1986 Record: 70-92 (6th NL East, 27 GB)
General Manager: Tom Grieve (1st season, 4th overall 203-208)
Manager: Mike Hargrove (1st season)
Key Additions: 2B Johnny Ray (1988: .305 AVG, 1 HR, 27 RBI), IF Domingo Ramos (.241 AVG, 0 HR, 4 RBI), OF Dave Henderson (.245, 6 HR, 26 RBI)
Key Losses: 2B Jeff Treadway, SP Charlie Lea, RP Jack O'Connor
Batting Team Ranks: R, 630 (9th NL); AVG, .243 (9th); HR, 104 (11th); SB, 87 (10th)
Pitching Team Ranks: ERA, 4.03 (11th); SV, 41 (T-9th); SO, 1012 (6th)
Key Hitter: 2B Johnny Ray
Ray was brought in to bat in the No.2 hole in the lineup. Although he had only 167 at bats a year ago, Ray has hit over .300 four times in the past five seasons. Ray needs to be a catalyst at the top of the lineup and get on base and move runners over so that Edgar Martinez can drive them in.
Key Pitcher: SP John Dopson
Dopson started only 20 games last year (out of 43 played) and still posted a 13-6 record with a 3.64 ERA. That followed up a 8-15 4.92 season in '86. The Expos need Dopson to build off of last year's success and provide a solid No. 2 option behind staff ace Lee Tunnell.
Breakthrough Player: C Craig Biggio
Biggio was the Expos' first-round pick in '87 and was considered one of the top 20 prospects in baseball a year ago. He makes good contact and projects as a solid gap hitter. He also runs the bases extremely well. The Expos project his as a solid leadoff hitter. That could happen as soon as this season.
Due For A Letdown: SP John Dopson
Dopson has two sub-4.00 ERA seasons with a 4.92 season sandwiched in between. He also has a winning record after consecutive 4-11 and 8-15 seasons. While the Expos hope he can build off of last season's 13-6 record and 3.64 ERA, it is more likely that Dopson will finish somewhere closer to .500 with an ERA nearer to 4.00.
Hitter To Watch: OF David Justice
Justice was the club's first-round pick in November and team brass believes he has 30 home run potential and can hit for a solid average. While his numbers last season (.238 AVG and 17 HR between AA and AAA) would seem to indicate otherwise, Justice did hit .290 with 22 home runs just two years ago at class A. If he is able to display that form in a full season at AAA, Expos fans may get a glimpse of him after the All-Star break.
Pitcher To Watch: RP John Wetteland
Although the Expos have a very solid bullpen and en established closer, Wetteland (the 33rd overall pick in November's draft) is considered the future stopper for the organization. He has a mid-90's fastball and two good breaking pitches and often makes hitters look foolish. He will start the season at class AA the possibility of seeing him in an Expos uniform in September is a near certainty.
CF Lloyd Moseby
2B Johnny Ray
1B Denny Walling
3B Edgar Martinez
RF Terry Francona
C Craig Biggio
LF Jim Eisenreich
SS Al Newman
SP Lee Tunnell
SP John Dopson
SP Floyd Youmans
SP David Cone
SP Jim Deshaies
MR Reggie Patterson
MR Donn Pall
SU Steve Davis
SU Jeff Innis
CL Gene Nelson
The Expos rotation had the worst ERA (4.15) in the National League a year ago. However, Joe Hesketh (6.00 ERA in 96 innings) was traded during the season and Charlie Lea (5.39) was traded for Ray in the offseason. That will allow Dopson and '85 first-round pick (9th overall) David Cone each a full season in the rotation. Dopson led the team with 13 wins last season and Cone has struck out 258 batters in 282 innings. Jim Deshaies also posted a 2.37 ERA in seven starts after being claimed off waivers. Combined with Tunnell and Toumans, the staff has the potential to be much improved over a year ago.
Having two pitchers who each saved over 18 games and posted a sub-4.00 ERA (Nelson and Finley) usually indicates a reasonably strong bullpen. Having two others (Pall and Innis) who combined for 137 innings and a 3.60 ERA guarantees it. All four men return and should anchor what is likely to be the team's strength again this season.
Biggio is not great defensively but his baserunning and offensive potential more than make up for it. Mike Fitzgerald, who is an excellent defensive catcher, also helps. Grieve has said he would like to see Biggio get work in the outfield and possibly at second base to get Fitzgerald's defense in the game more and save to save Biggio's legs. That should open up a lot of lineup possiblities for rookie manager Hargrove.
Edgar Martinez is the catalyst on offense and the heart of the lineup. He, like Biggio, has defensive limitations but his offense is irreplacable for a team that struggles to score runs. The Expos would consider moving Martinez to first base but reigning Gold Glove winner Denny Walling and two-time AAA all-star Andres Galarraga reside there.
Walling, despite his seven errors, plays excellent defense and is at least average at the plate. Galarraga has shown flashes in the minors but had not transferred that to the big club. Last year, he finally put it together a bit, hitting .296 in 162 at bats.
Ray, although received quite luke-warmly by the local fans and media, is being touted as the difference maker by Grieve. Ray's defense is at least comparable to Jeff Treadway's, if not better, and is a much more proficient hitter. He won't hit many home runs but can get on base and move runners over which should benefit the 3-5 hitters.
Newman returns at shortstop after a thorough search for a replacement in the off-season produced little to get excited about. Ramos will likely see plenty of time at all four infield positions and will be ready to supplant Newman if he hits anywhere near his .211 average from a year ago.
Had Lloyd Moseby played a full season in Montreal (he was acquired in a mid-season trade), he likely would have joined Walling as Gold Glove winners. Moseby has excellent speed, terrific range and rarely misplays a ball. He also reached base reasonably well (.346 on-base pct.) after being acquired from the Red Sox. Francona was also acquired mid-season and hit .302 between Montreal and Minnesota. He and Eisenreich (.278-3-60) will man the corner outfiled spots.
The Expos have finished last in the NL East each of the past three seasons and haven't finished about .500 since 1983. It would be foolish to think that the addition of Ray and full seasons from Cone, Moseby and Francona could propel this team into a divison contender. However, it certainly seems reasonable that this team could improve by nine games and reach .500. That, in and of itself, would be considered a win for Grieve. That would also give fans, desperate to see the game from outisde the NL East basement, reason to hope.