It may be March, but every MLB team still has areas of concern they will need to address once the lockout ends. With the American League teams already covered, here’s one key area that each National League team needs to improve before Opening Day of 2022.
Atlanta Braves: Bullpen
While they may need to replace face-of-franchise first baseman Freddie Freeman if he signs elsewhere, the more pressing area of concern for the reigning World Champions is the bullpen. The rotation led by Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson is solid enough, but they need more quality relievers to back up Will Smith and Tyler Matzek.
New York Mets: Second base
The outfield is set with the additions of Mark Canha and Starling Marte, the same goes for Pete Alonso at first base, Francisco Lindor at shortstop and Eduardo Escobar at third base. Robinson Canó may return to the majors, but at 39 years old he doesn’t seem a great fit for second base. Worse still, Jeff McNeil regressed significantly in 2021, so this is the one suspect position on the roster.
Philadelphia Phillies: Bullpen
The rotation already has Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin and others, and the big-league talent and prospects combine to make the hitting core look on the up-and-up. This team has no reliable closer, and that could be their achilles-heel if not addressed this offseason.
Washington Nationals: Break everything down
While tanking is an awful practice in baseball, there really isn’t another option for the Nationals. Max Scherzer and Trea Turner are gone, Stephen Strasburg cannot stay healthy and the team has no bullpen. Juan Soto is obviously untradeable, but Josh Bell, Starlin Castro and Joe Ross can be moved and they should be.
Miami Marlins: Fix the hitting
The Marlins have lots of young pitching led by Sixto Sanchez and all-stars Sandy Alcantara and Trevor Rogers. However, pretty much every young hitter on the team is struggling. Jazz Chisholm strikes out too much, and the same goes for Lewis Brinson, Isan Diaz and Lewin Diaz (all of whom aren’t super-young anymore). Avisail Garcia was a good start, but this team needs way more hitting help.
Cincinnati Reds: Bullpen
The Reds have great hitting led by Jonathan India, Tyler Stephenson and the resurgent Joey Votto. Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle are a solid top-three for the rotation. However, the lowest ERA of the top-five most-used relievers on the Reds was Lucas Sims’ 3.75. That is unsustainable for a team wanting to contend.
St. Louis Cardinals: Starting pitching
The hitting core is strong, led by Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Tyler O’Neill and many others. Unfortunately, behind Jack Flaherty, their next best arm is 40-year-old Adam Wainwright. The Redbirds need more depth behind those two, as Carlos Martinez, Dakota Hudson and the veterans they had are either struggling, injury-prone or gone.
Milwaukee Brewers: Every bat imaginable
Avisail Garcia is off to Miami, and the Brewers’ already-thin lineup is even thinner now. Their rotation and bullpen are historically deep and talented, but as Christian Yelich’s struggles continue, there is no one trustworthy in that lineup. That needs to change before Opening Day.
Pittsburgh Pirates: No clue what to do
The Pirates are in an awful position heading into 2022. Other than Bryan Reynolds and Ke’Bryan Hayes, there isn’t much else to like in the lineup. Richard Rodríguez and Clay Holmes, the two best arms on the Pirates, are both gone, and this team is years away from contending. When a team is known for wasting talent, and trading future stars away, the prospects are grim.
Chicago Cubs: Develop new pitching
Frank Schwindel, Patrick Wisdom, Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal could be a solid hitting core for the Cubs, but their pitching is not on the same level. Kyle Hendriks is their best starter, and he will be 32 next season. That needs to be the Cubs’ top area to address in the near future.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Trade Ketel Marte
There is nothing to like about this team, other than star center-fielder Ketel Marte. The switch-hitter is only 28, and is under contract for 2022 with team-options for the following two seasons. The Diamondbacks could get a massive prospect haul to jumpstart their rebuild by trading Marte to a team needing a center fielder.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Fix Cody Bellinger
This roster is the most talented by a country mile. Even if Clayton Kershaw leaves for another team, the rotation is set. Even if Kenley Jansen leaves, Blake Treinen can easily slide in as the closer. The lineup features superstars like Mookie Betts and Trea Turner, plus Will Smith, AJ Pollock and Chris Taylor. The one area of need is to get Cody Bellinger back to his 2019 MVP form. He would make the Dodgers unbeatable on paper if he plays like a star again.
San Francisco Giants: Replace Kevin Gausman
Joey Bart has long been seen as the successor to Buster Posey, and Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are back. The Giants could run it back with their lineup, but they lost their ace in Kevin Gausman to the Toronto Blue Jays. Replacing him will be key to contending in 2022.
Colorado Rockies: Somehow, get some pitching
No pitcher ranks Colorado highly on a list of places to sign. That’s unfortunate since there is a lot of young talent in the lineup like Raimel Tapia, Ryan McMahon and Brendan Rodgers. Colorado is forever in this pickle, but they need to keep trying to address it or the Rockies will be mediocre forever.
San Diego Padres: Get the young talent in the pros, and bounce back
The Padres have prospects like pitcher MacKenzie Gore, shortstop CJ Abrams and catcher Luis Campusano waiting for their shot. On top of that, Eric Hosmer, Chris Paddack, Blake Snell, Adam Frazier and Trent Grisham need to bounce back. The stage is set for the Padres to rebound and take the NL West in 2022, but it’s all on the talent within the organization to get them there.