Monday, April 6, 2009

NL West Preview

The NL West...most people think it is a 2 team race between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. And that will probably be the case, but I will tell you can never count out a team with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Randy Johnson all in the starting rotation of the San Francisco Giants.

MVP of the NL West - Manny Ramirez - This was way too easy. This is insanely scary on how important Manny is in this division. If he would have signed with LA, Arizona or the Giants - whichever team he would have went to became the favorite to win the division in 2009. Plus, Manny is also the best hitter in the NL West too.

Best Pitcher in the NL West - There are 5 guys that could fill this category. Matt Cain - he never gets any run support in Frisco. Tim Lincecum - the reigning NL Cy Young Award Winner. Jake Peavy - are his numbers inflated pitching in that park in San Diego? Doesn't matter - that's not his fault! Dan Haren - he just continues to plug along, put up great numbers, while no one really talks about this guy at all. But how can you go against Brandon Webb. 40 wins in the last 2 seasons. Takes the ball every 5th day, is never hurt, ERA always ends up somewhere between 3.00-3.50 and will strikeout between 175-200 hitters in any given year. I love consistency - so I'll take Webb.

NL West Team by Team Preview

LA Dodgers - The Dodgers do not have a starting staff that can rival the DBacks or the Giants, but their offense will carry this team to the Division Title. All I have to say is this...Casey Blake will start at 3rd and hit 8th - Blake will finish the year with 20-25 homers and 90 RBI's. This lineup belongs in the American League. All-Star Russell Martin is the catcher, James Loney at first, free-agent signing Orlando Hudson upgrades the defense and offense at second base, taking over for the high maintinence Jeff Kent. Rafael Furcal at shortstop, along with Blake at 3rd base rounds out the infield. Manny, Matt Kemp who has 40-40 potential, yeah that's right 40-40 not 30-30 and Andre Ethier who is still only 24 and hit 24 homers and drove in 77 runs in 2008. Jonathan Broxton will close the door in the 9th for starters Hiroki Kuroda, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Randy Wolf and James McDonald.

Arizona Diamondbacks - It would not surprise me at all if this team wins the division over the Dodgers. The depth in the starting staff on this team is a huge advantage over most NL teams and not just the West. Webb, Haren, Doug Davis, Jon Garland and Missouri Alum and big time prospect Max Scherzer rounds out the starting 5. Chad Qualls is the closer, for now, but if he fails, Jon Rauch is waiting in the wings. Neither of these guys have proven they can close out games on a consistent basis. It would not surprise me to see Scherzer go down halfway through the year and be the closer for the stretch run. The lineup will score runs, especially if highly touted prospect Justin Upton can mature quicker than expected. You throw Upton in the middle of the order with SS Stephen Drew, 1B/OF Conor Jackson, 3B Mark Reynolds and CF Chris Young - this team really has the potential to be very good. Look for the DBacks to make a move at the trade deadline to either improve the bullpen or the offense, or both.

San Francisco Giants - If this team had any offense whatsoever - it might be the favorite to win the NL West. A starting staff of Lincecum, Cain, free agent signing Randy Johnson, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez can win a lot of games for a franchise. But when a franchise gets giddy over signing a 33 year old free agent shortstop that hit .270 with 10 homeruns and 55 RBI's - that is an issue. Edgar Renteria would be that guy. Filling out the infield, C/3B prospect Pablo Sandoval, 2B Emmanuel Burriss, 1B Travis Ishikawa and C Benji Molina. The outfield has Randy Winn, Aaron Rowand and Fred Lewis. This lineup is the worst in the NL, possibly baseball. Brian Wilson will get the 1st shot at being the closer, but he is no sure thing either. There were rumors in the offseason of a Cain for Prince Fielder swap - and I might have considered doing that if I was the Giants, just to give them a hope to score more than 2 runs a game here and there.

Colorado Rockies - This team has some parts that look good, but their other parts are extremely bad. The good. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, 3B Garrett Atkins, C Chris Iannetta and OF Brad Hawpe. Now the bad. 1B Todd Helton is getting too old in the tooth to produce like a 1st baseman needs to in the major leagues. The other 2 outfield spots are filled by Seth Smith and Ryan Spilborghs. They definitely will not replace the recently traded Matt Holliday. The starting staff has Jason Marquis in it...enough said about the staff. The closer's role will be filled by Huston Street, but he seems to have lost his stuff and confidence, and that's not a good thing for a closer, just look up Jason Isringhausen. This team will barely edge out the Padres for 4th.

San Diego Padres - The Padres have less bright spots than the Rockies. They have 1B Adrian Gonzalez and All-Star P Jake Peavy. Heck, they almost traded Peavy to the Cubs in the offseason. Brian Giles is getting a bit old and his skills are declining rapidly. David Eckstein is going to play second, Luis Rodriguez at short, Kevin Kouzmanoff at 3rd and Henry Blanco behind the plate. Jody Gerut in center and Chase Headley in left, wow is this lineup bad. After Peavy, there is oft-injured Chris Young, Baek, Correia and Shawn Hill - even worse than the lineup. Heath Bell will take over the closer's role for Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman was a staple and a legend in the Padres organization - and we know how tough it is to replace legends. The Padres and Nationals will battle for the worst record in baseball all year long.
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