NL West Preview

Although Paul Goldschmidt had a monster 2013 season the D-Backs finished .500. Can he have another tremendous year and put the Diamondbacks back in the postseason?

Arizona Diamondbacks

Last season the Arizona Diamondbacks were a bit of a mixed bag. Potentially they could have contended with the Dogers but there was nothing preventing them from finishing below San Francisco at the same. In the end it was a team that could win close games but was more likely to get blown away than to blow anyone away. They’ve made a few adjustments and Kirk Gibson’s squad has the potential to be at least closer to the top of the West in 2014. The biggest addition the D-Backs made in the offseason was the acquisition of Mark Trumbo from the Angels. While Trumbo has a bit of a strikeout problem he also has the ability to hit a massive amount of home runs. His addition gives another dimension to the team and if he produces at his typical level of 30-35 HR and 100 RBI the Diamondbacks will be perfectly happy. Gerardo Parra and AJ Pollock will be his collaborators in the outfield and while neither will stun you with their bat they remain capable outfielders – they’ll need to be as Trumbo’s transition to full time outfield may leave some gaps. Paul Goldschmidt had a breakout year in 2013 with 36 HR and 125 RBI. That was with limited protection around him so the addition of Trumbo should help him expand on those figures. He’s a very good defensive 1B as well and if he repeats his 2013 performance could put an MVP trophy up on the board. Aaron Hill will start at 2B and should be a solid bat as he returns after a shortened 2013. Hill isn’t the same guy who hit 36 HR in 2009 but still has a decent amount of pop in his bat for a middle infielder. Expect 15-20 HR and a BA around .300. Martin Prado has seen his production wax and wane over the years but remains a decent 3B but one with limited value at the plate. Shortstop will be a comitte for awhile with Chris Owings eventually slated to eventually take it over. Didi Gregorius is a better defensive option but his bat is a liability. Owings had some solid numbers in a limited run last year and as he settles in could be a surprise. The pitching staff will be anchored by Patrick Corbin. Corbin broke into the majors in 2013 with a 14-8 record and a 3.41 ERA. As a 24 year old he should be ready to come into his own and take another step in 2014. If he does so he could be a 15-20 game winner. Trevor Cahill looked golden in 2010 with an 18-8 record and a sub 3 ERA but since then he’s never wavered far from the 4 mark. He’s also developed something of a wild streak since then that is particularly worriesome. He’ll likely be the #2 or #3 starter and the Diamondback’s season may rest upon him finding the form he had in Oakland. Wade Miley took a step back in almost every metric in 2013. 2014 is a critical season for him to recover form if the Diamondbacks are going to contend. Most worrisome is his increased WHIP of about 10% year over year from 2012 to 2013, but his other metrics suffered as well. Walks were up by 30% per 9 innings, Ks were down. That hits stayed the same is somewhat of an illusion as his HR rate was up 50% per 9 innings as well. Similar to Cahill – his wildness increased dramatically. Brandon McCarthy will be the #4 and as the old man of the staff at 29 it highlights just how young this group is. McCarthy has never started more than 25 games in a season and while he doesn’t walk a lot of batters he also doesn’t strike out a lot of batters. Finally the #5 will likely be Randall Delgado, a 23 year old with solid mid range potential. Overall this is the biggest concern for Arizona. The starting pitching is young but has been so inconsistent over their tenures that while they could take a step forward, they’re just as likely to move back. In the event that they do grab a late lead though, Addison Reed should give them a solid closer and the rest of the pen is adequate if not above average. Overall the Diamondbacks are a bit of a conundrum. They’re probably better than they were last year but the overall level of the teams around them is probably better as well. San Francisco and Los Angeles look to be the top teams again while San Diego and Colorado search for rebuilding pieces. The Diamondbacks went .500 last season and I expect they’ll be only a handful of games above this year. Call it 83-79 and potentially in the Wild Card race. (Michael Bedard)

Arizona brought in Mark Trumbo as protection for Goldschmidt and a run producing guy in the middle of their lineup.

