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MLB season preview: National League West

Posted by Ron Opher On March 26

PhillyPhanatics.com’s Major League Baseball previews continue with the National League West

In 2010, the San Diego Padres led the NL West for the majority of the season – in fact, they were in first place all but four days from April 20-September 15. When it counted most, the San Francisco Giants slipped past the Padres to win the NL West and rode that opportunity all the way to a World Series championship. Will the same two teams fight it out again?

Ron Opher takes a closer look in PhillyPhanatics.com’s NL West preview
(see prior previews: AL West, AL Central, AL East)


Link to MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL OPENING DAY PREVIEW SHOW, recorded March 31, 2011 at 12:30pm.

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San Francisco Giants

2010 record: 92-70, 1st place

Key departures: Juan Uribe

Key additions: Miguel Tejada

Projected lineup:

CF Andres Torres
2B Freddy Sanchez
LF/1B Aubrey Huff
C Buster Posey
3B Pablo Sandoval
SS Miguel Tejada
1B/LF Brandon Belt/Pat Burrell
RF Cody Ross (DL)

Projected rotation:

RH Tim Lincecum
RH Matt Cain
LH Jonathan Sanchez
LH Madison Bumgarner
LH Barry Zito

CL Brian Wilson

Season outlook: The 2011 Giants are essentially the same team that won the 2010 World Seres. The only major change is Miguel Tejada‘s arrival via free agency to replace Juan Uribe at shortstop, who left for the Dodgers via free agency. This will decrease the power in the lineup, but improve the contact rate. While Tejada’s range has declined, he still makes the routine play very steadily – unlike his predecessor, who is more comfortable at second base – which is where he’ll play in L.A.. Another possible newcomer is top first base prospect Brandon Belt. If Belt does get the call, Aubrey Huff would shift to left field and Pat Burrell‘s playing time would drop. The Giants logged 15 extra postseason games en route to their title – it’s always a question how players react to that, as well as the increased demands on their time in the off-season because they are champs. Many players have been known to say that they felt like they never got a break when the following season starts. If the Giants don’t wear down, they are still the most talented team in the division.

Projected finish: 1st place

San Diego Padres

2010 record: 90-72, 2nd place

Key departures: Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Tejada, Yorvit Torrealba, Jon Garland, Kevin Correia, Chris Young, Edward Mujica, Ryan Webb, Scott Hairston, Jerry Hairston

Key additions: Jason Bartlett, Brad Hawpe, Cameron Maybin

Projected lineup:

RF Will Venable
SS Jason Bartlett
2B Orlando Hudson
LF Ryan Ludwick
1B Brad Hawpe
3B Chase Headley
CF Cameron Maybin
C Nick Hundley

Projected rotation:

RH Tim Stauffer
RH Mat Latos
LH Clayton Richard
RH Aaron Harang
RH Dustin Moseley

CL Heath Bell

Season outlook: As mentioned, the Padres were a surprise contender in 2010 and spent a large part of their season in first place, only to let it slip away over the last 2 weeks of the season. It must have been heartbreaking not only to be sitting at home, but also to watch the team that beat you out end up going all the way. Financial concerns led to a mass talent exodus in the off-season. While the Padres did get significant talent in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez – who would have entered the last year of a well below market contract – those players are 2-3 years away from the major leagues. The strength of the San Diego team – the bullpen – is pretty much intact, so run prevention will still be a strong suit.

Projected finish: 4th place

Colorado Rockies

2010 record: 83-79, 3rd place

Key departures: Miguel Olivo, Clint Barmes, Jeff Francis, Octavio Dotel, Melvin Mora

Key additions: Jose Lopez, Matt Lindstrom, Felipe Paulino

Projected lineup:

CF Dexter Fowler
LF Seth Smith
CF Carlos Gonzalez
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Todd Helton
3B Ian Stewart
2B Jose Lopez
C Chris Iannetta

Projected rotation:

RH Ubaldo Jimenez
LH Jorge de la Rosa
RH Aaron Cook (DL, Felipe Paulino to replace Cook)
RH Jhoulys Chacin
RH Jason Hammel

CL Huston Street

Season outlook: The Rockies were in contention for the NL West crown, and then sealed their fate by going 1-9 over their last 10 games as they limped through September, a month where they usually catch fire. Ubaldo Jimenez looked human in the second half, which allowed Roy Halladay to claim the NL Cy Young award. Carlos Gonzalez went from a breakout player in 2009 to a legitimate MVP candidate in 2010. Along with Troy Tulowitzki, they are as potent a 3-4 combo as any in the National League. Beyond those two positions, however, the Rockies will likely platoon and shuttle as many as 6 positions in and out of the lineup. That approach worked for the Giants in 2010, so it’s hard to argue with success when you have a deep bench and some positions with no clear-cut starter. Colorado is an above-average team all around – definitely a contender, but also capable of repeating a barely over .500 finish.

