Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The NL West will be amongst the most competitive leagues and most difficult leagues to predict in 2008. 4 of the 5 teams come into the season with legitimate title dreams. The other, the Giants, could wind up the worst team in major league baseball.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks
Last season the Diamondbacks lept to the top of the division on the strength of the pitching staff and a little luck. This season the Dbacks now have 2 aces and are looking for a repeat performance. Their offense still leaves some to desire but their pitching should easily make up for it.
Key Player: Randy Johnson, Easily the most important person in the entire NL West is Randy Johnson. Over the age of 40 has for the most part been unkind to the Big Unit's back. He struggles to stay healthy the entire season. But he showed flashes last season of being his old self when healthy, so if he can stay healthy for an entire season the Diamondbacks will have the best rotation in the entire NL.
Player to Eye: Justin Upton, Another key player for the Diamondbacks is 20 year old uber prospect Justin Upton. Thrust into a full time starting role he will be given ample opportunity to show what he can do. It's a gamble for the Diamondbacks to entrust an a daily spot on him
Record Prediction: 89-73
2. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies made amongst the most remarkable runs in sports history last season but unfortunately fell just short in the end. This season they enter with most of the same pieces just now with extra experience. If they fail to make the postseason this year it will turn out to be a disappointment in Colorado.
Key Player: Ubaldo Jimenez & Franklin Morales, Both young pitchers burst onto the scene last year and helped lead the Rockies to their unprecedented run to the World Series. The Rockies will once again rely on these two heavily. If both improve from their 2007 season then the Rockies should be in contention for the NL West crown. If either implodes the Rockies could find themselves in 4th in the division.
Player to Eye: Troy Tulowitzki, Tulo started off the 2007 season slowly but went on to hit .296 with 15 homers after the all star break. This season Tulowitzki could make the progression to the elite shortstops in the National league.
Record Prediction: 88-74
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers come into the season as the highest spending NL West club but with considerable question marks. Who will they play in the outfield daily? Who is going to play 3rd base with both Nomar and the young Laroche out with an injury? How will the young players on the Dodgers react to Joe Torre's coaching style?
Key Player: Andruw Jones, the big signing for the Dodgers will be thrust into the middle of an odd lineup. Some youth and some very old vets. If the Dodgers are going to be successful this season they will need to get the pop from Jones that they were lacking as a team last season. Jones will also have to provide that pop without hitting .220.
Player to Eye: Matt Kemp, Matt Kemp has shown flashes of great skill over the past few seasons but with the overload in the Dodgers outfield has never been given a full slate of at bats. This season Kemp should get daily at bats (if Joe Torre is smart enough to play him instead of Andre Ethier and Juan Pierre) and will certainly look to improve on his 10 HR and 10 steal total from 2007 but continue the .342 clip he hit at.
Record Prediction: 88 - 74
4. San Diego Padres
The Padres season ended in heart break last year with a late season and 1 game playoff collapse. The Padres were lead to the 1 game playoff based on a solid pitching staff and a just good enough lineup. Well this season their lineup just might be worse. With Jody Gerut, absent from baseball for awhile, and Scott Hairston as the projected outfielders they might need Jake Peavy to have an ERA below 1.
Key Player: Chris Young, last season Chris Young was spectacular yet somehow didn't get the benefit of too many wins. This year if the Padres want to take the division Young will again need to post superb numbers to give the a 1 2 punch which matches the DBacks 1 2 of Webb and Haren.
Player to Eye: Jim Edmonds, last year the Padres got decent but not spectacular numbers from Mike Cameron. This season the Padres bring in oft injured Jim Edmonds. Chances are Edmonds will continue along the same injured not so productive path he's been on for the past 3 seasons. The Padres however really need Edmonds to stay healthy and add some power to their overly weak lineup.
Record Prediction: 85-77
5. San Francisco Giants
The Giants spent to the offseason unloading the 2nd most storied name in their franchise history. And what did they do it for? Certainly not for the improvement of the team as the Giants come into the season with arguably the worst offense of this decade.
The Giants decided that they no longer wanted to deal with the Giant headache that is Barry Bonds and thus they did not offer him a contract. They apparently do want to deal with the headache of finishing in last place as they've assembled a team with absolutely no offense of note. They have no superior offensive prospects and their lineup consists of players 5+ years past their prime.
Key Player: Aaron Rowand, Who the hell knows who the key player for the Giants will be this season. They need someone to show up and actually make contact with the baseball. Someone who perhaps can help the team score some runs. Aaron Rowand I guess makes the most sense since he actually hit over 25 home runs last year, but to me that seems more fluky than of the norm for Rowand. And the change from home friendly Philly to windy Pac Bell, does not seem advantageous for him.
Player to Eye: Dan Ortmeier, Someone in the lineup under the age of 30. Who knew? Dan Ortmeier isn't a big name prospect and is having a rough spring, but he did hit decently in limited PT last year and the Giants will be desperate for offense all around.
Record Prediction: 59-103