03
Apr
09

This Year in Baseball – NL WEST


From the best division in baseball to what might be the worst, we now head over to the National League West. The problem with the NL West is that really ANY –besides the Padres– team could take this division, and the whole field is wide open. Join us after the jump as we take a trip out West.

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Arizona Diamondbacks – Predicted record (87 – 75)

Someone has to take the division and the Diamondbacks are as good a pick as anyone else. With Brandon Webb atop the rotation, followed by Danny Haren, long losing streaks are a near impossibility and the continued emergence of the young hitters on this squad are what will push the snakes atop the field of mediocrity. Don’t take that to mean that this team isn’t good though, they feature the two aces up-front and young phenom Max Scherzer, who despite having thrown very few innings should be dynamite when he is available. Doug Davis and Jon Garland are middling starters but in the weak NL and the giant pitchers parks of the NL West, should be able to produce decent numbers. The bullpen features a bunch of strong arms, anchored in the back by Chad Qualls with former closers Tom Gordon and Jon Rauch backing him up. The depth here is strong and should help overcome some of the inevitable clunkers that Davis and Garland will throw out.

Chris Young, Justin Upton, Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson, Chad Tracy, Miguel Montero, Mark Reynolds, all young, free-swingers in the starting lineup are a great place for this organization to build around. Consider that despite hitting for anemic averages, Chris Young and Mark Reynolds both managed 70+ extra-base hits last season as did Stephen Drew who managed to hit a more respectable .291. Justin Upton is considered a future superstar in the Ken Griffey Jr. mold, and is only in his second year in the majors, while still unable to legally purchase an alcoholic beverage. This young core of hitters should set this franchise up to be competitive for a long time. At June 1st last year the Diamondbacks were on a tear, it was thought they might never lose again, then the balance of power shifted, the Dodgers acquired Manny Ramirez and we all know how that turned out. This year expect the Diamondbacks to be able to hang on, using the experience they gained last season to take them even further this year.

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Los Angeles Dodgers – Predicted record (86 – 76)

When Manny Ramirez arrived last season he was a man on a mission, he hit everything that was near him out of the park and played with dedication and abandon, after a series of contentious off-season negotiations between Dodgers brass and Manny it’s not clear which Manny will show up all season-long. Headed by a crew of young future stars in Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw the rotation is solid, Hideki Kuroda is decent but nothing extraordinary and who knows what Randy Wolf will offer. Meanwhile the big man, Jonathan Broxton brings his rifle-like arm to close games down and is set up by Hong-Chi Kuo and little else. Guillermo Mota? Ramon Toransco? These names do not inspire confidence and just makes it all the more likely that Joe Torre will burn out either Kuo or Broxton with overuse. Not good. Also, as talented as Billingsley and Kershaw are, both are likely a year away from achieving their peaks and probably won’t be enough to get this team to the top.

Thousands of words have already been written on the impact of Manny to the Dodgers lineup, let’s just agree that he’s the best right-handed hitter in baseball and helps the lineup around him. However, Andre Ethier as the cleanup hitter is unlikely to accumulate the numbers he assembled when Manny arrived in LaLa land. Matt Kemp has all the potential in the world but the power still hasn’t come along as expected and while he oozes speed, and talks about his potential for a 40-40 season, right now that’s all it is, potential. Meanwhile at the corner infield positions is a serious lack of power, Casey Blake is at best a 20 HR man and James Loney is a serviceable
first baseman, but has none of the power expected for a normal power position. In fact, besides Manny, and possibly Kemp, no one on this team is likely to top 20-25 HRs meaning they will need to be manufacturing runs as much as possible. Besides Furcal, it’s not clear they have the players to do it.

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San Francisco Giants – Predicted record (80 – 82)

Despite featuring one of the better pitching rotations in the game, the Giants offense is still going to find itself outmatched, even as the pitchers are throwing gems. One run differentials will still be a difficult mountain to climb, preventing the Giants from contending. If, somehow, someway, the offense is able to regularly string together 5-6 runs games, this team might just surprise everyone in the division, but that is unlikely to happen and they will more probably remain in the middle of the pack until they acquire or develop a bat that opposing pitchers will fear. Tiny-Tim Lincecum looks FILTHY already and could come close to striking out 300 batters this season, something his new teammate Randy Johnson used to do regularly. The addition of the Big Unit gives some veteran depth to the rotation and Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain would be well served to follow his example. In an effort to shore up their bullpen depth, the Giants signed Jeremy Affeldt to a lucrative contract in the off-season, and now, with a late injury to closer Brian Wilson’s finger, he might just be called upon to finish the games for the Giants, that is if they are able to score enough runs to be ahead in the 9th. Meanwhile, expect the hard-luck Cain to have much more success this season and flip his 8-14 record from last season while managing to increase his strikeouts into the 220 range.

