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Article:2009 NL West Divisional Preview

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Finally, we end up in the NL West, where the top 3 teams all believe that they have a shot at winning the division. Manny Ramirez's return to L.A. likely pits the Dodgers as the favorite, but they have a few teams (Giants and D-Backs) right on their heels that are looking to improve on what they did in 2008.

1st Place: Los Angeles Dodgers

1238544632 Manram

Lineup:

  1. SS Rafael Furcal
  2. 2B Orlando Hudson
  3. CF Matt Kemp
  4. LF Manny Ramirez
  5. C Russell Martin
  6. RF Andre Ethier
  7. 1B James Loney
  8. 3B Casey Blake

Pitching:
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
LHP Randy Wolf
RHP Chad Billingsley
LHP Clayton Kershaw
RHP James McDonald
SU: Hong-Chih Kuo
CL: Jonathan Broxton

DL- RHP Jason Schmidt (May)

Position-by-position, the Dodgers are the best team in the division, hands down. The re-signing of Manny Ramirez puts them right back into the drivers seat in the NL West and, unless Manny gets hurt, that's where they should stay all season. They have speed, they play good defense, and they'll score runs, but the only question surrounds their starting rotation. Chad Billingsley was roughed up this spring and may not be 100% going into the regular season and although he's slated as the #3, he's the most important pitcher to that starting rotation. Clayton Kershaw is also being counted on heavily this season and the 21 year-old lefty must live up to his reputation if the Dodgers are going to hold off the Giants and D-Backs. Any contribution the Dodgers get from Jason Schmidt would be an un-expected bonus. The bullpen should be a strength, led by Broxton and Kuo so if your going to beat the Dodgers, your going to have to do it in the first 7 innings.

2nd Place: San Francisco Giants

Lineup:

  1. RF Randy Winn
  2. SS Edgar Renteria
  3. LF Fred Lewis
  4. C Bengie Molina
  5. 3B Pablo Sandoval
  6. CF Aaron Rowand
  7. 1B Travis Ishikawa
  8. 2B Emmanuel Burriss

Pitching:
RHP Tim Lincecum
LHP Randy Johnson
RHP Matt Cain
LHP Barry Zito
LHP Jonathan Sanchez
SU: Bob Howry
CL: Brian Wilson

DL: LHP Noah Lowry (could miss season, still undetermined)

The Giants improved in the off-season with the addition of Randy Johnson and Edgar Renteria. A lot of people think Renteria is finished, but he's going to be better offensively than anything the Giants have had at short in a while, and he'll play better defense than he did in Detroit (he's lost some weight and has more range than he did any point last season). They're also hoping youngsters Pablo Sandoval, Travis Ishikawa and Fred Lewis continue to blossom like they did last season. If they can manage 4-5 runs per night, that should be plenty of support. The pitching staff is a huge strength as they very well could have the best starting rotation in the National League and their bullpen is much improved with the add of Howry and Jeremy Affeldt. It's still a mystery as to whether or not they'll be able to score enough runs to support their starters and if they do, they could end up winning this division or at least making some noise in the NL wild card race. Either way, the Giants have more talent on their team than they've had in a few years and a lot of it is young talent, meaning that the tide is finally turning in the city by the bay.

3rd Place: Arizona Diamondbacks

1238544648 B Webb

Lineup:

  1. 2B Felipe Lopez
  2. CF Chris Young
  3. SS Stephen Drew
  4. LF Conor Jackson
  5. 1B Chad Tracy
  6. 3B Mark Reynolds
  7. RF Justin Upton/Eric Byrnes
  8. C Chris Snyder

Pitching:
RHP Brandon Webb
RHP Dan Haren
LHP Doug Davis
RHP Jon Garland
RHP Max Scherzer
SU: Tony Pena
CL: Chad Qualls

The Diamondbacks have a ton of talent in their lineup, but not all of these guys have realized their potential yet. Chris Young and Justin Upton need to improve their plate discipline if they're going to start living up to their hype. Mark Reynolds also needs to cut down on his strikeouts and it would be nice for them to get a full year out of Chad Tracy, who's only played in half of the previous 2 seasons. Those things happen, this lineup will be a force to be reckoned with and they have more than enough pitching to support them. Brandon Webb and Dan Haren are the best 1-2 punch in baseball, IMO, and they have two solid veterans (Garland and Davis) and a young phenom (Scherzer) backing them up. The bullpen is young bunch of arms, but they have talent, even after losing Juan Cruz and Brandon Lyon. They still have 3 guys who could close for them in Jon Rauch, Pena and Qualls (who will actually be better than previous closer, Brandon Lyon) and a solid lefty specialist in Scott Schoeneweis. The bench is also a strength for the snakes as they have Eric Byrnes in the 4th outfield spot and Tony Clark backing up at first. They have the talent, and if that talent plays like they're capable of, then the D-Backs could run away with the division.

