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2010 Baseball Previews: NL West – Round and Round They Go!

Posted on April 01, 2010 by Don Spieles

For real baseball fans, the NL West is going to be the division to watch in 2010.  The term “real baseball fans”, as used here, refers to those who love baseball so much that they absorb every bit of it they can (College world series, little league world series, and spring training games are a requisite for entry in to this club.)  No matter what your favorite team, if the game and it’s intricacies get you going, the NL West and it almost total unpredictably this year will be exactly the kind of anything can happen free for all that will have you riveted.

In the process of gathering info and stats for this, the last divisional breakdown before opening night on Sunday, two things became clear (and really, only two things.)  The first is that the Padres will need something akin to divine intervention to finish anything but last.  The other surety is the finishing order of the other four teams is totally up in the air in the hive brain that is baseball analysis.

With that in mind, here’s how it’ll all work out.

Seattle Mariners vs Colorado Rockies in Denver

Todd Helton's veteran presence will lead his young team to the division title.

1. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies have dome some serious house cleaning, in terms of sheer numbers at least.  Included in the list of players that have departed are 3B Garrett Atkins (Orioles), RHP Jason Marquis (Nationals), OF Matt Murton (Hanshin Tigers) , INF Mike McCoy (Blue Jays), RHP Jose Contreras (Phillies), C Yorvit Torrealba (Padres), RHP Joel Peralta (Nationals), RHP Ryan Speier (Nationals), RHP Matt Herges (Royals), RHP Josh Fogg (Mets), LHP Alan Embree (Red Sox).

Incoming players? How about 3B Melvin Mora (Orioles), C Miguel Olivio (Royals), RHP Tim Redding (Mets), C Paul LoDuca (Marlins) , OF Jay Payton (Orioles).  Two of those, (Paytonand LoDuca) didn’t play in 2009.

Shopping lists aside, the Rockies are a young team, but a team with a lot of potential stars and some vets mixed in for guidance.  Todd Helton still man’s first, with Jason Giambi as a back-up and pinch-hitter.  They sport a solid rotation of Ubaldo Jimenez, Aaron Cook, Jorge De La Rosa, Jeff Francis, and Jason Hammel will lead off for a deep bull pen that includes Franklin Morales, Rafael Bettencourt, and Huston Street.

Potential negatives are the obvious lack of experience in most position players and Huston Street is having some health issues.  The thing about the Rockies, though, is what makes then sort of like the Twins of the NL; they never quit.  They are scrappy and are usually always relevant in September conversations.

Unless they are decimated by injuries or some other major unforeseen calamity, the Rockies take the NL West in 2010.

Who Will Win the NL West?

  • Los Angeles Dodgers (57%, 4 Votes)
  • Colorado Rockies (14%, 1 Votes)
  • San Diego Padres (14%, 1 Votes)
  • San Francisco Giants (14%, 1 Votes)
  • Arizona Diamondbacks (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 7

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Los Angeles's Manny Ramirez stretches during game three of the NLCS in Philadelphia

Which Manny will Dodger fans get to see in 2010?

2. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have some really great players on their squad for 2010.  Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are hot fantasy picks in fantasy leagues for their plate potential.  Their top two starters, Chad Billingsly and Clayton Kershaw, are potentially as good as any 1-2 combo in the league. They have a solid closer in Jonathan Broxton and a power-bomber in a baggy #99 uni… Manny Ramirez.

The problems start after that, however.  At catcher there is Russell Martin with his .250 average (meh) and his 7 home runs (blah!)  Martin was listed as the #2 fantasy catcher in both leagues prior to th e 2009 season.  This year he’s listed at about #10 (possibly as high as #8) and that is an overvalue.  Casey Blake is still at third at the ripe old age of 37 (He will be in August, anyway.)  He still had some pop at the plate last season (18 home runs and .280 average) but unless he pulls a Raul Ibanez, his production is going to go down.  Other than the three pitchers mentioned above, the Dodgers are going to end up wanting in that department, as well.

