2011 NL West Preview
1. San Francisco Giants
The Good: 1-5 the Giants may have the best rotation in the Majors. Relax, Phillies fans, I said 1-5 not 1-4. Having Matt Cain and Tim Linecum on the top and three quality lefties to follow allows the Giants a chance to win on any given night.
The Bad: Any Giants fan will tell you watching the Giants offense the past few years can make you pull hair out of your head. The Giants offense can simply disappear at times all together. This may change this year however, realize, the Giants will have a full year of Buster Posey, Mark Derosa and perhaps 1B hot shot prospect Brandon Belt. Pablo Sandoval has shed some pounds and the Giants would love him to recapture his 2009 form (and actually walk once in a while) which would help offset the 24 HR and 85 RBI lost when Juan Uribe went to the Dodgers.
Keep and Eye On: Look for three youngsters to perhaps lead the Giants to another division title. The first being Buster Posey, who every one knows. Second, is lefty Madison Bumgarner, he has top of the rotation stuff and could possibly allow the Giants to trade Jonathan Sanchez or Matt Cain down the line for a big bat. Last, is the lefty hitting first baseman, Brandon Belt. From what the scouts all say, Belt is the goods and actually has five tool ability as a first baseman.
Bottom Line: Pitching wins and I think a lot of people are overlooking the World Champs. The Giants are a solid team that was not a fluke last season and if healthy should challenge seriously for a 2nd NL Pennant.
Prediction: 92-70 (1st Place)
2. Colorado Rockies
The Good: The Rockie Big Three. The Rockies are lead by Cy Young Award Candidate Ubaldo Jimenez and MVP candidates Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. That’s a good place to start from if you are a contender.
The Bad: The consistency factor is some the Rockies need to address. It seemed last year they would win 7 in a row then lose 6 in a row. It certainly did not help that the entire pitching staff behind Jimenez and the bullpen struggled both health wise and on the mound. I think the Rockies will be better this year in terms of luck.
Keep an Eye On: The supporting cast around the Big Three. It’s time for Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta and Dexter Fowler to shed the potential label and start producing consistently on the MLB level. Catchers Jordan Pacheco and Wilin Rosario could push Iannetta for the starting job at some point. Healthy and/or solid years from Aaron Cook, Huston Street, Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Franklin Morales would go a long way to enable the Rockies to be serious contenders.
Bottom Line: The Rockies Big Three will have to replicate 2009 and some of the arms need to be consistent and healthy if the Colorado hopes to make it the playoffs. That maybe a lot to ask but, it would not shock me to see it happen.
Prediction: 89-73 (2nd Place)
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Good: Although Clayton Kershaw maybe the only guy that jumps out at you, the Dodgers do have a deep reliable rotation, with Jon Garland, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Chad Billingsley. When you have a trio of Matt Kemp, Andre Either and James Loney you have to think you have a chance to produce some decent offense consistently.
The Bad: Outside of Kemp, Loney and Either the Dodgers have age and health issues with SS Rafael Furcal, 3B Casey Blake, C Rod Barjas. Plus, Matt Kemp is coming off a dreadful year and LF is a major question mark. Furthermore, the Dodgers have a question mark at closer. Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo are fantastic setup men but, I don’t believe they have “it” to be a closers. Perhaps Kenley Jansen can get a shot at the closer spot at some point?
Keep an Eye On: The value of Juan Uribe could be immense. If he can replicate 2009 that would be a tremendous boost for the Dodger offense plus, he can help fill in possible injury holes at SS/3B. Don’t be surprised to see minor league prospects OF Trayvon Robinson, and INF’s Dee Gordon and Ivan DeJesus Jr. to be up at some point.
Projection: Age, injuries and kids will preoccupy new Dodgers skipper, Don Mattingly’s mind in 2011. The Dodgers starting staff should keep them in a lot of games and contend this season.
Prediction: 87-75 (3rd place)
4. San Diego Padres
The Good: At this point, not very much although Mat Latos and closer Heath Bell have All-Star abilities. Then again, Petco Park is the easiest place to pitch in the Big Leagues.
The Bad: So, let’s see, you follow up an complete unexpected playoff chase by trading the face of your franchise and 60% of your offense in Adrain Gonzalez. Yes, I know, the Padres did get potential future ace Casey Kelly and 1B Anthony Rizzo but, neither are going to help this year. This offense could be really bad. The Padres have to hope Wil Venable, Chase Headley and Cameron Maybin finally put it all together on the MLB level or else every pitcher will look forward to facing this lineup. The Padres also have to hope Ryan Ludwick and Brad Hawpe can resurrect their fading careers as well.
What to Look For: The Padres could be in prime position come the trade deadline to unload Heath Bell and some of their very productive bargin bin relievers to contenders willing to give up young talent.
Projection: This franchise and fanbase has to be demoralized following the Adrian Gonzalez trade. I just don’t know how you sell it to your fans or your players. Could be a long season in San Diego.
65-97 (4th place)
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Good: The Diamondbacks should be able to score a decent amount of runs with the likes of Stephen Drew, Kelly Johnson, Justin Upton, Miguel Montero, Brandon Allen and Chris Young. Kirk Gibson seems like he want players to have accountability and brings a winning attitude to the clubhouse. Barry Enright, Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy were all very solid for the D-Backs rotation last year and give some reason to hope.
The Bad: Sure, the D-Backs can score runs but, they strikeout a ton too. Whereas, the bullpen was a complete trainwreck last season. Furthermore, Hudson, Kennedy and Enright have to anchor this rotation or the Snakes are sunk. That could be a tall order for this young trio.
What to Look For: J.J. Putz was brought in to close and bring stability to the bullpen. Mark Reynolds and 200 strikeouts and 30 plus errors were dealt to Baltimore. Maybe this helps, maybe it doesn’t. The D-Backs are not without talent, they just play like a bunch of rookies. The problem is they have played that way for two striaght years with no signs of progress.
Projection: I have been fooled by the D-Backs before thinking they could be good. This time around they will have to prove to me they are better than a 90 loss team.
65-97 (4th place tied)
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis Tagged: | Aaron Cook, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, Anthony Rizzo, Barry Enright, Brad Hawpe, Brandon Allen, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Gonzalez, Casey Blake, Casey Kelly, Chad Billingsley, Chase Headley, Chris Iannetta, Chris Young, Clayton Kershaw, Daniel Hudson, Dee Gordon, Dexter Fowler, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Don Mattingly, Franklin Morales, Giants, Heath Bell, Hiroki Kuroda, Hong-Chih Kuo, Huston Street, Ian Kennedy, Ian Stewart, Ivan DeJesus Jr., J.J. Putz, James Loney, Jhoulys Chacin, Jon Garland, Jonathan Broxton, Jonathan Sanchez, Jordan Pacheco, Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Uribe, Justin Upton, Kelly Johnson, Kenley Jansen, Kirk Gibson, Madison Bumgarner, Mark DeRosa, Mark Reynolds, Mat Latos, Matt Cain, Matt Kemp, Miguel Montero, Pablo Sandoval, Padres, Predictions, Rafael Furcal, Rockies, Rod Barajas, Ryan Ludwick, Stephen Drew, Ted Lilly, Tim Linecum, Trayvon Robinson, Troy Tulowitzki, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wil Venable, Wilin Rosario