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Thursday, March 24, 2011

2011 NL West Preview

We're a week away from opening day, and we've finally reached the last installment of the divisional previews. The West looks to be really a two-horse race between the Giants and Rockies, but the Dodgers could creep into the picture as well. Plus, with so much going on, we have installed another "double-post" today, so scroll on down for the Giants News portion!
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1st Place - San Francisco Giants

Lineup:
CF Andres Torres
2B Freddy Sanchez
1B Aubrey Huff
C Buster Posey
RF Cody Ross*
LF Pat Burrell
3B Pablo Sandoval
SS Miguel Tejada

Rotation/Set-up/Closer
RHP Tim Lincecum
RHP Matt Cain
LHP Jonathan Sanchez
LHP Madison Bumgarner
LHP Barry Zito
SU: Javier Lopez
CL: Brian Wilson*

* Will start year on DL

Whether or not they hit that hot streak at the end of the year again remains to be seen, but the Giants have a better team entering 2011 than the team they won the World Series with last fall. They have more depth with a healthy Mark DeRosa ready to actually contribute, and rookie phenom Brandon Belt knocking the door down. If Ross is on the DL to start the year, Belt needs to make the team out of the gate and start at first with Huff moving to RF. Their rotation is one of the best in baseball and 4 of the 5 starters are 28 years-old or younger, so they're just entering their prime. Even Barry Zito looks like he's ready to contribute with the way he's throwing this spring. They're going to score runs, they have a deep bullpen, and we know about the rotation, the only part I'm somewhat worried about is their infield defense. Miguel Tejada and Pablo Sandoval hold down the left side and neither of those guys have great range. As long as they don't run into any serious health problems though, they're the clear cut favorites in this division, and anything short of another playoff appearance would be considered a failure.

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2nd Place - Colorado Rockies

Lineup:
CF Dexter Fowler
RF Seth Smith
SS Troy Tulowitzki
LF Carlos Gonzalez
1B Todd Helton
3B Ian Stewart
C Chris Ianetta
2B Jose Lopez

Rotation/Closer:
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
LHP Jorge De La Rosa
RHP Jhoulys Chacin
RHP Jason Hammel
RHP Esmil Rogers
SU: Rafael Betancourt
CL: Huston Street

The Rockies have a few nice young chips in their lineup and a nice 1-2 punch at the front of their rotation. They just aren't as deep as the Giants, pitching wise or offensively. Their pitching fell off a bit towards the end of the year last season and need to last the whole 6 months if they're going to stick in the race. They have some healthy question's in the bullpen too, where closer Huston Street seems to have a glass arm. The Rockies could have added more this winter, but they didn't do much to improve their squad from last year, and even though they'll get improvement from some of their own players, they don't have enough to make the playoffs with this current roster.

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3rd Place - Los Angeles Dodgers

Lineup:
SS Rafael Furcal
RF Andre Eithier
CF Matt Kemp
1B James Looney
3B Casey Blake
2B Juan Uribe
LF Jay Gibbons
C Rod Barajas

Rotation/Closer:
RHP Chad Billingsley
LHP Clayton Kershaw
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
LHP Ted Lilly
RHP Jon Garland
SU: Hong-Chih Kuo
CL: Jonathan Broxton

The Dodgers are another team that lost a lot over the winter. No more Manny Ramirez or Russell Martin and even though they didn't have great years in 2010, they both were centerpieces of that ballclub, and weren't adequately replaced. The pitching staff isn't particularly impressive. Kershaw is going to be great, but Billingsley has flaws and the rest of the rotation is very hittable. The bullpen is very much the same, where they are pretty thin outside of closer Jonathan Broxton.

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4th Place - San Diego Padres

Lineup:
LF Will Venable
SS Jason Bartlett
1B Brad Hawpe
RF Ryan Ludwick
3B Chase Headley
2B Orlando Hudson
CF Cameron Maybin
C Nick Hundley

Rotation/Closer:
RHP Mat Latos
LHP Clayton Richard
RHP Tim Stauffer
RHP Aaron Harang
LHP Wade LeBlanc
SU: Mike Adams
CL: Heath Bell

I think the Padres will be a little bit better than people are anticipating. Although they lost their big slugger Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, they are developing some young players who should help cushion that loss. They have really built the team around pitching, defense and speed, and they have plenty of all three. Even their bench looks pretty solid. Mat Latos is a true ace, and Clay Richard and Tim Stauffer both came into their own last year. Their bullpen is their real strength, led by Adams and Bell but surrounded with many quality arms. They won't battle the Giants like they did last year, but they aren't that much different than the team that took the World Champion Giants all the way to the final day of the season to knock off. It wouldn't surprise me to see them finish as high as 2nd place like it would a lot of baseball people, but they will need some of their veterans to bounce back (Ludwick & Hudson) and a few youngsters to take flight (Maybin, Headley & Kyle Blanks)

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5th Place - Arizona Diamondbacks

Lineup:
SS Stephen Drew
2B Kelly Johnson
CF Chris Young
RF Justin Upton
1B Russell Branyan
3B Melvin Mora
C Miguel Montero
LF Gerrardo Parra

Rotation/Closer:
LHP Joe Saunders
RHP Ian Kennedy
RHP Daniel Hudson
RHP Barry Enright
RHP Armando Gallaragha
SU: Juan Gutierrez
CL: J.J. Putz

The D-Backs had a nice young core going as recently as 2009, but they haven't been able to keep it together. They lost the heart and sole of their pitching rotation in Brandon Webb and Dan Haren last winter and have yet to make up for the loss. Their rotation is led by a guy who sported a 9-17 record last season and their bullpen is being anchored down by a rejected closer and a bunch of live, un-proven arms. The front four of their lineup is nice, but then it falls off mighty quickly after Justin Upton in the cleanup spot. Upton is their franchise player though, and whatever they do, they must hang onto him if they want a base to build around.
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5 Comments:

  • At 5:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow, the NL West is weaker than I thought it was. The Giants should win this thing with a breeze, no sweat!

     
  • At 7:51 PM, Anonymous Noah said…

    It was a weak field last year and got weaker this year.

    I like this burgeoning rivalry with the Rockies, though.

     
  • At 6:12 PM, Anonymous Carl said…

    The Dodgers stink.
    That just brings a smile to my face.
    Can't wait for the opener, just 6 days away!

     
  • At 12:44 AM, Anonymous Billingsley, J said…

    If Belt doesn't get Ross' spot to start the year, I'll boycot in front of AT&T at the opener with a big picket sign saying; Bring Up Belt! Bring Up Belt! Who else is going to take Ross' spot? Manny Burris, Brandon Crawford? no thank you. Belt is cleary the best option.
    But if for some reason they don't want him up, why not give it to Thomas Neal and let him platoon with Nate the Great for a few weeks?

    J-Bill

     
  • At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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