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Saturday, February 26, 2011

N.L. West Preview

This division is loaded with young talent. It will be fun to watch them all try to attain their potential and make the post season. At the end of 2010 the N.L. West looked like this....

Giants: 92-70 (World Series Champions)
Padres: 90-72
Rockies: 83-79
Dodgers: 80-82
Diamondbacks: 65-97

The 2010 San Fransisco Giants were quite a story. They made the play offs by the skin of their teeth and only because of a late collapse by the Padres. They certainly look advantage of that break by securing their first World Series Title since 1954 and their first since they moved to California. In the 2010 post season the Giants really proved that great pitching is the way to win in series style baseball. They beat two teams, in the Braves and Phillies who both had much stronger line ups than the Giants did. With great pitching and clutch hitting, the Giants secured the title. Can they do it again? I think they have the most exciting young staff in baseball. Tim Lincecum headlines a rotation absolutely filled with talent. Although "The Freak" draws most of the attention I believe Matt Cain, who threw 21 scoreless innings in the post season last year, will prove to be the true ace of their staff over the coming seasons. I think Lincecum has already peaked and his slight stature will not be able to maintain his max-effort delivery. Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner are both phenomenal young talents. With a little more experience and control they will round out a rotation that should challenge the Phillies for the best starters in the game. I see no reason why Brian Wilson will not continue to be dominant and so from a pitching perspective this team looks to be one of the best for a long time. Can they score runs? Buster Posey certainly will help create a few. The great young catcher burst upon the scene playing in 108 games in 2010 and batting .305 with 18 bombs and 67 RBI in his limited time with the club. He carries himself like a seasoned veteran and should continue to rake! (I have him as a keeper in fantasy so I really hope I'm right) Andres Torres showed that he can be a great spark at the top of the order and with the amazing weight loss of Pablo Sandoval and his drive to succeed I believe this team will once again claim the division title.

Pitching pitching pitching! That's what the San Diego Padres are all about. They had the best bull pen in baseball in 2010 with set-up men Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson and closer Heath Bell. The starting rotation is full of young guns who will continue to put up great numbers. The line up will be an issue for this team. Their best player over the past few season, Adrian Gonzalez, will now be banging doubles off the Green Monster (I'm upset about that one) and they really don't have much to replace him. Additions include several decent hitters including Jason Bartlett, Orlando Hudson, and Xavier Nady. Young Cameron Maybin also is due to reach his potential and could be a great lead off hitter. Ryan Ludwick, Chris Denorfia, and Chase Headley, while all good players, are not the makings of a strong middle of the line up. It will be hard for this team to score runs in any yard but especially in their own. Petco Park is a pitchers haven and I don't think they will score enough runs to compete.

Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are the heart of the mile high line up. I really like this team as a whole and I think they are in for a very good year. Todd Helton will continue to save errors over at first and Dexter Fowler will have a break out year. Offensively the only concern I have is the ability of Tulo to stay on the field. Injuries have plagued him but we saw in September what he is capable of. He had half of a season in one month. If he stays healthy for a whole season it could be epic. Cargo, I think, will put up another season like his 2010 campaign and may even improve a little bit. He is a scary young hitter. From the bump they have the pitcher with the nastiest stuff in baseball, Ubaldo Jimenez. Once he gains a little control and stops walking the world, he will be as close to unhittable as it is possible to be. I think Jorge De La Rosa will have a nice year but the back end of the rotation may be in question. The Rockies seem to have the overwhelmingly dominant line up in this division however and may be able to slug their way to a few extra wins. I believe they will finish second.

My boy, Don Mattingly is taking over the reigns! One Yankee great taking over for manager for the Dodgers? Oh well, it could be worse. How will the Dodgers fare this season? Well it's hard to say. The Dodgers continue this division's tradition of young talent with Andrew Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney, Clayton Kershaw, and Chad Billingsly. If all of these players would even approach the pinnacle of their potential this could be the dominant team in National League. What are the hold ups? Well Clayton Kershaw, who led all the world in hits per 9 innings pitched, also walks way too many people. No one can hit him, but he puts runners on, that never ends well. Matt Kemp went from a Gold Glove winner to almost being traded and having his outfield play torn apart by critics. Andrew Ethier began 2010 on a torrid hot streak but after a finger injury never quite got it back. James Loney drives in a LOT of runs but hasn't been able to develop the power stroke and his batting average dropped 14 points from 2009 to 2010. Hopefully he can turn it around. Chad Billingsly has made 30 starts or more each of the last three years and at times is fantastic. If he is able to find some consistency he could be a Cy Young competitor. He also gets hurt a lot and though he makes his start he pitches hurt and that keeps him from being all that he can be. Broxton will look to reclaim his closing job which was given to Hong-Chih Kuo who did a great job with it. I think this team will show signs of brilliance and have a few very hot streaks but I don't think Donny Baseball's first year as MLB Manager will be overly successful, they will miss the play offs.

The Arizona Diamondbacks......well they aren't very good. The offensive core, like all the teams in this division, is quite talented. Chris Young, Justin Upton, Stephen Drew, and Kelly Johnson are all great young talents and will serve as a nice core in the future. However they have virtually no pitching. Daniel Hudson is a nice young prospect but he can't be counted on yet. Joe Saunders came over to front the rotation but he is always hurt. I see this team giving up way too many runs to win any significant amount of games.

This division will finish thus......

Giants: 90-72
Padres: 88-74
Rockies: 88-74
Dodgers: 75-87
Diamondbacks: 63-99

To sum up the Senior Circuit, in the divisional round of play-offs the Phillies will face the Reds and the Giants will face the Brewers. The Phillies will beat the Reds and face the victorious and inspired Brewers in the N.L.C.S. Anyone surprised yet? Well I have to go with the favorite hear. I expect to see the Phillies in the World Series again. Sucks I know. GO BREWERS!

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