2011 NL West Season Preview & Predictions
Last season, the National League West went from one of the worst divisions in baseball to arguably one of the best.
The San Diego Padres came out of nowhere, only to crumble down the stretch. They then fell to the eventual World Series Champion San Francisco Giants who finished at 92-70. Still, the Padres finished 2010 at 90-72.
Even the Rockies, who finished third in the West, were 83-79—giving the NL West three teams over .500.
2011 may be a different story for the NL West. On paper, the division is much worse than it was last season.
The Padres lost Adrian Gonzalez and Miguel Tejada—two big bats at the center of their lineup who helped fuel the Padres to the NL West lead for the majority of last season.
The Dodgers lost manager Joe Torre, but still have the young nucleus of James Loney, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. They also got Juan Uribe from the Giants. In the big picture, though, it seems that the Dodgers lost more by losing Torre than the they gained in Uribe.
The Rockies stood fairly still in the off-season, but it is last year's road worries that still haunt them. However, a healthy Troy Tulowitski and another year for Carlos Gonzalez should fix that.
The Diamondbacks did nothing to fix a disappointing 2010 season. They're hoping some young prospects could fuel their team this year.
As mentioned, the Giants won the World Series in 2010. Close to nothing has changed with their timely offense and nucleus of pitching.
The good thing about the NL West is that every year it is something new.
Expect the NL West to be represented well.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
2010 Record: 65-97
The D-Backs will be a three-horse rotation with Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Joe Saunders. If Hudson can sustain his incredible 2010 season, the D-Backs could thrive on their pitching.
No significant change has been made to the D-Backs' line-up. The focus still remains on Stephen Drew, Justin Upton and whether or not Kelly Johnson can have another breakout season. But it will take more than those three to help this very weak line-up in 2011.
Justin Upton needs to decide whether he wants to be a superstar or just another moderately good baseball player.
70-92 (5th in NL West)
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
2010 Record: 80-82
Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley are the core of this rotation. But it will depend on what Ted Lilly, Hideki Kuroda and John Ely can do that will decide whether or not the rotation will match up to the others in the NL West. Kershaw and Billingsley have all the tools; it's just a matter of carrying them through an entire season.
The Dodger lineup is fueled once again by Loney, Kemp and Ethier—not a bad three to build on. Although they do lack a significant big bat, newly acquired Uribe can fit that role from time to time. I'm just not sure the Dodgers have enough depth in the offensive category.
Matt Kemp needs to improve on a fairly mediocre 2010. This needs to be the same year that Billingsley and Kershaw have breakout seasons if the Dodgers are to make a push for the NL West.
78-84 (4th in the NL West)
3. San Diego Padres
2010 Record: 90-72
The Padres need to have another big season out of their rotation—a rotation that surprised and impressed everyone last season. They even added Aaron Harang from the Reds to bolster it. Most everyone expects them to be just as good as last season. I'm not sure Mat Latos, Tim Stauffer and Clayton Richard can sustain such breakout seasons as they had in 2010.
The Padres lost the heart of their batting order, including powerhouse and Padre-fixture, Adrian Gonzalez. Although they did add youngster Cameron Maybin, Jason Bartlett and Brad Hawpe, they did not replace Gonzalez as their big bat in the lineup. Then again, I'm not sure how you could replace him.
It all rests on their starting rotation. If Latos, Stauffer and Richard can even come close to the seasons they had last year, the Padres will have another chance at the NL West.
82-80 (3rd in NL West)
2. Colorado Rockies
2010 Record: 83-79
Ubaldo Jimenez was a stud for almost three quarters of the season, and then he tapered off. But a Jimenez/De La Rosa/Chacin pitching core sounds very attractive for 2011.
Can Jimenez surge through an entire season? Will Chacin get better with another season under his belt? These are questions that need to be answered if the Rockies want to improve on last year.
2010 was a season of good and bad for the Rockies' offense. They lost Tulowitski for a good while, but saw Gonzalez bloom into a star in the making. If Gonzalez can build upon the season he had last year, and Tulowitski can stay healthy, I don't see any reason why this isn't the best lineup in the NL West.
Two things: The Rockies will need to improve their record away from Coors Field, and Jimenez must be as dominant as he was in the first half of the season for an entire season.
88-74 (2nd in NL West)
1. San Francisco Giants
2010 Record: 92-70
This is where this team's bread is buttered. This may be the most solid rotation in all of baseball; there are not many questions about any of them. Check their World Series Champion rings if you have any.
If they can stay healthy, which they have a history of, then this team can run on their pitching alone.
GM Brian Sabean's changes to the 2010 Giants' lineup mid-season proved to be the push they needed to go all the way. With most returning, this lineup looks pretty similar to the one that won the World Series last season. A fit Pablo Sandoval can make this line-up even better, as can the first full season for Buster Posey.
The Giants' pitching rotation has shown no signs of any health problems since they have been in the MLB. That doesn't mean it can't happen. With such a dominant, young staff, the Giants better hope that having the good fortune of good health these last couple of years doesn't finally come back to bite them.
90-72 (1st in NL West)
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