Sometimes called the worst division in the league, the National League West isn't pretty, for now. With anemic offenses ranging from the Giants to the Rockies to the Padres, the NL West has practically become the laughing stock of baseball, producing mediocre team after mediocre team.
Since 2002, a team in every single other division except for the NL West has won a World Series (the Diamondbacks were the last to win one in 2001). But for the struggles there is good reason. Growing Pains.
As seen with the 2007 Rockies or 2008 Dodgers, the NL West can pack a punch, they just can't seem to stay in the ring with a more experienced fighter. A plethora of young talent ranging from MLB-Ready starts to blue chip prospects litters the division with talent for years to come.
Let's take a look at some of the young talent each team has:
MLB Ready Youngsters (Age) - Justin Upton (21), Stephen Drew (26), Conor Jackson (27), Chris B. Young (25), Mark Reynolds (25), Max Scherzer (24)
Prospects (Baseball America Ranking, Age) - Jarrod Parker (29, 19), Gerardo Parra (88, 21)
While Arizona traded away some of their bigger prospects for Dan Haren (Carlos Gonzalez, Gio Gonzalez etc.), they still are among the best in the league in young major league talent. The average age of their outfield is a ripe 24 years old, and they hit the ball hard. An example of the growing pains down in Arizona is in plate discipline.
As of today, the Diamondbacks are fourth in the Major Leagues with 346 strikeouts and rank a mediocre 17th in the category of base on balls. With a better eye, and a little time to grow, these Diamondbacks will be back in 2001 form.
MLB Ready Youngsters (Age) - Troy Tulowitzki (24), Carlos Gonzalez (23), Ubaldo Jimenez (25), Chris Ianetta (26)
Prospects (Baseball America Ranking, Age) - Dexter Fowler (15, 23), Jhoulys Chacin (46, 21), Christian Friedrich (95, 21)
While Colorado looks like a dead man walking after trading away star Matt Holliday, Colorado is flooded with young talent that flies under the nation's radar. Players like Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, and Ianetta will be helped greatly by the team's notoriously small park; though it may hinder a player like Fowler.
The pitching still has to be addressed however, with little to no help coming to an already low-level pitching staff. Look for the Rockies to go pitcher early in the coming draft.
MLB Ready Youngsters (Age) - Matt Kemp (24), James Loney (25), Russell Marin (26), Andre Ethier (27), Clayton Kershaw (21), Chad Billingsley (24), Xavier Paul (24), Jonathan Broxton (24)
Prospects (Baseball America Ranking, Age) - Andrew Lambo (49, 20), James McDonald (56, 24)
General managers drool at the Dodgers organization. Through countless years of smart planning and building, the Dodgers have assembled what can be argued to be the best crop of MLB-Ready youngsters.
Even with Manny out, the lineup is still a dangerous one. Players like Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Russell Martin are all stepping up to the occasion and proving the Dodgers are for real. With the roster the Dodgers have, they should be real for a long time.
MLB Ready Youngsters (Age) - Jake Peavy (27), Adrian Gonzalez (27), Chase Headley (25), Kevin Kouzmanoff (27)
Prospects (Baseball America Ranking, Age) - Kyle Blanks (50, 22)
San Diego may be a stretch, but at any moment could turn into a powerhouse of young stars. With Jake Peavy's name, comes the name of countless blue-chip prospects.
Whether it be Tommy Hanson from the Braves, Josh Vitters from the Cubs, or former No. 1 pick Aaron Poreda from the White Sox, you can bet that if or whenever the Padres trade Peavy, a shipload of youngsters will make their ways to the harbors of San Diego.
MLB Ready Youngsters (Age) - Tim Lincecum (24), Matt Cain (24), Jonathan Sanchez (26), Pablo Sandoval (22), Brian Wilson (27)
Prospects (Baseball America Ranking, Age) - Madison Bumgarner (9, 19), Buster Posey (14, 22), Angel Villalona (44, 18), Tim Alderson (45, 21)
There's a reason the Giants are struggling, and that is obviously their offense. With only one offensive player on the MLB-Ready Youngster list (Sandoval), the Giants have some great offensive prospects in Buster Posey and 18-year old Angel Villalona. The Giants' pitching, however, may be the single best crop of talent in the nation.
With three of five starters being 26 or under, and all three being considered above average to Cy-Young caliber pitchers, it's amazing to ponder they haven't even reached their full potential.
It helps that they have two more pitching prospects ranked in the top 50, including 2008 Minor League Pitcher of the Year in lefty Madison Bumgarner. The Giants should be ready for a World Series run in the near future.
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