Spring priorities: With a solid, young pitching staff, the obvious priorities are finding someone who can be a consistent closer and developing a sound defense. Offensively, the Braves could use a little more power, but their speed and ability to make things happens should be enough to back up a potent starting rotation.

New faces: Right-hander Greg Maddux is the only one on the roster that really matters. Non-roster invitees Steve Bedrosian, Jay Howell and Randy St. Claire will try to fill bullpen roles.

Hot prospect: Catcher Javier Lopez will probably win the regular job.

Big question: Can Pete Smith (7-0 after his call-up last year) get enough starts to stay sharp -- and happy?


Spring priorities: The most obvious challenge for the Reds this spring will be to put the Marge Schott incident behind them. New manager Tony Perez has some talent to work with but has to piece together a lot of new players. A healthy Chris Sabo at third base would help, and a comeback by left-hander Tom Browning would take some of the load off free agent John Smiley. Bip Roberts has to prove he can play second base every day.

New faces: Ex-Orioles first baseman Randy Milligan, outfielders Kevin Mitchell, Roberto Kelly and Cecil Espy, left-handers John Smiley and Greg Cadaret head a huge list.

Hot prospect: Mike Ferry is probably not ready yet, but his 13-4 record at Single-A Cedar Rapids earned him a roster spot.

Big question: Is Schottzie 02 allowed to sit in the owner's box?


Spring priorities: The toughest challenge for rookie manager Don Baylor will be taking over a team that hasn't played a game. Right-hander David Nied might not be able to post a .500 record with an expansion team, but he'll give the Rockies a chance to win every time he goes out. The Rockies will have close to a set lineup with veteran players, but the pitchers had better learn to throw sinkers if they're going to survive in the mile-high atmosphere in Denver.

New faces: Everybody, including some owners who came aboard after the team was stocked.

Hot prospect: Nied, the first player taken in the expansion draft.

Big question: Did the Rockies sacrifice too much of their future by going for more experienced players?


Spring priorities: Finding out whether shortstop Andujar Cedeno can cut it on a daily basis is a top priority. So is finding two starters to fit in behind Doug Drabek, Greg Swindell and ex-Oriole Pete Harnisch. The Astros also need closer Doug Jones to repeat his success of last year. Ex-Oriole Steve Finley anchors the outfield and serves as the offensive catalyst, but the Astros won't generate a lot of power in the spacious Astrodome.

New faces: Left-hander Greg Swindell, right-handers Doug Drabek and Tom Edens, outfielders Kevin Bass and Chris James, third baseman Chris Donnels.

Hot prospect: Outfielder Gary Mota hit 24 home runs for Single-A Asheville last year.

Big question: Now that the Astros are ready to put a winner on the field, will they put fans in the Astrodome?


Spring priorities: The Dodgers have to find a regular catcher and decide whether erratic Jose Offerman can be a regular shortstop. They would also like to have a left-handed starter to mix in with young right-handers Ramon Martinez and Pedro Astacio. Manager Tommy Lasorda also needs to find out how much free agent Todd Worrell can help Roger McDowell in the bullpen.

New faces: Infielders Tim Wallach and Jody Reed, outfielder Cory Snyder, Worrell and a host of non-roster invitees (catcher Lance Parrish, left-hander Lee Guetterman, shortstop Kevin Elster).

Hot prospect: Catcher Mike Piazza, who is Lasorda's godson.

Big question: Will Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis both get 500 at-bats?


Spring priorities: Manager Jim Riggleman may have the toughest job in baseball, trying to field a competitive team while the Padres try to pare their payroll. Their biggest priority in spring training may be trying to get left-hander Bruce Hurst healthy so they can trade him. There doesn't appear to be a legitimate candidate to replace closer Randy Myers, and there is virtually no depth to the pitching staff. Gary Sheffield and Fred McGriff provide power at the corners. Tim Worrell, brother of Todd, could solve one problem by filling a spot in the starting rotation.

New faces: Outfielder D. J. Dozier and right-hander Wally Whitehurst, obtained from the Mets in the Tony Fernandez trade, top a weak list.

Hot prospect: Darrell Sherman, who couldn't stick with the Orioles last year, has resurfaced as the Padres' top rookie.

Big question: Can Sheffield and McGriff carry this team to respectability?


Spring priorities: The Giants were 11th in the National League in saves last year. That puts short relief at the top of new manager Dusty Baker's wish list. The middle of the lineup, Will Clark, Matt Williams and Barry Bonds, will be as formidable as any if Williams can hold up his end. Whoever hits sixth will be vital because Bonds' production could drop if he doesn't have decent protection. Bill Swift came to the Giants as a reliever, became an effective starter, hurt his arm and went back to relief.

New faces: After Baker, when you've said Barry Bonds you've said it all.

Hot prospect: Left-hander Kevin Rogers opened a lot of eyes in the Arizona Fall League.

Big question: How many left-handers will Bonds and Clark have to face this year?

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