FanIQ NL West Preview

The World Champs Face Off Against the Offseason Champs in the NL West [FanIQ NL West Preview]

3/28/13 in MLB   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Blog Photo - FanIQ NL West PreviewWe end FanIQ’s 2013 MLB previews with the NL West. This division of course houses the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants, as well as the offseason champions and bottomless pit of money that is the Los Angeles Dodgers. We have the Diamondbacks and their interesting offseason strategy as well. This division is also home to extreme ballparks. On one hand, the Giants, Dodgers, and especially Padres are home to some of the biggest pitching parks in the game. On the other hand, there are the D’backs and Rockies and their hitters’ havens. How will it all shake out? Below is one man’s attempt to make sense of it all.
 
Once again note that teams are listed in predicted order of finish, and that all projected Opening Day lineups are from MLBDepthCharts.com. Bold indicates new acquisition. Italics indicate rookie.
 
San Francisco Giants
 
Projected Lineup
 
CF Angel Pagan
2B Marco Scutaro
3B Pablo Sandoval
C Buster Posey
RF Hunter Pence
1B Brandon Belt
LF Gregor Blanco/Andres Torres
SS Brandon Crawford
 
Projected Rotation
 
RHP Matt Cain
LHP Madison Bumgarner
RHP Tim Lincecum
LHP Barry Zito
RHP Ryan Vogelsong
 
Closer: RHP Sergio Romo
 
Key Losses: OF Melky Cabrera, RP Brian Wilson, 1B Aubrey Huff, RP Guillermo Mota, SP Brad Penny, 2B Ryan Theriot
 
The defending World Champions essentially stayed pat, making very few moves, but at the same time, not losing anyone of particular note except Cabrera, who was unlikely to come back due to the circumstances anyway. Pagan and Scutaro both received contract extensions that run until Pagan’s age 35 season and Scutaro’s age 39 season. Both are long-term risks, but in year one both should be fine, although it’s safe to say Scutaro won’t hit .362 again. The heart of the order remains the reigning NL MVP Buster Posey and the reigning World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval, both among the best at their positions. Belt is also one to watch, where the hope is he’ll start adding home run power to his fine .360 OBP last season. There are concerns though. Pence was the opposite of Scutaro, a midseason acquisition that didn’t hit at all, and the team is betting $13.8 million that Pence will rebound. The Blanco/Torres platoon isn’t going to come anywhere close to Cabrera’s production last year, and Crawford is glove only. Still, there’s enough here that the Giants should have another above average offense.
 
Like the lineup, the Giants will open up with the same rotation as the year before. Cain is finally shedding his label as one of the most underrated pitchers in the game after his perfect game and earning Cy Young votes for the third straight year. 2012 marked his sixth straight year of 200+ innings, and on the surface, there’s no reason this won’t be the seventh. Bumgarner has had moments of ineffectiveness in his nascent big league career, but two straight years of over 200 innings, a career 8.1 K/9 ratio, and a career 3.20 ERA make him arguably the top #2 starter in the game. Vogelsong moves into the third year of his incredible resurrection into a mid-rotation starter, while Zito is what he is, a fifth starter that makes way too much that sometimes can do more (see: last year’s postseason). The wild card of course is Lincecum. Things got away from him in the regular season, and the Giants hope that whatever was wrong has been fixed, and that he can at least get somewhat back to what he was before. However, the postseason shows that the team has a plan B if it doesn’t happen. Lincecum in the postseason was a dominant multi-inning reliever, practically unhittable that one time through the lineup. Baseball hasn’t had a 100+ inning relief ace in some time, but if Lincecum can’t get back the mojo starting, he could become that ace and be a huge weapon that no other team has.
 
Normally you don’t want to see a defending champion make no significant upgrades in the winter, but the core, superstar talents on the team are in their prime, and Brian Sabean is not afraid to make the in-season moves necessary to make it back-to-back.
 
