NL West 2012 Season Preview

Posted: March 16, 2012 by Kodi in MLB

The NL West is always extremely competitive but who will win in 2012?

The Diamondbacks, Giants, Rockies, Dodgers and Padres all hope its them

Which player will help lead their team to a Division Championship?

Arizona Diamondbacks

It was just two years ago when the Arizona Diamondbacks had just finished a season where they were over 30+ games under .500. They bounced back to win the NL West and nearly flip their record around going from 65-97 to 94-68 last year. That has been the story of the NL West but the young and talented D’Backs are hoping to stay perched atop their division for awhile.  Arizona was a  very complete team that could both pitch and hit and a core group of their players are both young and talented. Everyone believed that the snakes would be taking a step back in 2011 and with incredible pitching Arizona caught the entire league off guard.

The Diamondbacks had an impressive offense behind Miguel Montero and Justin Upton but last season they also had good production from Chris Young and Ryan Roberts. They went out and signed OF Jason Kubel to replace Gerardo Parra in LF and will get an offensive boost. The Dbacks are going to start Willie Bloomquist at SS because Stephen Drew won’t be ready to be on the opening day roster. Drew shattered his ankle last season and may not be able to reproduce his usual numbers this year but if he does it will clearly make Arizona even better. This is a team that can fly around the bases and hit the long ball when they need to and the lineup in 2012 is an upgrade from last years Division Championship roster.

A lot of people knew that the Diamondbacks were capable of scoring runs but nobody realized what Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Joe Saunders were capable of. Ian Kennedy was nearly lost in the New York Yankees rotation but he nearly won the NL Cy Young Award for his incredible season last year. He was 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA and 1.086 WHIP and was the main reason the Arizona’s quick turnaround during their rebuilding phase. It didn’t take long for Arizona to start winning and it  was because of pitching. They got a great season out of Josh Collmenter and have one of the best pitching prospects in baseball with Trevor Bauer. Not to mention they went out and got Trevor Cahill from the Oakland Athletics to give Manager Kirk Gibson 6 reliable starters. They call on J.J. Putz to close games and he did a great job last season but everyone knows he has the ability to blow up. The addition of Craig Breslow and Takahashi Saito to the bullpen may give the Dbacks the depth they need to not rely so heavily on their starters.

Arizona will likely be battling for another division title this season and it looks like they will have a solid pitching staff to win them tough games. I think that the Diamondbacks are very capable of winning the NL West once again but I think that the Giants could sneak just a couple of games ahead of them. Arizona may find themselves fighting for one of those new playoff spots but after being taken out in 5 games by the Milwaukee Brewers guarantee they’re looking for redemption. They have all the right pieces and they just need to let them fall into place, if they don’t make it to the postseason this year they are a young team with the longevity to stay near the top for the next few years.

2012 Transactions:

Acquisitions: P Brad Ziegler, P Craig Breslow, P Takahashi Saito, OF Jason Kubel, P Trevor Cahill

Departures: P Esmerling Vasquez, P Armando Galarraga, LF Ryan Langerhans, RF Xavier Nady, P Juan Gutierrez, P Jason Marquis, OF Collin Cowgill, P Zach Duke, 3B Melvin Mora, P Micah Owings

Projected lineup:

1 SS Willie Bloomquist

2 2B Aaron Hill

3 RF Justin Upton

4 C Miguel Montero

5 CF Chris Young

6 LF Jason Kubel

7 1B Paul Goldschmidt

8 3B Ryan Reynolds

Bench:

C Henry Blanco

1B Lyle Overbay

IF Geoff Blum

IF John McDonald

OF Geraldo Parra

Projected Rotation:

1 RHP Ian Kennedy

2 RHP Trevor Cahill

3 RHP Daniel Hudson

4 LHP Joe Saunders

5 RHP Joshua Collmenter

Bullpen:

Closer: RHP J.J. Putz

Setup: RHP David Hernandez, RHP Takahashi Saito

Middle Relievers: LHP Craig Breslow, RHP Bryan Shaw, LHP Joe Paterson

Long Reliever: RHP Brad Ziegler

Key Prospects: 

P Trevor Bauer

P Tyler Skaggs

OF A.J. Pollock

P Archie Bradley

1B/3B Matt Davidson

P Andrew Chafin

OF Adam Eaton

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have had a lot of success over the past few seasons and they have done this while constantly adding and removing players from their lineup. It doesn’t matter if you are the face of the franchise, like Matt Holliday was years ago, the fact of the matter is if they think the team can improve by getting rid of a couple players then the organization is going to make that call. Going into the 2011 season many thought of the Rockies as one of the favorites to win the division. The Rockies lost a couple of  key players in the offseason but the clubs biggest move came early in 2011 when they traded their Ace pitcher Ubaldo Jiminez to the Cleveland Indians. This move and many others is a direct sign that Colorado is now in full-blown rebuilding mode and they may not be challenging for NL West titles this year or in the near future.

