MLB Season Preview – NL West
I had this as a 2 team race last season, but it was no race. The Dodgers were the dominant team in the NL West by season’s end and even though PLENTY can change from now until September, that is how it looks as we enter the season. The Giants are still ahead of the rest of the division in my mind but they must add some legitimate bats. The D-Backs, Rocks and Padres look as though they’ll battle it out for 3rd in the West for at least another season.
Of course as I write this, the Dodgers are already on pace for 162 wins after a 2-0 start. Well I don’t know if they got a great bang for their buck last season, but they did get in the the NLCS and were the talk of baseball during the 2nd half of the season. It’s good to see the Dodgers back on top. Baseball is better when teams like the Dodgers are elite. Now the trick is staying on top.
Pitching: One of the best staff’s in baseball. Kershaw is just ridiculous, Grienke would be an ace on most other clubs, Hyun-Jin Ryu is a great number 3, Beckett and Haren are seasoned vets who both are still capable of 1 more big season. Here’s the problem…injuries. Chad Billingsly will be a huge add, but he’s not back until June and likely won’t be fully healthy until next season. Kershaw, Ryu, Grienke and Beckett all enter the season either on the DL or questionable. Long term they should be fine, but it is a concern. The bullpen is ok, but could use some upgrades which they will without a doubt go get. Kenley Jansen is a real good closer though.
Hitting: The big revelation last season was Puig. Even though he’s only 23, I see him as the type of kid that will never fully learn discipline either at the plate or on the bases. But he has so much talent that he will still be an elite player. Matt Kemp will be ready to go soon, and unlike last year Hanley Ramirez is ready to go. If they get full seasons out of those 2 it will be a huge lift to an already solid offensive team. Not much to talk about here, 1-8 they’re pretty loaded.
Defense: Again I’ll start with Puig and his discipline or lack there of. But that arm in RF is ridiculous. If they were to start Eithier in RF over Puig, each starter will have won a gold glove. Puig COULD, but it’s just a matter of weather he feels like doing it. The IF isn’t pretty. Even though Gonzalez has 3 gold gloves at 1st, Ramirez isn’t good at SS and they need to go with Dee Gordon at 2nd after Cuban rookie Alexander Guerrero was apparently a disaster at 2nd during spring training. Tough to clean it up though when the bats are so good.
Well I had the Giants winning their 3rd title in 4 years last year, and they didn’t come close! A shocking 3rd place finish in the NL West, 10 games below .500, everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. But I’m not going to count this club out. They have a great manager, great leadership, and are still in their prime.
Pitching: It was all about their staff in winning the 2010 and 2012 World Series titles, but that staff as fallen off a bit. Obviously Tim Lincecum isn’t what he was, but he wasn’t that guy in 2012. They brought in Tim Hudson this off season and perhaps they can get one more good season out of him. They brought back Tim Lincecum for 2 years, 35 million which most think is crazy, but perhaps they can still get something out of him. Vogelsong is healthy and should be a lot better, and you know what Cain and Bumgarner will give them. Sergio Romo is a dominant closer and their bullpen is great. If all that wasn’t enough, their system is completely loaded with yet more arms on their way.
Hitting: They need more out of their bats for sure. Buster Posey can only do so much and I don’t think bringing in Michael Morse is the answer. I do think Brandon Belt is capable of giving them more power in the lineup. It isn’t a bad lineup, but you can’t expect hitters to constantly deliver at the right time like they did in 2012. They have the resources to bring in some legit help, and they need to pull the trigger on doing so at some point this season.
Defense: Around the IF this group is very solid defensively. No gold gloves, nobody who stands out, but they’re just very fundamentally sound all over the diamond. The OF however is a different story. It’s a good thing that Angel Pagan covers a ton of ground in CF because neither Morse or Pence are very good out there. If Morse is a question mark at the plate and terrible in LF it really makes you wonder why the Giants of all teams took the chance on him.
Maybe I’m an idiot….ok, I know I’m an idiot, but I seem to like this team a lot more than most do. I think they can contend for a wildcard spot. Yet I’ve seen the Sporting News pick them 5th, ESPN pick them 4th, and here I am saying 3rd with a legit chance to finish 2nd. I think they’re a good overall team and I think Kirk Gibson does a good job managing.
