EJSIC’s MLB preview has visited 5 of the 6 divisions and today, we drop in on the last one, the National League West.
1. Do the Dbacks have the pitching needed to contend in the division? If you think about the NL West the past few divisions, it has been filled with great pitching. It will have it again this season. The Diamondbacks were lead by Dan Haren last season, but the organization is looking to surround him with more. Former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb will return at some point this season, but it remains to be seen how effective he will be after starting on the DL. Arizona also traded for AL All-Star Edwin Jackson (from Detroit) and Ian Kennedy (from New York) to help Haren.
2. Can Adam Laroche add protection for Mark Reynolds in the lineup? Reynolds lead the team home runs, runs scored, RBIs, and stolen bases last season which landed him a spot on the NL All-Star team. Now, Arizona has added the left-handed first baseman Laroche who has hit at least 20 homers in each of the past 5 seasons. Laroche will provide some protection in the lineup, but to expect him to change the dynamic of their offense is too much.
1. Can the Rockies keep their momentum from last season? In baseball, it is difficult to keep the chemistry and pace from one season to the next. The Rockies were unbelievable after firing manager Clint Hurdle and replacing him with Jim Tracy. After June 3, Tracy led the team on an unbelievable streak in which the Rockies were 9 games better than any other NL team. Can they recreate that magic and win the division?
2. Is Ubaldo Jimenez a Cy Young candidate? Jimenez has ascended to the role of ace in the Rockies organization. He has all of the tools including a fastball in the upper 90s as well as nasty breaking pitches. He’s entering the prime of his career and is poised to become a household name across the country.
Los Angeles Dodgers
1. Do the Dodgers get 2008 Manny or 2009 version? When the Dodgers acquired Manny from the Red Sox in 2008, he was a monster in the two month stretch run. He started hot in 2009, but was never the same after his 50 game suspension. He’s in the last season of his contract with Los Angeles and has already publicly stated he will not be back in 2011. Does Manny return to his old form and help the Dodgers win the division for a third straight season or is the 38 year old slugger finally reaching the downside of his career?
2. Does LA have enough starting pitching to win? Randy Wolf was allowed to leave via free agency this season which leaves the Dodgers with questions of rotational depth. The young Clayton Kershaw will be the ace, but after him is four question marks: Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla, and Ramon Ortiz. The Dodgers pitching could be really good or really bad.
San Diego Padres
1. Will Adrian Gonzalez be traded? Gonzalez’s name has been circulated in trade rumors since the beginning of last season. It only makes sense that he will eventually leave San Diego as the organization has undergone a full youth movement. And every team in need of a bat for a playoff run will be calling.
2. How bad will it get? In a rebuilding franchise, it often gets worst before it gets better. The Padres no longer have ace Jake Peavy after a mid-season trade to the White Sox which leaves their starting rotation with five unknowns. Couple the pitching mess with the 29th best offense from a year ago and the Padres are in for a long season.
San Francisco Giants
1. Do they have enough offense? Baseball writers and pundits have been asking the same question for the past few seasons. The offense improved last season with the help of Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval, but it still was not enough. The front office brought in veterans Mark Derosa and Aubrey Huff to bolster the lineup, but it still may not be enough with the offenses of the Dodgers and Rockies in the division.
2. Is the starting rotation the best in baseball? Everyone knows what Tim Lincecum can do after winning consecutive Cy Young awards. Matt Cain was terrific last season as the number two starter. Even Mr. 100 Million Dollars Barry Zito regained some of his former self. If Zito recaptures the way he pitched at the end of 2009 and Jonathan Sanchez gains consistency, the Giants have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.