. Shin-Soo Choo, DH
4. Nomar Mazara, RF
5. Joey Gallo, LF
6. Rougned Odor 2B
7. Ronald Guzman 1B
8. Patrick Wisdom 3B
9. Jeff Mathis C


The Braves feel good about having three MVP candidates at the top of their lineup, but uncertainty about who will be the third outfielder leaves a glaring hole in the cleanup spot. If an outfielder is not acquired and Adam Duvall is given a starting spot, manager Brian Snitker could address the top-heavy nature of his lineup by moving Ender Inciarte to the leadoff spot and dropping either Ronald Acuna Jr. or Josh Donaldson to the fourth spot. The offense's success will be influenced by Ozzie Albies' adjustments against left-handers and Dansby Swanson's attempt to expand his plate coverage. -- Mark Bowman


1. Ronald Acuna Jr., LF
2. Josh Donaldson, 3B
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. TBD
5. Tyler Flowers, C
6. Ozzie Albies, 2B
7. Ender Inciarte, CF
8. Dansby Swanson, SS

The Marlins continue to explore the market for a left-handed power bat to play either first base or a corner outfield spot, and there is the on-going saga of whether All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto will be traded or not. With so much up in the air, projecting the Marlins' Opening Spring Training lineup remains highly speculative. But based on how the roster is constructed as of now, there are a number of directions the organization can go. A year ago, Lewis Brinson was the Opening Day leadoff hitter, and unless a more traditional table-setter is added, Brinson again could get a look at the top of the order, in hopes of getting him on track. -- Joe Frisaro


1. Lewis Brinson, CF
2. J.T. Realmuto, C
3. Starlin Castro, 2B
4. Brian Anderson, RF
5. Peter O'Brien, 1B
6. Martin Prado, 3B
7. Austin Dean, LF
8. JT Riddle / Miguel Rojas SS

The addition of Jed Lowrie gives the Mets an obvious No. 2 hitter, though they'll skew left-handed at the top of the order for as long as Yoenis Cespedes remains sidelined. A greater issue is where Lowrie fits on defense; given his lack of experience at first base, he may push Todd Frazier to that position early in the season. -- Anthony DiComo


1. Brandon Nimmo, RF
2. Jed Lowrie, 3B
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
4. Wilson Ramos C
5. Michael Conforto, LF
6. Todd Frazier, 1B
7. Juan Lagares, CF
8. Amed Rosario, SS

Video: Jon Heyman discusses the Jed Lowrie signing for Mets

There is still so much speculation about whether Harper will ultimately wind up back in the middle of this batting order, but the Nationals feel confident in this lineup even without their homegrown star at the center. Thanks to a boost at catcher, a new second baseman and the infusion of rookie Victor Robles, this new-look Nats lineup has a chance to remain one of the most productive in the National League. -- Jamal Collier


1. Adam Eaton, RF
2. Trea Turner, SS
3. Anthony Rendon, 3B
4. Juan Soto, LF
5. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
6. Brian Dozier, 2B
7. Victor Robles, CF
8. Yan Gomes / Kurt Suzuki, C

The Phillies have upgraded their lineup from 2018, with the additions of outfielder Andrew McCutchen and shorstop Segura. But they hope to make one more major move before Opening Day. If the Phillies sign Harper or Machado to a multiyear contract, it changes everything. -- Todd Zolecki


1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Jean Segura, SS
3. Andrew McCutchen, LF
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Odubel Herrera, CF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Nick Williams, RF
8. Jorge Alfaro, C


The Brewers are returning the bulk of the roster that played to within one game of the World Series in 2018, with second base representing the only real hole after the team signed catcher Yasmani Grandal. Right now, a Hernan Perez/Cory Spangenberg platoon is possible, though general manager David Stearns is likely to either sign or trade for a player to fill that position, or find a third baseman and move Travis Shaw to second. -- Adam McCalvy


1. Lorenzo Cain, CF
2. Christian Yelich, RF
3. Ryan Braun, LF
4. Travis Shaw, 3B
5. Jesus Aguilar, 1B
6. Yasmani Grandal, C
7. Hernan Perez / Cory Spangenberg, 2B
8. Orlando Arcia, SS

