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The good ol' wild west. One never knows what to expect. Since 2002 we've seen the Padres win twice, Diamondbacks three times, Dodgers three times (+1 WC), and Giants twice (+1 WC) while the Rockies claimed the wild card twice. So who will pull it off this year and will the 2nd & 3rd placers get a wild card?

I've enjoyed digging into this crazy division the past few years, one where anyone can win (well, except Colorado but they can claim a wild card). Lets go through the teams in the order of finish from 2011.

Arizona Diamondbacks: 94-68 1st place after a 65-97 record in 2010.
  • Randy Ruiz: OK, not really major but I'm sure we all remember him.
  • Free agents: Mike Jacobs, Jason Kubel, Takashi Saito, Jonathan Albaladejo, Chris Jakubauskas, Rusty Ryal, Ryan Budde, Jensen Lewis, Jason Lane, Joe Martinez
  • Waivers: Craig Tatum
  • Released: Kevin Mulvey, Juan Gutierrez, Kameron Mickolio
  • Free agency: Micah Owings, Armando Galarraga, Ryan Langerhans, Alberto Castillo, Sean Burroughs, Jason Marquis, Xavier Nady, Zach Duke, Brian Stokes, Clay Zavada, Robby Hammock, Lucas May, Juan Miranda, Andy Tracy, Tony Abreu, Angel Berroa, Eddie Rogers, Michael Restovich
Trades: Ryan Cook, Collin Cowgill and Jarrod Parker to the Oakland Athletics for Craig Breslow, Trevor Cahill and cash.

Lots of 'so whats' in that list but one big trade. Lets try to see how it affects things.

Rotation: Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders, Josh Collmenter were a killer top 4 last year (ERA+'s of 137/113/107/117). The 5th slot (probably earlier, more like #3) will be Trevor Cahill (107 ERA+ lifetime, just 24 years old). Boy that could be a scary good rotation.

Bullpen: J.J. Putz closing, David Hernandez, Joe Paterson (loogy), Micah Owings (gone), Sam Demel, Bryan Shaw, Aaron Heilman and Esmerling Vasquez had 30+ innings in the pen last year. They needed help here so they traded for Craig Breslow who should be helpful (138 ERA+ lifetime), free agent Takashi Saito should be a big help (199 ERA+ lifetime but just 30 games last year). So their pen won't be a strength but also not a weakness. More help would be good though.

  • CA: Miguel Montero/Henry Blanco - an everyday guy who hit for a 121 OPS+ at age 27, backup who hit 132 OPS+ but is just a 69 lifetime. Still, nice combo to put it mildly.
  • 1B: Lyle Overbay took over and resigned here after a 128 OPS+ in a brief audition (just 85 for the season overall though).
  • 2B: Aaron Hill did well once there so he'll be there as the everyday guy in 2012. Weird to see 2 Jay rejects as everyday players with a division champ.
  • 3B: Ryan Roberts is a 100 OPS+ guy who has just 2 seasons as a regular/semi-regular under his belt.
  • SS: Steven Drew is owed a lot of money ($9 mil guaranteed) so he'll get a shot again while John McDonald (more Jays!) is the backup. Willie Bloomquist is their emergency guy.
  • LF: Gerardo Parra was there last year but Jason Kubel is the man this year (112 OPS+ lifetime) and should be decent
  • CF: Chris Young had a 231 avg but a 103 OPS+ thanks to 80 walks and 20 HR. Lifetime sub-100 OPS+ but should hang around it
  • RF: Justin Upton with his 141 OPS+ is here. Nuff said.
  • Backups: Parra is the 4th OF, McDonald & Bloomquist in the infield. They signed a few more guys (Geoff Blum for example) who will fight it out for those backup slots as well.
A solid team but last year every dice roll came up 7. This year a few will come up craps and they'll have to adjust. I'd expect a drop despite the great rotation and other upgrades. Obvious holes throughout the infield are plugged with 1/2 decent guys but trades will occur and prospects will have shots.