4th Place: Colorado Rockies

Lineup:

  1. CF Ryan Spilborghs
  2. SS Troy Tulowitzki
  3. 1B Todd Helton
  4. 3B Garrett Atkins
  5. RF Brad Hawpe
  6. 2B Ian Stewart/Jeff Baker
  7. C Chris Iannetta
  8. LF Seth Smith/Carlos Gonzalez

Pitching:
RHP Aaron Cook
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
LHP Jorge de la Rosa
RHP Jason Marquis
LHP Greg Smith
SU: Manny Corpas
CL: Huston Street

DL:

The Rockies, much like the D-Backs, have a lot of young talent on their roster. The Matt Holliday trade brought in a few guys who will play key roles for the Rockies right away in outfielder, Carlos Gonzalez and starting pitcher, Greg Smith. While that trade may not work out the best for them in 2009, they'll definitely start reaping the benefits next season and beyond. They also have Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins, who very well could be dealt at mid-season if the Rockies are out of it, and those guys would bring the Rocks' even more young talent to build around. I really like the makings of their starting rotation, led by Cook and Jimenez, even after the loss of Francis for the year. Jorge De La Rosa needs to become more consistent, be he became one of the tougher lefties in the league to hit last season as he really came into his own. The bullpen is a solid group as they have two guys who could share the closing duties throughout the year in Street and Corpas and one of the better right-handed set-up men in baseball in Taylor Buchholz. Still though, they aren't quite ready to take on the better teams in this division.

5th Place, San Diego Padres

1238544652 A Gonz

Lineup:

  1. CF Jody Gerut
  2. SS David Eckstein
  3. RF Brian Giles
  4. 1B Adrian Gonzalez
  5. 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
  6. LF Chase Headley
  7. C Nick Hundley
  8. 2B Edgar Gonzalez

Pitching:
RHP Jake Peavy
RHP Chris Young
RHP Cha Seung Baek
RHP Kevin Correia
RHP Shawn Hill
SU: Cla Meredith
CL: Heath Bell

The Padres are going to be one of the weaker teams in the National league, unless they have some extremely good luck. I really like Adrian Gonzalez and Chase Headley looks like he's primed for a nice breakout season, but their lineup is old and slow. 3/5 of their rotation is made up of guys signed minor league contracts or who were originally brought on as relievers. I'm sorry, but Cha Seung Baek as a fifth starter isn't going to get you very far. The bullpen is also a question mark after losing their closer of the past 15 years, Trevor Hoffman, and replacing him with a career middle reliever in Heath Bell. If Giles and Eckstien find a fountain of youth, and their young bats, Kouzmanoff and Headley have all-star seasons, then maybe the Pads will make some noise, but those are not realistic probabilities.

Giants Notes:

1238544636 Burris

The Giants 25-man roster appears un-officially set, as Bruce Bochy and co. made some moves and comments on Tuesday that appear to have cleared up all the question marks. As expected, Manny Burriss was named the starting second basemen, but surprisingly, Kevin Frandsen will start the year in Fresno, where he can play everyday, instead of making the 25-man roster out of the gate. That was the plan for Burriss coming into the spring, but his play forced the Giants to re-plan. Instead of Frandsen, the Giants will carry Juan Uribe, Rich Aurilia, and Eugenio Velez as the reserve infielders, with Nate Schierholtz and Andres Torres getting the 4th and 5th outfield spots. Another surprising thing about the roster that will open the year, is that they will only have one catcher, Bengie Molina. Now, Pablo Sandoval will back him up and is a fine catcher, but the Giants are asking him to concentrate on third base right now, and moving him back behind the plate a lot could interfere with that.

It also appears that rule V draftee, Luis Perdomo, is going to make the team, as Bochy informed Brandon Medders and Justin Miller that they would likely be headed to Fresno to start the year. The 'pen looks like it will consist of Brian Wilson, Bob Howry, Jeremy Affeldt, Merkin Valdez, Alex Hinshaw, Luis Perdomo and either Ramon Ortiz or Keiichi Yabu as the long-releiver (assuming they don't make a move to acquire another reliever).

Trevor Cole The San Francisco Giants Blog


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