Hello everyone and welcome to the final 2014 MLB Preview. This time we will profile the last, but definitely not the least, division, the National League West. So, let’s get started.
#5 – Colorado Rockies (2013 Record: 74-88)
Pitching – To say the pitching for the Rockies was terrible last season would be an understatement. As a team, the starting rotation had a 4.57 ERA with their best pitchers being Jorge De La Rosa and Tyler Chatwood (both of whom will be back again this season.) Though La Rosa has a “slow” fastball, his previous 16 wins came by use of a sweet changeup and a biting slider. Chatwood is a dominating pitcher who allowed two or fewer runs in 16 of 20 starts. On the relieving side, the Rockies will be using a different closer this season–LaTroy Hawkins. Hawkins is a reliable veteran who has pitched in 943 games. The Rockies should be able to use him a lot this season.
Batting/Defense – The Rockies are more talented on defensive than on offensive. They have third base Gold Glove winner Nolen Arenado, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and second baseman DJ LeMahieu. All three of these men are solid on both offense and defense. First baseman Justin Morneau and catcher Wilin Rosario are fairly good on defense, but their offensive skills are far from perfect. As for the outfield, the leader is without a doubt centerfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Whenever he is out of action the Rockies certainly struggle. Also in the outfield with him are experienced Michael Cuddyer and Charlie Blackmon.
Bottom Line – The bottom line is that for being predicted by most analysts to be at the bottom of the division this year, this is a good team. Their pitching is decent (they just need to add one or two more good hurlers), and their offense and defense is fairly good with just a few problem positions such as catcher, left field, and first base. What it comes down to is that there are better teams out West that will out-do the Rockies this year. That is why I predict Colorado to finish fifth in the National League West.
#4 – San Diego Padres (2013 Record: 76-86)
Pitching – The Padres have found a solid starter in Andrew Cashner–one of the hardest throwing pitchers in the National League. He is joined by Tyson Ross (who last year averaged 9.3 strikeouts per inning) and Ian Kennedy. Hutson Street is a terrific closer who blew only 2 saves out of 35 chances last season. The rest of the bullpen, though somewhat inexperienced, should be tough as nails and will do a great job.
Batting/Defense – The Padres have some great talent in their infield. They have Jase Headley at third base, Everth Cabrera at shortstop, and Jedd Gyorko on second. Headley is a great power source who, if he can remain off of the disabled list, will do wonders for the team. Cabrera is back this year after being caught using PEDs and should be better than he ever was. Gyorko is coming off a terrific rookie season and is expected to outdo last season’s numbers. The outfield took a slight hit in the spring by losing centerfielder Cameron Maybin, but he is expected to make a quick return. Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, and Seth Smith are all decent outfielders on both offense and defense.
Bottom Line – The Padres are certainly outmatched in the West. There is hope for these guys, however, they just need some help with their starting pitching. Cashner, Ross, and Kennedy can’t win games all by themselves. The relievers need to step up and the offense needs to score runs. Hopefully Maybin can return soon and be an impact player once again. I predict the Padres to finish fourth in the National League West.
#3 – Arizona Diamondbacks (2013 Record: 81-81)
Pitching – In my opinion the pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks is super talented this year. The top of their rotation includes hurlers Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, and Randall Delgado. Cahill is reliable and uses an extraordinary sinker; Miley is a very effective fastball/changeup type pitcher; and Delgado also uses the changeup, but throws it a little too much. The Diamondbacks received a huge blow in the spring when their number one pitcher, Patrick Corbin, went down with an injury requiring Tommy John’s surgery. On the relieving side they have an outstanding closer by the name of Addison Reed. Reed uses a free-falling sinker to get groundball outs.