San Francisco Giants: 86-76 8 games back after winning it all the year before.
  • Free agency: Gregor Blanco, Joaquin Arias, Brian Burres, Boof Bonser, Yusmeiro Petit, Shane Loux, Clay Hensley, Ryan Theriot, Ramon Ortiz, Travis Blackley
  • Released: Edgar Gonzalez, Darren Ford
  • Free Agents: Carlos Beltran, Pat Burrell, Orlando Cabrera, Mark DeRosa, Cody Ross, Casey Daigle, Osiris Matos, Scott Munter, Geno Espineli, Alex Hinshaw, Max Ramirez, Brad Eldred, Travis Ishikawa, Waldis Joaquin, Jeff Keppinger
  • Ryan Verdugo (minors) and Jonathan Sanchez to the Kansas City Royals. Received Melky Cabrera.
  • Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres to the New York Mets. Received Angel Pagan
Phew, a lot of talent heading out. Adds of Pagan is a CF around 100 OPS+ level, Cabrera is coming off a career year in CF with a 121 OPS+ after being an 85 lifetime over 2657 PA beforehand.

Rotation: The biggest strength with Cain, Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong all over 120 ERA+, [edit]Madison Bumgarner at 111. Barry Zito is still kicking (2 years, $46 mil guaranteed) but with a 61 ERA+ shouldn't be starting anymore. Eric Surkamp is a LHP who showed a lot in the minors (2.02 ERA in AA) but didn't do well in the majors (63 ERA+) but just 63 IP so should get a full shot in 2012. I suspect they'd like more depth, but that is just such a strong top 4 that they can get away with growing pains in the 5th slot.

Bullpen: Brian Wilson has been great, but last year was WILD with 5.1 BB/9. Still saved 36 but I'd be nervous if I ran that team. Jeremy Affeldt & Javier Lopez are wild but effective. Sergio Romo looks like a closer in waiting (13 K/9, 0.9 BB/9). Guillermo Mota is a bit HR prone but effective. Santiago Casilla was very effective last year but 4.4 BB/9 is scary. Many other candidates are there as well such as Dan Runzler who can K them but, again, is very wild. A decent pen but the wildness could blow up on them.

  • CA: Buster Posey is expected to be healthy (115 OPS+ in 185 PA last year after his ROY 133 the year before). Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside are the all-field/no-hit backups.
  • 1B: Aubrey Huff will try to find the fountain of youth after a horrid 90 OPS+ after his 142 the year before. I wouldn't bet on it. Brandon Belt is ready to take over after a 1.150 OPS in AAA last year but could go to LF.
  • 2B: Freddy Sanchez is a solid 106 OPS+ last year, 98 lifetime but is 34 this year.
  • 3B: Pablo Sandoval had a 153 OPS+ last year over 117 games and is turning 25 this year. Sweet.
  • SS: Brandon Crawford, on the other hand, is also turning 25 but had a 66 OPS+ (ugh) and will be chased by backups Mike Fontenot (92 but 32 this year) and new signee Ryan Theriot (86 OPS+ for St Louis, 83 lifetime, but turning 32)
  • LF: Melky Cabrera coming off his career high 121 OPS+ is here, but his 85 pre-2011 OPS+ lifetime is more likely.
  • CF: Ángel Pagán will be here with his 101 OPS+ lifetime.
  • RF: Nate Schierholtz and his 112 OPS+ are here. Not inspiring, but decent.
  • Backups: Outfield backup is a crapshoot right now while the infield is Fontenot and Theriot.
So some improvements, but Cabrera & Pagan are just likely to be mediocre while Huff should be a backup while Belt is given an everyday job imo. This team needs to find real offense for 1B/LF/RF and the most likely source (Belt) could be in AAA again or in a backup role depending on how the manager decides to handle things. If I was AA I'd be seeing if SF could be conned into a 'proven ML' player like Lind for Belt if AA's scouts like his potential.

