Season Preview: NL West

Expectations: San Francisco’s payroll may top $130 million in order to pay for Brian Wilson’s beard dye.
Key Addition: OF Melky Cabrera (acquired from Kansas City)
Key Loss: SP Jonathan Sanchez (traded to Kansas City)
Projected Record: 93-69
Summary: The Giants are looking to get back on top of the National League after a disappointing 2011 campaign. The Giants went 86-76, missing the wild card by four games to the Cardinals, who won the World Series.

The Giants are hoping Madison Bumgarner fills in big as the number three pitcher after the Giants dealt Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera. They still have Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain at the front of their rotation, boasting one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.

Offensively, the addition of Cabrera as well as the return of catcher Buster Posey is going to be huge for the Giants, who aren’t known for their offensive fire power. Pablo Sandoval is coming off one of what could have been his best offensive season had he not got hurt. He will step in as the offensive leader of this team.

Expectations: Nothing has changed because no one expected them to win the NL West last year, nor do people expect them to this year.
Key Addition: OF Jason Kubel (signed from Minnesota)
Key Loss: SP Jason Marquis (signed with Minnesota)
Projected Record: 88-74
Summary: Ian Kennedy finished in the top five of Cy Young voting last season, the first D’back to do so since they had a couple of pitchers named Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. The offense was hot all season but the pitching behind Kennedy and Daniel Hudson wasn’t much.

Chris Young and Josh Upton are two of the best hitting outfielders in the National League. Upton mashed 31 homers and drove in 88 RBIs while hitting .289. Gerardo Parra established himself as an important hitter in their line up, leading the team with a .292 average

The offense should be strong again and the pitching will be decent. But is it enough to make them a Wild Card team?

Expectations: Owner Frank McCourt stays single, keeping the focus of the Dodgers season off himself for a change.
Key Addition: SP Aaron Harang (signed from San Diego)
Key Loss: SP Hiroki Kuroda (signed with NY Yankees)
Projected Record: 83-79
Summary: Last season was a complete mess for the Dodgers. Between problems with ownership and players under-performing, they still managed to boast the Cy Young Award winner in Clayton Kershaw and MVP candidate Matt Kemp.

Kershaw was impressive, leading the league with 248 strike outs. He went 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA and incredibly low 0.98 WHIP. The pitching took a hit when Hiroki Kuroda went to the Yankees. But LA added Aaron Harang, who may not be a Kuroda but is a solid addition to the bolster the back-end of the rotation.

Kemp is coming off a Willie Mays-like effort, hitting .324 while smashing 39 homers and driving in 126 RBIs. Dee Gordon came on strong in the second half of the season and will make a nice speedy lead-off hitter for the Dodgers.

The big question mark comes in the form of their other slugger Andre Ethier. Ethier had a major power outage last season, hitting only 11 homers while driving in 62 RBIs in 135 games.

The Dodgers could hang around and make a push for the Wild Card. But a weak offense and rotation behind their two big stars says that won’t be the case.

Expectations: Jamie Moyer + thin Denver air = home run derby.
Key Addition: IF/OF Michael Cuddyer (signed from Minnesota)
Key Loss: 2B Mark Ellis (signed with LA Dodgers)
Projected Record: 78-84
Summary: The Rockies just aren’t that sleeper team many people believe them to be anymore. Granted the battle for second place is an open two, or three team race, the Rockies will find themselves on the outside looking in come September.

A big part of that is the weak pitching. Jeremy Guthrie and Jhoulys Chacin are Colorado’s two best pitchers, an absolute joke. They are going to sorely miss Ubaldo Jimenez, the best pitcher Colorado has seen in a very long time.

Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are two of the most dangerous hitters in the division. They both feast off of playing 81 games at Coors Field. The two combined for 56 homer runs and 197 RBIs last season. And don’t sleep on Todd Helton. The future Hall of Famer can still rake with the best of them.

Expectations: If they have expectations, good for them.
Key Addition: OF Mark Kotsay (signed from Milwaukee)
Key Loss: RP Heath Bell (signed with Miami)
Projected Record: 72-90
Summary: Closing baseball games has been a popular thing in San Diego. From legend Trevor Hoffman to Heath Bell, if the Padres had a lead in the 9th the game was theirs.

Those duties will now belong to Huston Street, a journeyman closer. Harang led the staff in wins last season, but has jumped ship to LA. That will put pressure on Cory Luebke and and Tim Stauffer.

The Padres are allergic to hitting home runs. They hit 91 home runs, good for dead last in the Majors. Their leader in home runs was Ryan Ludwick with 11. Cameron Maybin is their only competent offensive weapon as well.

San Diego is really bad this season and there is nothing more to say about that.


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