|Montreal Expos 2003 Preview||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on March 10, 2003
2nd in NL East
Home: Olympic Stadium
The Expos actually had a very good season last year, which perhaps was based upon two factors - the managing by Frank Robinson and the assumption that the Expos were to be contracted and would not be playing in 2003. Because of that assumption, they traded away some of the best prospects in baseball to land players like Bartolo Colon and Cliff Floyd, hoping to go out with a bang. However, both Bud Selig’s plans to contract the league, and GM Omar Minaya’s plan to go out with a bang fizzled.
Instead, the Expos go into 2003 with the taste of respectability they got last year, a host of new players, and one of the best managers for teaching fundamentals in the game. It’s something that all young players would benefit from.
A handful of wildcards are in their game for this season though. First off, they are going to play just over a quarter of their games in Puerto Rico, which will either be a nice diversion, or one long grating road trip, depending on how the players look at it. Second, the team is on the block waiting for a buyer and a potential move to another place. Third, this is Vladimir Guerrero’s walk year and if the Expos falter early and no buyer appears, Vlad won’t be here by the trading deadline.
Bartolo Colon has moved on, but the Expos got two serviceable pitchers in return. Orlando Hernandez will certainly be a front-line starter for the team and Rocky Biddle will compete for a spot at the end of the rotation, although some talk of him competing for the closer job has been buzzing.
As the rotation looks right now, Javier Vasquez will lead the charge and will be asked to step up and show what he can do. Tony Armas Jr. and Orlando Hernandez will vie for the two and three spots. Four and five are up for grabs but likely will end up between Tomo Okha, Zach Day, and Rocky Biddle.
At the moment the closer’s job looks like it will be handled by committee. However, if that doesn’t shake out both Scott Stewart and Rocky Biddle could end up on the job jointly.
The key to this team is Vladimir Guerrero who is the heart of this offense. He lead the team in every offensive category last season. Should Vlad be dealt, the team would have a huge hole that could not be plugged this season. Still, Vlad is not the only good hitter on this team. Teammate Jose Vidro hit .319 with 19 home runs last season, and Rookie of the Year prospect Brad Wilkerson hit .266 with 20 home runs.
This year they are joined by Jeff Leifer who’ll take over at first base. Leifer has a huge upside and could easily put up numbers which rival Wilkerson’s or surpass them. Because of this, he likely will hit behind Guerrero and get a lot of good pitches.
Looking for a rebound this season is Fernando Tatis who still has a huge contract (which the team would love to dump) who has not done much since his ‘99 season. With his future on the line, a big season might be all that can save his career.
The Expos don’t look like a bad team in the least, but they do play in one of the most competitive divisions in the game. If the Mets, Phillies and Braves play their “A” game, Montreal is going to have a rocky season, especially if they lose Guerrero. This team could easily finish anywhere between second and fifth in this division, but with the talent available to other teams in the division, I think the Expos will end up in fourth, and without Vlad, when all is said and done.