Monday, April 5, 2010

2010 NL West Preview

With Major League Baseball's opening day upon us, and seeing that I've already done an A's preview here, I thought I'd go ahead and post our NL West Preview for 2010.

1st Place, Colorado Rockies

CF Dexter Fowler
LF Carlos Gonzalez
1B Todd Helton
SS Troy Tulowitzki
RF Brad Hawpe
C Chris Ianetta
3B Ian Stewart
2B Clint Barmes

RH Ubaldo Jimenez
LH Jeff Francis
RH Aaron Cook
LH Jorge De La Rosa
RH Jason Hammel
SU: Franklin Morales
CL: Huston Street (DL'd until May)

The Rockies are an overall young team who knows how to win. They were one of the best teams in baseball during the second half of last season, and they did that without one of their best starting pitchers (Jeff Francis). A big key to their success was young outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who came over from the A's in the Matt Holliday trade and immediately made an impact (.286, 13 hr, 29 RBI, 16 SB, .878 OPS in 276 at-bats) upon his arrival in Colorado in June. Gonzalez, Tulowitzki, Fowler, Hawpe and Stewart give the Rockies a young core of solid ballplayers who they can build around. They also have veteran first basemen Todd Helton, who continues to be a model of consistency and productivity for the Rocks. The pitching staff is always the area in question for the Rockies, but it looks like they may have finally answered those questions as all starters (besides the injured Francis) finished 2009 with winning records and all of them can pitch at Coors Field. The bullpen is a bit of a question though, where closer Huston Street is out indefinitely, and may not return until mid-season.

2nd Place, San Francisco Giants

CF Aaron Rowand
2B Freddy Sanchez*
3B Pablo Sandoval
1B Aubrey Huff
LF Mark DeRosa
C Bengie Molina
RF John Bowker
SS Edgar Renteria

RH Tim Lincecum
RH Matt Cain
LH Barry Zito
LH Jonathan Sanchez
RH Todd Wellemeyer
LH Madison Bumgarner*
SU: Jeremy Affeldt
CL: Brian Wilson
*Bumgarner starts year in AAA
*Sanchez out until May

The Giants definitely improved their offense with the additions of DeRosa and Huff, but it's not like those guys are going to push them over the top. Overall, they have a better team entering 2010 than they had entering 2009, and that team managed to win 87 games, so this team should be right around that total too. The pitching staff is their strength, as Cain and Lincecum can match up with any duo in baseball, Sanchez is coming off a solid second half last year that started with a no-hitter in mid-July, and Barry Zito looks like he's finally hit his comfort zone in San Francisco. Their young, hard-throwing bullpen is led by closer Brian Wilson (2.74 era, 38 sv in '09), set-up man Jeremy Affeldt (1.73 era in '09) and a couple of youngsters who are nearly as effective as those two and they are lefty Dan Runzler and righty Sergio Romo. The Giants don't have much team speed, although they have smart base runners, and their defense isn't great, but I don't think those two areas will keep the Giants back. If Huff and DeRosa have good years and the Giants offense can average 4+ runs per night, then they'll be right in the thick of the playoff race.

3rd Place, Los Angeles Dodgers

SS Rafael Furcal
C Russell Martin
CF Matt Kemp
LF Manny Ramirez
RF Andre Eithier
3B Casey Blake
1B James Loney
2B Blake DeWitt

RH Vicente Padilla
LH Clayton Kershaw
RH Chad Billingsley
RH Hiroki Kuroda
RH Charlie Haeger
SU: George Sherrill
CL: Jonathan Broxton

The Dodgers went through a lot of turmoil with their front office and ownership situation this winter, and the didn't achieve very much during the offseason due largely to that. They had some holes in their starting rotation that didn't really get fixed. Billingsley and Kershaw are very good young arms, but besides those two, I don't like their rotation too much. The bullpen should be solid though, led by all-star closer Jonathan Broxton and another guy who's been a successful closer in recent years, George Sherrill. The lineup has some studs. Matt Kemp, Andre Eithier and Manny Ramirez make up the best offensive outfield in baseball, and I'm expecting rebound seasons out of Furcal and Martin. The Dodgers are just hoping Manny has another burst left in him to lead their offense. If Manny plays like he did after being sent to LA in '08 (.396, 17 hr, 53 RBI in just 187 ab's) then he'll win MVP and the Dodgers will win the West. If he plays like he did in '09 after coming back from his suspension, then the Dodgers will likely miss the playoffs for the first time in a few years.

4th Place, Arizona Diamondbacks

LF Connor Jackson
SS Stephen Drew
RF Justin Upton
1B Adam LaRoche
3B Mark Reynolds
C Miguel Montero
CF Chris Young
2B Kelly Johnson

RH Dan Haren
RH Edwin Jackson
RH Brandon Webb*
RH Ian Kennedy
RH Rodrigo Lopez
RH Billy Buckner
SU: Juan Guttierez
CL: Chad Qualls
*Webb will be out until at least June

The D-Backs have a young lineup that is ready to do their part to get AZ to the playoffs, but their pitching staff is another story. If only Brandon Webb were healthy, but he's not. He's probably going to be out until June, if not later, and the D-Backs will once again sorely miss him. They added Edwin Jackson which is a very nice add and Dan Haren is constantly in the mix for the CY Young award, so the top half of the rotation is still strong. The bullpen is OK, but they're relying on a lot of younger arms to get Chad Qualls the ball. Justin Upton is ready to start entering the MVP mix, and everybody else in that lineup (besides 1 year free agent add Adam LaRoche) is 28 or younger and all are primed for breakout seasons. If that happens, the D-Backs could be scary, because Webb will be back at some point, and that lineup has the ability to keep them in it until he does.

5th Place, San Diego Padres

CF Tony Gwynn Jr.
2B David Eckstein
1B Adrian Gonzalez
LF Kyle Blanks
3B Chase Headley
RF Will Venable
SS Everth Cabrera
C Yorvit Torrealba

RH Jon Garland
RH Chris Young
RH Kevin Corriea
LH Clayton Richard
RH Mat Latos
SU: Mike Adams
CL: Heath Bell

The Padres are the only team in the division that really have no shot at competing for a playoff spot. They do have some decent starters with Young, Corriea and youngsters Richard and Latos, but they don't really have an ace (as evident by Jon Garland getting the opening day nod). Their lineup has a few boppers in Gonzalez and Blanks, and a couple of possible future stars in Cabrera, Gwynn and Headley, but they just don't have enough offense right now to keep up with most other teams. Their bullpen is probably their strength, with closer Heath Bell (2.71 era, 42 sv in '09) and set-up man Mike Adams (0.73 era, 0.59 WHIP in '09).

Originally Posted @ The Giants Baseball Blog

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