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Homegrown talent: NL Central

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  February 24, 2011 11:03 AM

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wakefieldtimmypirates.jpg

There you have it -- visual evidence that Tim Wakefield hasn't always been a 40-something pitcher for the Red Sox. It just feels that way sometimes. The rumor that he played with Johnny Pesky is just not true.

Wakefield, as you probably know, began his career as a flash with Pittsburgh, going 8-1 with a 2.15 ERA in 1992 and winning two more starts in the playoff before falling just as quickly as he ascended the next season. Wakefield joined the Red Sox in April 1995 as a superb free-agent scrap heap find by Dan Duquette, and he's been here ever since.

But do you recall that he's not the only discarded Pirate pitcher who was a mainstay in the rotation of the 2004 World Series champs? Bronson Arroyo, an inexpensive, promising arm, was inexplicably let go by the Pirates in February 2003, coming to the Red Sox on waivers. It's decisions like that with homegrown talent in Pittsburgh that have added up to 18 consecutive losing seasons.

As you'll see here, they've developed more talent than probably any other team in the division save for the starry Astros . . .

moyerjamiefinn.jpgCHICAGO CUBS
Lineup: SS Starlin Castro, LF Kosuke Fukudome, 3B Casey McGehee, RF Tyler Colvin, C Geovany Soto, 1B Eric Hinske, 2B Ryan Theriot, CF Felix Pie

Rotation: RHP Carlos Zambrano, RHP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Jon Garland, LHP Jamie Moyer, RHP Randy Wells

Bullpen: RHP Carlos Marmol, RHP Kerry Wood, LHP Scott Downs, RHP Kyle Farnsworth, RHP Michael Wuertz, LHP Will Ohman, LHP Sean Marshall

Prospects, suspects, expatriates: P Sergio Mitre, P Kyle Lohse, P Casey Coleman, P Jeff Samardzija, P Andrew Cashner, P James Russell, P Donnie Veal, P Jerry Blevins, P Clay Rapada, P Esmailin Caridad, C Jose Molina, C Robinson Chirinos, C Josh Donaldson, C-INF Jake Fox, C Welington Castillo, INF Darwin Barney, INF Ronny Cedeno, INF-OF Eric Patterson, OF Sam Fuld, OF Corey Patterson, OF Brandon Guyer

Closing comments: Not a lot of star power here. Not a lot of power, period . . . Colvin and Castro are promising, at least, but when journeyman Hinske is helping to anchor the lineup, it's not a good sign . . . Tempting to put Wood as a starter, and we probably should have . . . But look at the depth and stuff of that bullpen . . . It's news to me that McGehee, who drove in 104 runs last year for the Brewers, was originally Cubs property. He spent more than five years in the Chicago organization before being claimed off waivers by Milwaukee in October 2008 . . . Moyer made his debut at age 23 with the '86 Cubs. His teammates included a pair of rookies -- 20-year-old Greg Maddux and 21-year-old Rafael Palmeiro -- along with 31-year-old Dennis Eckersley and 27-year-old Terry Francona.

hoffmantrevorfinn.jpgCINCINNATI REDS
Lineup: RF Drew Stubbs, CF Jay Bruce, 1B Joey Votto, LF Adam Dunn, C Ryan Hanigan, 3B Adam Rosales, 2B Zack Cozart, SS Paul Janish

Rotation: LHP Aroldis Chapman, RHP Johnny Cueto, RHP Mike Leake, RHP Homer Bailey, RHP Travis Wood

Bullpen: RHP Trevor Hoffman, RHP Logan Ondrusek, RHP Josh Roenicke, RHP Todd Coffey, RHP Jordan Smith

Prospects, suspects, expatriates: P Dustin Moseley, P Enerio Del Rosario, P Carlos Fisher, P Sam LeCure, P Philippe Valiquette, P Marcos Mateo, P Jeff Stevens, C Yasmani Grandal, C Craig Tatum, C Jason LaRue, 1B Yonder Alonso, OF Austin Kearns, OF Chris Denorfia, OF Chris Dickerson, OF Todd Frazier, OF Chris Heisey, INF Chris Valaika, INF Juan Francisco, INF Justin Turner

Closing comments: That's a darned solid heart of the order, especially if Bruce lives up to his potential, but it falls off quickly after that . . . The Reds have had a revolving door at shortstop since -- well, probably since Barry Larkin's retirement. The good-field, no-hit Janish was the default option, and the situation is even worse at second base, where the choice, Cozart, has yet to make his big-league debut . . . The rotation is close to what the Reds' actual rotation will look like this season, with Edinson Volquez, who was acquired from Texas for Josh Hamilton in December 2007 . . . Hamilton's No. 1 comp is Votto . . . We have to include fellow recent retiree and all-times save leader Hoffman, who began his career in the Reds organization as, yes, a shortstop.

Thumbnail image for abreubobfinn.jpgHOUSTON ASTROS
Lineup: 1B Carlos Guillen, 2B Melvin Mora, RF Bobby Abreu, LF Lance Berkman, CF Hunter Pence, SS Ben Zobrist, 3B Chris Johnson, C John Buck

Rotation: LHP Johan Santana, RHP Roy Oswalt, RHP Freddy Garcia, LHP Wandy Rodriguez, RHP Mitch Talbot

Bullpen: RP Brad Lidge, LHP Billy Wagner,RHP Chad Qualls, RHP Matt Albers, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Juan Gutierrez

Prospects, suspects, expatriates: P Henry Villar, P Felipe Paulino, P Fernando Abad, P Jorge DeLeon, P Arcenio Leon, C Jason Castro, C J.R. Towles, C Hector Gimenez, C Ramon Castro, INF Brooks Conrad, E6 Julio Lugo, INF Aaron Miles, SS Tommy Manzella, OF Jordan Parraz, OF Brian Bogusevic, OF Adron Chambers