Colorado Rockies

Colorado is not a contender in 2014. For the near future the goal of the Rockies is going to be a rebuild and the chances Walt Weiss sees the end of it aren’t particularly good. That said if this team looks better by the end of the year he’ll have earned a 3rd year. Looking good is going to be more important than being good in this rebuild and 74 wins looks like a pipe dream. Justin Morneau is potentially one of the more confounding signings for a rebuilding team in recent years. At 32 and with a .250-.270 BA Justin Morneau isn’t an asset for a young baseball team. Taking the spot of Todd Helton will not take miles off of Morneau and the chances are good that even if his production comes back it won’t get the Rockies anything unless a contender becomes desperate for a 1B. DJ LeMahieu likely starts at 2B and while he’s shown some decent hitting he’s around for his field work. He should be a solid contributor in the infield but he’s got to hit better with runners on base. At 22 Nolan Arenado came into the bigs last year and hit solidly at .267 with 10 homers. More important though was his fielding which yielded a Gold Glove. Arenado likely takes a step forward as he becomes more familiar with upper tier pitching while his glovework will remain his key feature. Finally Troy Tulowitzki remains one of the best short stops in baseball and at 28 is right in his prime. Expect 25-30 HRs, nearly 80-90 RBI and a .315 BA. Every team in baseball would love to have those figures. Behind the dish is Wilin Rosario a solid hitter who is probably too young to handle a staff full time but will be counted on to do so. Rosario had a dip in his power last year but his OBP was largely stable and he managed to increase his producitvity with runners on. Overall the infield is young and talented – adding Morneau to the mix replaces Helton but may not provide quite the leadership the Rockies are counting on. Michael Cuddyer had a renaissance of sorts in 2013 batting .331 with 20 HR and 84 RBI as a 34 year old who, frankly, never hit above .300 beforehand. The surprising performance is one of the odder bumps we’ve seen in the last 5 years. If Cuddyer hits over .300 with 15-20 homers it would be another surprise but a needed one for this outfield. With Dexter Fowler gone his spot in the outifeld and the lineup goes to Corey Dickerson. Last year Dickerson hit .263 in 69 games with the big club. He’s a solid fielder who may end up playing more right then center as well. Carlos Gonzalez will be the final piece in the field and he’s one of the more important pieces. He’s a solid defensive option who has consistently hit around the .300 mark. He’ll likely deliver the Rockies another solid outing in 2014 but could be another target for prospects if a contender comes calling. The Colorado Rockies pitching staff has some talent but also has some limitations. Jhoulys Chacin may miss a few starts at the front end of the season but he’s likely the best arm on this staff. Last year’s 14-10 on this team with a 3.47 ERA was one of the more under the radar performances. If he gets back healthy and can throw all his pitches he’ll be counted on to progress and show improvement throughout the season. Jorge De La Rosa was a prospect for years and then when he finally showed up it was lightning in a bottle but never has it progressed to where he should be a #2. De La Rosa’s 16-6 record last year came at the same time his K rate recovered slightly after 3 injury riddled seasons. This year is a chance for De La Rosa to show that he can be a pitcher for the next few years as opposed to a thrower. He could be trade bait during the season as well. If he performs well a contender could drop him in as a 4/5 starter and be very pleased. Brett Anderson is currently penciled in as the #3. While Anderson has’t been healthy in years he’s still only 25 and when he has pitched he’s been occasionally brilliant for example his 6 starts in 2012. Tyler Chatwood will probably be the #4 and at 24 he’s another young arm. Chatwood’s performance last year was proof that he’s progressing. If he can take another step he projects to a #3 starter long term. The final rotation spot goes to Juan Nicasio or Franklin Morales neither has the type of stuff to be a long term solution as a starting pitcher and while Jordan Lyles should have more of a chance to progress at 23 he’s likely another back end option who doesn’t project to be a top end starter. LaTroy Hawkins is back with the Rockies as the closer for 2014 with a surprisingly talented middle relieve staff. Boone Logan, Matt Belisle, and Wilton Lopez are all decent pitchers who will eat innings when the starters struggle. Truth be told the Rockies aren’t a bad baseball team, but what they lack are vital pieces for a contending ballclub. Their starting pitching is one of the bottom 3-4 staffs in the majors and no matter how well any group of 3 hitters performs on this team there’s an inning killing mix at the back end that just isn’t going to allow this team to improve too much. I see Colorado taking a step back in 2014 and eventually dealing away a few pieces for future arms. Until the pitching staff is servicable this team is destined to be 4th-5th in the NL West. (Michael Bedard)

