Not many people are picking the Rockies to do well this year, as they are
overrating the importance of the departed Matt Holliday, who could only hit in
Coors Field. They must also be forgetting that the Rockies won 90 games
just two years ago and played very well in the second half of 2008. While
they did not add any superstars this offseason, they did enhance their depth
through the acquisitions of Huston Street, Carlos Gonzalez, Greg Smith, Jason Marquis, Jason Hammel, and Alan Embree. More importantly, they get some
key performers from their great 2007 season back fully healthy in Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe, and Jason Hirsh. They could also see
big gains from the development of their young players, such as Franklin Morales,
Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta, Dexter Fowler, and Seth Smith.
The Rockies do not have any single pitcher that can match a Tim Lincecum,
Jake Peavy, or Brandon Webb. Nor do they possess a hitter that can match
the likes of Adrian Gonzalez or Manny Ramirez. But they do have a
superstar in Troy Tulowitzki that makes his pitching staff and the hitters
surrounding him better. More importantly, they are the deepest team in the
division, and can afford to have some players not live up to expectations or
miss time with injury more so than the diamondbacks or Dodgers can.
In-Depth Rockies Preview
Los Angeles Dodgers
The drama begins. Manny Ramirez complained that he wasn't ready to
begin the season last week - as though his lack of training time weren't his own
fault for holding out for a contract for so long - and then promptly
re-aggravated his hamstring. He will miss at least the first week of the
season. The Dodgers' first 12 games and 25 of their first 28 games come
against rival NL West teams, so if Manny is out for a prolonged period of time,
the Dodgers could be out of it before he even takes the field.
Even if Manny comes back strong and has a typical Manny season, the Dodgers
must rely upon several questionable starting pitchers providing good
performances in order to have a shot at a winning record. In the end, the
Dodgers lost too many good players this offseason (Derek Lowe, Takashi Saito,
Jeff Kent, Joe Beimel, and more) and no longer have the depth to overcome the
"Manny" injuries that the club seems to endure every season.
In-Depth Dodgers Preview
The Arizona Diamondbacks' unfortunate financial situation handcuffed general
manager Josh Byrnes into making some unwise decisions with the little money that
he did have to spend this offseason. The players they lost were far better
than the players that they brought in, effectively negating any gains that the
solid, young core of the team might make. Of particular concern is a
porous infield defense behind what figures to be one of he most extreme
groundball pitching staffs in baseball.
Most of the Diamondbacks' minor league help is at least a year away, which
means that if the team suffers through injuries, it will have few good options
remaining. The team simply does not have the resources to add an Adam Dunn
or a Livan Hernandez as it has in recent seasons. In contrast, the Dodgers
always seem to have the money to fill holes at the trading deadline and the
Rockies are stocked with major league ready youngsters that could either bring
in help via trade or help down the stretch themselves. If anything should
happen to star players Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, or Stephen Drew, the
Diamondbacks could be in for a disastrous season.
In-Depth Diamondbacks Preview
San Diego Padres
The Padres aren't nearly as bad as everyone seems to think that they are.
Adrian Gonzalez, Jake Peavy, and Chris Young are some of the best players in all
of baseball, not just the league or the division. The depth behind
them isn't as great as it could be, but if they get one more big year from Brian Giles (who was 6th in the NL in OBP last year) and see modest gains from
highly-touted position player prospects such as Kevin Kouzmanoff, Chase Headley,
and Matt Antonelli, they will win their fair share of games.
Heath Bell figures to more or less pick up where the
past-his-prime-yet-still-effective Trevor Hoffman left off, but who will get the
game to him when Young or Peavy isn't pitching? The favorable pitching
dimensions of Petco Park will truly be put to the test this season, particularly
with #3 starter Cha Seung Baek beginning the year on the disabled list.
But the Padres weren't as bad as their record indicated last year, and if
nothing else, they will perform better than that 208 squad did.
In-Depth Padres Preview
San Francisco Giants
Everyone wants to talk about how great the Giants' pitching staff is.
If Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Randy Johnson are each healthy all year, it will
indeed be great. But that's just not going to happen. Tim Lincecum
endured the most abusive workload in the majors last season, and pointlessly, as
the Giants were never in contention. Any 24-year old with that kind of
wear would be hard pressed to stay healthy the following season, much less an
undersized starter with a violent delivery. Matt Cain has shown the
ability to pitch a lot of innings in his young career, but you have to wonder
about what throwing in the mid-90s for over 650 major league innings does to a
pitcher that hadn't turned 24 until this offseason. The 45-year old Randy
Johnson is as likely to match his 2007 innings total of 56.2 as he is his 208
total of 184. Even #4 starter Jonathan Sanchez was injured in the second
half of 2008.
On offense, Pablo Sandoval should be a great hitter someday and Randy Winn is
an underrated performer, but if these are the cornerstones of your offense, you
won't score many runs. Swapping out Edgar Renteria for Omar Vizquel only
makes the defense worse and doesn't give the offense nearly enough of an
upgrade. Expect Lincecum, Cain, and Johnson to combine for fewer than 400
innings this year, leading to one of the most disappointing team performances of
the 2009 season.
In-Depth Giants Preview
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