Who leads this offense though, Pablo Sandoval? Fred Lewis? Randy Winn? These are serviceable players, but singles hitters mostly too. Sandoval has plenty of bat but could just as easily collapse since he has a mere 154 PA in the bigs thus far. Meanwhile, Winn and Lewis are speedy guys but neither is going to power an offense, plus Aaron Rowand is nearly useless, as is Edgar Renteria at short. Travis Ishikawa and Emmanuel Burriss are starting and both are untested over a full season. Once more, Benjie Molina will serve as the cleanup hitter and as solid as he is, he’s nothing extraordinary. Further, while the outfield defense is solid, the pitchers are going to get awfully frustrated when anything hit to the left side of the field automatically makes its way to the outfield. Sandoval can handle any ball hit to him, but anything that requires him to move is going to be a problem, add in Renteria’s complete lack of range and mobility and all the makings are there for lots of balls making their way through. It’s a shame because with just one big bat in the middle of the lineup this team could be dangerous, alas, they don’t have it and will be looking in at the playoffs from the outside.

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Colorado Rockies – Predicted record (76 – 86)

Over the off-season the Rockies dealt away their best player and in exchange received a closer who shouldn’t be trusted to close and two players with talent but who will be playing this season in the minors. Meanwhile, they also lost their presumptive ace to surgery for the season and are now depending on Aaron Cook to lead the way. Ubaldo Jimenez has plenty of talent, and will strike out 200+ over the course of the season, but he’ll also have a an ERA north of 4 and a high WHIP, and the same is true for Franklin Morales, minus the likelihood that he stays in the rotation all season. Next up in the rotation are Jason Marquis and Jorge De La Rosa, anyone else inspired!? Yeah, exactly. At the same time, the Rockies have decided to forgo their better closing option in Manny Corpas, in favor of showcasing Huston Street for a trade. Unfortunately, most of MLB has caught on to what the A’s already knew and the Rockies seem to be unaware of, Huston Street simply isn’t that good. Having him pitch in the thin air of Colorado isn’t going to help his trade value and he’s more likely than not to hurt it by his own results. How long Clint Hurdle continues to throw Street out there will have a big affect on this season for the Rockies. Corpas, who was lights-out his first time as a closer but second time around struggled big-time. Despite pretty awful spring numbers, he is still a much better bet to be successful over Street. Then again, this is a team that only a few short years ago was having Shawn Chacon and his 5+ ERA closing out games so…

Losing Holliday hurts this offense, replacing him with Seth Smith and Ryan Spillborghs isn’t going to cut it. Todd Helton hasn’t produce numbers commensurate with his contract since 2004 and wasn’t even able to crack double digits in home runs last season. Garrett Atkins is a steady, if boring 20-25 HR corner man, and Brad Hawpe consistently puts up his 26-30 HRs along with his poor defense in right. A lot hinges on the reemergence of Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Iannetta. Both top prospects, Tulo needs to return to his 2007 form when he was a breakout star for the surprising Rockies; while Iannetta, long considered one of the top catcher prospects needs to show that he’s finally ready for the job, two years after the team first tried to hand it to him. Ian Stewart is likely to get significant time at second base, and while the reports are that the career third baseman has made great strides there, the defense is going to be problematic. This team would be best served by dealing off Atkins and Hawpe before the trade deadline and acquire some pitching prospects to retool and hopefully be competitive once more. As it is right now, they are only in the conversation in the west due to the lack of any strong team there.

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San Diego Padres – Predicted record (68 – 94)

There’s miserable, and then there’s the Padres. Sure Jake Peavy heads the staff and Adrian Gonzalez is one of the top first baseman in the game, but other than that, there isn’t much to be excited about surrounding this team. Chris Young is an excellent pitcher when healthy, but his spring stats belie that that may not be the case at the outset of the season. Since Peavy is likely to be dealt off at some point this season, the rotation is going to be even more suspect as the Padres look to reload for future seasons. If they were smart they’d dish off Gonzalez too and get what value they can since the difference between winning 70 games and 66 games really is negligible. Heath Bell and a solid crew of relievers will be ready for when most of these starters go 5 innings and thanks to the cavernous dimensions of Petco should have some success.

While the Giants will face adversity to score runs, the Padres are will have to grind out every single at-bat in sheer desperation of scoring runs. Besides Gonzalez, where are the RBIs going to come from, or more importantly, who will be on base to score in the first place? Chase Headley and Kevin Kouzmanoff are nice complementary players but in this lineup are the 2nd and 3rd best hitters, not a fun proposition. At short there is an offensive black-hole in David Eckstein and Edgar “thanks Adrian for being so good that the Padres are willing to carry me, your crappy older brother” Gonzalez is similarly inept. Brian Giles is an strong singles OPS hitter at this point in his career and is also likely to be trade-bait, if he’s willing to accept a trade this time that is. This team won’t be historically bad, but they will be at, or right near the bottom of all of baseball. Help is not coming anytime soon Padres fans, sorry.


3 Responses to “This Year in Baseball – NL WEST”


  1. 1 garnold
    April 3, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Hmm…I agree with everything except the Diamondbacks winning the West. I have Dan Haren breaking down this year (finally making goatees unfashionable) and the idea that Miguel Montero will have ANYTHING to do with their success is laughable.

    The Padres must be the second-most depressing team to write about ever (thanks Pirates!).

  2. 2 shatraw
    April 3, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    the d-backs are shite. but props for trying to be different in your pick for the NL west. this division is going to the dodgers, and if it doesn’t, it has nothing to do with their offense.

  3. 3 youppi
    April 5, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    shatraw nailed it.

    GOOOOOOOOOO PADRES!!!

    (no seriosuly, go. Your team is terrible. which begs the question, where will A.Gon and Peavy wind up before the end of the year?)


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