Closing comments: Easily the best and most balanced team in the division . . . Only weaknesses are infield defense and the bullpen beyond Lidge . . . We included Wagner because there was brief speculation that he may return to the Braves this season; the team kept a locker for him at spring camp just in case . . . Santana's most similar comp for his career as well as each season from age 29-31: Why, Roy Oswalt, of course . . . Santana never threw a pitch for Houston. The Marlins plucked him away in the Rule 5 draft on the Twins' behest in December 1999, then immediately traded him to Minnesota for Jared Camp. He was apparently a pitcher.

fielderprincefinn.jpgMILWAUKEE BREWERS
Lineup: 2B Rickie Weeks, 3B Bill Hall, 1B Prince Fielder, LF Ryan Braun, RF Corey Hart, SS J.J. Hardy, C Jonathan Lucroy, CF Tony Gwynn

Rotation: RHP Yovani Gallardo, RHP Ben Sheets, RHP Mark Rogers, LHP Manny Parra, RHP Cody Scarpetta

Bullpen: LHP Craig Breslow, RHP Mike Adams, LHP Zach Braddock, RHP Mike McClendon

Prospects, suspects, expatriates: RHP Roque Mercedes, LHP Dan Merklinger, RHP Wily Peralta, RHP Amaury Rivas, DH Matt LaPorta, 3B Mat Gamel, SS Alcides Escobar, INF Eric Farris, OF Lorenzo Cain, OF Darren Ford, OF Michael Brantley, OF Cole Gillespie

Closing comments: The lineup is familiar and better than average with the Fielder/Braun combo in the middle, and this crew would have to score plenty of runs . . . Because the pitching is brutal . . . The No. 3 starter, the Maine native Rogers, is the Brewers' top prospect but has overcome multiple shoulder surgeries. He did whiff 11 in 10 innings during an impressive cup-of-Dunkin's in September . . . The No. 5 starter, Scarpetta, hasn't thrown a pitch in the big leagues . . . Did we mentioned that they haven't developed much pitching? . . . Weeks, who's battled injury problems most of his career, led the NL in plate appearances and at-bats while playing 160 games last season. Not sure I'd count on him doing it again, though.

arroyobronsonfinn.jpgPITTSBURGH PIRATES
Lineup: LF Rajai Davis, CF Andrew McCutchen, 3B Aramis Ramirez, RF Jose Bautista, 1B Pedro Alvarez, 2B Neil Walker, SS Jeff Keppinger, C Jason Kendall

Rotation: RHP Bronson Arroyo, RHP Tim Wakefield, RHP Chris Young, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, LHP Zach Duke

Bullpen: RHP Matt Capps, RHP Sean Burnett, RHP Leo Nunez, LHP John Grabow, LHP Paul Maholm, LHP Joe Beimel, RHP Elmer Dessens

Prospects, suspects, expatriates: RHP Brad Lincoln, RHP Ramon Aguero, RHP, Michael Crotta, RHP Kyle McPherson, LHP Daniel Moskos, RHP Tony Watson, C Ronny Paulino, C Ryan Doumit, 1B Steve Pearce, INF Brent Lillibridge, OF Nyjer Morgan, OF Alex Presley, OF Jose Guillen, OF Nate McLouth

Closing comments: Arroyo has changed his look a little bit, wouldn't you say? . . . Gorzelanny, Duke, and Maholm stand as proof that the Pirates have an unhealthy coveting of mediocre lefthanders with limited potential . . . Went with Kendall over Doumit behind the plate because Kendall actually was pretty good once, about 12 years ago . . . The lineup is better than at least I expected, with Ramirez and Bautista in the middle . . . Bautista hit 54 homers last year, 11 more than he hit in parts of five seasons in Pittsburgh . . . This team is actually not bad at all if you keep in mind that it's the Pirates we're talking about.

drewjdfinn.jpgST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Lineup: CF Coco Crisp, 3B Placido Polanco, 1B Albert Pujols, RF J.D. Drew, LF Colby Rasmus, C Yadier Molina, SS Jack Wilson, 2B Adam Kennedy

Rotation: RHP Dan Haren, LHP Jaime Garcia, LHP Chris Narveson, RHP Blake Hawksworth, RHP P.J. Walters

Bullpen: RHP Chris Perez, RHP Mitchell Boggs, RHP Kyle McClellan, RHP Jason Motte, RHP Fernando Salas, RHP Luke Gregerson,

Prospects, suspects, expatriates: INF-OF Skip Schumaker, INF Jarrett Hoffpauir, 1B Daric Barton, 3B Brett Wallace, SS Peter Kozma, INF Mark Hamilton, SS Tyler Greene, SS Brendan Ryan, INF Zack Cox, INF Mike McCoy, INF Daniel Descalso, RHP David Carpenter, RHP Jess Todd, RHP Blake King, RHP David Kopp, RHP Adam Reifer, RHP Francisco Samuel, RHP Eduardo Sanchez, C Tony Cruz, C Bryan Anderson, OF Rick Ankiel, OF Joe Mather, OF Jon Jay, OF Allen Craig

Closing comments: Well, the Pujols guy isn't bad . . . With his talent and approach, Rasmus reminds me quite a bit of J.D. Drew. That's not an insult as much as it is an observation . . .The starting pitching beyond Haren and Garcia isn't deep, though we somehow resisted the temptation to put Ankiel in the rotation . . . Kudos for finding and developing the best of The World Famous Catching Molinas in Yadier . . . Hard to believe Crisp began his career in the Cardinals' system as a middle infielder . . . Six relievers, all righties, in the bullpen. Tony La Russa is not going to approve.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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