Video: MLB Now analyzes Grandal's deal with the Brewers

The top of the Cardinals' order became instantly more formidable with the December acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt. He'll likely hit behind one of the best leadoff hitters in the game and ahead of the club's two biggest power threats. With an element of speed at the bottom of the order, the Cardinals' lineup is positioned to be more dynamic than it was a year ago. -- Jenifer Langosch


1. Matt Carpenter, 3B
2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
3. Paul DeJong, SS
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. Dexter Fowler, RF
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Kolten Wong, 2B
8. Harrison Bader, CF

Cubs manager Joe Maddon cycled through 152 lineup variations in 2018, so this alignment is definitely written in pencil. At least 10 players appeared in each lineup spot for Chicago, which featured one of MLB's top offenses until a two-month slump to end last season. The Cubs are banking on a return to health from slugger Kris Bryant, among other things, to help this group get back on track in '19. -- Jordan Bastian


1. Ben Zobrist, 2B
2. Kris Bryant, 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Javier Baez, SS
5. Kyle Schwarber, LF
6. Willson Contreras, C
7. Jason Heyward, RF
8. Albert Almora Jr., CF

The Pirates haven't officially settled on a shortstop, and it's unclear how they'll use Colin Moran and Jung Ho Kang at third base. The look of their lineup will also change when right fielder Gregory Polanco, their most productive hitter last season, comes off the disabled list. Manager Clint Hurdle will look for the right configuration, but it's fair to assume that Adam Frazier, Starling Marte and Corey Dickerson will be involved atop the order with Josh Bell getting another shot in the cleanup spot. -- Adam Berry


1. Adam Frazier, 2B
2. Starling Marte, CF
3. Corey Dickerson, LF
4. Josh Bell, 1B
5. Francisco Cervelli, C
6. Colin Moran/Jung Ho Kang, 3B
7. Lonnie Chisenhall, RF
8. Erik Gonzalez / Kevin Newman, SS

The front office has signaled more improvements to the club are coming in the final month before Spring Training. There is still a need for a regular center fielder and the team has an overload of corner outfielders that will need to be sorted out. A fluid situation, it does not account for how the Reds will utilize another acquisition in corner outfielder Matt Kemp. And then there is Nick Senzel. The organization's No. 1 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, will be competing for the opening in center field but could also be a lineup regular in a utility role, playing up to five positions. -- Mark Sheldon


1. Jesse Winker, LF
2. Jose Peraza, SS
3. Joey Votto, 1B
4. Eugenio Suarez, 3B
5. Scooter Gennett, 2B
6. Yasiel Puig, RF
7. Scott Schebler, CF
8. Tucker Barnhart, C


The D-backs still have work to do in order to complete their lineup for Opening Day with one big piece still unknown. They are looking to either move Ketel Marte to center and acquire a second baseman or acquire a center fielder and leave Marte at second. How that plays out could will reshape this lineup. One thing to note about the catching spot: while Carson Kelly figures to get a lot of time behind the plate, the D-backs also like to rotate their catchers, so Alex Avila and John Ryan Murphy will also play. -- Steve Gilbert


1. Ketel Marte, 2B
2. Eduardo Escobar, 3B
3. David Peralta, LF
4. Steven Souza Jr., RF
5. Jake Lamb, 1B
6. Nick Ahmed, SS
7. Alex Avila, C
8. Jarrod Dyson, CF

There's plenty of time left for trades and free-agent signings and a host of mutations depending on matchups and platoons. Russell Martin figures to challenge Austin Barnes for the starting catching job. All that aside, what does the Dodgers' starting lineup for 2019 look like today? Some variation of this. -- Ken Gurnick


1. Chris Taylor, 2B
2. Corey Seager, SS
3. Justin Turner, 3B
4. Cody Bellinger, CF
5. Max Muncy, 1B
6. Enrique Hernandez, RF
7. Joc Pederson, LF
8. Austin Barnes, C

The Giants' current projected lineup is comprised of holdovers from 2018, but they are hoping to add a couple of new faces to the starting outfield by Opening Day to help boost an offense that struggled to consistently score runs last year. -- Maria Guardado


