Saturday, March 22, 2014

2014 National League West Preview

***The Division Preview that follows is not betting advice in any way shape or form.  Please do not bet any money based in any part on these predictions.***

Don't forget to check out the American League EastAmerican League Central, and American League West National League East  and National League CentralPreviews and check back next week for the Final Predictions.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Who's New?:
J.C. Boscan (C) free agent from Cubs
Miguel Olivo (C) free agent from Marlins
Brendan Harris (IF) free agent from Rangers,
Justin Turner (IF) free agent from Mets
Dan Haren (SP) free agent from Nationals,
Paul Maholm (SP) free agent from Braves
Chris Perez (RP) free agent from Indians,
Jamie Wright (RP) free agent from Rays

Who Left?: 
Nick Punto (IF) free agent to Athletics,
Skip Schumacher (IF) free agent to Reds,
Mark Ellis (2B) free agent to Cardinals,
 John Baker (C) free agent to Cubs
Michael Young (IF) retired
Jerry Hairston (IF) unsigned free agent
Ted Lilly (SP) retired,
Rickey Nolasco (SP) free agent to Twins,
Edinson Volquez (SP) free agent to Pirates,
Jonathan Sanchez (SP) free agent to Cubs
Chris Capuano (SP) free agent to Red Sox
Pete Moylan (RP) free agent to Astros,
Ronald Belisario (RP) free agent to White Sox,
Carlos Marmol (RP) free agent to Marlins
Winter Headlines: 
Mattingly's battle for recognition.  
Kershaw wins Cy Young gets big extension.
What to Expect?:
The Dodgers have a surplus of All Star outfielders.  That would seem to be a plus but last year they said they had a surplus of starting pitchers yet they somehow were scrambling for starters at the trade deadline.  The question this year is what they can expect from the outfielders and whether they should expect a repeat of the success of last year.  Ethier, Crawford and Kemp all seem to have health issues and Puig seems to be a bit immature at times.  The pitching rotation of Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu is set at the top and the signing of Haren and Maholm gives them some depth.  Both Beckett and Billingsley are hoping to come back healthy.  Billingsley says he feels like his recovery has given him a brand new arm.  Expect this team to be on top all season long and be the favorite coming out of the National League at the end of the year.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
There is a perception that the Dodgers are buying themselves a championship and it is true that many of the key players came via major trades.  Realistically the Dodgers have many players who are home grown.  Billingsley, Kemp, Ethier, A.J. Ellis and Kershaw all came of age with the Dodgers.  True this team has spent money the last two years but many of the players have suffered through tough times with the previous ownership.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Dodgers Fans Want?:
The Dodgers have a strong outfield, a strong pitching rotation and half of a good infield.  Their main problem spots are coming from Second Base, Third Base and the bullpen.  The Dodgers signed Brendan Harris from the Rangers but he has been inconsistent and the backup of Dee Gordon has not been the success the team had hoped.  The team will start the season with unproven Alex Guerrero at second but Harris and Gordon will compete for the job as well.  Juan Uribe is back at third and the fans will always remember his huge Home Run in the playoffs but  Uribe's regular season numbers with the Dodgers had fans booing right up until the end of the regular season.  The bull pen remains a question and was a big reason they were not able to win it all last year.  Also, don't forget the rift between Mattingly and ownership over the long term contract.  On the surface this has healed but it could still be simmering behind closed doors.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Matt Kemp has been a big part of the success of the Dodgers since he came into the league in 2006.  Unfortunately, injuries took a major toll last year.  When Kemp missed time with injuries Puig stepped in and took over.  Kemp will still be a big contributor and leader to any success the Dodgers have but don't expect him to challenge for a Triple Crown the way he did a few years ago.
Expect Great Things From:
Clayton Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in the league and is clearly the ace of the staff.  Just behind him is Zach Greinke.  These two have a long way to go before they see comparisons to Koufax and Drysdale but having two top line starters at the front of the rotation is a help.  Hyun Jin Ryu had a bit of a slow start in his first month (although he pitched better than his record) and he became one of the most consistent players on the team.  Expect these three to keep the Dodgers at the top of the division, regardless of the rest of the rotation.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Entering the 2012 season Dan Haren looked almost unhittable in the preseason.  With the high expectations for the Halos that year it was expected that Haren and Weaver would take the Angels to the promised land.  Haren immediately suffered from back problems and spent time on the DL for the first time in his career.  Since then Haren has struggled.  He was expected to help the Nationals in 2013 but health again played a part  Haren will need to find his old form if the Dodger are going to take the next step.
Prediction:1st in NL West

