NL West Preview in Giants Primer, Part V
I would link you to Parts I-IV in my pretentiously Roman-numeraled primer, but all you big boys and girls need to do is click on the “Baseball” heading above to see them in nifty list form. About this little endeavor: Part I was written as a response to Mike Fontenot’s release and included historical evidence in favor of re-signing Matt Cain (which hadn’t happened yet), Parts II and III were two halves of an in-depth statistical investigation of Ryan Vogelsong, Part IV was a player-by-player reaction to the announcement of of the 25-man roster and Part V (this!) ends the series with an NL West preview. Parts I-IV have no critics because they are just that good. Critics of Part V (which hasn’t even been written yet, so really they are critics of the author, and they are not wrong) would say that the installment relies too heavily on summary of the previous installments for length and pseudo-witty self-reference for cheaper-than-cheap laughs. Also, what’s with all the hyphens?
In going through the NL West teams, I will start with my predicted last-place team and move up the standings from there, because I know suspense.
5. San Diego Padres
Combine a punchless lineup with a bland rotation and you have a blueprint for losing. The bullpen is good, so they could steal a couple of games I guess. But they are building for the future, so closer Huston Street might be gone by mid-season if they can find the right prospect for him in a trade. Cameron Maybin finally became a good player last year. After being rewarded with a 5-year, $25 million contract, he looks like one of the only position players who will be here long-term. They sent ace Mat Latos to the Reds, receiving first baseman Yonder Alonso as the main prize in return. Alonso is a promising prospect, but so was Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo was the centerpiece of the deal that sent the beloved Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, yet only a year later he was flipped to the Cubs for reliever Andrew Cashner. Something tells me the Padres wouldn’t have traded Gonzalez for Cashner straight-up. Starter Edinson Volquez, also acquired in the Latos deal, looks to bounce back with the help of spacious Petco Park. The field makes most of the Padres’ uninspiring rotation average, so he might truly bounce back. Cory Luebke is the most promising starter. A rookie last year, he notched more than a strikeout per inning, suggesting that he doesn’t need the friendly confines of Petco to thrive. Catcher Nick Hundley is good when healthy; he and third baseman Chase Headley, a high-average hitter with little pop, form the intimidating duo “The Brothers -dley.”
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
The fucking Dodgers are set pretty well for the future with franchise cornerstones Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, perennial MVP and Cy Young candidates, respectively. Reliever Kenley Jansen has an electric fastball; batters who face him look like me. Behind those three, the team is loaded with figurative question marks. Juan Uribe and his over-sized buttocks cashed in after helping the Giants to a World Series. In the season since he looked good only to Sir Mix-a-Lot. James Loney and Andre Ethier came up at the same time as Kemp, with the same amount of fanfare and potential. Loney has displayed little power so far in his career, particularly for a first baseman, and Ethier—well I plain don’t like him. The rotation behind Kershaw is too thin to compete for the division, and the lineup needs a lot of players to perform better than last year to qualify as good. Accordingly, their chances of contending this year are slim. But the future is bright with Jerry Sands, a strapping lad, set to take an outfield spot soon and flamethrower Rubby De La Rosa scheduled to come back in 2013 after Tommy John surgery.
3. Colorado Rockies
They have the best offense in the division, by far. Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Todd Helton, Michael Cuddyer, Ramon Hernandez Dexter Fowler, Jordan Pacheco…the list of good hitters would have gone “on and on” had I ended it sooner. They lack an ace in the starting rotation, though, and the bullpen is mediocre. Josh Outman has the perfect name for a pitcher. Jason Giambi remains in the league solely to go yard a few times a year, which is a pretty cool place to be in life. Drew Pomeranz and Jhoulys Chacin are two young, raw and talented pitchers. If they can harness their potential like it was 1.21 gigawatts of energy the Rockies could contend for the division. Jorge De La Rosa will come back from Tommy John surgery halfway through the season, but he’s more of a N0. 2 starter than an ace. I’m much drunker than I was at the beginning of this post, but Rex Brothers, relief pitcher, should make a Dinosaur-themed adventure video game based on his name.
2. San Francisco Giants
The decision between the D-Bags and the Giants was what they call a toughie. The two teams are remarkably even. You could say that I am trying to reverse-jinx the Giants here by underselling them. Ultimately, the Giants’ thin offense was the difference. Angel Pagan is not a good leadoff hitter and Gregor Blanco, his understudy, has been a bench/AAAA player throughout his career. Freddy Sanchez is too injury-prone to be counted on, and Manny Burriss is simply a bad replacement. One supposes Melky Cabrera could take over at center, but such a move would cause defensive troubles in the outfield and force Bruce Bochy into an unconventional choice for leadoff. Brandon Crawford seems to have improved at the plate, but who knows how long that will last, especially once the league adjusts. Aubrey Huff’s poor 2011 may be old age or a continuation of the up-and-down pattern of his career. On the bright side, Pablo Sandoval should remain one of the best third basemen in the majors, Buster Posey should be back to normal and Melky looks like he can sustain the improvements he made last year. The starting pitching is strong, but if injuries strike the organization is thin on backups. Zito, despite his good first start, will not suddenly turn into Jamie Moyer. Moreover, the bullpen is due for a little regression to the mean.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks
They win these projections because they are the most well-rounded team in the division. Last year, they were about 30 wins better than they were in 2010, mostly because of an improved bullpen. The front office knew that such an enormous jump was partly fueled by luck, so they made an effort to get even better in the offseason. Trevor Cahill is a valuable addition to the starting rotation; he should benefit from moving from the AL to the lighter-hitting NL. He gives the D-backs a second good starting pitcher after Ian Kennedy, who likely will perform worse than he did last year, only because he performed so well. Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders and Josh Collmenter are all above average, but nothing more. Hot prospect Trevor Bauer, with a triple-digit fastball, provides added depth to a farm system that is already deep in pitching. He could make his way to the majors this year. The lineup is deep and loaded with power. Justin Upton is a star, capable of going for 30 homers and 30 steals. Miguel Montero is as good of a hitter as Buster Posey, who actually might have more pop. Paul Goldschmidt is a favorite of mine for his monster power and the fact that he has six consecutive consonants in his last name. I am legitimately drunk now, but I think he can hit 35 home runs. If not this year, then the next. Gerardo Parra is the D-backs’ Nate Schierholtz: both play excellent defense, have cannons mounted on their shoulders, and don’t play enough. However, Jason Kubel has enough offensive skill to justify starting at least half the time, whereas I think Schierholtz should play more often at Pagan’s expense.
Well, that’s it. Check in tomorrow to see if I have the Giants nabbing one of the wild cards. I will also lay out my playoff predictions.
I am fond of giving readers who finish my posts a musical reward. Here is a bitchin’ electric sitar solo.