Since the first baseball game is tonight at 7 PM Central time, it’s probably a good idea for me to finish my final baseball preview. Today we take a look at the NL West. If you want to check your team’s division, you can look here: AL East, AL Central, AL West, NL East, NL Central.
Let’s start with the LA Dodgers. Bolstered by the mid-season acquisition of Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers went on to win the division by 2 games over the Diamondbacks. After much debate, Ramirez is back in the middle of a very young, talented lineup that includes Andre Ethier, James Loney, and Russell Martin. Throw in a healthy Rafael Furcal and newcomer Orlando Hudson and this lineup is downright frightening for opposing pitchers.
The loss of veteran Derek Lowe to the Atlanta Braves will hurt the Dodgers a bit, but Chad Billingsley will be ready to carry the torch as an ace. Behind him is one of the most highly touted prospects in baseball, Clayton Kershaw. Scouts rave about the 21 year-old lefty and I’m anxious to see what he can do over a full season in the bigs. Hiroki Kuroda and Randy Wolf will round out the rotation.
The 2008 San Fransisco Giants were one of the least powerful teams in the last 15 years. They hit a grand total of 94 homers on the year. By contrast, the NL leading Philadelphia Phillies hit 214. Those power numbers won’t be increasing after a rather stagnant offseason that saw them acquire Edgar Renteria and that’s about it. I’m not a Renteria hater like some people seem to be; a return to the NL should do him well. Still, the Giants lineup is the antithesis of the Dodgers.
The Giants equalizer, howerver, is their rotation. Last year’s Cy Young winner, Tim Lincecum, will lead the way, followed by Matt Cain, the ageless Randy Johnson, and the worst free agent signing ever, Barry Zito. It’s safe to say that the Giants will be playing a whole lot of 2-1 games.
The San Diego Padres have two players worth talking about: Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez. This team isn’t really a serious contender and will probably be in for another long year. They will get plenty of air time at the trade deadline, as teams like the Cubs will try to acquire Peavy. If you’re looking for a breakout candidate, look no further than Chase Headley. The former Tennessee Volunteer has a bright future ahead of him and should be under no pressure this year for the Pads. They also get my bold prediction for the year: Chris Young will throw a no-hitter.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are one of my favorite teams. They have a good mix of home grown talent and players brought in from intelligent trades. They’re a fine organization to watch. Plus, they have a pool in right center and that’s fun. Their lineup consists of a bunch of above average hitters – no one who is a superstar, but no glaring holes, either. Justin Upton and Stephen Drew may have huge years and change that mode of thinking, however.
Their strength, like the Giants, lies in their pitching staff. Brandon Webb and Dan Haren form one of the best 1-2 combinations in the game. They added Jon Garland and will have Doug Davis and former Missouri Tiger Max Scherzer at the end of their rotation. They should be in the playoff hunt for the entire season.
The Colorado Rockies are two years removed from their World Series run of 2007. They traded their best hitter, Matt Holliday, to the Oakland A’s. Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki will need to rebound from sub par 2008 campaigns. Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe will go a long way in determining the record of this team in 2009.
Their pitching rotation won’t scare anyone, especially in Denver. Aaron Cook will take the mound in the first game, followed by Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales. Then it’s Jason Marquis. In Coors Field. That’s a train wreck waiting to happen. It will not be pretty.
Here are the meaningless predictions for the NL West. Enjoy the season.
1. LA Dodgers
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. San Francisco Giants
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Diego Padres