Today I begin my annual divisional predictions. Last year I accurately predicted 5 out of the 8 playoff teams. I hope to top that this year. Today I start with the NL West...
5. Arizona Diamondbacks-I don't really know where to start with the Diamondbacks. They were one of the worst teams in baseball last year and could be the same in 2011. They do have some bright spots on the team. OF Justin Upton appears to be the center of the offense at the ripe old age of 23 (.272 career hitter). Daniel Hudson (Acquired from the White Sox for Edwin Jackson in 2010) came over midseason and was very sharp going 7-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 11 starts. But behind these guys, its a questionable roster. Their offense can be ok, if they can put the bat on the ball (1529 strikeouts in 2010, a MLB record). And behind Hudson, the pitching will be questionable, especially in a division with some heavy hitters. So hopefully the minor league system can begin to produce some quality players soon. Or else the DBacks will be the cellar dwellers for a very long time.
4. San Diego Padres-San Diego was a great story in 2010. But a late season slump killed their chances at the division title. And they followed a great season by trading their superstar 1B Adrian Gonzalez to Boston for four prospects. They added OF Cameron Maybin, SS Jason Bartlett, 2B Orlando Hudson, and 1B Brad Hawpe to help a stale offense and replace Gonzalez. They have a couple of good young pitchers in Mat Latos and Clayton Richard. They have one of the best closers in the game in Heath Bell who comes at the end of a pretty stellar bullpen. But the offense to me is still questionable. They play in a pitchers ballpark with very little speed in the lineup (They need much more speed!!). They have some good young talent in the minors, but they still are a few years off from reaping the benefits of those players. So for 2011, they may be able to hover around .500, but won't amount to anything more than a fourth place finish.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers-Can someone please tell me when the Dodgers are going to shape up and become that great team they are capable of being? But maybe new manager Don Mattingly will shake them up. They have some talented young hitters (Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier) and young pitchers (Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley). And they brought in former Twins reliever Matt Guerrier to help bridge the gap to Jonathon Broxton. Their bullpen after Guerrier, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Broxton are questionable to me. Their starters should do fine and they should do fine hitting wise if Kemp can have a bounce back year. Everyone thinks the Dodgers are going to be the team that finally kicks it up a notch in 2011. And I'm not one of them. They will have to prove me wrong. I just don't see it. Not with the two teams that will sit above them.
2. San Francisco Giants-There is no more torture for Giants fans. Their young pitching staff and timely hitting carried them to the top. And they hope that continues going into 2011. They lost Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria at SS and replaced him with Miguel Tejada. But besides that, this is the same team from 2010. They have one of the games best pitchers in Tim Lincecum and one of the best rising stars in the game in C Buster Posey. But I still have to question the offense. If Pablo Sandoval can return to 2009 form, the Giants should be fine. But I don't like to play the IF game. Posey is a great hitter, but he can't carry the Giants. Pitching wise, they are fine. In fact, they are stacked. Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathon Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner lead the starting staff (The second best rotation in baseball) and Brian Wilson shuts the door at the end of another outstanding bullpen in this divison. But I just have a gut feeling that the Giants won't make it to October. I'll blame it on World Series hangover.
1. Colorado Rockies-The Rockies had the quietest most solid offseason this winter. They locked up their superstar players Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. And added some nice other pieces (RP Matt Lindstrom, INF Ty Wiggington) to help bolster their bench and bullpen. They have a decent starting rotation led by Ubaldo Jimenez. The back end of the rotation kind of scares me (You never know what you will get out of Aaron Cook), but the front end should make up for their ineffectiveness (Jorge De La Rosa is quietly solid). The bullpen should be solid, with Houston Street at the end. And their lineup should be considered one of the best in all of baseball. This team has some experience from their previous playoff runs, which will help them a great deal. Again, I just have this gut feeling. And it says there will be another Rocktober!