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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NL West Preview

Finally, we end up in NL West, where the top 3 teams all believe that they have a shot at winning the division. Manny Ramirez's return to LA likely pits the Dodgers as the favorite, but they have a few teams (Giants and D-Backs) right on their heels that are looking to improve on what they did in 2008.

1st Place, Los Angeles Dodgers
Lineup:
SS Rafael Furcal
2B Orlando Hudson
CF Matt Kemp
LF Manny Ramirez
C Russel Martin
RF Andre Ethier
1B James Looney
3B Casey Blake

Pitching:
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
LHP Randy Wolf
RHP Chad Billingsley
LHP Clayton Kershaw
RHP James McDonald
SU: Hong-Chih Kuo
CL: Jonathon Broxton

DL- RHP Jason Schmidt (May)

Position-by-position, the Dodgers are the best team in the division, hands down. The re-signing of Manny Ramirez puts them right back into the drivers seat in the NL West and unless Manny gets hurt, that's where they should stay all season. They have speed, they play good defense and they'll score runs, but the only question surrounds their starting rotation. Chad Billingsley was roughed up this spring and may not be %100 going into the regular season and although he's slated as the #3, he's the most important pitcher to that starting rotation. Clayton Kershaw is also being counted on heavily this season and the 21 year-old lefty must live up to his reputation if the Dodgers are going to hold off the Giants and D-Backs. Any contribution the Dodgers get from Jason Schmidt would be an un-expected bonus. The bullpen should be a strength, led by Broxton and Kuo so if your going to beat the Dodgers, your going to have to do it in the first 7 innings.

2nd Place, San Francisco Giants
Lineup:
RF Randy Winn
SS Edgar Renteria
LF Fred Lewis
C Bengie Molina
3B Pablo Sandoval
CF Aaron Rowand
1B Travis Ishikawa
2B Emannuel Burris

Pitching:
RHP Tim Lincecum
LHP Randy Johnson
RHP Matt Cain
LHP Barry Zito
LHP Jonathon Sanchez
SU: Bob Howry
CL: Brian Wilson

DL: LHP Noah Lowry (could miss season, still undetermined)

The Giants improved in the off-season with the addition of Randy Johnson and Edgar Renteria, and also strenghtened their bullpen with the addition of Bob Howry and Jeremy Affeldt. A lot of people think Renteria isn't nearly the player he was just 2-3 years ago, but he's going to be better offensively than anything the Giants have had at short since 2003, and he'll play better defense than he did in Detroit (he's lost some weight and has more range than he did any point last season). The Giants are also hoping youngsters Pablo Sandoval, Travis Ishikawa and Fred Lewis continue to blossom like they did last season. Aaron Rowand isn't going to be the offensive player he was in Philly in 2007, but I am expecting him to be better than he was during his first go-round in San Francisco. If the offense can manage 4-5 runs per night, that should be plenty of support. The pitching staff is a huge strength as they very well could have the best starting rotation in the National League and their bullpen is much improved. It's still a mystery as to whether or not they'll be able to score enough runs to support their starters, but if they do, they could end up winning this division or at least making some noise in the NL wild card race. Either way, the Giants have more talent on their team than they've had in a few years and a lot of it is young talent, meaning that the tide is finally turning in the city by the bay. For a more in-depth Giants preview and stat predictions, check out this post.

3rd Place, Arizona Diamondbacks
Lineup:
2B Felipe Lopez
CF Chris Young
SS Stephen Drew
LF Conor Jackson
1B Chad Tracy
3B Mark Reynolds
RF Justin Upton/Eric Byrnes
C Chris Snyder

Pitching:
RHP Brandon Webb
RHP Dan Haren
LHP Doug Davis
RHP Jon Garland
RHP Max Sherzer
SU: Tony Pena
CL: Chad Qualls

The Diamondbacks have a ton of talent in their lineup, but not all of these guys have realized their potential yet. Chris Young and Justin Upton need to improve their plate discipline if they're going to start living up to their hype. Mark Reynolds also needs to cut down on his strikeouts and it would be nice for them to get a full year out of Chad Tracy, who's only played in half of the previous 2 seasons. Those things happen, this lineup will be a force to be reckoned with and they have more than enough pitching to support them. Brandon Webb and Dan Haren are the best 1-2 punch in baseball, IMO, and they have two solid veterans (Garland and Davis) and a young phenom (Scherzer) backing them up. The bullpen is young bunch of arms, but they have talent, even after losing Juan Cruz and Brandon Lyon. They still have 3 guys who could close for them in Jon Rauch, Pena and Qualls (who will actually be better than previous closer, Brandon Lyon) and a solid lefty specialist in Scott Schoeneweis. The bench is also a strength for the snakes as they have Eric Byrnes in the 4th outfield spot and Tony Clark backing up at first. They have the talent, and if that talent plays like they're capable of, then the D-Backs could run away with the division.

