Friday, March 25, 2011

NL West Preview

...San Francisco Giants...

IN for the defending Champs - SS Miquel Tejada

OUT - SS Edgar Renteria...IF Juan Uribe

In the Giants organization keep an eye on...P Zack Wheeler...major blister issues derailed his 2010 progress, but this kid throws in the mid-90's with a curveball too...#6 overall pick in 2009 Draft

2010 World Series winners SF have a manager in Bruce Bochy that is as responsible for their success as the killer starting pitching or Brian Wilson II (Brian Wilson II is what we should call Brian Wilson's beard...that thing has a life of its own)...last season this group perhaps overachieved...they surely hit the hot button at the right time...The pitching was amazing, and the offense snuck up on people, especially with timely hits...Now, however, they are on the map...what that means going forward is every team will be prepared to bring their A game vs SF as it is known that is what's needed...Let's see Bochy's boys react to a target on their back...

SP's Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, and Matt Cain combine to provide a phenomenal top of the rotation...Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito are a rare lefty-lefty 4-5 and they provide a solid back-end to the rotation...The season will likely start without great closer Brain Wilson...he feels he will be ready for Day 1, but time will tell how his strained oblique muscle in his left side responds to the rehab

The O will get a boost from the addition of SS Miguel Tejada and rookie 1B  Brandon Belt, plus the continued development of 2nd year C Buster Posey...The OF has potential with guys like Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand, Andres Torres, Mark DeRosa, and Nate Schierholtz ...a lot of depth there...for me a guy to watch is 3B Pablo Sandoval...For SF to repeat as Champs they will surely need Pablo to rebound from a poor 2010...he is slimmer these days and SF needs him back to his 2009 production at the plate...Another key for the Giants will be 2B Freddy Sanchez...He caught fire late-August onward last season, but he underwent his second surgery on his  left shoulder in less than a year in December

The Over/Under win total for the 2011 Giants is...88...SF is so damn solid in the rotation, and at the back of the bullpen, that 90+ W's seems do-able to me so I like the OVER here...some nice everyday players too, and Bochy has shown he can make a good team into a Championship team

...LA Dodgers...

IN -SP Jon Garland...RP Matt Guerrier...IF Juan Uribe...C Dioner Navarro

OUT - C Russell Martin...RP George Sherrill...2B Ryan Theriot

In the Dodgers organization keep an eye on...P Kenley Jansen...former C turned into pitcher as he cannot hit, but has a cannon for an arm...mid 90's fastball with movement...already a solid change-up too...raw stuff, but good enough to perhaps play a role in the LA bullpen as early as 2011

Don Mattingly makes the transition from Hitting Coach to Manager in 2011...Trey Hillman (former KC Manager) will be his right-hand man...GM Nick Colletti was busy busy busy in the off-season...New 2B Juan Uribe will add a needed bat...SP's Jon Garland (Free Agent) and re-signing Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda will add depth to the starting staff, while Matt Guerrier was brought in to add depth to the 'pen

LA has a nice 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation with Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsly...in the bullpen 2010 saw closer Jonathan Broxton lose his confidence, and by the way lose mph's off his heater...the set-up men have great potential with Hong-Chih Kuo, Guerrier, and Jansen...Catching this staff will be a combo of Rod Barajas, Dioner Navarro, and A.J. Ellis

On O Mattingly needs to get Matt Kemp hitting to his potential...without that this O could again struggle in 2011...Consistency will be required from the likes of Andre Ethier, Casey Blake, and James Loney, while 100% health is required for Rafael Furcal...LF is a ? ...John Gibbons and Tony Gwynn jr will likely be the LF's in the early going, but GM Coletti has seen the Giants adjust their 2010 team on the fly to build a Championship team and he will surely be looking for upgrades during the season and LF likely chief amongst them

The Over/Under win total for the 2011 Dodgers is...83.5...I like the OVER here...I really like the starting rotation potential (all the names listed above, plus Vicente Padilla as a 6th starter too) and the back of the bullpen potential...If Broxton gets back on track, or Jansen steps in to closer role then this LA team will compete most games

...Colorado Rockies...

IN - RP Matt Lindstrom...3B Jose Lopez...1B Ty Wigginton

OUT - 2B Clint Barmes...RP Octavio Dotel...3B Melvin Mora...SP Jeff Francis

In the Rockies organization keep an eye on...P Tyler Matzek...lefty stud-of-the-future in Colorado...just getting his pro career started...raw stuff...needs to hone his command...#11 overall in 2009 Draft

The last several years Colorado has made late season pushes to qualify for the post-season aka Rocktober, but 2010 was the complete opposite...With a few weeks left the Rockies were right there in the race (1 game back), but went a putrid 1-13 in the seasons final 14 games to get buried in the race when it was all said and done...

Colorado is an organization that develops its own talent very well...most of the contributors to this 2011 team have been raised as Rockies...The 2011 team has potential...let's take a look...

