|NL West Preview 2011||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on March 23, 2011
2010 Record 83-79, third in the division, nine games back
Key Man:¬† Troy Tulowitzki
Troy Tulowitzki is the foundation this team is built around.¬† The Rox are loaded with offensive talent and now it seems they may have the pitching to back it up.¬† That makes them scary, perhaps the scariest team of any Western or Central division team in the NL.¬† That said, they've yet to prove themselves.¬† Carlos Gonzalez had the big breakout last year and came within shouting distance of a Triple Crown, but now he has to prove he can sustain that level of play.
Outfielders Seth Smith and Dexter Fowler both seem poised to take steps forward and Ian Stewart will get a chance to prove he can hit for real as the Rox have opened the door for him to play every day.¬† The big questions for this team are how well Ubaldo Jimenez and Jhoulys Chacin will pitch in 2011 and if Todd Helton is still anything other than a bench player.¬† That said, I think they'll win this division handily.
Prediction 2011:¬† 91-71, first in the division
San Francisco Giants
2010 Record 92-70
Key Man:¬† Tim Lincecum
With apologies to Buster Posey, it's pitching that carried the Giants to a World Championship and that means Lincecum is the man in San Fran, despite big steps taken by Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez.¬† And pitching is going to have to be the big carrying factor here as the offense in San Fran, with its mixture of ancient (by baseball standards) heroes like Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff and Miguel Tejada, unknowns (Cody Ross and Andres Torres) and youngsters without the track record (Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey), isn't going to intimidate anyone.
That's not to say the Giants don't have firepower, but even their own fans will be among the first to admit that last year wasn't really believable.¬† That's not to say they couldn't repeat, but everything went right last year.¬† The odds of them doing that again just seem unlikely.
Predicted record, 85-77, second in the division
Los Angeles Dodgers
2010 Record 80-82, fourth in the division 12 games back
Key Man:¬† Matt Kemp
The Dodgers don't look that different coming into 2011.¬† After underachieving in 2010 the team comes back to the field with a slight upgrade to the rotation (Jon Garland) and a new second baseman (Juan Uribe) who at least is a significant offensive upgrade over Blake DeWitt.¬† That should help the Dodgers score more runs, giving them that push they need to get back to the right side of .500
Under new manager Don Mattingly, hitters Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier look to rebound in a big way.¬† That could make the Dodgers at least Wild Card contenders.
Prediction 84-78, third in the division
San Diego Padres
2010 Record 90-72, second in the division, two games back
Key Man: Mat Latos
It was hard picking a key man for this essentially nondescript San Diego team.¬† While there are plenty of recognizable names here, none are particular standouts at this point in their careers.¬† But should the breakout occur and the team hope to be competitive in this first year of the post Adrian Gonzalez era it will have to be the pitching staff who leads the charge.
The offense has plenty of upside, but it's very much a work in progress as youngsters Will Venable, Cameron Maybin and Chase Headley keep trying to take steps forward.¬† The Pads will be counting on bounceback seasons for Jason Bartlett and Brad Hawpe to add some spark to their charge.¬† Even if all that happens, they haven't managed to replace Adrian Gonzalez, and they did lose three starters and replaced only one -- and with Aaron Harang, hardly an all star caliber replacement.
Prediction 75-87, fourth in the NL West
2010 Record 65-97, last in the division, 27 games back.
Key Man:¬† Chris Young
The D-Backs are very much a work in progress and a largely farm raised one at that.¬† Chris Young, the 30-30 threat, is the key man at the moment, but that could change quickly as Justin Upton continues to mature.¬† The Diamondbacks will not be competitive in 2011, but could take some big strides forward, particularly both offensive players and pitchers Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy take some steps forward.
Prediction:¬† 75-87, last in the division