With pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training last Monday and the full squads due to report today, the 2013 baseball season is officially underway! I can’t wait to get back to Minute Maid Park even if the Astros don’t win a single game this season. In fact, I just watched this video and got chills thinking about that historic season and the current talent in the Astros farm system. Ok that’s enough about the Astros; I’m going to talk about them in a few weeks. Today we’ll take a look at the NL West, a division that boasts the highest single team payroll in baseball, and the reigning World Series Champion. I think that this is definitely one of the stronger divisions in baseball and there is a good chance that the NL representative in the World Series is from the West.
Arizona Diamondbacks - Arizona has been one of the bigger movers and shakers of the offseason, most notably sending outfielder Justin Upton and third baseman Chris Johnson to the Braves for infielder Martin Prado and 4 more prospects. I think it’s a good move for both teams as Upton gets to play with his brother in Atlanta and most of the prospects that Arizona landed have a very high upside. Martin Prado has been one of the more solid infielders the last few years and at only 29 years old, still has a few more years in his prime. My biggest concern for this team is the division they play in. They have to contend with the Dodgers, who have a payroll is expected to be in the area of $213,000,000 and the reigning World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. Their starting rotation could prove to be one of the best in the National League this season after trading for Brandon McCarthy (who is hilarious – check his twitter out @BMcCarthy32) not to mention rookie Tyler Skaggs battling for a spot in spring training. Young guys Adam Eaton and Paul Goldschmidt should continue to make pretty big impacts this season as well. I really like this team, but think that they finish third in the NL West at around 83-79 just because of the strength of the division, although a Wild Card berth in the playoffs wouldn’t surprise me.
Colorado Rockies - The Rockies don’t have a whole lot going for them right now. They have 2 of my favorite players in baseball between shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and right fielder Carlos Gonzalez, but other than that, the outlook is pretty bleak. The best thing about the Rockies right now is their stadium, Coors Field. Coors Field is one of my favorite stadiums in the league and is an absolutely incredible place to take in a game. It doesn’t get any better than watching baseball on a cool, summer night in downtown Denver while the sun sets over the Rocky Mountains in the distance. On the field though it’s a different story. Pitching is a mess, hitting is weak (other than CarGo the oft-injured Tulo) and the farm system is in the bottom third of baseball. I think that the Rockies finish last in the division but avoid a 100-loss season at 64-98. The product on the field may not be great, but the atmosphere is hard to beat.
Los Angeles Dodgers – When your team payroll is more than $3,000,000 higher than the Yankees payroll, you better be putting a great team on the field. And the Dodgers are, at least on paper. The pitching staff is anchored by a 24-year-old southpaw in Clayton Kershaw, and to fill a hole behind him, the Dodgers signed Zach Greinke in the offseason who would be an ace on almost any other team. On top of stellar pitching, this team can hit for average, they can hit for power, and they have speed on the base paths. So why don’t I think they’ll win the division? For one, they need to stay healthy and I think they have too many injury-prone guys to get through the rigorous MLB season unscathed. Also, even though baseball focuses so heavily on individual statistics, it is still important to play as a team and I don’t think sticking all of these overpaid guys together on the field is going to yield immediate results. I think the Dodgers will be good but not historically good. I like them to finish 90-72 and compete with the Braves and Cardinals for a wildcard spot.
San Diego Padres – The Padres are the exact opposite of the Dodgers. They don’t have a big payroll and don’t have any really big-name players, but they play as a team and seem to genuinely enjoy being around each other playing a game they love. I don’t think they have a shot to win the division this season, but could put up a solid record and compete in the near future. They have the #6 farm system according to Keith Law (membership required) over at ESPN so I look for them to be a solid club for years to come. I think their biggest key this season is 25-year-old centerfielder Cameron Maybin. He broke into the majors 4 seasons ago with huge expectations but hasn’t ever fully tapped into his potential. If he can figure out how to put all of his pieces together, look out. This kid has the tools to be a top-25 player in baseball. I think he still may be a year or two from putting it all together but he’s still got some time to figure it out. Pitching is a major question mark this year and I don’t think they have the players to hang with the big boys, but I still like the Padres to finish with a record right around .500 at 81-81, good for 4th in the NL West.
San Francisco Giants – The Giants are the reigning World Series Champions and winners of 2 out of the last 3. They kept their team together for the most part and don’t have many weak spots so they are hoping to make another deep playoff run. Can they do it again? I think they absolutely can. Pitching on this club is phenomenal – definitely in the top-3 with a legitimate argument to be #1. On the backside of the pitcher-catcher battery is reining NL MVP Buster Posey. The Giants have a great bullpen, can hit for average and power, and are solid defensively. I like them to repeat as NL West Champions, beating out the Dodgers (yeah, I said it) with a record around 92-70.
Regular Season Final Standings:
1) San Francisco Giants (92-70)
2) Los Angeles Dodgers (90-72)
3) Arizona Diamondbacks (83-79)
4) San Diego Padres (81-81)
5) Colorado Rockies (64-98)