Like most of the teams in the NL West this Colorado club has deep pitching...Ubaldo Jimenez, Jhoulys Chacin, and Jorge De La Rosa at the top of the rotation, with Aaron Cook and Jason Hammel (or perhaps Felipe Paulino and his heater) bringing up the back-end of the rotation...The bullpen is deep and solid, especially at the back with Huston Street, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Reynolds, and Rafael Betancourt (plus Paulino)

The O is the source of concern for the Rockies...not at home of course (the Rockies traditionally bang at home) but on the road...The #1 area of improvement for the 2011 Rockies has to be the way they hit on the road...this team was miserable on the road in 2010 (31-50...yikes) and the O was to blame...New Hitting Coach Carney Lansford will be trying to get guys like Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta, Todd Helton, Seth Smith going, and try to get them to be consistent...Colorado has studs in this lineup like Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, plus newcomers Jose Lopez and Ty Wigginton will get numerous opportunities to produce for this club

The Over/Under win total for the 2011 Rockies is...86.5...tough one here...I will take the OVER as I do like Jim Tracy and believe in his ability to produce a winning 2011 and 87 wins seems do-able for this team

...San Diego Padres...

IN - SS Jason Bartlett...2B Orlando Hudson...OF Cameron Maybin...1B Brad Hawpe

OUT - 1B Adrian Gonzalez...SP Kevin Correia...SP Jon Garland...SS Miquel Tejada...RP Matt Mujica...OF Matt Stairs...

In the Padres organization keep an eye on...Cory Luebke...Padres lost Kevin Correia and Jon Garland in the off-season which likely provides an opportunity for the 26 year old Luebke to finally have an everyday MLB job...he had a couple of starts in 2010 and was decent enough to warrant another look at the MLB level...solid command of fastball, changeup, and slider

SD and Manager Bud Black spent 148 days as the #1 team in the NL West in 2010, only to collapse in the final weeks of the season...

The team lost stud 1B Adrian Gonzalez in the off-season, and took hits to the rotation too...Aaron Harang (FA) will get a chance to be with Mat Latos and Clayton Richards at the top of the rotation, with Tim Stauffer (nice emergence in 2010 for this team) and Luebke...Latos is the gem here...he certainly shrivelled down the stretch last season, but once he gets the ability to stretch out innings naturally he should be guns-blazing from April through September

The back of the bullpen was as good as their was in MLB in 2010...lively arms like Mujica and Webb are gone (Cameron Maybin trade), but plenty of talent remains in guys like Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams, and Heath Bell

Only 3B Chase Hedley returns to the infield from the '10 squad...new SS is Bartlett...new 2B is the O-Dawg...new 1B is Brad Hawpe...even former Jay Jarrett Hoffpauir is new...Black looking for production and solid play from those veterans to go with another newcomer CF Cameron Maybin...My question to you is what Maybin way of thinking are you?!?!  Are you concerned that the 23 year old "can't miss" stud has been traded twice already...or...do you believe in his upside potential and thus can see him be a great CF in spacious Petco...SD will need major production form Maybin, and fellow OF's Ryan Ludwick and Will Venable

All-in-all we see a lot new faces in SD, but do we see a replacement for Adrian Gonzalez?  Doubt it...

The Over/Under win total for the 2011 Padres is...75.5...too many great rotations in the NL West for SD to be able to compete in a 162 game schedule with such a young rotation...no clear replacement for the vacated O from A-Gon...UNDER

...Arizona Diamondbacks...

Welcome to the desert - SP Zach Duke...3B Melvin Mora...RP J.J. Putz...

Peace, see ya later - P Aaron Heilman...1B Adam LaRoche...SP Brandon Webb...

In the D-Backs organization keep an eye on...P Jarrod Parker...Tommy John surgery ended his 2010 season, but the 2010 MLB All-Star game had 10 pitchers who have survived and thrived following Tommy John surgery so certainly no need to panic for Parker...he possesses a 96-97 mph fastball, and an above average slider and changeup

Looks to me like Manager Kirk Gibson has his hands full in the desert...Some players to like, sure, but mostly a lot of young players and holes to fill...let's take a look...

There could be a nice 1-2 punch atop the D-Backs rotation with Joe Saunders and Daniel Hudson (kudos to GM Kevin Towers for trading for both of those young starters), and Ian Kennedy looks like he is getting better and better at #3, but some question marks at the #4 and #5 with Barry Enright and Zach Duke...It has been a few years now since Arizona was not in last place in the NL West and to end that this rotation will have to pitch well above their potential (decent staff...but decent is not good in comparison to the other NL West staff's)...The bullpen has ???, but certainly potential...new arms like David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio will help set-up for new closer J.J. Putz...Towers and Gibby really hoping Putz works out as this team has had multiple closers the past few seasons and they crave consistency from the role

On O the strikeout king 3B Mark Reynolds is gone (he has the 3 highest K season's in the history of MLB...yikes)...What is needed in Arizona is Justin Upton playing to his potential (good luck Gibby...that may be harder than when you hit a World Series game winning HR on one leg vs Eckersley)...Then you hope to get production from newcomer Xavier Nady, plus talent like Chris Young, Stephen Drew, and Kelly Johnson...Could FA pick-up 3B Melvin Mora regain his stroke and contribute consistently too?!?!  With Reynolds and LaRoche gone there goes about 60 HR's, but there also goes about 400 K's...This should allow 'Zona to improve on their .325 On Base Percentage from 2010

The Over/Under win total for the 2011 D-Backs is...72.5...UNDER...too many good teams in this Division for the D-Backs to win consistently...the unbalanced schedule means facing the great pitching in this Division too many times for the D-Backs to finish any better than 4th in 2011 (likely 5th)

Check out the other MLB Previews too...plus you can follow me on twitter @craigballard77