1. Steven Duggar, CF
2. Joe Panik, 2B
3. Buster Posey, C
4. Brandon Belt, 1B
5. Evan Longoria, 3B
6. Brandon Crawford, SS
7. Mac Williamson, RF
8. Chris Shaw, LF

Franmil Reyes, Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe are currently fighting for two corner outfield spots (and, presumably, the No. 4 and 5 spots in the lineup). The Padres have a clear logjam in their outfield, and it's possible one of those three big boppers is dealt before the season. Meanwhile, it seems unlikely that Ty France actually starts on Opening Day. General manager A.J. Preller remains in search of third-base help, and it's a near certainty he adds someone before the start of camp. -- AJ Cassavell


1. Manuel Margot, CF
2. Luis Urias, SS
3. Eric Hosmer, 1B
4. Franmil Reyes, RF
5. Wil Myers, LF
6. Ian Kinsler, 2B
7. Austin Hedges, C
8. Ty France, 3B

The addition of Daniel Murphy puts some left-handed pop in the lineup behind home run threats Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. The lineup still could use one more right-handed threat. Another idea could be to lead off with David Dahl, followed by Story, Charlie Blackmon and Arenado to separate the left- and right-handed hitters through the early portion. -- Thomas Harding


1. Charlie Blackmon, LF
2. David Dahl, RF
3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
4. Trevor Story, SS
5. Daniel Murphy, 1B
6. Ian Desmond, CF
7. Ryan McMahon, 2B
8. Chris Iannetta, C

Video: Blackmon on adding Murphy, Arenado's importance

These teams could improve from within in '19

Prospect callups, injury returns can equal impact of a star free agent

With so much focus on the free-agent market and trade winds, it can be easy to forget about the other players whose first games will be worth paying just as much attention to next season. The marketplace is one way for teams to improve, but sometimes the answers can be found right within a club's own roster.

Diverting from the Hot Stove for just a second, here's a mix of veterans and rookies we're looking forward to seeing just as much in 2019.

With so much focus on the free-agent market and trade winds, it can be easy to forget about the other players whose first games will be worth paying just as much attention to next season. The marketplace is one way for teams to improve, but sometimes the answers can be found right within a club's own roster.

Diverting from the Hot Stove for just a second, here's a mix of veterans and rookies we're looking forward to seeing just as much in 2019.

Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
You can be forgiven if Miggy slipped off your radar for a while; most of his 2018 highlights came in either bitter cold temperatures or dreadful rain, and a torn bicep ended his season by mid-June. But since it's been a while, it's worth a reminder that Cabrera was as lethal as ever in many ways at the plate -- even if the homers were slow to come. Here's where some of Cabrera's contact metrics stood among qualified hitters by the time he tore that bicep tendon on June 12.

• 54.6 percent hard-hit rate (6th)
• 98.1 mph average line drive/fly ball exit velocity (T-17th)
• .315 expected batting average (T-8th)

Cabrera should be back in the Tigers' Opening Day lineup, and while he'll be entering his age-36 season, Detroit is hoping Cabrera can stay on the field enough to showcase that significant talent still left in his bat.

Corey Seager, Dodgers
Here's another big name who's been off the grid for a while, especially after the incredibly deep Dodgers managed to reach the World Series even without one of their bona fide stars. A quick refresher: Seager's 134 league-adjusted OPS+ in 2016 tied for the highest by a rookie shortstop in modern history, and his '17 season was nearly as good despite some elbow issues.

Video: LAD@SF: Seager hammers 2-run homer to right

We just saw Gleyber Torres come back from Tommy John surgery and make an immediate impact for the Yankees. Fangraphs' Steamer projections are similarly optimistic about Seager -- likely due back in May -- believing he'll be somewhere between a 5- to 6-WAR player. The Dodgers might still wind up signing Bryce Harper or trading for J.T. Realmuto, but getting a healthy Seager back in the lineup would be just as impactful.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
There might be no better reflection of the excitement surrounding Guerrero than his Steamer projection, which places him between Aaron Judge and Nolan Arenado among the 20 or so best players by WAR in 2019. Projections are typically conservative, but that's just how much MLB's top prospect has raked in the Minors. Guerrero's OPS hasn't finished below .800 at any level, and his strikeout rate has never risen above 13.4 percent -- still nearly 10 points below the Major League average last season.