The Rockies offense was lackluster and it seems that the finger has been pointed at the players rather than Manager Jim Tracy. The Rockies were 73-89 and a lot of the blame has been placed upon their pitching staff which is necessary. Colorado was top 4 in batting average, slug percentage and on-base percentage behind big seasons from Tulo and CarGo. 1B Todd Helton seems to be the ageless wonder hitting above .300 for the 12th time in his 15 year career.  The Rockies went out and signed OF Michael Cuddyer a former Minnesota Twin to improve their outfield and hoping Cuddy can produce more than Seth Smith did.  Chris Iannetta, Ty Wigginton and Smith were all Colorado guys and all of them are not on the roster this season. Ramon Hernandez will be playing as the Catcher and Casey Blake will be playing 3B while Marco Scutaro will be the new 2nd baseman.

The real reason the Rockies are going to be fighting their way back from the bottom is because of their poor pitching. Trading Ubaldo Jimenez took a lot of balls and if their prospects don’t turn fans from the rock pile are going to call for heads. The Rockies have had problems with pitchers getting injured or recovering from injuries. Aaron Cook and Huston Street both battled through injuries last season and Cook was terrible while Street just wasn’t himself, neither player is returning in 2012.  With Street gone Colorado is turning over the Closer role to 36 year old Rafael Betancourt but he is not the long term option and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s replaced before the end of the season. The Rockies clearly felt comfortable trading Jimenez away because they thought they had enough young talent to compete. Jorge De La Rosa was one of the oldest pitchers in the starting rotation and we went down with an injury that required Tommy John’s Surgery after just 10 starts.  All of this led to the Rockies ranking 2nd to last in team ERA allowing over 4.40.

The Colorado Rockies will not be challenging the top teams in the NL West and they should set a more realistic goal of finishing the season closer to .500. Hopefully the Rockies will find some relief in some of their young prospects like pitchers Drew Pomeranz and Chad Bettis. They signed Casey Blake to play 3B but they have a good young kid in Nolan Arenado who could benefit learning behind a veteran of Blake’s caliber. Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are some of the best talents at their positions in the entire Major Leagues, not just the NL West. They had good seasons last year but are capable of putting up great numbers and you never know what could happen. The Diamondbacks were able to surprise their opponents last season and if the Rockies are able to put it together they may find themselves on the positive side of .500. I still think they’re a middle of the road NL West team good enough for 3rd or 4th place in the division.

2012 Transactions:

Acquisitions: P Jamie Moyer, 3B Casey Blake, OF Michael Cuddyer, P Jeremy Guthrie, SS Marco Scutaro, OF Tyler Colvin

Departures: 3B Ian Stewart, C Chris Iannetta, IF Ty Wigginton, P Huston Street, P Jason Hammel, P Matt Lindstrom

Projected Lineup:

1 CF Dexter Fowler

2 2B Marco Scutaro

3 LF Carlos Gonzalez

4 SS Troy Tulowitzki

5 1B Todd Helton

6 RF Michael Cuddyer

7 C Ramon Hernandez

8 3B Casey Blake

Bench:

C/IF Jordan Pacheco

OF Tyler Colvin

1B Jason Giambi

IF Chris Nelson

IF/OF Eric Young Jr.