Pitching: Not often do you start off talking about a team’s prospect, but Archie Bradley might be the top pitching prospect in baseball. Keith Law of ESPN sees it that way. And with Corbin done for the year, they may have to turn to Bradley sooner than expected. Even if they don’t though, Wade Miley and Trevor Cahill may not be household names but Miley is solid and Cahill is a guy with a ton of talent. If McCarthy can stay healthy…always a massive “IF”, they’ll be pretty good. The bullpen is ok, middle of the pack last season but no arms that will intimidate opposing teams.
Hitting: It all starts with slugger Paul Goldschmidt. The guy has become one of the elite bats in all of baseball and I like what they did brining in Mark Trumbo to give him some protection. Martin Prado and Aaron Hill also give them real solid sticks and are both threats to hit over .300. I don’t love the top of the order, but A.J. Pollack looks like he has some upside. Having said that, I’m not sure why he’s leading off and not Gerardo Parra.
Defense: Goldschmidt does it in the field as well as he won his first gold glove last season, as did Parra in RF. One of the best defensive clubs in the NL last season with a .988 fielding percentage and only committing 75 errors. Really Trumbo is the only question mark defensively and if you need to have one weak defensive player you want him at either 1st or LF.
Boooooo! This is the only symbol they’ve ever had, I want something retro! Well this team is right there with Arizona and San Diego as the after thoughts of this division. But if they can get the pitching they might make some noise. It’s not to the extreme that it was in the late 90’s, but it really is getting to be an old storyline with the Rockies.
Pitching: They made the big move this off season for lefty Brett Anderson who has trouble staying healthy. But when he is healthy he is a number 1 so obviously he is the key to this staff. De La Rosa and Chacin are really solid pitchers for them, but if Anderson can give them 150 innings then they’ll likely have the pitching they need. The bullpen isn’t great, LaTroy Hawkins has never won a Cy Young but he did a great job mentoring the man. Rex Brothers is a solid lefty, but they don’t have much other than that.
Hitting: Of course this team is led offensively by Tulowitzki, but it’s easily the 2nd best lineup in the division. Gonzalez, Cuddyer, Rosario, and then of course Justin Morneau who finally got back to at least contributing and we will see if the Canadian can come all the way back this season in Denver.
Defense: Tulo leads them on the field as well with as he has 2 gold gloves and would likely have 4 or 5 if he weren’t in the same league as Jimmy Rollins. Last year Gonzalez received the third gold glove of his career while Nolan Arenado got his first. But for all that hardware, they’re really just ok defensively. Middle of the pack in fielding percentage and committed 90 errors last season which isn’t bad, but they can definitely stand to improve on that number.
The hitters grave yard known as PETCO Park will have a new look this season as they have changed the dimensions of the ballpark to make it a lot more hitter friendly. Back in the steroid era you had to make your ballpark ridiculously difficult to hit in. Welcome to 2014 San Diego! I don’t know if they have the talent offensively to take advantage of this though.
Pitching: It might be just the pitchers that get hurt by this. Andrew Cashner is nice, but he’s not an ace. Ian Kennedy was better after coming over from Arizona, but still wasn’t anything special. Oh and Jays fans tell me if this is a shock…Josh Johnson is hurt. I do like lefty Eric Stults a lot though, he gave them 200 innings last season. They’re deep in the rotation but I don’t like the front end. Fences moved it could expose them badly over time. They’re a lot better in the pen which has been this clubs staple for quite a few years now. Street is a great closer, Joaquin Benoit was brought into replace Luke Gregorson, Stauffer and Thayer might give them more innings this season than Johnson!
Hitting: Remains to be seen really. Again, fences moved in and maybe it’ll improve some numbers. Jedd Gyorko is a guy who should benefit a lot from this. But only him and Will Venable had over 20 HR’s last season. There are still 81 games played on the road. Adrian Gonzalez was able to hit for power in that park so it can’t be used as the excuse for all that ail’s this team. They have a real good leadoff man in Everth Cabrera, but overall the lineup just simply isn’t very good.
Defense: Only 83 errors on the season last year for this team. The IF looks real good with Cabrera, former gold glover Chase Headley and Yonder Alonso is really smooth over at 1st. The real surprise may have been Gyorko who had the fewest amount of errors by an NL 2B with just 4. Venable is terrific in RF and no matter who starts in LF and CF they have guys like Denorfia, Maybin, and Quentin who can cover a ton of ground.
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