Overall I'd say the Giants are up there again. This division could see a ton of 1-0, 2-1 games.

LA Dodgers: 82-79 11 1/2 back after a 80-82 season the year before (Jays west?)
  • Free Agency: Lance Zawadzki, Matt Treanor, Mark Ellis, Luis Cruz, Adam Kennedy, Chris Capuano, Wil Ledezma, Jerry Hairston, Aaron Harang, Josh Bard, Alberto Castillo, Angel Guzman, Cory Sullivan, Fernando Nieve, Jose Ascanio, Ryan Tucker, Matt Chico, Jeff Baisley, Shane Lindsay, John Grabow, Josh Fields, Chris Pettit, Todd Coffey, Andy Sisco, Jamey Wright, Brent Leach, Rick Bauer, Brian Anderson
  • Waivers: Matt Angle
  • Free Agency: Jay Gibbons, Hector Gimenez, Jon Garland, Casey Blake, Rod Barajas, Jonathan Broxton, Jamey Carroll, Hiroki Kuroda, Aaron Miles, Vicente Padilla, Roman Colon, Roy Corcoran, Jon Link, Travis Schlichting, Oscar Villarreal, Randy Keisler, John Lindsey, Eugenio Velez, Ivan Ochoa, Hong-Chih Kuo
  • Waivers: Jamie Hoffmann
  • Dana Eveland to the Baltimore Orioles. Received Jarret Martin and Tyler Henson
Rotation: Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano
The loss of Hiroki Kuroda to the Yankees is significant (121 ERA+). The two new guys (Harang & Capuano) are no more than 100 ERA+ guys and Lilly & Billingsley realistically are the same this year. This is a very top heavy rotation, much like the Jays of the Halladay era. You have a super-ace and then a stack of #3/4 starters. Billingsley could be more but to expect it is to be taking a risk. Rubby De La Rosa had a nice rookie season as a 22 year old but isn't in the mix due to having his right shoulder undergoing surgery. Nathan Eovaldi, just 22 this year, had a fine rookie season (103 ERA+ mixed between rotation & pen) but is expected to be in AAA to start.

Bullpen: Javy Guerra is the closer, Matt Guerrier, Mike MacDougal, Kenley Jansen, Blake Hawksworth, Scott Elbert, Josh Lindblom are the likely pen. A wild group (most with 3+ BB/9 with 2 in the 4+ range) but Jansen & Elbert are the only 9+ K guys (Jansen at 16 K/9). Expect Jansen to slip into the closers role at some point in the not too distant future.

  • CA: A.J. Ellis is listed as the starter (entering age 32 season with just 244 PA lifetime). Matt Treanor is the backup (poor hit/good d), while Tim Federowicz is the catcher of the future after a 1000+ OPS in AAA (PCL so take it with many grains of salt) but just 278/341/424 lifetime in the minors over 1533 PA. Expect him to take over by mid-season at the latest as Ellis & Treanor are backups only imo.
  • 1B: James Loney, in 4 years as a regular has OPS+'s from 98 to 110.
  • 2B: Mark Ellis takes over with all glove, no bat (94 OPS+ lifetime, just 68 last year entering age 35 season). Justin Sellers (26) has hit well in AAA the past 2 years, but again it is the PCL
  • 3B: Juan Uribe had a 56 OPS+ last year, a figure that is low for John McDonald.
  • SS: Dee Gordon is the regular here, at 24 entering his 2nd season after a 92 OPS+ as a rookie. Climbed through the minors fast so will be interesting to watch.
  • LF: Juan Rivera (yes him) and Tony Gwynn Jr are fighting it out. Ugh.
  • CF: Matt Kemp who should've been the MVP here. His 171 OPS+ was very high though, a 120 range is more likely.
  • RF: Andre Ethier is nice - a 120 OPS+ was his lowest since 2007. A 120-135 should be expected.
  • Backups: Jerry Sands will try to take over in LF this year (shouldn't be too hard) at 24 years old - a 952 OPS in the minors and 102 over 227 ML PA last year should give it to him but Rivera & Gwynn are most likely going to eat up the PA. Sad. Jerry Hairston is the infield backup and should get lots of playing time (300 PA).
These Dodgers should be giving kids playing time and moving into the future but seem determined to stick with the vets and fight for a division title. Reminds me of the Ash years near the end where there were a couple of stars and tons of mediocrity. If the kids get a shot and play well they should win, if not they will be in a dogfight for the title if Kemp & Kershaw stay at the top of their game.

