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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

2012 MLB Previews: NL West Extended Edition

Well, since it's the Giants home division, I thought I'd stretch each preview out just a bit, including adding the team's set-up man and closer, and giving a little more in-depth scouting report on each club. After all, these are the teams the Giants will be facing for the majority of their games.

NL West Prediction

1st Place, San Francisco Giants

CF Angel Pagan
LF Melky Cabrera
3B Pablo Sandoval
C Buster Posey
1B Huff/Belt
RF Schierholtz/Huff
2B Freddy Sanchez*
SS Brandon Crawford

* Sanchez may miss up to a month, Burris/Theriot replacing

RHP Tim Lincecum
RHP Matt Cain
LHP Madison Bumgarner
RHP Ryan Vogelsong
LHP Barry Zito
SU: Sergio Romo
CL: Brian Wilson

If the Giants could just get Freddy Sanchez healthy and on the field, their offense wouldn't be in too bad of shape. However, Pagan has struggled, and may be moved to the bench with Huff to left and Belt, finally, to first. That would place Cabrera in the leadoff spot, but this is the way they'll probably start things (with Burris and Fontenot at 2nd until Freddy returns) and they're hoping Pagan turns it on in April so they have that dynamic duo at the top. Wherever he hits though, I expect another big year out of Melky Cabrera, as good or better than last, and that, coupled with the return of Buster and the likely improvement of Huff and Crawford, should have SF's offense on the upward trend. Their staff is again amongst the top-3 in baseball, from their starters through to their closer, all of their arms bring it, save for Barry Zito on most occasions. Lincecum and Cain should be their dominant selves as the Giants try and get Cain extended (FA after season). Also, Bumgarner should further establish himself as one of the NL's top-5 lefties, and it's a good group. Vogelsong may come back to earth a bit as he did in the 2nd half, but a good 13-15 wins, and a mid-3 ERA would be perfectly fine and acceptable. They boost one of the best set-up men in the game too in Romo, though he's had some elbow issues off and on. As long as they can get some more offense than they did a year ago (hard not to!), then this division should be theirs. Also, Sabean has shown he's not afraid to go out and make an add if he thinks it'll get them over the hump come mid-season.

2nd Place, Arizona Diamondbacks (Wild Card 2)

SS Willie Bloomquist
2B Aaron Hill
RF Justin Upton
C Miguel Montero
CF Chris Young
LF Jason Kubel
1B Paul Goldschmidt
3B Ryan Roberts

RHP Ian Kennedy
RHP Danial Hudson
LHP Joe Saunders
RHP Trevor Cahil
RHP Josh Collmenter
SU: David Hernandez
CL: J.J. Putz

*SS Stephen Drew likely out till May/June

It's a real tough choice between Arizona and San Francisco this year, but with the Giants improving offense, and the continued health concerns of one of the D-Backs young cornerstones, leadoff hitter and shortstop, Stephen Drew, make the D-Backs tougher to back for this division. I like their rotation, though their top-3 doesn't sniff SF's, they do have a nice 1-5 overall, and a very good bullpen led by Putz and Hernandez (who was brilliant in Putz's absence last year). However, I don't expect Putz to post another sub-1.00 WHIP again and I expect Kennedy to come back to earth a bit after that 21-4, 2.41 ERA, 2011 season. That said, if that's just a taste of things to come for the young rightie, and youngsters Hudson, Cahill and Collmentar continue to ascend, the Giants better watch out. Even without Drew, the D-Backs have the upper-hand offensively, and if Drew's back by May 15th and 100%, then the D-Backs may again be the ones to beat. Juston Upton is vastly underrated, so much so that I think he's a true MVP-candidate this season. He's the guy I'd choose if I were starting a team from scratch and had the first pick. Maybe not Matt Kemp numbers yet, but not far off! The East with their depth, will get one WC, but the other will come out west, whether it's AZ or SF, barring catastrophic injury, both should be in the postseason. Like Sabes, GM Josh Byrnes is a dealer too and will look to upgrade at short if Drew is indeed down for months, or possibly get better at third.

