Friday, April 4, 2014

2014 NL West Preview

The Dodgers have more than enough talent to get by while Kershaw's on the mend (CBS)
1st Place Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 Record: 92-70
2013 Pythagorean: 89-73
2014 Projected: 97-65
The Dodgers, proud owners of the highest payroll in baseball, are absolutely stacked. They have All-Stars at almost every position, a beastly rotation and a killer bullpen. I mean, just look at their outfield, for crying out loud: Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford. That looks like someone's fantasy team. They have not only the best pitcher on planet earth--Clayton Kershaw--but a deep rotation (Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, Dan Haren) that wouldn't miss him too much if he got hurt. Don Mattingly has so much talent at his disposal that a failure to win the division has to be considered a massive disappointment.

2nd Place San Francisco Giants
2013 Record: 76-86
2013 Pythagorean: 74-88
2014 Projected: 91-71
Everything went wrong last year for the 2012 World Series champions, so I expect they reclaim their status as one of the National League's top teams. The offense is surprisingly good with Hunter Pence, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Buster Posey forming a nice offensive core. The starting pitching should be deep as well, even if Tim Lincecum never regains the form the helped him win back-to-back Cy Youngs in 2008 and 2009. Matt Cain should bounce back and Madison Bumgarner is one of the best young pitchers in the game. Tim Hudson should take advantage of the NL West's big parks and have another good year in his Giants debut. The Giants are much better than their record last year would indicate, and I wouldn't be surprised if they took the Dodgers down to the wire.

3rd Place Arizona Diamondbacks
2013 Record: 81-81
2013 Pythagorean: 80-82
2014 Projected: 82-80
Arizona made some interesting moves over the winter, trading for power bat Mark Trumbo and adding Bronson Arroyo to the rotation. The lineup, led by MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt, can hit, but will need Aaron Hill to stay healthy as well as a bounce back from Miguel Montero. The rotation lacks an ace (Wade Miley isn't a number one) and projects to be about average at best. Arroyo's getting up there in age (37 now), Brandon McCarthy has had trouble staying healthy and Trevor Cahill is just okay. I like the bullpen, though. Overall this looks like a .500 team with 85-win upside, which just isn't going to get it done versus the Dodgers and Giants.

4th Place San Diego Padres
2013 Record: 76-86
2013 Pythagorean: 72-90
2014 Projected: 78-84
The Padres are a poor man's Rays--good starting pitching, some speed and defense, but not a whole lot of offense. There's definitely hitting talent there--Chase Headley, Will Venable, Everth Cabrera, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Carlos Quenting (when he comes back) and Jedd Gyorko--who I really like--but none of whom figure to be much better than league average bats. Same goes for the pitching--Andrew Cashner is good, but probably not an ace. Josh Johnson and Ian Kennedy are intriguing pickups though, and might be able to revive their careers at Petco. I could totally see San Diego surprising everyone and going on a nice little run, but I don't think the playoffs are a realistic possibility.

5th Place Colorado Rockies
2013 Record: 74-88
2013 Pythagorean: 76-88
2014 Projected: 75-87
Scoring runs isn't a problem for the Rockies, but preventing them is. When healthy, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are one of the best offensive tandems in the game. Not sure why Colorado traded Dexter Fowler, and there's no way Michael Cuddyer wins the batting title again. I'm expecting Nolan Arenado to improve upon his rookie numbers, and how come no one ever talks about Wilin Rosario? I'm also feeling a solid season for Justin Morneau. As always, the Rockies are woefully short on arms, especially with Jhoulys Chacin opening the season on the DL. Brett Anderson just can't stay healthy and Jordan Lyles isn't any good. Franklin Morales, a starter-turned-reliever-turned-starter isn't going to work out. Bottom line, Colorado's pitching is brutal and will sink their season once again.

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