Colorado Rockies: 73-89 21 back after a 83-79 season the year before
  • Free Agents: Brandon Wood, Ramon Hernandez, Mike Ekstrom, Wilkin Castillo, Michael Cuddyer, Wil Nieves, Carlos Torres, Casey Blake, Brendan Harris, Jamie Moyer, Hernan Iribarren, Steve Holm, Jared Wells, Zack Segovia, Royce Ring
  • Waivers: Andrew Brown, Jamie Hoffmann
  • Free Agents: Edgar Gonzalez, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Jim Miller, Mark Ellis, Kevin Millwood, J.C. Romero, Aaron Cook, Billy Buckner, Matt Daley, Alan Johnson, John Maine, Sean White, Eric Stults, Jose Morales, Jorge Cantu, Hernan Iribarren, Matt Macri, Joe Mather, Bronson Sardinha, Willy Taveras, Ryan Spilborghs, Cole Garner
  • Released: Ryan Rohlinger
  • Ty Wigginton and cash to the Philadelphia Phillies. Received player to be named or cash
  • Chris Iannetta to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Received Tyler Chatwood
  • Daniel Turpen to the Minnesota Twins. Received Kevin Slowey
  • Huston Street and cash to the San Diego Padres. Received Nick Schmidt
  • Casey Weathers and Ian Stewart to the Chicago Cubs. Received Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu
  • Greg Reynolds to the Texas Rangers. Received Chad Tracy
  • Brad Emaus to the Boston Red Sox. Received player to be named or cash
  • Seth Smith to the Oakland Athletics. Received Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman
  • Kevin Slowey and cash to the Cleveland Indians. Received Zach Putnam
  • Clayton Mortensen to the Boston Red Sox. Received Marco Scutaro
  • Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom to the Baltimore Orioles. Received Jeremy Guthrie
Give the Rockies credit for not sitting still. 11 trades and tons of free agents shifting around. Will it help though?

Rotation: Jeremy Guthrie, Jhoulys Chacin, Drew Pomeranz, Juan Nicasio, Guillermo Moscoso
Guthrie & Chacin are a nice 1-2 punch assuming Guthrie can get back to ace level. Pomeranz shot through the minors in one season with a 1.78 ERA in A+/AA then an 84 ERA+ in Colorado over 18 IP. Juan Nicasio is just 25 after a 108 ERA+ last year. Moscoso was an old rookie (27) who had a 120 ERA+ for Oakland. Tyler Chatwood could be there but is just 22 and had a 80 ERA+ for the Angels last year. Alex White is just 23 and in his 2nd ML season and could be there too. Tons of kids and if a few come through watch out.

Bullpen: Rafael Betancourt is promoted to ace (1.2 BB/9 and 10.5 K/9 will do that), Matt Belisle (1.8 BB/9), Matt Reynolds, Rex Brothers, Edgmer Escalona, Josh Roenicke, and others fill in a nice looking bullpen.