3rd Place, Los Angeles Dodgers

SS Dee Gordon
2B Mark Ellis
CF Matt Kemp
RF Andre Ethier
LF Juan Rivera
1B James Loney
3B Juan Uribe
C A.J. Ellis

LHP Clayton Kershaw
RHP Chad Billingsley
LHP Ted Lilly
RHP Aaron Harang
LHP Chris Capuano
SU: Kenley Jansen
CL: Javy Guerra

Now, if Uribe plays like he did in '10, Ethier like it was '09 and Loney like '07, Juan Rivera like it was '06 and Chad Billingsley like he was anything before 2011, the Dodgers win the west. Odds of all those happening in synch though, are very unlikely. This team, will surprise people though, I think. A rebound for Eithier in his walk year is virtually inevitable, and I think Rivera is a great bargain for 20 HR/80 RBI in that lineup. Gordon is a true specimen at the top as he's hit for power this spring, to go along with mind blowing speed and tremendous defense. He looks like a young Rafael Furcal in a lot of ways. But their prizes are their center fielder Matt Kemp, who again will contend for the MVP, and 2011 Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw. They have an aging pitching staff though, led by two young arms but again, they need Billingsley's ERA back below 4 and him pitching like he can. Lilly should be solid, while Harang and Cap are pretty much your standard 4-5 guys, but still better than a lot of teams have. Their young bullpen is also on the rise, with closer Guerra and the impressive Kenley Jansen. Again, if the Dodgers get some rebound seasons from a few key players and Kemp and Kershaw repeat their 2011's, then they'll be right their with AZ and SF in September.

4th Place, Colorado Rockies

CF Dexter Fowler
2B Marco Scutaro
SS Troy Tulowitzki
LF Carlos Gonzalez
RF Michael Cuddyer
1B Todd Helton
C Ramon Hernandez
3B Casey Blake

RHP Jeremy Guthrie
RHP Jholys Chacin
RHP Juan Nicasio
LHP Drew Pomeranz
RHP Guillermo Moscoso
SU: Matt Belisle
CL: Rafael Betancourt

The Rockies, who notoriously field young teams, got quite a bit older this winter. They lost their 29 year-old closer, Huston Street, and replaced him with the 37 year-old, yet effective Betancourt. Also, Helton's another year older, and they added Hernandez (36) and Blake (37) to the starting lineup, two guys on the downside that they're hoping Coors Field will give a kick-start to. As long as "TuLo" and "CarGo" stay on the field though, this team will compete, even with their green-as-grass pitching staff. Their ace is a notorious loser, Jeremy Guthrie, and why they didn't get a better veteran to lead them this offseason, or aren't banging down Roy Oswalt's door, is quite surprising. I like Chacin and Nicasio though, as those two can be electric, but are still inconsistent. Pomeranz is supposed to be a stud, and Moscoso, from what I saw in Oakland, looks like a strong #5. They seem to have the makings there in Denver, but I think they need to finally say good-bye to Helton, ship him to a contender, and get Blake the heck out of the starting lineup. I don't see the upside in playing him whatsoever.

5th Place, San Diego Padres

CF Cameron Maybin
2B Orlando Hudson
3B Chase Headley
LF Carlos Quentin*
1B Yonder Alonso
C Nick Hundley
RF Will Venable
SS Jason Bartlett

RHP Tim Stauffer
LHP Cory Luebke
RHP Edison Volquez
LHP Clayton Richard
RHP Dustin Moseley
SU: Andrew Cashner
CL: Huston Street

*Quentin is out until late April/early May

I was a big fan of the deals the Padres made this offseason, acquiring Carlos Quentin, Edison Volquez and Yonder Alonso, all three under-3o years of age and have big upside. This may not mean much for 2012, but going forward, those guys will make a mark. They lost Bell at closer, but replaced him with a more than admirable arm in Street, and set-up man Cashner sported a Romo-like 1.69 ERA and 0.67 WHIP in 2011. The Padres still lack the talent needed to match up with the rest of the division, but if Alonso breaks out with a ROY campaign, Volquez is the 17-win Volquez, and Quentin is in MVP talks, then the Pads will roll, but I just don't see it happening for them this season. They are on the right path though, and Alonso, Headley, Maybin and Hundley (even Quentin if they keep him long-term) give them a bright young core to build around.
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Cupertino's #1 Giants Fan said…

    This is going to be a helluva year, competitive division I'll say. Member when they called it the NL Worst? No longer though. Now they have 3-4 playoff contenders. Giants better be healthy to stay atop, but I agree, I think they're too good when Busters out there and Pandas hitting and the new element in Cabrera for anyone else to win this division. Go Giants!

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