Previewing the 2010 National League West
The Colorado Rockies didn’t make many changes to their roster, but they didn’t have to. They have at least one above average player at every position, and several of them have room for growth. The outfield of Carlos Gonzalez, Brad Hawpe, Seth Smith, and Dexter Fowler is very good despite having no household names. Hawpe would be better served DHing in the American League, but he can hit. Fowler is probably the worst player of the four, super-fast but not a very good hitter or defender yet. Despite his 2008 season, Troy Tulowitzki is a star, a big-time bat at shortstop who is at least average, and can be very good, with the glove. The starting rotation is above average also; Ubaldo Jiminez is among the best pitchers in the game, and Aaron Cook continues to defy odds as a groundball-inducing machine. The bullpen, with Huston Street, Manny Corpas, Rafael Betancourt, Franklin Morales, and Taylor Buchholz should be pretty good too. This team is talented, deep, and ready to unseat the Dodgers.
Two of the starters for the Dodgers entering 2010 are Vicente Padilla and Charlie Haeger. Yikes. I’m rooting for Haeger, because anyone who is a friend of the knuckleball is a friend of mine, but the rotation has questions. Losing Randy Wolf to the Brewers, the Dodgers are counting on Clayton Kershaw to build on his 2009, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take a step back this year. Chad Billingsley really stumbled in the second half of last season and will need to be consistent in 2010 for the Dodgers to win the division. The bullpen should be good again, so long as Jonathon Broxton stays healthy; without him, it looks a lot more questionable. The lineup looks a lot like it did last year, save for Blake DeWitt taking over Orlando Hudson (downgrade). I just don’t think the sum of their talents will add up to what it did in 2008 and 2009. Manny Ramirez is declining, Russell Martin was not very good last year, who knows what they’ll get from Rafael Furcal, and their plan involves giving Casey Blake 600 plate appearances. Matt Kemp is a star and Andre Ethier is very good, but this team is not bulletproof; behind their everyday starters, they don’t have anybody around to save the day.
Arizona had a really strange 2009, starting with Brandon Webb not pitching again after Opening Day. Dan Haren had a great (and underrated) season, but like clockwork, slowed down in the second half. Edwin Jackson will be their number 3 starter, but I don’t understand why they traded Max Scherzer, a better pitcher right now who is also younger and has more time under team control, to get him. I did like that they also got Ian Kennedy in that trade, who missed almost all of 2009 with arm troubles but could be very good for Arizona. They also swiped Kelly Johnson and Adam LaRoche cheaply in free agency, two veterans who can help them win now while not blocking any of their prospects from getting playing time. Justin Upton is the best player 22 and under on the planet, and should have an even bigger 2010 than his 0.300, 26-homer 2009 at age 21. The Diamondbacks could be frisky, but they’re relying on a lot of pitchers who were recently hurt, plus Mark Reynolds duplicating his 2009.
The Giants need to score more runs. Fairly obvious, but they haven’t addressed the issue since a certain #25 departed. They have one above average hitter (Pablo Sandoval); Freddy Sanchez and Edgar Renteria will give back whatever they create at the plate (barely average) in the field. Aubrey Huff is 140 33 and was terrible last year. Bengie Molina is in the way of Buster Posey, who is ready to play right now. And for some reason, the Giants seem to hate Fred Lewis, who I think is a pretty good player; well, better than Nate Schierholtz, anyway. Past that, they’re doing everything right. This is the kind of thing that happens when Aaron Roward and Barry Zito take up 30 percent of your payroll. As usual, the story for the Giants is pitching, but I don’t know if it can get much better than it was last year. Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, and Bob Howry paced the bullpen, which was good, and their second-best starter (Matt Cain) pitched above his head. Also, I’m not sure I’d count on Tim Lincecum being this good every season; it’s simply unreasonable to expect him to be an 8-win pitcher forever. The Giants were lucky to win 88 games in 2009, and I think they got worse in the offseason.
San Diego hired a new GM this winter, Jed Hoyer, from the Red Sox organization. While he won’t have the deep pockets of John Henry to work from, he has the pedigree to run a team’s baseball operations effectively. His major decision this year will be what to do with Adrian Gonzalez. He is an awesome player (and from San Diego) for a team that lacks an identity and will suck, and is one of the best bargains in the game; however, he almost certainly won’t be around by the time the Padres are ready to be good again, and Hoyer can speed that process up by moving Gonzalez. The pitching staff is filled with nobodies, a combination of average veterans and fringe prospects. The lineup won’t be much better, especially trying to score runs in the cavern that is Petco Park. It’s going to be a long season for the Padres and their fans (the ones who still show up, anyway), and it will probably be a few years before they’re close to contention again.
2010 Projected Standings