Video: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. looks to impress in the Majors

We don't know exactly when Guerrero will make his Major League debut, but his first big league at-bat figures to be one of the biggest moments on the 2019 calendar.

Eloy Jimenez, White Sox
Baseball's No. 3 prospect isn't far behind Guerrero in terms of his prodigious skill with the bat. Jimenez was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte last June and proceeded to hit .355, compile a .996 OPS and knock 12 homers in 228 plate appearances, ramping up expectations on the South Side for the White Sox biggest piece from their Jose Quintana trade with the Cubs.

"We're hoping that this young man's career for us is going to be one of those future impact guys," White Sox manager Rick Renteria told Baseball America last month. "I don't want to call him a Hall of Famer, because that's a lot to put on a kid's plate, but he has the skill set to potentially be a very, very impactful frontline Major League player."

Jimenez probably could have made it to the big leagues last September, but the White Sox outfield figures to get a lot more potent whenever he arrives this spring. Perhaps Jimenez and Guerrero could give the American League its own version of last summer's thrilling Rookie of the Year race between Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto.

Video: Cassavell on the excitement around Tatis Jr.

Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias, Padres
It's not every day that a team can envision the middle of its infield fortified by two top-50 prospects, but that's the enviable situation San Diego finds itself in with MLB Pipeline's top-ranked prospects at shortstop and second base. Tatis and Urias are 20 and 21, respectively, so they'll take their lumps. But with everything pointing toward 2020 and beyond, Padres fans have to be excited to see two significant pieces of the team's future step closer toward the present.

Jimmy Nelson, Brewers
Milwaukee got within one game of its first World Series appearance since the Reagan administration, and it did so with a new-age mix of bullpenning and diamond-in-the-rough starters like Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley. But here's the type of ace the Brewers hope can step back into the fold this year:

Nelson's ranks among qualified NL starters, 2017

ERA: 8th
FIP: 3rd
K-BB%: 7th
WAR: 4th

Nelson became a breakout ace, but unfortunately his shoulder injury took him away much too quickly. Nelson's rehab went slower than expected last summer, but if he can break camp atop the Brewers' depth chart, he represents a huge boost to their hopes of repeating in the NL Central.

Video: Reyes on returning from elbow surgery

Alex Reyes, Cardinals
This is almost a copy-paste from last year at this time, when Cardinals fans were anxious for Reyes to return from Tommy John surgery and slot in as either a lights-out closer or electric starter. His first game back in 2018 didn't go according to plan, as his velocity dipped after three innings and he wound up needing more surgery for a torn lat. But there's still reasons to be optimistic with Reyes: He hit 97.7 mph in that May 30 start against Milwaukee, and the Brewers were late on many of their swings before his velocity dropped. If Reyes can find that easy gas again and stay on the field, this righty could boost several areas of the Cardinals' pitching staff depending on how they decide to use him.

Michael Pineda, Twins
It's hard to overlook the fact that Pineda has pitched just 89 games since he made the All-Star team as a rookie in 2011, but the big right-hander is cleared for Spring Training and has a chance for his first healthy season in years. There's a lot to unlock if Pineda can take the mound: As's Andrew Simon pointed out, he's ranked among the game's upper echelon at missing bats and limiting walks even in his more injury-riddled times as a big leaguer.

Video: CHC@CIN: Darvish strikes out 7, limits Reds to 1 run

Yu Darvish, Cubs
Darvish's injury-riddled 2018 had ripple effects across Chicago's roster: The Cubs picked up Cole Hamels' $20 million option this offseason partly as insurance in case Darvish gets hurt again, and that might have kept them financially hamstrung for shopping sprees like the Harper sweepstakes. But a full-strength season from Darvish would be just as beneficial for the North Siders as picking up Harper. Darvish is a dominant staff leader when he's right (a reminder that he's on pace to be one of the game's all-time strikeout-per-nine innings leaders), and the Cubs need him to be that pitcher more than ever with Hamels and Jon Lester continuing to age.

Darvish says he's ready for Spring Training and 2019, and Chicago fans have roughly 101 million remaining reasons to hope he's right.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

1 per team: Players who could stay put until 2025