Monday, January 31, 2005

MLB Preview 1: NL West

Welcome back to the MLB previews. The order as of right now is NL West, AL West, NL East, AL East, NL Central, AL Central - one a week. Remember that the lineups are in the order that I'd put them as manager, not necessarily what they'll be on opening day.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Cesar Izturis SS
Jose Valentin 3B
Milton Bradley LF
Jeff Kent 2B
JD Drew RF
Jayson Werth/Ricky Ledee CF
Hee-Seop Choi/Olmedo Saenz 1B
Dioner Navarro/Paul Bako C

Jeff Weaver
Odalis Perez
Derek Lowe
Kaz Ishii
Brad Penny
Wilson Alvarez
Edwin Jackson

Gone are Shawn Green and Adrian Beltre. In are Kent and Drew. Green may not be headed for a great year - he's been in a steady decline, his health hasn't been the best, and he's playing for a team that may make not get him very motivated this year. Beltre, he of huge expectations, took seemingly forever to live up to them. So, there's no guarantee this year will match his last. Kent is still a performer, even if he's not a long-term keeper. If Green and Beltre perform poorly, and Drew stays healthy, the Drew pickup looks like a good one. Meanwhile, Valentin will have to keep drinking from the Julio Franco foutain of youth, Bradley will have to stop making Mark Shapiro look like a genius (in other words, stop doing stupid stuff), and the 6-7-8 spots will have to get some decent production. Werth, Ledee, Choi, and Saenz can all do it in short stints, and Navarro is supposed to be full of talent. The rotation, meanwhile, will have to stay healthy and productive, and not burn out the bullpen before it's Game Over.

San Francisco Giants

Ray Durham 2B
Omar Vizquel SS
Barry Bonds LF
Moises Alou RF
Edgardo Alfonzo 3B
Marquis Grissom CF
JT Snow 1B
Mike Matheny/Yorvit Torrealba C

Jason Schmidt
Kirk Rueter
Brett Tomko
Jerome Williams
Noah Lowry
Brad Hennessey
Wayne Franklin

If Alfonzo can produce, and if Grissom can hit with the pop he has been, this isn't a bad lineup. I'd definitely take Bonds/Alou 3-4 over Grissom/Bonds. Vizquel can still get the job done, but he doesn't take crap from people. Let's see how his relationship with Bonds turns out. Meanwhile, the rotation looks decent but not deep. I'd say this team is a hitter, a starter, and a reliever away from a very good team.

San Diego Padres

Sean Burroughs 3B
Mark Loretta 2B
Brian Giles RF
Phil Nevin 1B
Ryan Klesko LF
Dave Roberts/Jay Payton CF
Ramon Hernandez C
Khalil Greene SS

Jake Peavy
Adam Eaton
Woody Williams
Brian Lawrence
Miguel Asencio
Justin Germano

Top to bottom, that's not a bad lineup for an NL. Of course, I'd probably put Roberts at leadoff and move Burroughs to 7 when Roberts plays. And, personally, I'd play Roberts often. If Roberts can teach Greene how to run, and if Loretta joins in on the act both with the base stealers and the big boppers, this is a good team once again. Of course, as always, health will be a huge factor in this team's success. Peavy, Eaton, and Lawrence are great young pitchers, but they needed help. Williams, while not a dominant pitcher, has done well in the middle of the rotation - just the kind of guy this team needs. And Asencio, while he wasn't great for Kansas City, should do better at PetCo and in the NL, and gives the rotation needed depth.

Colorado Rockies

Aaron Miles 2B
Luis A. Gonzalez/Desi Relaford SS
Todd Helton 1B
Preston Wilson CF
Jeromy Burnitz RF
Matt Holliday/Dustan Mohr LF
Alfredo Amezaga 3B
Charles Johnson C

Jason Jennings
Joe Kennedy
Aaron Cook
Jamey Wright
Jeff Francis
Jason Young

This lineup has three very good no-name second basemen. Miles broke out last year, although quietly as far as the media's concerned. Gonzalez was a great Rule 5 pickup from Cleveland. Helton is just going to get it done. Holliday/Mohr is a good enough combination in left, but the big questions will be Wilson's health and whether Amezaga - last year Anaheim's "other" utility guy - can play everyday third base.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Scott Hairston/Matt Kata 2B
Craig Counsell/Alex Cintron/Royce Clayton SS
Luis Gonzalez LF
Troy Glaus 3B/1B
Shawn Green RF
Shea Hillenbrand 1B/3B
Reggie Abercrombie/Josh Kroeger/LuisTerrero CF
Chris Snyder/Koyie Hill C

Russ Ortiz
Brandon Webb
Casey Fossum
Shawn Estes
Edgar Gonzalez
Lance Cormier
Mike Gosling

There's so many random middle infielders on this team, I'm starting to wonder if I sleep-GM this team. Maybe I should start looking in the mail for a check from ND alum Joe Garagiola, Jr. (or, as Sally Brown would call him, "Joe Garagiagiagiagiola). Neither Glaus nor Hillenbrand can handle a full season at third - Glaus due to health, and Hillenbrand due to skill. That's why the resigning of Counsell was a good move. But, who can play left when Luis Gonzalez gets hurt again? And who can play center period? Kata's an underrated bat - maybe he can play some outfield. Russ Ortiz is a good pickup. Brandon Webb will have to bounce back from a sophomore slump, and Casey Fossum will have to find a way to shake the "never lived up to expectations" billing. If you're out in Arizona this summer, at least you have the sun, the pool, and the random TV shots of Jenny Finch once husband Casey Daigle gets called up.