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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Evan Heffron: NL West Preview

The 2008 version of the NL West was appearing to shape up once again as a pretty mediocre division heading into the all-star break. As it was the case in years past, every team was still in "contention" for the division because of the very unimpressive records at the top of the division. Everything was dragging along normally for the West, but then, Mr.Ramirez came to town. The Dodgers consequently took the division and made a strong run to the NLCS. This success was mostly attributed to Manny's insane 53-game line of 17 HR's 53 RBI and a nice little .396 AVG. Ramirez's absolute tear was the driving force behind LA's run last year. Now, with Manny testing the free agent waters, this division is up for grabs in 09'. The rumored destinations for Ramirez have been noted as San Fransisco or LA. So with disregarding the Manny factor and analyzing the rosters for what they are right now, here are my 2009 NL West Predictions.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers 86-76

With or Without Manny, this lineup is stacked regardless. The Dodgers are young and have tons of athleticism. Role players Matt Kemp, Andre Eithier, and Russell Martin are all on the verge of becoming statistical leaders of this club. All three of these guys are five-tool studs that can change the complexion of a game in the field or at bat. SS Rafael Furcal was hampered by injury last year but if healthy in 09', he can serve as the contact spark at the top of the order. His fielding and throwing ability as well are elite. When it comes to pitching, Jonathan Broxton will anchor things in the 9th inning. His awesome regular season numbers as a set-up guy will translate well this season. As far as the rotation, losing Derek Lowe does hurt but there are enough up and comers to keep this staff in check. Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, and super prospect Clayton Kershaw can all contribute in the up coming season and it will be much needed. This squad minus Manny could be potentially at a shortage for power, so consistent pitching will be needed in order to win those one run games.

2. Arizona Diamondbacks 85-77

In my opinion, this team has one of the best 1-2 punches at SP in the NL. 22 game winner Brandon Webb and K guy Dan Haren put out dominating performance after dominating performance last season. Prospect Max Scherzer is also projected to get innings either as a pen arm or in the starting rotation. Arizona's pitching seems to be in place but the real key to their success will be in the offense. Losing 40 HR guy Adam Dunn, along with role-player Orlando Hudson, will drastically change the complexion of the lineup. OF's Justin Upton and Chris B. Young will need to step up their batting averages in order to develop any substantial rallies in the regular season. Overall I like this team. I feel as if they are one crazy looking dread-locked man away from winning 90-95 games.

3. San Fransisco Giants 79-83

This team will make improvements from last season. Adding a veteran presence of Randy Johnson in with CY Young winner Tim Lincecum and fireballer Matt Cain will settle the young guys in to be even more successful in big spots. Lincecum, according to reports, is virtually unhittable in live pitching sessions in spring training thus far so it will be interesting to see if he can repeat the tremendous success he had last season. Rookie utility man Pablo Sandoval can play all over, and is bound provide support for Aaron Rowand and Fred Lewis in the lineup. The offense does not appear too threatening on paper, but the superior staff should help this team through rough spots in the schedule, and should ultimately lead to a better year than last year.

4. San Diego Padres 70-92

Adrian Gonzales is one of the most underrated players in the entire MLB. His consistent 30 HR 100 RBI seasons are all the more impressive because he has virtually no help or protection in the lineup and is playing in one of the most pitcher-oriented parks in the majors. Along with Gonzales, Jake Peavy is doing his fair share to carry the staff year to year. Peavy was injured last year so his numbers may not reflect his abilities but over the course of a full season it won't be surprising to see Peavy put up numbers in the realm of 220 K's and a sub 3 ERA. The one thing that was always a constant in San Diego was the closer spot. Trevor Hoffman year after year would post up 30 + save seasons like it was nothing. Now that he is a Brewer, the Padres will have a big hole to fill during spring training. I Like certain guys on the team, but in all reality I don't know if they have what it takes to contend this year.

5. Colorado Rockies 66-96

Even after losing stud LF Matt Holliday to Oakland this offseason, this team has power. Between Brad Hawpe, Garret Atkins, and a healthy Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies can put up some big time run totals, especially at Coors Field. The big set back for these guys is the staff. In a division with so many dominating pitchers it will be difficult to contend on the road with anytime simply because Colorado's staff can't stand tall with the Arizonas and the SanFrans of the world. Losing Jeff Francis for the year to surgery is a huge blow. Now, the staff is headed by the very raw Ubaldo Jimenez; who's stuff is electric but has no idea where his pitches will end up (i.e. Daniel Cabrera). Ultimately, this team's lineup isn't too shabby but they simply don't have a Lincecum, a Peavy, or a Webb. Maybe next year Rox.

NL West MVP: Matt Kemp/Adrian Gonzales

NL West Rookie of the Year: Pablo Sandoval

NL West CY Young: Tim Lincecum
NL West Most Overpaid player: Barry Zito, again. *

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