Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NL West Season Preview

The 2010 NL West Division looks promising yet again. After a surprising, yet competitive 2009 in which the Giants, Rockies, and Dodgers all fought it out for the division crown, as well as a Wildcard birth. This year may be more intriguing than ever. 4 of the 5 teams have legitimate chances of coming away with the division.

5. San Diego Padres
This would be the only team with no chance at the division. Aside from Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres don't have much talent on the offensive side of the ball. Really, who knows how long Gonzalez will be a Padre until some big-pocket team like the Yankees or Red Sox comes by and scoops him up for a playoff run. Do not expect to see him in that Padre line-up for too long.

Their pitching is definitely the worst in the division. Jon Garland is their opening day starter and Chris Young seems to be the #2, then the drop-off.

The key for the team is their young guys. Chase Headley has shown promise, but has not had significant success. Now with Kevin Kouzmanoff escaping to Oakland, the future is now for Headley who must produce in order for this team to have success.

New Faces: Jon Garland, Yorvit Torrealba, Hairston Brothers.
Departures: Kevin Kouzmanoff
Predictions: 5th in the West, 70-92

4. Arizona Diamondbacks
This seems to be the up-and-coming team in the division, and some have even picked them to win the division. They are led by Justin Upton, the young talent who struck it rich this offseason with a promising contract. But the key to a D-Back turnaround from last season is the offseason acquisitions. They let go of some stud players, but may have got back a lot more.

Their rotation is up there in a division that oozes talent. Anytime Dan Haren and Brandon Webb make-up the top of your rotation, that's a plus. In fact, some can argue that they have the best 1-2 pitchers in the game. It is the offense that is the problem, and hopefully Upton's raw ability, along with break-out years from Adam LaRoche, Mark Reynolds, and Chris Young can help out that issue.

The key for this team is health. They cannot afford for someone to go down with an injury in a division like this one. If they are to have any success this year, it will be because they stayed healthy.

New Faces: Adam LaRoche and Edwin Jackson
Key Departures: Eric Byrnes, Doug Davis, Maz Sherzer
Predictions: 4th in the West, 79-83

3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Here is where it gets good, and why this may be the most competitive division in the League. The Dodgers finished last year by winning the NL West and holding off the surging Colorado Rockies. But the recent comments from Manny Ramirez have thrown stones at how this team will perform this season.

We know they can hit, they've established that. Kemp, Loney, Ethier, Ramirez, Furcal, that's all you need to know. The key for them is the pitching. Vicente Padilla is their opening day starter, that does not seem to reflect their great young hitting that well. Their young pitching is what needs to come alive for this team. Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw are the guys that I'm talking about. If they improve, the Dodgers will win the West yet again. If they don't, there are plenty of teams in this division who will take advantage.

The key for this team- keep Manny Ramirez happy. It is a contract year for Man-Ram, and history would show he likes to quit on teams mid-season. In this division, that's the last thing this team needs.

New Faces: Reed Johnson and Brian Giles
Key Departures: Juan Pierre, Randy Wolf, Orlando Hudson
Predictions: 3rd in the West, 88-74

2. San Francisco Giants
I'm going to start this one the same way I started the Dodgers, the Giants have the pitching, they've established that. Lincecum, Cain, and sometimes Zito are straight filthy. The offense is where the team lacks. And the team addressed that this offseason, for the most part. They acquired Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa. Although these aren't big power hitters, it is better than what the Giants were putting in their line-up last year, and look how far that got them. They surprised many last year, but don't expect many teams to be surprised this year.

There are two keys to this team: Health and back of the rotation pitching. Freddy Sanchez will start the year on the DL, and that already is not a good start. As for the pitching, I feel that with the departure of Brad Penny, this team is still one good pitcher away from making a run for this division.

New Faces: Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa
Key Departures: Brad Penny, Randy Winn
Predictions: 2nd in the West, 89-73 (Wildcard)

1. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies late-season surge throughout the division last season is one that should scare the rest of the division this season. There is a great mix of young talent with skilled veterans. Add that to a descent pitching staff and you might have something here.

Carlos Gonzalez is a stud in the making, and Dexter Fowler is the next big thing in Colorado. Those two go 1-2 in that line-up that can go 6 or 7 deep with guys who can put the bat on the ball at every at-bat.

The thing they were missing last season was depth in pitching. Ubaldo Jimenez is the ace of this team and will be for some time. Hopefully, a healthy Jeff Francis will return better than ever this season and contribute highly to this rotation. And don't forget about Aaron Cook and Jorge De La Rosa.

The key for this team is getting off to a good start. Last season, it took a 2nd-half run for the ages to get by San Francisco and take the Wildcard. In a competitive division like this, it will take a full season of committment to take this division.

New Faces: Melvin Mora
Key Departures: Garrett Atkins, Jason Marquis, Yorvit Torrealba
Predictions: 1st in the West, 92-70

So those are my predictions, it should be an entertaining season in the ultra-competitive NL West.

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