San Francisco Giants
Who's New: 
Michael Morse (OF) free agent fom Orioles
Tyler Colvin (OF) free agent from Rockies
 Tim Hudson (SP) free agent from Braves,
David Huff (SP) trade from Yankees
Juan Gutierrez (RP) free agent from Angels
Kameron Loe (RP) free agent from Braves
Who Left:  
Johnny Monell (C) trade to Orioles,
Guillermo Moscoso (C) free agent to Japan
Jeff Francoeur (IF) free agent to Indians
 Francisco Paguero (OF) free agent to Orioles,
 Kensuke Tanaka (OF) free agent to RAngers,
Andres Torres (OF) unsigned free agent
Barry Zito (SP) unsigned free agent
Chad Gaudin (RP) free agent to Phillies
Jose Mijares (RP) free agent to Red Sox
Winter Headlines:  
Lincecum returns for one more try,
Zito gone ending hopes of Zito Hudson reunion?
Posey will not move to first.
What to Expect?:
The Giants had a season that left their fans saying "what the hell just happened?"  They defended their World Series win with a shocking fall from the playoffs.  Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum and Vogelsong all fell off.  The Giant's have not added much to the team but expect them to bounce back to the competitive form of the previous few years.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Giants have a long and proud history dating back to the start of the National League.  The history stretches long before the 1950's move to San Francisco and includes such luminaries in the history of the game like Mays, McCovey, Ott, Terry, McGraw and Mathewson.  Besides, it is always great to have the Giants and Dodgers battling for the top spot.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Giants Fans Want?:
The pitching staff had a disastrous season last year (making it two years in a row for Lincecum).  The strength of the World Series Championship teams came solely from the success of the pitching staff.  If Cain, Baumgarner and Vogelsong struggle again it could be a long season.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Tim Hudson has been a strong presence in playoff team rotations since the early 2000's starting with the A's and then the Braves.  Hudson was having a good year again last year but suffered a gruesome injury late in the season.  Hudson turns 39 in July and overcoming an injury of that sort is not as easily done at his age  Hudson is projected as the fourth starter so the pressure will be less but don't expect more more than about 10 wins.
Expect Great Things From:
Buster Posey is a special type of player.  A catcher who is great defenisvely, hits for average and hits for power.  There had been talks of Posey moving to first but the Giants have denied that and Giants fans should be happy he is staying put behind the plate.  Posey is one of the best Catchers of this generation.  His numbers were down slightly last year but expect Posey to bounce back this year and lead the Giants to the playoffs again.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Tim Lincecum is a two time Cy Young winner and finished in the top ten in voting two additional times.  He made 4 All Star Teams and even pitched a no hitter last year.  Unfortunately what looked like the start to a Hall of Fame career has turned into a game by game proposition.  Lincecum was given a new two year contract but the Giants seem to have lost patience with his struggles.
Prediction:2nd in NL West.  Wild Card

Arizona Diamondbacks:
Who's New: 
Blake Lailli (C) from Brewers,
Henry Blanco (C) free agent from Mariners
Shelley Duncan (1B) free agent from Rays,
 Mark Trumbo (OF/DH) trade from Angels,
Bronson Arroyo (SP) free agent from Reds
Addison Reed (RP) trade from White Sox,
Oliver Perez (RP) free agent from Mariners
Who Left:  
Willie Bloomquist (IF) free agent to Mariners, 
Wil Nieves (C) free agent to Phillies, 
Josh Wilson (SS) free agent to Rangers,
Eric Hinske (1B) released
Adam Eaton (OF) trade to White Sox,
Shawn Camp (RP) free agent to Phillies,
Heath Bell (RP) trade to Rays,
David Holmberg (RP) trade to Reds,
Tyler Skaags (RP) traded to Angels,
Matt Davidson (RP) traded to White Sox
Tony Sipp (RP) free agent to Padres
What to Expect?:
Arizona surprised a lot of people last year by staying in contention late into the final month and it was due mostly to Paul Goldschmidt and Patrick Corbin.  The team has made only two major additions in Mark Trumbo and Bronson Arroyo and may have overachieved last year.  Expect them to stay towards the middle of the division and possibly challenge for the final wild card spot but with a talented Dodgers and Giants team in this division don't expect a lot.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Diamondback Fans Want?:
The talent level outside of a few players is just not there.  Corbin, Goldschmidt and Prado are great but Corbin is now out for the season.  Trumbo has flashes of greatness but there is always a question of adjustment in switching leagues (ask B.J. Upton and Albert Pujols).The Diamondbacks are not a terrible team but they are not in the same league as the top teams.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Mark Trumbo was perceived to be on the verge of becoming a star in the American League if only the Angels didn't have so many Angels in the outfield.  Trumbo was tried at third base for awhile but that was a disaster.  He was moved to first base when Pujols was out but his best numbers came from the DH spot.  There is nowhere Trumbo can hide in the NL and he will need to improve his defense.  By the end of the year Trumbo should start to come around but his first few months may be a rough transition.
Expect Great Things From:
Paul Goldschmidt seemed to have it all figured out last year.  After showing some major flashes of potential in the previous years Goldschmidt finally had an MVP caliber year.  Expect him to continue that growth and become a star in the league.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Bronson Arroyo has been with the Reds since 2006.  He came to Cincinnati after a successful run with the Red Sox as part of the 2004 World Series team.  His time with the Reds was an up and down experience but as Cueto, Latos and Bailey moved their way to the top of the rotation, Arroyo found himself falling towards the back of it.  Arroyo could add a great veteran presence for some of the younger players but entering his 15th year in the Majors could mean he is on his way out.
Prediction: 3rd in NL West

