Sunday, February 17, 2008

MLB Preview #1: NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks

Baseball Musings Team Offense
Baseball America Top 10 Prospects

Chris B. Young CF
Orlando Hudson 2B
Eric Byrnes LF
Mark Reynolds/Chad Tracy 3B
Conor Jackson 1B
Stephen Drew SS
Justin Upton RF
Chris Snyder C

Brandon Webb
Dan Haren
Randy Johnson
Doug Davis
Micah Owings
Edgar Gonzalez
Yusmeiro Petit
Dustin Nippert

Many people called the 2007 Diamondbacks lucky for vastly outplaying their projected finish. Hudson and Byrnes had career years, and the younguns played just well enough to make the playoffs. It will be interesting to see if everyone regresses, or if the young sophomores continue to grow and progress. It will also be interesting to see who's playing third base at the end of the year. Reynolds came in last year after Tracy got hurt, and may have performed well enough to keep the job even after Tracy recovers. The bench features reclamation projects Augie Ojeda and Chris Burke; Burke joins the team this year from the Astros. Also in camp this spring is former starting catcher Robbie Hammock.
Webb and Haren are a dominant one-two punch, and they'll need to be effective if the offense struggles. Davis and Owings are average pitchers, and I'd say if the team can get anything out of Johnson it would be a plus. Brandon Lyon returns to Arizona's closer role after the loss of Jose Valverde. He'll be supported by a decent cast, including Nippert and Chad Qualls.

Colorado Rockies

Baseball Musings Team Offense
Baseball America Top 10 Prospects

Willy Taveras CF
Troy Tulowitzki SS
Matt Holliday LF
Todd Helton 1B
Garrett Adkins 3B
Bradley Hawpe RF
Ian Stewart/Marcus Giles/Jayson Nix 2B
Yorvit Torrealba C

Jeff Francis
Aaron Cook
Ubaldo Jimenez
Franklin Morales
Jason Hirsh
Mark Redman
Kip Wells
Taylor Bucholz
Josh Towers

That's a solid lineup, with a "heart" that stretches from spots 2 through 6. If they can get average production out of Taveras and their second baseman, they're in great shape. As if the lineup wasn't young and deadly enough, the bench features more up-and-comers, including catcher Chris Ianetta and first baseman Joe Koshansky.
Last year, I wondered how the Rockies got so far with such a no-name pitching rotation. Well, it appears Colorado favors quantity over quality. Francis is a good pitcher no matter where he's playing, and the return of Cook from injury plus the addition of Towers should be helpful. The bullpen is solid, returning closer Manny Corpas with help from Taylor Bucholz, Jose Capellan, Luis Vizcaino, and former closer Brian Fuentes.

San Diego Padres

Baseball Musings Team Offense
Baseball America Top 10 Prospects

Brian Giles RF
Tad Iguchi 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
Jim Edmonds CF
Khalil Greene SS
Josh Bard/Michael Barrett C
Scott Hairston LF

Jake Peavy
Chris Young
Greg Maddux
Randy Wolf
Mark Prior
Clay Hensley
Justin Germano
Tim Stauffer

This is a very average lineup. That's right, not just average - very average. It appears that Giles and Iguchi will bat one-two, I'm just not sure where to go from there. Aside from Gonzalez and, when healthy, Jim Edmonds, there isn't much pop, unless Kouzmanoff can continue to develop. Petco has be disastrous to Greene, the former NCAA hitting champ. Bard and Barrett, meanwhile, are a great platoon as catcher. I'd suggest playing one of them at first base every once in a rare while, except the Pads just signed 1B/pinch hitter extrodinaire Tony Clark. Maybe Bard or Barrett can try the outfield, as San Diego is very thin there, and Edmonds and Giles aren't as durable as they once were.
Peavy and Young rival Webb and Haren. Behind them, the rotation is a good one, but fragile. Like the Padres offense, the rotation is injury-prone and needs depth that just isn't there. In the pen, Trevor Hoffman will be supported by Clay Hensley, Cla Meredith, Heath Bell, and Wil Ledezma.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Baseball Musings Team Offense
Baseball America Top 10 Prospects

Rafael Furcal SS
Juan Pierre/Andre EthierLF
Jeff Kent 2B
Andruw Jones CF
James Loney 1B
Russell Martin C
Matt Kemp RF
Nomar Garciaparra/Andy LaRoche 3B

Brad Penny
Derek Lowe
Chad Billingsley
Hiroki Kuroda
Jason Schmidt
Esteban Loiaza
Hong-Chih Kuo
Eric Stults

This is a great lineup... IF the Dodgers continue to embrace their youth movement. Juan Pierre< is a charismatic and likable player, but he simply doesn't put up the numbers to play left field. Will new manager Joe Torre play big contracts Pierre and Garciaparra, or will he choose Ethier and LaRoche, the younger and better options? Outside of those two spots, Loney, Martin, and Kemp should continue to produce well, and I have a feeling that Jones isn't washed up quite yet. The bench features fourth outfielder Jason Repko and the recently signed Matt Sweeney, another great pinch hitter who can spell Loney at first and presents yet another option in left field.
Penny is a very underrated starter. The rest of the rotation is decent, and Loaiza provides them with a nice alternative if Schmidt can't recover from his injuries or if Kuroda stuggles in his new country. Speaking of underrated, Takashi Saito is one of the best closers in the game, and he has a very impressive staff to set him up, including Joe Beimel, Jonathan Broxton, Yhency Brazoban, Scott Proctor, and Rudy Seanez. The NL west is a fairly competitive division, but don't expect the Dodgers to end up in fourth place again.

San Francisco Giants

Baseball Musings Team Offense
Baseball America Top 10 Prospects

Dave Roberts LF
Omar Vizquel SS
Aaron Rowand CF
Bengie Molina C
Ray Durham 2B
Randy Winn RF
Rich Aurilia 3B/1B
Dan Ortmeier 1B/Kevin Frandsen 3B

Barry Zito
Matt Cain
Tim Lincecum
Noah Lowry
Kevin Correia
Jonathan Sanchez
Pat Misch

Wow, this lineup just keep finding ways to become older and more mediocre. The sad thing is that there doesn't seem to be much coming up through the pipeline. But with the ties to Barry Bonds finally cut, maybe they can begin to turn things around. The bench features... well, um... Nate Schierholtz.
It's actually a shame to put out a lineup like that, because the pitching rotation is young and talented. The bullpen features new closer Brian Wilson, Steve Kline, and a bunch of decent but unspectacular relievers.