The Rockies need a healthy Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to be a contender in the NL West.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of the teams to beat in baseball. You saw how good they were last year with their remarkable 50-10 run during the regular season that propelled them into the playoffs as NL West Champions. They were close to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the standings for much of the first half before gaining a ton of ground over the last few months of the season. Los Angeles ultimately fell to the St. Louis Cardinals 9-0 in game 6 where Clayton Kershaw uncharacteristically had a terrible game and the Dodger offense did absolutely nothing. They are easily the most balanced team in the NL West and that’s what makes them so dangerous. They can beat you 2-1 with guys like Kershaw, but have the offense to score some runs. They are significantly better than both the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies and are still better than the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks, but both could pose a threat to the Dodgers since I don’t see them having another 50-10 run and expect the Giants, specifically, to be a lot better than last season. Los Angeles clearly has the pitching to win it all with Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. In addition, Kenley Jansen has become one of the best closers in baseball. They also have the luxury of getting full seasons out of Brian Wilson and Paco Rodriguez who will make the late innings of games easier. Chris Withrow and J.P. Howell are back in their bullpen and they’ve also added Chris Perez and Jamey Wright. In the offseason, the Dodgers added Dan Haren and Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero. They also signed another Cuban infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena, but he’s not expected to contribute in the majors right away. The Dodgers were in pretty good shape as it was so they really didn’t need to do much more in the offseason. As long as the Dodgers can stay healthy (and perhaps they can even lose a guy or two) they are one of the best teams in all of baseball. When your starting lineups first five are Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez, you’re in good shape and have the potential to do a ton of damage. They’re not the best at second/third base or catcher, but the bats like Hanley and Yasiel more than make up for it. It would help a lot as well if Matt Kemp can stay healthy. The Dodgers with him playing, become even a more productive and dangerous team. Prediction: The Los Angeles Dodgers over/under number is 92.5. I’d take the over. I think this is a mid-90’s win team. They’re better than every team in their division and it’s not really a close margin either. This team is starting to have a Yankees mentality. It’s not what you do from April to September. It’s what happens in October in the playoffs. If they don’t make the World Series, the season was a bust. They have two great pitchers, Kershaw’s probably the best in all of baseball, a dangerous lineup and a relatively easy division. They just have to find a way to get it done for three series in October. They were close last year and I think they breakthrough this season and will be the 2014 World Series Champions. (Dan Sohler)

The Dodgers pitching staff is anchored by the 2013 NL CY Young award winner Clayton Kershaw.

San Diego Padres

The San Diego Padres are a potential sleeper team in the National League for the upcoming 2014 season. While no one expects them to be on the level of NL favorite and division rival Dodgers there is no reason this team can’t compete for a wild card spot. You average occasional East Coast baseball fan may not be able to name many active Padres players but that doesn’t mean they aren’t loaded with talent, specifically in the pitching department. The offense will be interesting, can they hit enough to win? They will likely be without center fielder Cameron Maybin for a prolonged time. Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin, Wil Venable & Jedd Gyorko will need to carry the lineup until help arrived. The Padres starting rotation is solid one through five especially if Josh Johnson can stay healthy and return to form. The bullpen has a chance to shine including free agent setup man Joaquin Benoit and will be very key in winning tight games throughout the 2014 season. (Michael Orzechowski)

Barring a sophomore slump the Padres have a budding star in Jedd Gyorko.

San Francisco Giants

A 76-86 season is not acceptable in San Francisco. After World Series titles the past few year, expectations are high in the Bay area. The infield consists of Brandon Belt, who needs to have a bounce back season and the sure handed, always reliable Marco Scutaro on the right side. On the left side is Brandon Crawford a guy with a great glove but needs to improve his hitting and the slimmed down Pablo Sandoval, who is due for a big year. Angel Pagan roams center and is an on base machine and the corner outfielders Hunter Pence and the newly acquired Michael Morse will provide most of the Giants power. Tim Hudson will add a veteran and big game presence to a very good Giants rotation. The Giants have some solid relief pitching to bridge the gap to a very good but inconsistent Sergio Romo. The Dodgers are the class of this division but the Giants should be in the thick of the Wild Card race. (Scott Boutcher)

A slimmed down Sandoval will be very dangerous for the Giants.

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One thought on “NL West Preview

  1. Little did I know Patrick Corbin’s arm would fall off prior to the season. I would say Arizona falls to about 78-84 without him. This also kills my keeper league team’s pitching staff.

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