San Diego Padres
Who's New:  
Alberto Gonzales (IF) free agent from Yankees, 
Ryan Jackson (IF) trade from Astros,
Rob Johnson (C) free agent from Cardinals
 Seth Smith (OF) trade from A's, 
Josh Johnson (SP) free agent from Blue Jays,
Jesse Hahn (SP) trade from Rays 
Joaquin Benoit (RP) free agent from Tigers
Alex Torres (RP) trade from Rays
Tony Sipp (RP) free agent from Diamondbacks
Who Left:
Jesus Guzman (1B) traded to Astros
Ronny Cedeno (SS) free agent to Phillies
Mark Kotsay (OF) retired,
Anthony Bass (OF) trad to Astros,  
Logan Forsythe (OF) trade to Rays
Ben Francisco (OF) unsigned free agent
 Jeff Decker (RP) trade to Pirates,
Anthony Bass (RP) trade to Astros
Colt Hynes (RP) to Indians,
Tommy Layne (RP) free agent to Red Sox,
Miles Mikolas (RP) traded to Pirates,
Luke Gregerson (RP) trade to A's,
Brad Brach (RP) trade to Orioles,
Sean O'Sullivan (RP) free agent to Phillies,
Brad Boxberger (RP) trade to Rays
Clayton Richard (RP) unsigned free agent
What to Expect?:
The Padres are still working to build a winner and they certainly have some great pieces in place.  The pitching rotation has potential to surprise a lot of people but they are not quite on the level of the Giants and Dodgers.  The Padres, if healthy, have an outside shot to be able to stay in the Wild Card race late into the season but it is a very long shot that they will finish in a playoff spot.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Padres Fans Want?:
The pitching staff has a lot of potential to surprise but the inconsistent arms could also lead to a big disappointment.  Last year, with a lot of these same pieces in place, the Padres looked poised to jump up in the division and when the Dodgers and Giants got off to slow starts they had a window to build a lead.  Instead the Rockies and Diamondbacks fought their way to the top and the Padres just fought the Dodgers.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Huston Street has had some amazing seasons as a closer, especially during his time in Colorado.  The problem in San Diego is not that his skills have diminished but his opportunities to save will be diminished.
Expect Great Things From:
Chase Headley was set to have a great year in 2013 but jammed his shoulder early in the season and he never quite got going until September. Headley looks to be starting the season in the same way this year and any chance the Padres have of winning rides with Headley.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Josh Johnson became a center of controversy during his last year in Miami.  Ozzie Guillien questioned why he was being praised for being average when he had the potential to be great.  Johnson, and the rest of the Marlins, ended that season terribly but it was hoped that a change in scenery to Toronto last year would help.  It didn't.  Johnson was unable to fulfill his potential there.  If the Padres hope to have a chance at the playoffs and if Johnson hopes to continue his career he will need to show he is capable of reaching his potential.
Prediction:4th place in NL West