Projected finish: 2nd place

Los Angeles Dodgers

2010 record: 80-82, 4th place

Key departures: Russell Martin, Ryan Theriot

Key additions: Juan Uribe, Jon Garland, Matt Guerrier, Marcus Thames, Dioner Navarro, Blake Hawksworth

Projected lineup:

SS Rafael Furcal
3B Casey Blake
RF Andre Ethier
CF Matt Kemp
1B James Loney
2B Juan Uribe
LF Marcus Thames
C Rod Barajas

Projected rotation:

LH Clayton Kershaw
RH Chad Billingsley
LH Ted Lilly
RH Hiroki Kuroda
RH Jon Garland (DL)

CL Jonathan Broxton

Season outlook: The Dodgers are pretty much the same team as they were in 2010, with new faces at second base and catcher. Juan Uribe provides some power at second for the first time since Jeff Kent retired. Considering that James Loney is not a power hitter at first base, this was an important move. Despite the minor tinkering, the lineup will not click unless Matt Kemp bounces back from an inexplicably putrid 2010. Another big issue is whether Jonathan Broxton can regain his form after losing his closer’s job late in 2010. Broxton’s struggles are being downplayed, but he weighs well over 300 pounds and seems to wear down late in the season and in the postseason. He also struggles against lefties (not unlike Brad Lidge). Expect Hong-Chih Kuo to get some situational saves and potentially claim the job. Kenley Jansen is almost ready to take over as closer if the team scraps the season in August or September. Also keep an eye on former Twin Matt Guerrier, who has the stuff to close, but s better suited to be a set-up man (not unlike Ryan Madson) Among the starters, solid seasons are expected of Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda, while Clayton Kershaw is expected to take further strides as the staff ace at age 23.

Projected finish: 3rd place

Arizona Diamondbacks

2010 record: 65-97, 5th place

Key departures: Mark Reynolds, Brandon Webb

Key additions: J.J. Putz, Xavier Nady, Melvin Mora, Juan Miranda, Armando Galarraga, Zach Duke

Projected lineup:

2B Kelly Johnson
SS Stephen Drew
RF Justin Upton
CF Chris Young
C Miguel Montero
LF Xavier Nady
3B Melvin Mora
1B Juan Miranda

Projected rotation:

RH Ian Kennedy
RH Daniel Hudson
RH Barry Enright
LH Joe Saunders
RH Armando Galarraga

CL J.J. Putz

Season outlook: The best thing about 2010 for the Arizona Diamondbacks is that it’s over. When you fire your GM mid-season, something is woefully wrong with the organization. Josh Byrnes did make a bunch of questionable moves, such as Eric Byrnes‘ (no relation, though there might as well have been) huge contract that was an all-time bust, but the last straw was drafting Barret Loux with the 6th pick overall and finding out he was damaged goods, new GM Jerry DiPoto refuseed to sign him, and the Diamondbacks will get the #7 pick in this June’s draft as compensation. The soap opera was nearly the most interesting thing going on with the Diamondbacks in 2010. I said “nearly” because there were two players in particular to emerge who are expected to play significant roles in 2011 and are worth watching. One is starting pitcher Daniel Hudson, acquired from the White Sox in the Edwin Jackson deal. Hudson had a 6.32 ERA in 3 spot starts for the White Sox in 2010, then was immediately inserted into the D-Backs’ rotation and unfurled a 7-1 record with a 1.69 ERA in 11 starts. The other player to watch is centerfielder Chris Young, who bounced back from a 15-42-.212 11 SB’s (in 433 AB’s) 2009 season – with a minor league demotion – to 27-91-.257 with 28 SB’s in 2010. Young is expected to bat cleanup for Arizona in 2011.

Projected finish: 5th place

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