March is a great time for baseball fans. The season is about to begin and every team has hopes for the postseason. When taking a look at the teams in the National League, here is one player from each club that needs to perform to help their team make a deep October run.
Cincinnati Reds: Billy Hamilton
Along with Billy Hamilton’s great speed comes enormous potential and expectations. With the loss of Shin-Shoo Choo, the club lost the game’s best leadoff hitter. Hamilton steps in looking to fill that void. This spring, he has worked hard at bunting and finding ways to get on base. If he can do it consistently, he can wreak havoc on the base-paths in Cincinnati.
Chicago Cubs: Jose Veras
Last year, the Cubs bullpen was terrible, constantly surrendering leads. While the club is probably a year or two away from competing, a lock down closer would be a huge step in the right direction. Jose Veras will enter the season as the club’s closer. He has spent much of his time as a middle reliever, but most recently closed games with the Astros, before working out of the Tigers pen last season.
Milwaukee Brewers: Aramis Ramirez
The Brewer offense has potential to be one of the best in the game with both speed and power. Having Ramirez’s healthy bat in the lineup can help make them even more potent. Last season, he had one of his worst seasons while battling constant injuries. If he is healthy in the cleanup spot, he can easily put up 25 homeruns and 100 RBIs. If he is not, there are no MLB ready prospects in the system ready to take over.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Francisco Liriano
After three mediocre seasons in Minnesota, Francisco Liriano had a career year with the Pirates last season. He regained command by lowering his walk total and dropping his ERA by over two points. With the loss of A.J. Burnett, the club needs Liriano to avoid a setback and continue to be an ace-like pitcher.
St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Adams
Playing part time in 2013, Matt Adams showed awesome power pounding 17 homeruns. Playing every day, Adams has potential to slug 30-40 homeruns and be one of the elite power hitters in the game.
Atlanta Braves: B.J. Upton
B.J. Upton’s first season in Atlanta was brutal. He batted just .184 and was basically a non-factor in the lineup. He has shown previously in his career to be a big run producer, and getting back to previous form can help to jumpstart the Braves offense.
Miami Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton
Out of all the power hitters in the game, Stanton may be the strongest. He can consistently drive the ball into the bleachers and has potential to hit 40 plus homeruns. But the problem is that he has never been able to stay healthy. With a young group of outfielders around him in Miami, a healthy Stanton can be a huge difference maker.
Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard
Ryan Howard was once the biggest slugger in the game. He signed a giant, multi-year contract with the club and has spent much of that time on the DL so far. Since 2011, he has played less than a full season after battling continuous injuries. Now fully healthy, he needs to be back to a force again.
New York Mets: Ike Davis
After a horrible season and an off-season in which he was constantly rumored to be traded, Ike Davis needs to get back to the player he was in 2012. He hit 32 homeruns that season, but just nine last year. He also hit a paltry .205 last year. The Mets need a strong Ike Davis from day one this season.
Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman
Ryan Zimmerman is one of the premier third baseman in the game, however he never seems to be able to stay on the field. With a beefed up Bryce Harper, a healthy Zimmerman can help the Nationals have their strongest lineup in years.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Brandon McCarthy
Just two years ago, Brandon McCarthy was the number one starter for the Oakland A’s. But last year was a great struggle with the Diamondbacks. He battled injuries and a slow start to finish with a 5-11 record with a 4.53 ERA. McCarthy has not been the same pitcher since getting hit in the head with a line drive late in 2012. If he can rebound, the D-Backs will have one of the strongest all around staffs.
Colorado Rockies: Justin Morneau
A few seasons ago, Justin Morneau was one of the elite players in the game, but since a concussion he has not been the same. Moving from a pitchers friendly parks to a more hitter friendly Coors field should help his power numbers to grow.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp
When healthy Matt Kemp is one of the top players in the league with 40-40 potential. But last year he was limited to just 79 games due to various leg injuries. While the Dodgers have a loaded outfield, Kemp is the best player on their roster. If healthy for a full season, he is the type of player that can carry his team to the postseason.
San Francisco Giants: Michael Morse
For years, the Giants have looked for players that can bring power to their lineup. In Michael Morse, the club may have found that player. In 2011, he hit 31 homeruns. If he can get anywhere close to that this season, the Giants offense can finally be explosive.
San Diego Padres: Josh Johnson
At a time Josh Johnson led the league in ERA and was the best pitcher in the National League. The previous few years he has battled several injuries that have greatly affected his play. Pitching at spacious Petco Park should help him to lower his career high ERA numbers from last season, and regain his status as one of the game’s best.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference and MLB.com