National League West Preview
Stephen Drew SS
Chris Young CF
Conor Jackson LF
Chad Tracy 1B
Mark Reynolds 3B
Chris Snyder C
Justin Upton RF
Felipe Lopez 2B
I'm trying something slightly different this year, ordering teams by their projected PECOTA finish rather than their actual finish in the previous season. PECOTA has Arizona finishing with the second-best record in the National League.
Orlando Hudson and Adam Dunn are gone, but the continued development of the Phoenix youngsters and a solid lineup from top to bottom will lead this team.
The bench features pinch hitter extraordinaire Tony Clark and versatile infielder Augie Ojeda. Eric Byrnes begins the year as Arizona's fourth outfielder, and will be trying to work his way back into the starting lineup.
Between Justin Upton and Chris Young's youth, and Conor Jackson's inexperience in the outfield, I'm sure Byrnes will see his fair share of playing time.
It seems like every playoff team needs two aces, and Arizona has them in Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. Doug Davis is a bit underrated and Jon Garland a bit overrated, but both are good complements to the Big Two.
The fifth spot is also in good hands, no matter if it goes to Petit, super-prospect Scherzer, or the younger Buckner.
Chad Qualls begins the season as Arizona's closer. If he falters, Jon Rauch and Tom Gordon both have closer experience. Gordon and Scott Schoeneweis bring veteran experience to the bullpen to contrast the young batting order and pitching rotation.
Rafael Furcal SS
Matt Kemp CF
Russell Martin C
James Loney 1B
Casey Blake 3B
Andre Ethier RF
Orlando Hudson 2B
The Dodgers lost two big power bats in Jeff Kent and Manny Ramirez, but their lineup is still good enough to be competitive in this division. In the past few years, Orlando Hudson has been putting up the offense to match his brilliant defense.
Hudson and Rafael Furcal combine for what is easily the best all-around middle infield combo in this division. Rising stars Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, James Loney, and Andre Ethier help fill out a lineup that has very few holes.
The Dodgers have good depth in the infield. Brad Ausmus was brought in for his reputation for calling games, and will no doubt mentor Martin. Mark Loretta is still a quality ballplayer, and can play anywhere on the infield.
Blake DeWitt proved his worth at the end of last season by winning and keeping the starting second base job. This year he'll be backing up Orlando Hudson and Casey Blake at second and third, respectively. This offense's problem is with its outfield depth.
Juan Pierre may be a great person, but he's questionable as a starter on a contending team. Matt Kemp is a great young talent, but his future lies in one of the corner outfield spots. But there aren't many other options, outside of Jason Repko and Delwyn Young.
Randy Wolf joins a rotation anchored by phenomenal young talent in Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw. If Jason Schmidt returns anywhere near to the performances he had as a Giant, the Dodgers starters will be in great shape.
As has become the norm in the past few years, Los Angeles has put together a very good and very deep bullpen. Jonathan Broxton is the closer, a job he won after the injury to Takashi Saito last year.
He'll be supported by Guillermo Mota, Yhency Brazoban, and Claudio Vargas. Jeff Weaver finds himself in Dodgers camp this spring, and will try to break camp as a swingman reliever.
Fred Lewis LF
Edgar Renteria SS
Randy Winn RF
Bengie Molina C
Aaron Rowand CF
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Travis Ishikawa 1B
Kevin Frandsen 2B
The much-needed revitalization of San Francisco's offense starts at the top with Fred Lewis. Lewis is still rough around the edges, but you can't complain about a .351 on base percentage in the left fielder's first full season in the bigs. After Lewis is a mixture of the old and the new.
Aaron Rowand is overrated, but Randy Wynn is underrated. Edgar Renteria has always underperformed in the American League, but found success in the Senior Circuit. Bengie Molina may not be a cleanup hitter, but he's still a solid batter from the catcher position.
Converted catcher Pablo Sandoval gets a try a third base, which I'm sure he agreed to readily, since it's only a matter of time before Buster Posey is behind the plate in brown and orange.
The Giants bench isn't deep, but it does feature a few key veterans. Juan Uribe is there if Sandoval falters at third, and Rich Aurilia is Travis Ishikawa's safety net at first. Meanwhile, Dave Roberts will serve as a backup outfielder.
For the past few seasons, the Giants starting rotation has been head and shoulders above its starting lineup. While the batters are starting to catch up, the hurlers are still the bright spot for this team.
The Freak Tim Lincecum, Noah Lowry, and Matt Cain (in what should be a bounceback year) will get veteran leadership—and very good pitching - from Randy Johnson. If the end of 2008 is any indication, Barry Zito will still have a few setbacks, but he's starting to return to the level we saw him at with the A's.
Most casual baseball fans probably haven't heard of Brian Wilson, much less knew that he saved 41 games for the Giants in 2008. Wilson is back as the San Francisco closer, aided by Bob Howry and Jeremy Affeldt.
Affeldt has turned himself into a reliable bullpen option, and Howry will likely prove that his rough 2008 was an aberration.
Clint Barmes 2B
Troy Tulowitzki SS
Todd Helton 1B
Garrett Atkins 3B
Bradley Hawpe RF
Chris Iannetta C
Ryan Spilborghs CF
Seth Smith LF
Jorge De La Rosa
The Rockies have essentially rebooted their outfield, replacing Wily Taveras and Matt Holliday with Ryan Spilborghs and Seth Smith. Without Holliday, the Rockies will need a return to form from Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton, Garrett Atkins, and Brad Hawpe if they want to have any hope for competing in this division.
If Spilborgs or Smith falter, the Rockies do have good outfield depth in Carlos Gonzalez (acquired in the Holliday trade), Cubs castoff Matt Murton, and prospect Dexter Fowler.
Of course, questions still remain whether Gonzalez or Fowler are ready for the Show. Ian Stewart adds depth on the infield, and Yorvit Torreabla is a capable backup at catcher.
Colorado's rotation took a huge blow with the news that Jeff Francis will miss all of 2009. The addition of Jason Marquis and the return of Aaron Cook will help, but it may not be enough for a pitching rotation that was already thin to begin with.
When he's on, Huston Street is one of the best closers in the game. But Street struggled in 2008, and now he's moving to the thin air of Colorado, which should raise some concerns about his performance.
If Street falters, Manny Corpas will likely return to the role he once held for the Rockies. Street and Corpas will be aided by reliable rubber-armed veterans Alan Embree and Jason Grilli and up-and-coming reliever Taylor Buchholz.
David Eckstein 2B
Jody Gerut CF
Brian Giles RF
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
Chase Headley LF
Nate Hundley C
Luis Rodriguez SS
Cha Seung Baek
It was a fall I'm sure the Padres didn't see coming. Now, they must rebuild. Injury-plagued Jody Gerut was a pleasant surprise for San Diego in 2008, and he'll return as the club's starting center fielder in 2009.
The middle of the lineup is solid, if not spectacular, with Giles, Gonzalez, and Kouzmanoff. But it doesn't look like that will be enough this year.
Three familiar names highlight the San Diego bench. Cliff Floyd joins the club as a pinch hitter and occasional outfielder. Scott Hairson will back up all three outfield spots. And ageless defensive wizard Henry Blanco joins the club as a backup catcher.
Jake Peavy is an ace, and for the time being, still a Padre. When healthy, Chris Young isn't that far behind Peavy in terms of performance. But after those two, there are questions.
There are questions in the bullpen as well. Heath Bell takes over at closer after Trevor Hoffman's long run at that position. Bell will be aided by Cla Meredith.
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