Projected Record: 92-70
 
Down on the Farm: The Giants’ minor league system right now mostly exists as trade bait for whatever the big league club needs in the summer. Can’t argue with the results. The current consensus top guy in the system is SP Kyle Crick, a kid with a good fastball who impressed in his first year of full season pro ball. The top hitting prospect remains OF Gary Brown. His stock has dropped after a so-so year in AA to follow up raking the Cal League in 2011. His defense and running are plus, it’s just a question of how well he developing his hitting.
 
Los Angeles DodgersBlog Photo - FanIQ NL West Preview
 
Projected Lineup
 
LF Skip Schumaker
2B Mark Ellis
CF Matt Kemp
1B Adrian Gonzalez
RF Andre Ethier
SS Luis Cruz
C A.J. Ellis
3B Nick Punto
 
Projected Rotation
 
LHP Clayton Kershaw
RHP Chad Billingsley
LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
RHP Josh Beckett
LHP Chris Capuano
 
Closer: RHP Brandon League
 
Key Losses: OF Shane Victorino, OF Bobby Abreu, IF Adam Kennedy, SP Joe Blanton
 
What can $7 billion over 25 years buy? If you’re the Dodgers, seemingly any player you want. Note however that there are limits in the form of roster spots. Take outfield for instance. The Dodgers have long-term contracts for Kemp, Ethier, and Carl Crawford. It’s going to be hard for them to add another outfielder, even if they wanted to. Also given the new caps on the draft, international signings, and the trend of teams locking up their young stars, the Dodgers can’t spend all that money. They just can’t. Just looking at the projected lineup and rotation show the issues the Dodgers high priced talent has: injuries. Hanley Ramirez is out two months with a torn thumb ligament. Zach Greinke is dealing with elbow inflammation, and him not being ready for Opening Day might be the best case scenario. Carl Crawford is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, and no one’s sure what he’s capable of once he is healthy.
 
The question marks continue in the lineup. Can Kemp stay healthy after shoulder surgery? If he can, he’s a MVP candidate. Can Adrian Gonzalez regain his power? How much does Mark Ellis have left? Will the hits fall for Luis Cruz since he has no patience? Is Nick Punto actually going to play while Ramirez is out? If things go right, the Dodgers are on their way, but there’s a lot of ways it can go wrong, more than one would think given the spending spree.
 
The rotation is anchored by stud Clayton Kershaw, who could’ve easily won the Cy Young again last year and is a prime contender to win it this year.  If Greinke isn’t seriously hurt, he slots in as the most expensive #2 starter ever, but would be perfect for that role. Over the past few years, his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) has been significantly lower than his ERA, primarily because of a poor BABIP with runners in scoring position. This could mean he’s been unlucky, it could mean something else, but if healthy, he’ll be good. Ryu is a bit of a mystery after being posted from Korea. The Dodgers paid a $25.7 million posting fee, then signed him to a 6 year, $36 million deal. Time will tell if the Dodgers were right to be that high on him. Beckett had a good start in LA last season, but overall is still a question mark. A true advantage the team has though is starting pitching depth. Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly, and Aaron Harang are all still kicking around the roster. All three are average at best, but if there are injuries, any of them can slip into the fifth starters role and do a credible job. The Rays might be the only other team in baseball that enjoys that kind of depth.
 
This write-up is generally skeptical of the Dodgers, but as you can see, the predicted record puts them right in the thick of the race. In the end, while there are issues, I like the top of the rotation and the pitching depth, plus the talent them have can't be ignored. If they get to the playoffs, watch out, as they have the elite talent capable of carrying a team to a championship. The key is getting there.
 
Projected Record: 88-74
 
Down on the Farm: Cuban import OF Yasiel Puig has been the talk of Spring Training, which forgets that Spring Training stats mean nothing and that Puig has exactly 95 career minor league plate appearances. He’ll start the year in AA to see if he can keep it up. Puig is raw, but not quite as raw as their first round pick last year, SS Corey Seager. His first jump from high school to pro ball was encouraging, making him one to watch as time goes on.

The Diamondbacks really, really like scrappiness and grit. Will it help them improve? Find out on the next page.
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3/28/13   |   mcleodglen   |   32 respect

very accurate preview i'd say, appreciate it.