4th Place, Colorado Rockies
Lineup:
CF Ryan Spillborghs
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Todd Helton
3B Garrett Atkins
RF Brad Hawpe
2B Ian Stewart/Jeff Baker
C Chris Ianetta
LF Seth Smith/Carlos Gonzalez

Pitching:
RHP Aaron Cook
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
LHP Jorge De La Rosa
RHP Jason Marquis
LHP Franklin Morales
SU: Manny Corpas
CL: Huston Street

DL: LHP Jeff Francis (out for season), RHP Taylor Buchholz (early-May)

The Rockies, much like the D-Backs, have a lot of young talent on their roster. The Matt Holliday-trade brought in a few guys who will play key roles for the Rockies right away in outfielder, Carlos Gonzalez and starting pitcher, Greg Smith. While that trade may not work out the best for them in 2009 (both of those players will start the year in AAA), they'll definitely start reaping the benefits next season and beyond. They also have Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins, who very well could be dealt at mid-season if the Rockies are out of it, and those guys would bring the Rocks' even more young talent to build around. I really like the makings of their starting rotation, led by Cook and Jimenez, even after the loss of Francis for the year. Jorge De La Rosa needs to become more consistent, be he became one of the tougher lefties in the league to hit last season as he really came into his own. The bullpen is a solid group as they have two guys who could share the closing duties throughout the year in Street and Corpas and one of the better right-handed set-up men in baseball in Taylor Buchholz. Still though, they aren't quite ready to take on the better teams in this division.

5th Place, San Diego Padres
Lineup:
CF Jody Gerut
SS David Eckstein
RF Brian Giles
1B Adrian Gonzalez
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
LF Chase Headley
C Nick Hundley
2B Edgar Gonzalez

Pitching:
RHP Jake Peavy
RHP Chris Young
RHP Cha Sueng Baek
RHP Kevin Correia
RHP Shawn Hill
SU: Cla Merideth
CL: Heath Bell

The Padres are going to be one of the weaker teams in the National league, unless they have some extremely good luck. I really like Adrian Gonzalez and Chase Headley looks like he's primed for a nice breakout season, but their lineup is old and slow. 3/5 of their rotation is made up of guys signed minor league contracts or who were originally brought on as relievers. I'm sorry, but Cha Sueng Baek as a fifth starter isn't going to get you very far. The bullpen is also a question mark after losing their closer of the past 15 years, Trevor Hoffman, and replacing him with a career middle reliever in Heath Bell. If Giles and Eckstien find a fountain of youth, and their young bats, Kouzmanoff and Headley have all-star seasons, then maybe the Pads will make some noise, but those are not realistic probabilities.

Giants Notes: The Giants 25-man roster appears un-officially set, as Bruce Bochy and co. made some moves and comments on Tuesday that appear to have cleared up all the question marks. As expected, Manny Burris was named the starting second basemen, but surprisingly, Kevin Frandsen will start the year in Fresno, where he can play everyday, instead of making the 25-man roster out of the gate. That was the plan for Burris coming into the spring, but his play forced the Giants to to flip-the-script. Instead of Frandsen, the Giants will carry Juan Uribe, Rich Aurilia and Eugenio Velez as the reserve infielders, with Nate Schierholtz and Andres Torres getting the 4th and 5th outfield spots. Another surprising thing about the roster that will open the year, is that they will only have one catcher, Bengie Molina. Now, Pablo Sandoval will back him up and is a fine catcher, but the Giants are asking him to concentrate on third base right now, and moving him back behind the plate a lot could interfere with that.