  • CA: Ramón Hernández (98 OPS+ lifetime, 36 yrs old), Wilin Rosario (23) will probably split time at catcher
  • 1B: Todd Helton (38) is still effective
  • 2B: Marco Scutaro is here now while Chris Nelson tries to earn the job (26 and has hit well in the minors)
  • 3B: Casey Blake is decent but could be replaced by Nelson. Nolan Arenado is a hotshot in the minors but hasn't cracked A+ yet
  • SS: Troy Tulowitzki - nuff said
  • LF: Carlos Gonzalez had a 126 OPS+ - solid and is just turning 26
  • CF: Dexter Fowler a switch hitting 105 last year, and again just turning 26
  • RF: Michael Cuddyer just signed to a 3 year $30+ mil deal over 120 OPS+ 2 of the past 3 years
  • Backups: Jordan Pacheco is a super-backup (CA/1B/3B/2B/SS) in his 2nd ML season, Tyler Colvin had a disaster in the OF last year (38 OPS+) after a 113 as a rookie the year before. Eric Young also gets backup time. Jason Giambi is pinch hitter supreme (142 OPS+ last year), while Jonathan Herrera is a no hit infield backup.
This is a team that could surprise. They are very young, talented, and have lots of depth in the rotation of the type the Jays do (young and good). Decent offense with some really, really good talent. I wouldn't be shocked to see them win this division this year.

San Diego Padres: 71-91 23 back after a 90-72 season the year before (ouch)
  • Free Agents: Mark Kotsay, Matt Palmer, Alex Hinshaw, Dale Thayer, Brad Davis, Micah Owings, Jeff Suppan, Dennis Tankersley
  • Waivers: Andrew Carpenter (from Jays)

  • Free Agents: Kyle Phillips, Jeff Fulchino, Rob Johnson, Heath Bell, Aaron Harang, Brad Hawpe, Chad Qualls, Greg Burke, Samuel Deduno, Jon Leicester, Luis Perdomo, Guillermo Quiroz, Jarrett Hoffpauir, Pedro Feliz, Steven Tolleson, Bobby Kielty, Drew Macias
  • Released: Alberto Gonzalez, Eric Patterson
  • Wade LeBlanc to the Florida Marlins. Received John Baker
  • Nick Schmidt to the Colorado Rockies. Received Huston Street and cash
  • Aaron Cunningham to the Cleveland Indians. Received Cory Burns
  • Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds. Received Brad Boxberger, Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso and Edinson Volquez
  • Luis Martinez to the Texas Rangers. Received Ryan Kelly
  • Pedro Hernandez and Simon Castro to the Chicago White Sox. Received Carlos Quentin
  • Zach Cates and Anthony Rizzo to the Chicago Cubs. Received Kyung-Min Na and Andrew Cashner
Rotation: Tim Stauffer, Cory Luebke, Edinson Vólquez, Clayton Richard, Dustin Moseley
Very weak rotation with no one likely to crack 110 ERA+. They'll look good due to the stadium but you need a 3.25 or better ERA here to actually BE good.

Bullpen: Huston Street, Andrew Cashner, Luke Gregerson, Ernesto Frieri, Joe Thatcher, Josh Spence, ...
Like the rotation, they will look better than they are. Street is good but the rest...

  • CA: Nick Hundley had a 132 OPS+ - sweet. John Baker is your traditional backup.
  • 1B: Super variable with Yonder Alonso and Jesus Guzman (139 OPS+ after being a AAAA guy)
  • 2B: Orlando Hudson who is still a solid player
  • 3B: Chase Headley who had a 120 OPS+ but is just a 105 lifetime
  • SS: Jason Bartlett - all field no hit outside of a freak 2009 132 OPS+ vs his career 92 and 76 last year
  • LF: Carlos Quentin - solid hitter, 115-125 OPS+ guy. Edit: Injured now so Blanks is likely to play for April, a solid prospect with power.
  • CF: Cameron Maybin - finally played everyday last year with a 103 OPS+
  • RF: Will Venable - 99 OPS+ should be in that ballpark again
  • Backups: Kyle Blanks/Mark Kotsay in the outfield, Logan Forsythe showed a good bat in the minors but only had a 62 OPS+ in the majors, could move in at 2B or 3B if an opening occurs. Andy Parrino had a good offensive year in the minors last year at SS/2B and played 3B/OF as well in the majors.
Not a lot of offense and mediocre pitching suggests the Padres will stay at the bottom for awhile.