One possibly underrated loss is that of Randy Wolf.  As Matthew Berry recently pointed out for his fantasy column, only five pitchers had a more quality starts than Randy Wolf last year and he had a very good era, both at home and one the road.  Randy Wolfe is a quiet asset, but one the Dodgers will probably miss.

Also, when you mention Manny Ramirez as potential positive, he must also be included as a potential distraction.  He’s already made headlines by spouting off about this being his last season as a Dodger.  That, in and of itself, could mean different things.  If he wants to play again next season, probably as a DH somewhere, he may be inspired to achieve in order to get some more dough.  On the other hand, if he sees himself as a potential retiree?  Well, it’s well documented what Manny is capable of not doing when he chooses that path.

The Dodgers also have a strange elephant in the room in the divorce between it’s owners.  Most Dodgers personnel down play this, but it is bound to lurk around the corner and pop up if other things go awry.

In all the varied opinions of how the NL West will shake out, one of the least common predictions is the Dodgers finishing first.

3. San Francisco Giants

The true toss-up in the NL West is the 3 and 4 spots.

Texas Rangers v San Francisco Giants

No statistical juggernaut, but the Giants could use a few more scrappers like Aaron Rowand.

The Giants Still have very good pitching, despite (or perhaps due to) the losses of Brad Penny (Cardinals) and Randy Johnson (retirement).  Their rotation will be one of the strongest in the Major Leagues with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Jonathan O. Sanchez, and Todd Wellmeyer.

Speaking of Tim Lincecum, the Giants best move of the off season was getting Lincecum inked to a two year, $23 million deal without arbitration or animosity.  The two time Cy Young winner is nursing a sore finger this spring, but most agree it’s a temporary issue.

But as good as the pitching is, without some batting, the Giants will continue to flounder.  The line-up is not what anyone would call awe inspiring, with Pablo Sandoval and Bengie Molina as the two power guys, Aaron Rowand is respectable as well, plus he’s a real scrapper.

Baseball Prospectus has the Giants finishing fourth behind the Diamondbacks.  Third just seems more likely, though certainly not guaranteed.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

MLB: Diamondbacks vs Rockies SEP 19

Mark Reynolds: A diamond in the Diamondback rough.

The phrase “they know how to win games” gets a lot of mileage, but never when the Diamondbacks are the subject of the conversation – at least not lately.

Arizona looks good on paper – at least offensively.  There’s Mark Reynolds with 44 home runs and Justin Upton with 26 jacks ,a .300 average, and a .366 OBP.  Felipe Lopez batted .301 and had a .364 OBP.

But the real numbers are 70-92; the win loss numbers for the Diamondbacks in 2009. They have no big speed threat for stealing – Mark Reynolds lead in ’09 with 24 bases, and that was a fluke.  Their best pitching move was grabbing Ian Kennedy (Yankees and their bullpen is lackluster. Mostly, as mentioned, they can’t seem to win.

5. San Diego Padres

Wow. And not a good “wow”.

MLB: Padres vs Dodgers July 26

Adrian Gonzalez is going, going, gone come the trade deadline.

One crazier than usual parity experiment that gets some discussion deals with if a team finishes last in its division then the best AAA affiliate gets to be a major league franchise the following year and the schlub loser team goes to the minors spot.  Yes, that’s insane, but it must have been a person looking at the Padre’s club who came up with that idea.  They already seem like a AAA team with a few exceptions.

Unless you’re a die-hard Pads fan or Bill James cleaning lady, you probably know very few of the Padre’s starting line-up.  Yorvit Torrealba will catch – yes, he’s recognizable.  Jon Garland is their number one starter.  Dennis Eckstein is at second and, of course, everyone knows Adrian Gonzalez at first base (at least until the mid summer trade deadline, anyway.)  The rest of the team is the stuff of geeky fantasy drafts that have too many rounds.

The Padres will finish fifth.

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