Colorado Rockies:
Who's New:  
Justin  Mourneau (1B) free agent from Pirates, 
Michael McKenry (C) free agent from Pirates
Paul Janish (SS) free agent from Braves
Brandon Barnes (OF) trade from Astros,
Drew Stubbs (OF) trade from Indians,
Jason Priddie (OF) free agent from Orioles
Pedro Hernandez (SP) free agent from Twins,
Brett Anderson (SP) trade from Athletics,
Greg Burke (RP) free agent from Mets,
LaTroy Hawkins (RP) free agent from Mets,
Jordan Lyles (RP) trade from Astros,
Boone Logan (RP) free agent from Yankees,
Franklin Morales (RP) trade from Red Sox,
Nick Masset (RP) free agent from Reds
Who Left:  
Todd Helton (1B) retired,
 Jonathan Herrera (IF) trade to Red Sox,
Yorvit Torrealba (C) free agent to Angels
Dexter Fowler (OF) trade to Astros,
 Drew Pomeranz (OF) trade to Athletics,
Tyler Colvin (OF) free agent to Giants
Jordan Lyles (SP) trade to Astros,
Jeff Manship (SP) free agent to Phillies,
Jeff Francis (SP) free agent to Reds
Jon Garland (SP) released
Roy Oswalt (SP) unsigned free agent
Chris Volstad (RP) free agent to Angels,
Logan Kensing (RP) free agent to Mariners
Edgmer Escalona (RP) free agent to Orioles,
Josh Outman (RP) trade to Indians,
Hisaniru Takahashi (RP) free agent to Japan
Mitchell Boggs (RP) free agent to White Sox
Raphael Betancourt  (RP) unsigned free agent
Winter Headlines:  
Tulo not for sale but Fowler goes cheap. (Tem refused to move Tulowitski but traded Dexter Fowler for almost nothing)
Helton gone. (Todd Helton, Mr. Rockie, retired and will have his number retired on 8/17)
What to Expect?:
The Rockies were surprisingly not terrible last year and even stayed competitive to the all star break.  They have now lost several of their main stars including Todd Helton and Dexter Fowler.  The replacements of Justin Morneau and Drew Stubbs are not terrible but they are not likely to have the same impact as the players they are replacing.  With a strong Dodgers and Giants team in this division and a competitive Diamondbacks group expect the Rockies to sink back to the bottom of the division this year.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
These guys are the small market underdog in the big market division.  The Giants and Dodgers can out spend this team  any day and have done so.  The Rockies have built their team (mostly) from the ground up.  They still have a big mountain to climb before competing with the big boys.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Rockies Fans Want?:
Simple.  They just don't have the talent.  There was a perception at the winter meetings that the Rockies were very active, and they were.  The problem is that the moves they made did not add anyone who could change the organization.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
During the early 2000's, as the Twins organization rebuilt itself Justin Mourneau had a huge part in that success, even winning an MVP award.  Since then he has suffered greatly with the effects of concussions which have decreased his playing time and his productivity.  Mourneau is healthy now and should be productive but don't expect him to win another MVP award.
Expect Great Things From:
2013 was the exact opposite of 2012 for Troy Tulowitzki.   In 2012 Tulo fought through injuries and missed the greater part of the season.  A healthy 2013 led to a great season for Tulo with 25 HR, 80 RBI and a .312 average.  In fact it was one of his best seasons of his career so far.  Look for Tulo to improve on that great season.
Is This His Last Chance?:
LaTroy Hawkins has been pitching in the major leagues since 1995.  He has had a great career but at 40 years old Hawkins has yet to play for a World Series team.  He signed a one year deal with Colorado but it is not likely that the Rockies will get him the ring.
Prediction:5th in NL West

With three teams in this division less than 50 years old there is a perception that this division is under represented in the World Series.  Since the start of three division play in 1994 how many times has the National League Champion come from the National League West?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
The Cubs last won the World Series in 1908, although the Tinker, Evers and Chance era Cubs made it back to the World Series in 1910.  With Evers missing action due to a fractured ankle the A's won easily 4 games to 1.  The Cubs would not return to the World Series until they lost to the Red Sox in 1918,  Another eleven year gap between appearances led to another loss as Hack Wilson was blamed for a 10 run inning that turned the tide towards the A's and 4-1 series loss in 1929.  1932 saw the Cubs swept out of the World Series by Ruth, Gehrig and the Yankees. 1935 saw Hank Greenberg and the Tigers beat the Cubs in revenge for the 1907 and 1908 losses.  In 1938 they were swept again by DiMaggio and the Yankees. 1945 saw them lose again to Hank Greenberg and the Tigers, this time in seven games and the famous curse was cast.  The Cubs would wait nearly 40 years before getting their next chance at the post season as 1984 saw Leon Durham get the blame for a team collapse against the Padres in the NLCS.  Five years later Andre Dawson would lead the Cubs to the 1989 NLCS only to lose to the Giants.  Sammy Sosa led the Cubs to the 1998 NLDS but the Cubs were swept by the Braves. Five more years in between appearances led to 2003's debacle with Steve Bartman getting the blame.  The 2007 Cubs surprised many people by winning their division but could not advance past the first round.  The 2008 Cubs had the best record in the National League but fell to Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers.  2008 was their 12th appearance since the 1910 loss to the Athletics.

1 comment:

  1. Good analysis.
    I think the Dodgers should play Justin at second.
    The loss of Helton and Fowler is a big setback for the Rockies.I think that Fowler got away cheap. He is a good player.
    I will be doing my predictions this week. I see the Dodgers and Washington battling for the best team in the NL.

    My answer on the trivia is 4. Colorado (1); SF (2); LA (1);AZ. (1).



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