Batting/Defense – “Awesome” is the word that best describes the Diamondbacks’ infield. An infield that is made up of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, second baseman Aaron Hill, third baseman Martin Prado, and catcher Miguel Montero. All of these men are terrific on both offense and defense. The Diamondbacks have one liability, however, and that is shortstop Didi Gregorious. Gregrorious’s bat is full of holes and opposing pitchers easily find them. In the outfield there is also a good deal of talent. There you will find centerfielder AJ Pollock (who is terrific on offense and can find the gaps on the field); left fielder Mark Trumbo (snagged from the Angels and who has had his share of swings and misses but can hit the ball out of the park); and right fielder Gerardo Parra (who is not as talented on offense as he is on defense, but who won a Golden Glove last year).
Bottom Line – Has anyone noticed that the D’Backs aren’t at the bottom of their division anymore? They certainly can plead their case that they belong at the top. However, I feel they will fall short this year. A big reason for this is not having starter Patrick Corbin. His absence is really going to negatively impact this team. Overall, they are fairly solid on both defense and offense, with a few holes here and there. I predict the Diamondbacks will finish in the middle in the National League West.
#2 – San Francisco Giants (2013 Record: 76-86)
Pitching – The pitching staff for the San Francisco Giants is pretty average. The top three players in the rotation consist of Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Tim Hudson. Cain is a decent fastball, curveball, and changeup throwing pitcher that struggled early last season. Bumgarner is a terrific pitcher with a lively curveball and changeup, while veteran Hudson throws a commanding sinker to get ground outs. Coming into the game in the ninth inning is a familiar face, Sergio Romo. Romo was terrific last season saving 38 out of 43 chances. The rest of the bullpen goes pretty deep, giving the Giants plenty of guys to choose from-but still just average.
Batting/Defense – The infield for the Giants is filled with naturally good hitters. We have third baseman Pablo Sandoval (who for his size is athletic), shortstop Brandon Crawford, power hitter first baseman Brandon Crawford, and slugger catcher Buster Posey. These men will not “wow” you with home run numbers, but their ability to drive in runs on offense and prevent plays from happening on defense makes them a good infield. In the outfield we have power slugger Michael Morse, base stealer Angel Pagan, and triple threat (I’m talking power, contact, and speed) Hunter Pence. This is one of the most dangerous outfields in the National League.
Bottom Line – The bottom line for the Giants is that their pitching could be their downfall this season. Last year the pitching wasn’t too special, and I have a feeling it won’t be much better this year. Their top pitchers need to be throwing great for the Giants to succeed. I predict San Francisco to finish second in the National League West.
#1 – Los Angeles Dodgers (2013 Record: 92-70) Lost in NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals
Pitching – The starting pitching for the Dodgers of LA is stacked. Leading off the rotation are Clayton Kershaw, Zack Grienke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Kershaw won the National League Cy Young Award in 2013 with his 232 strikeouts; Grienke is a terrific pitcher who keeps run totals low and plays with a high motor; and Hyun-Jin Ryu lives off of breaking pitches and has an amazing changeup that gets him strikeouts. The rest of the rotation includes Josh Beckett and Dan Haren who are both terrific starters for being at the back of rotation. Their closer, Kenley Jansen, has a terrific cutter. It is not Mariano level, but it is still pretty good. Last season, Jansen recorded 111 strikeouts in 76.2 innings.
Batting/Defense – The infield for the Dodgers is very good this year as well. There is Juan Uribe on third, Hanley Ramirez at shortstop, Dee Gordon on second, and Adrian Gonzalez on first. All of these men are terrific on defense and they will make plays that will leave you scratching your head. As for offense, they have a good bit of power to drive the ball into the gaps and out of the ball park. In the outfield you have even more talented players such as Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Andre Either, and the priceless Yasiel Puig. Sadly enough, all of them cannot be in the same outfield at the same time. These guys have the most power and speed combined than any other outfield in the MLB.
Bottom Line – Ok, here it is, I’m going to say it…The LA Dodgers are the best team in baseball right now. They have the best offense, defense and pitching you’ll find, and that is why they are my pick to win the World Series this year. They may have caved in the National League Championship Series against the Cardinals, but this is a new year. These players are more experienced and know what they did wrong and will know how to correct it. So needless to say, the LA Dodgers will end up being number one in the National League West and number one in the MLB at the end of this season.