Final thoughts: The most variable division in baseball looks like it'll have some shuffling again with Arizona likely to drop off (hard to climb that fast and not slide the next year), San Francisco still strong, the Dodgers desperate to stay up there but likely to drop if the kids are benched, the Rockies climbing quickly with strong kids, and the Padres...well...every division needs someone to beat up on. My prediction? Rockies-SF-Arizona-Dodgers-San Diego. I wouldn't be surprised to see SF claim one wild card while the other comes from the NL East but it also wouldn't shock to see SF & Arizona & Colorado in the playoffs with the Dodgers & Padres collapsing.
NL West 2012 | 8 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mick Doherty - Monday, March 19 2012 @ 11:25 AM EDT (#252917) #

Nice piece, John.

Clay Zavada

I was positive you'd made a typo here, but who knew? There are major-league level ballplayers named both Clay Zavada AND Clay Zapada!

Ten yeas from now, I think everyone is going to look back on the Cabrera/Sanchez deal and marvel, "The Royals only ahd to give up that to the Giants for an ace-level starter AND another player?"

hypobole - Monday, March 19 2012 @ 12:08 PM EDT (#252921) #
There is no Clay Zapada, there is a Clay Rapada - pitched for your Rangers in '10.
John Northey - Monday, March 19 2012 @ 12:42 PM EDT (#252922) #
The names are always fun. That's why I put in all players added/subtracted rather than just listing key players. For example, Jamie Moyer is trying to crack the youthful Rockies pitching staff, Boof Bonser going for it again in San Francisco, and Randy Ruiz in Arizona. Lots of guys to cheer on out there and hope to see get that one chance that makes them into stars (or flops).
dan gordon - Monday, March 19 2012 @ 01:52 PM EDT (#252929) #
You forgot Madison Bumgarner, one of the Giants' best starting pitchers.  I like their acquisition of Pagan.  Melky Cabrera's 2011 season looks like it may be a bit of a fluke, but then again, he's just turned 27 and may be for real.  A lot of the Giants' potential for this year depends on how well Posey recovers from injury, and how well Belt progresses.  With Lincecum, Bumgarner and Cain they have a wonderful top 3 starters.  Vogelsong was terrific last year.  Surkamp probably pushes Zito for the 5th spot sometime during the summer.  I think the bullpen is one of the best in baseball.  Wilson's numbers suffered a bit last year due to injury, but he should be back in top form.  Colorado has 2 stars in Gonzalez and Tulowitzki, and a good starter in Chacin, but otherwise, they don't really impress me.  Cuddyer might have a good year for them in that park.  I think the Giants will battle it out with the DBacks for the division.
Parker - Monday, March 19 2012 @ 02:17 PM EDT (#252930) #
Ryan Roberts is a Blue Jay castoff, too.
Thomas - Monday, March 19 2012 @ 03:09 PM EDT (#252931) #
I expect Paul Goldschmidt will get the majority of the at-bats at 1B and Overbay will wind up on the bench as a left-handed bat off the bench.
John Northey - Monday, March 19 2012 @ 05:36 PM EDT (#252934) #
I see what I did with SF - I listed Vogelsong twice but the 2nd time was actually Bumgarner. Oops. Now corrected.
Richard S.S. - Monday, March 19 2012 @ 10:16 PM EDT (#252936) #

Last year I had Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Ian Kennedy, Heath Bell as late round picks in a fantasy draft.  

I always thought big power arms were necessary on a post-season team, and wouldn't be surprised to see A.A. land one this season.

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