Projected Rotation:

1 RHP Jeremy Guthrie

2 RHP Jhoulys Chacin

3 RHP Juan Nicasio

4 LHP Drew Pomeranz

5 RHP Guillermo Moscoso

Bullpen:

Closer: RHP Rafael Betancourt

Setup: LHP Rex Brothers, RHP Matt Belisle

Middle Relievers: LHP Matt Reynolds, RHP Josh Roenicke, RHP Edgmer Escalona

Long Reliever: RHP Esmil Rogers

Key Prospects:

P Drew Pomeranz

3B Nolan Arenado

C Wilin Rosario

P Chad Bettis

OF Kent Matthes

P Tyler Anderson

IF Trevor Story

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been in the center of a nasty divorce proceeding which has brought a lot of unnecessary media attention their way. There is no way that the players weren’t distracted by the off the field issues surrounding this team and it doesn’t help when you don’t know if you are able to cash your paycheck, especially when its from a Major League Baseball team. The Los Angeles Dodgers were able to finish the season 82-79 and P Clayton Kershaw won the NL Cy Young Award meanwhile OF Matt Kemp could have arguably been the NL MVP. Both Kershaw and Kemp are locked in to be Dodgers for a while but with the looming bankruptcy/sale of the Dodgers organization is really going to impact this team in a negative way.

The Dodgers offense was basically Matt Kemp and nobody else which makes one wonder how he isn’t the Most Valuable Player. Kemp was just a single HR away from being the 5th player in MLB history to hit 40 HR’s and steal 40 bases. He finished the year with 39 HR’s, 126 RBI, and 40 stolen bases while hitting .324/.399/.586 (batting average/ on base percentage/ slug percentage). C Rod Barajas was 2nd on the team in HR’s with 16 and 1B James Loney was 2nd on the team in RBI with 65. Since the Dodgers are strapped for cash they were able to make very few moves during the off-season and have to find the talent buried in their roster. Offensively the Dodgers ranked in the bottom half of the NL in nearly every category except for stolen bases which they ranked 4th but that was mainly due to Kemp, just 86 SB’s by all other players.

Just as Matt Kemp held together the Dodgers offense P Clayton Kershaw held together the Los Angeles pitching staff. Kershaw won the Cy Young and the 23 year old is hoping to add another Award again in his career. He was 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA and a 0.977 WHIP while striking out 248 and walking just 54 over 233.1 innings of work. Hiroki Kuroda was the Dodgers second best starter but was lost to free agency. Ted Lily and Chad Billingsley combined for a 23-25 record with a 4.10+ combined ERA and the Dodgers knew that they had to bring in another pitcher. Aaron Harang was the only thing that the Dodgers monopoly money could buy but realistically isn’t the boost to bring this rotation to the next level. Los Angeles was able to get Chris Capuano to sign as well but I won’t even waste my time on him. Rubby De La Rosa could be a viable option in the rotation when his rehab from Tommy John’s surgery is complete but we have all seen how well that normally goes. The Dodgers do have a nice young Closer in Javy Guerra who had 21 saves and a 2.31 ERA during his 46+ innings of work last season. Guerra will get that role from the beginning and it will be intriguing to see how well he does with a full season’s workload.

It’s really too bad that the Dodgers organization has been sucked into domestic issues but clearly it is making a negative impact on the players, personnel and fans. It would be nice for the Dodgers to get back into competing for a division title but without any money to invest in the team it is hard to improve from last season. Realistically the Dodgers should shoot for a realistic goal of finish above .500 again first and foremost. The Dodgers could possibly battle the Giants and D-backs if some of their young talent emerges and players like James Loney and Andre Ethier put to their full potential. It will be interesting to see how well SS Dee Gordon does as the full-time short stop and leadoff batter. Los Angeles will likely finish within a few games of the Colorado Rockies meaning they are closer to the basement than the ceiling of the NL West.

2012 Transactions:

Acquisitions: 2B Mark Ellis, C Matt Treanor, 2B Adam Kennedy, P Chris Capuano, 2B Jerry Hairston Jr., P Aaron Harang, P Todd Coffey, OF Matt Angle

Departures: 3B James Blake, P Jon Garland, P Vicente Padilla,  2B Aaron Miles, P Hiroki Kuroda,  2B Jamey Carrol, P Jonathan Broxton, C Rod Barajas, P Hong-Chih Kuo

Projected Lineup:

1 SS Dee Gordon

2 2B Mark Ellis

3 CF Matt Kemp

4 RF Andre Ethier

5 LF Juan Rivera

6 1B James Loney

7 3B Juan Uribe

8 C A.J. Ellis

Bench:

C Matt Treanor

UT Jerry Sands

IF Adam Kennedy

IF/OF Jerry Hairston Jr.

OF Tony Gwynn Jr.

