2012 MLB Preview: NL West

Here’s my final division preview. I think this is an incredibly difficult division to handicap. Each of these teams has considerable strengths, but there isn’t a complete team to be found here, in my opinion. It should make for an interesting race. I could legitimately see any of the top 4 teams here win the division.

1st place: San Francisco Giants

I don’t love their lineup, but if Buster Posey is back, he and Pablo Sandoval should provide a solid anchor. Melky Cabrera does a lot of things well and he can really help them out. One of the keys will be 1B Brandon Belt. Bruce Bochy jerked him in and out of the lineup too much last year. If they would just give the kid 500 ABs, he’ll produce. And they could use his power. The strength of this team is the power rotation of Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner. Those three guys should propel the Giants to the top of the heap. But Lincecum’s loss of velocity and Brian Wilson’s season-ending injury are legitimate concerns.

2nd place: Los Angeles Dodgers

Matt Kemp is an other-worldly talent. Is there any doubt he’s the best all around player in baseball right now? It looks like he’s determined to avenge last year’s MVP loss to Ryan Braun. In Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers also boast perhaps the NL’s premiere starting pitcher. The key will be the talent around these two. Andre Ethier needs to have a healthy bounceback campaign. Dee Gordon needs to emerge as a Jose Reyes-type force at the top of the lineup. He could easily steal 60 bases. It seems like Chad Billingsley has been around forever, but he’s still young enough to develop into a solid #2 behind Kershaw. And we’re all just waiting for Kenley Jansen to assume the closing duties. He’s a flamethrower. If the Dodgers had one more bat to support Kemp and Ethier, this division could be theirs.

3rd place: Arizona Diamondbacks

Talk about being snake-bitten: Stephen Drew, Justin Upton, Chris Young, Daniel Hudson…all out with injuries. But if they get everyone healthy, this is the deepest lineup in the division. Young and Upton are multi-tool talents. Miguel Montero is a power hitting force behind the plate. And Aaron Hill and Jason Kubel are capable of 25 HR and 80 RBI each. Ian Kennedy is a workhorse and the pen is decent with J.J. Putz and David Hernandez. But if they don’t have everyone healthy, they won’t be able to compete with the Giants and Dodgers.

4th place: Colorado Rockies

We’ve seen what this team is capable of in the second half, so you can never safely count them out. With CarGo and Tulo in the #3 and #4 spots in the lineup, supported by Todd Helton, Mike Cuddyer, and Dexter Fowler, they should score plenty. But it’ll all come down to the starting pitching. Ace Jeremy Guthrie would be a #3 or #4 on the other clubs in this division. In Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio, and Drew Pomeranz, there’s hope for the future in the rotation. But I suspect the Rox next division title will come after uber-prospect Nolan Arenado has a couple of years under his belt at 3B.

5th place: San Diego Padres

There’s just no power to be found in this lineup. Until Carlos Quentin returns from injury, none of their current players cracked double digits in homers last season. Bud Black knows they’ll have to manufacture runs: Cameron Maybin, Orlando Hudson, Chase Headley, Will Venable and Jason Bartlett all stole at least 13 bases last year. But they’ll struggle to score 500 runs. They have some nice pitchers, like Cory Luebke and Edinson Volquez. But it’ll be another long season in San Diego. Hey, at least the weather should be nice.

All Division Team

C Buster Posey

1B Todd Helton

2B Aaron Hill

SS Troy Tulowitzki

3B Pablo Sandoval

LF Carlos Gonzalez

CF Matt Kemp

RF Andre Ethier

SP Clayton Kershaw

SP Tim Lincecum

SP Matt Cain

SP Ian Kennedy

SP Cory Luebke

RP Huston Street

Manager Bud Black

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1 Response to 2012 MLB Preview: NL West

  1. Sean Breslin says:

    Nice recap. The Giants are going to have a hard time overcoming the Dodgers if Tim Lincecum can’t get it going, but they should still make the playoffs.

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