It also appears that rule V draftee, Luis Perdomo, is going to make the team, as Bochy informed Brandon Medders and Justin Miller that they will likely be asked to throw in Fresno to start the year. So, the 'pen looks like it will consist of Brian Wilson, Bob Howry, Jeremy Affeldt, Merkin Valdez, Alex Hinshaw, Luis Perdomo and either Ramon Ortiz or Keeichi Yabu as the long-reliever (assuming they don't make a move to acquire another reliever).
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9 Comments:

  • At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Eric Carlson said…

    Here's my pics:

    1. Giants
    2. D-Backs
    3. Dodgers
    4. Rockies
    5. The Fathers

    Everybody is taking the Dodgers but c'mon, they're not that good. They lost Brad Penny and Derek Lowe and only replaced them with Randy Wolf??? The Giants have a young team that is hungry with a great pitching staff, plus this division isn't a very good one, so they can still win it, even if they have some holes. I just hate the Dodgers and truely believe they'll choke.

     
  • At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Friar Fanatic said…

    Why do my Padres have to be so terrible? It's not like they are hurting financially. They just opened a new park and they have money, but they continue to do nothing in free agency or anything.

    They should have traded Jake Peavy to the Braves and re-tooled that way. This would have been a good season to do that. Does anyone know what the Braves would have given up for Peavy or if they still might take him? The Pads' could use a young starter like Tommy Hanson and Atlanta's young shortstop (can't think of his name of the top of my head) and a guy like Jeff Francouer maybe? Would the Braves do that?

     
  • At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm on board w/ Eric. I think the Giants are the best team in the division, based purely on their starting pitching alone. I could easily seeing Manny get injured or something then watch the Dodgers ship sink.

     
  • At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Sd superbowl said…

    Padres are winning it all.. mark my words

     
  • At 11:21 PM, Blogger Trevor Cole said…

    Friar- I think the Braves would give up Hanson and Yunel Escobar (the ss your thinking about) but I don't know about Francoeur too. He did have an off-year in 2008, but he's still only 25 years old, has 2-100 RBI seasons under his belt already and probably will get back to his .275, 25 home run, 100 RBI form this year. And again, he's still not even close to being as good as he will be 3-4 years down the line. I think he'll eventually become a perennial .300 hitter with 30 home runs and 100 RBI per, and the Braves are well aware of what he can do.

    I think a more realistic package would be Hanson, Escobar and Jair Jurrjens. Or maybe Hanson, Francoeur and and older arm like Jorge Campillo or a younger lower level prospect like Cole Rohrbough. I don't know that the Braves would even have enough interest to give up a huge package now that they signed Derek Lowe.

    I actually think the Brewers should be the team that pursues Peavy the most as he could really put them over the top, and they have a handful of guys (Hardy, Escobar, Mat Gamel, Jeremy Jeffress ect..) that would definitely spark the interest of the Padres and the Brewers might be willing to deal if they think he'll put them over the top....If the Padres are indeed serious about dealing Peavy (which I think would make sense seeing that they really could use the nice package they'd get in return), they'll get the most value if they do it on July 31st. In that case, there will be a handful of teams interested and probably. Peavy's still locked up for a while (through 2012 w/2013 option) at a reasonable rate (14+ mill per year).

     
  • At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Giant Fan Dan said…

    I can't believe they're sending Frandsen down while these old bums like Aurilia and Uribe stay up and pollute the roster. What happen to the young movement Sabes???

     
  • At 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Giants should get Sheffield. They were interested in Manny right? Sheff plays better d and could probably play some at first too. He's 40, but he's still got a lightening quick stroke and he could be signed for practically free under the rules right! Do it Sabean, get some power onto the roster!

     
  • At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The giants really did nothing to improve their offense, unless you think Renteria is a big addition. I just can't see them scoring enough runs to be real good. Their pitching i think will keep them around .500. but that's it. The D-backs, Rockies and Dodgers all have way better lineups.

     
  • At 12:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm lovin the Giants this year too! I’ve got my Fantasy Baseball draft this weekend and I’m so freakin excited for the season to start already! Hey do most of you Fantasy Baseball guys do your drafts online or @ like a bar or something? Mine is @ a bar near my place this weekend. I ask because I saw this interesting contest they’re having @ CBSSports.com. Looks pretty cool…you can win a big trip to South Florida to host your Fantasy Baseball Draft. Here’s a link in case anyone’s interested: http://www.cbssports.com/contests/trivia/5637

     

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