Projected Rotation:

1 LHP Clayton Kershaw

2 RHP Chad Billingsley

3 LHP Ted Lilly

4 RHP Aaron Harang

5 LHP Chris Capuano

Bullpen:

Closer: RHP Javy Guerra

Setup: RHP Kenley Jensen, RHP Matt Gurrier

Middle Relievers: LHP Scott Elber, RHP Mike MacDougal, RHP Todd Coffey

Long Reliever: Ramon Troncoso

Key Prospects:

P Zach Lee

P Nathan Eovaldi

OF Alfredo Silverio

P Garrett Gouild

OF Joc Pederson

UT Alex Castellanos

P Angel Sanchez

P Chris Reed

C Tim Federowicz

San Diego Padres

The San Diego Padres were back in the bottom of the NL West standings and the organization made some big moves during the offseason. San Diego is a team with solid pitching weak offense and the Padres GM made some drastic moves to revamp every aspect of the team. The Padres got rid of Mat Latos and Heath Bell meaning Manager Buddy Black was going to have to improve his 71-91 basement dwelling Padres without his Ace and Closer. It wasn’t the fathers pitching that had them losing games it was the teams inability to score any runs and San Diego didn’t acquire any sure things for the batting order but are taking a risk by signing LF Carlos Quentin.

It doesn’t take long to see just how pathetic the Padres were offensively last year when all you need to do is look at their teams leaders. Las season LF Ryan Ludwick led San Diego in both HR’s and RBI finishing the 2011 season with 11 and 64. He was the only player to hit double digit HR’s and the only player with more than 44 RBI. The Padres were unable to resign Ludwick and the teams leader is no longer on the team. Carlos Quentin is supposed to be the answer and he very well could be but he’s not going to be enough. The Padres did get a great young prospect in their Latos trade bringing in 1B Yonder Alonso. San Diego may have been dead last in the NL in at bats, hits, HR’s and batting average but they did lead the league in triples and stolen bases as these guys blaze around the base path. It doesn’t help that their lineup is prone to striking out, 2nd in the NL, and their on base percentage was 15th out of 16 teams with .305. These team is a long ways away offensively.

The Padres did have a great bullpen but their starters all had ERA’s north of 3.30 and just one, Aaron Harang, had more than 9 wins. Harang is no longer on the team and as I said early Mat Latos was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Alonso and P Edinson Volquez. After contemplating trading Closer Heath Bell for what seemed like 3 seasons the Padres eventually let him walk away as a free agent and got nothing in return. Fortunately for the Padres the Colorado Rockies were basically giving away Closer Huston Street who would eventually come to San Diego in exchange for a bag of cash and LHP Nick Schmidt. The Padres also signed former Dbacks P Micah Owings but other than that they didn’t make many moves, especially not anything that is going to get them into contention.

The Padres are starting another cycle of rebuilding as many teams do in the MLB but until they have a few more pieces in place they will stay in the dungeon of the NL West division. The Padres are neither flashy nor entertaining and watching this team all season long will be like pulling teeth. I don’t know how many southern Californian’s are going waste their time watching America’s pastime but those that do are definitely masochists. I do know that if I was looking for a sure thing, the Padres finishing last in the NL West is the pick because top to bottom they aren’t as talented as the Rockies, Giants, Dodgers or Dbacks.

2012 Transactions:

Acquisitions: 1B Mark Kotsay, C John Baker, P Edinson Volquez, 1B Yonder Alonso, OF Carlos Quentin, P Huston Street, P Micah Owings

Departures: C Rob Johnson, P Chad Qualls, OF Brad Hawpe, P Aaron Harang, P Heath Bell, SS Alberto Gonzalez, P Wade LeBlanc, P Mat Latos, P Nick Schmidt, IF David Eckstein

Projected Lineup:

1 CF Cameron Maybin

2 2B Orlando Hudson

3 3B Chase Headley

4 LF Carlos Quentin

5 1B Yonder Alonso

6 C Nick Hundley

7 RF Will Venable

8 SS Jason Bartlett

Bench:

C John Baker

OF Jesus Guzman

OF Mark Kotsay

IF/OF Andy Parrino

OF Chris Denorfia

Projected Rotation:

1 RHP Tim Stauffer

2 LHP Clayton Richard

3 RHP Edinson Volquez

4 LHP Cory Luebke

5 RHP Dustin Moseley

Bullpen:

Closer: RHP Huston Street

Setup: RHP Luke Gregerson, RHP Andre Cashner

Middle Relievers: LHP Joe Thatcher, RHP Ernesto Frieri, LHPJosh Spence

Long Reliever: RHP Micah Owings

Key Prospects:

