Last week for the National League in our series of MLB previews! Here's the NL West 2012 Preview:
2012 Bro Council NL West Preview
The reigning NL West champs have put themselves in good position to repeat, and to continue winning for a few more years. The Snakes have a pretty good lineup, full of young, really good players. Returning at catcher this year is Miguel Montero who hit .282 with 18 homers and 86 RBI last year. The infield has a couple veterans in SS Stephen Drew and 2B Aaron Hill, but Drew is recovering from a broken ankle so his playing time could be limited at the beginning of the season. At first, the D-Backs have one of their best young prospects getting ready to start full-time in Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt hit .306 with 30 homers and 94 RBI in only 103 games at AAA last year before a 2 month call up at the end of the season. The team has 4 outfielders they can cycle through, with Justin Upton being the unquestioned star on the team. Look for Chris Young, Gerardo Parra, and free agent acquisition Jason Kubel to split time throughout the year.
The pitching staff is very strong, and looks to get stronger in the next couple of years. Returning this year is Cy Young candidate Ian Kennedy with fellow pitchers Daniel Hudson and Joe Saunders, all 3 of which had very strong 2011 campaigns. The newest member to the rotation is Trevor Cahill, acquired over the offseason from Oakland. The future pitching of this team though sits with three former first round pitchers and a 2nd round pitcher.
Prospects to Watch: SPs Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin and Archie Bradley. Bauer was the best college player in the nation last year and a huge talent, while the other three were great high school pitchers that are flying through the organization. This is a potential rotation for the ages in a few years!
It is still baffling to me that the Rockies feel Jim Tracy is the best manager for them, but that could be my bias speaking after seeing how horrible he was with the Pirates. The Rockies could go either way this year, they could improve on 73 wins from last year or drop even further. The team does have some star power in SS Troy Tulowitzki and OF Carlos Gonzalez and there's some potential talent in the rotation but a lot of question marks. One thing is for sure, long-time first baseman Todd Helton will be returning. Helton has been with the team for 15 seasons now and owns practically every Rockies record (on a side note I happened to witness his first 2 career homeruns, on back to back days at Three Rivers Stadium in 1997...I was 14!)
Jhoulys Chacin and Jeremy Guthrie are sure bets to make the Rockies rotation, while the other three spots are up for grabs. One of the likely candidates is rookie pitcher Drew Pomeranz, who was acquired last season from the Cleveland Indians in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. The team's big free agent signing this year was Michael Cuddyer, formerly of the Twins, and he should bring some balance to the lineup and hopefully some strong veteran leadership.
Prospect to Watch: 3B Nolan Arenado. Arenado is only 20 (he'll be 21 in April), and played in Class A last year, but he's a big time talent, and the future starter at 3B for the team. He's a reach this year, but a definite candidate for a September callup.
Los Angeles Dodgers
It could be a long season in Chavez Ravine this year. The Dodgers were forced to cut over $20 million in payroll due to their owner's nasty divorce and pending sale of the team. The offense could really struggle to score runs. Their only real star is CF Matt Kemp, who was a finalist for the NL MVP following a season in which he hit .324 with 39 homers, 126 RBI, and stole 40 bases. In my opinion he should have won the award over Ryan Braun, but that's a moot point now.
The pitching is strong, and filled with veterans, including the reigning Cy Young Winner, Clayton Kershaw. Add in Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano and it will be a tough night for most offenses. One name of note that could make the team this year is Scott Van Slyke. The only reason I mention him is because of the last name, his father is former Pirate great (and my favorite player!) Andy Van Slyke. Van Slyke hit .348 at AA last year, driving in 92 runs and could break with the team at some point this year.
Prospect to Watch: SP Nate Eovaldi. He'll have a tough time breaking into the rotation this year, but Eovaldi had decent numbers at AA last year, as well as during a brief callup to the Dodgers at the end of the year.
San Diego Padres
The Padres performed a complete overhaul on their roster this year, adding a bevy of very talented, Major League ready prospects. The Padres added C Yasmani Grandal, 1B Yonder Alonso, and SP Edison Volquez from the Reds in the Mat Latos trade, picked up OF Carlos Quentin from the White Sox, CP Huston Street from the Rockies, and a few other players that might have an impact this year. Returning to the team are 3B Chase Headley, 2B Orlando Hudson, and newly extended CF Cameron Maybin, a poor man's Andrew McCutchen. This team should improve on 71 wins from last year, but it will be a year or two until they really start to compete.
Prospects to Watch: 2B Cory Spangenberg. Spangenberg was the Padres first round pick last year and is already a top 100 prospect. He's a few years away, but he could be a good replacement for Hudson some day.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants get their star Catcher Buster Posey back following a horrific ankle injury last year (look it up here if you dare). This is a team 1 year removed from winning the World Series. Their only chance of getting back there sits with the pitching, the reason they won it before. Tim Lincecum is one of the top 10 pitchers in the game, and fellow rightie Matt Cain isn't far behind him. Add in Madison Bumbarner, fresh off his first full season and the team looks very strong. Offensively they may have some trouble scoring runs though, with the only notable players on offense being Posey, 2B Freddy Sanchez, 3B Pedro Sandoval, and OF Melky Cabrera. The Giants have a good, young first baseman in Brandon Belt, but he has failed to perform at the Major League level yet. Its always entertaining to watch the Giants though, as CP Brian Wilson is one of the craziest professional athletes I've seen in a while. Case in point, the first appearance of "The Machine" here (at the :42 mark):
And his subsequent interview regarding The Machine, while dressed like a Captain of a boat:
Prospect to Watch: OF Gary Brown. Brown can fly, as his 53 stolen bases last year will tell you. He also had 80 RBI last year and should get a bump to AA this season. He's a callup candidate in September if he continues to play well.