1B Yonder Alonso

C Yasmani Grandal

P Joe Wieland

OF Rymer Liriano

3B Jedd Gyorko

P Robbie Erlin

P Keyvius Sampson

San Francisco Giants

After winning it all in 2010 the Giants came into the 2011 season with lofty expectations knowing what their team was capable of. San Francisco was the front-runners of the division for clear reasons and finished just games behind Arizona with a 86-76 record. The Giants struggled mightily to score runs but their pitching was so good that they won all those games scoring the least runs in the entire NL. It didn’t help that the Giants were without C Buster Posey, 2B Freddie Garcia and 3B Pablo Sandoval for long periods of the season. The Giants were within a few games of defending their World Series title but fell just short.

The San Francisco Giants have locked up a lot of their pitching because that hasn’t been detrimental to the team it’s been their inability to score runs. Pablo Sandoval played in just 117 games but he led the team in HR’s and RBI with 23 and 70. The Giants had just two other players with 50+ RBI and one of them, World Series MVP Cody Ross, is no longer with the team.  The Giants didn’t make any huge additions through free agency or a trade but they did bring in Melky Cabrera to replace Ross. They also signed former Mets OF Angel Pagan because Pat Burrell retired and Carlos Beltran moved on. The biggest acquisition for the Giants will likely be the return of C Buster Posey replacing a lackluster Eli Whiteside. The Giants just need to stay healthy and they have the players in the lineup to drastically improve their offense.

The Giants are known for their pitching and that won’t change in 2012 as they still have nearly an identical starting rotation from last season. The only difference is that this year the Giants will rely on Barry Zito to be their 5th starter but could turn to someone like Guillermo Mota if necessary. They still have Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong giving them easily the best starting rotation in the division. The Closer role is filled by Brian WIlson who missed some time late last season with an injury but when he’s healthy he does a phenomenal job. The bullpen is solid and there really wasn’t a need to tweak the pitching roster all too much. They had the 2nd lowest team ERA, gave up the least amount of hits and HR’s in the NL and struck out over 1300 batters while walking just over 550, that’s pretty impressive.

The San Francisco Giants were just games away from winning the division in 2011 and they did that while being plagued with pathetic offensive statistics and a lineup that was impacted by injuries. The Giants didn’t make a ton of moves to improve their team but they didn’t really need to and the moves they did make look like they’re the right ones. I have the Giants as the front-runners of this division but as we have seen over the years in the NL West anything can happen. I do think that the most likely outcome is the Giants winning the division with the Dbacks close behind. The Giants have some interesting prospects but they are already an incredibly young team, they may use some of that youth to bundle up in a deal and bring in one final piece to push them over the top.

2012 Transactions:

Acquisitions: P Santiago Cailla, OF Melky Cabrera, SS Gil Velazquez, P Yusmeiro Petit, P Clay Hensley, P Guillermo Mota, SS Ryan Theriot

Departures: OF Cody Ross, OF Andres Torres, OF Aaron Rowand, IF Miguel Tejada, OF Pat Burrell, OF Carlos Beltran, IF Jeff Keppinger, 2B Orlando Cabrera

Projected Lineup:

1 CF Angel Pagan

2 LF Melky Cabrera

3 3B Pablo Sandoval

4 C Buster Posey

5 1B Aubrey Huff

6 RF Nate Schierholtz

7 2B Freddy Sanchez

8 SS Brandon Crawford

Bench:

C Eli Whiteside

OF/1B Brandon Belt

IF Mike Fontenot

IF Ryan Theriot

UT Emmanuel Burriss

Projected Rotation:

1 RHP Tim Lincecum

2 RHP Matt Cain

3 LHP Madison Bumgarner

4 RHP Ryan Vogelsong

5 LHP Barry Zito

Bullpen:

Closer: Brian Wilson

Setup: RHP Sergio Romo, RHP Santiago Casilla

Middle Relievers: LHP Jeremy Affedlt, LHP Javier Lopez, RHP Clay Hensley

Long Reliever: RHP Guillermo Mota

Key Prospects:

OF Gary Brown

IF Joe Panik

C Tommy Joseph

P Heath Hembree

SS Ehire Adrianza

P Kyle Crick

About these ads
Comments
  1. Jeffrey says:

    With the dodgers slipping along with the giants I think that if the d-backs pitch well they will end up in the playoffs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s