NL West Preview
Today, Rich, Jeremy and I preview the NL West. You can find past previews below:
The numbers presented are the averages of each of the projection systems featured on the Fangraphs player pages.
Let's get to it.
AVG OBP SLG Martin, R. .284 .376 .430 Snyder, C. .244 .340 .424 Iannetta, C. .263 .370 .461 Molina, B. .277 .310 .427 Hundley, N. .235 .291 .398
Rich: Russell Martin's walk rate (14.0%) increased to a career high while his isolated power (.116) plunged to a new low. With manager Joe Torre promising to limit Martin, who faded once again down the stretch, to 140 games behind the plate, the 26-year-old catcher's counting stats are likely to flatten out but his rate stats may approach or exceed their best levels.
Jeremy: Strong group here overall. Martin has a unique set of skills for a catcher with his speed, but it still doesn't make sense to me why the Dodgers shift him to third on off days.
Sully: Chris Iannetta has a shot to be one of the better players in the National League. Although he had a great 2006 season with the bat splitting time at Double-A and Triple-A, he came through the Minors with a strong defensive reputation. Now it is his bat that is turning heads. I say he ends the year as the best catcher in the league not named Mauer or McCann.
AVG OBP SLG Loney, J. .293 .348 .449 Tracy, C. .274 .333 .436 Helton, T. .291 .402 .458 Ishikawa, T. .257 .325 .446 Gonzalez, A. .281 .353 .497
Rich: Put Todd Helton in Petco Park and Adrian Gonzalez in Coors Field and their projections would look totally different. Make of it what you will but Travis Ishikawa has slugged six home runs in 76 plate appearances this spring.
Jeremy: James Loney took a big step back last year following a really promising 2007 .331/.381/.538 campaign. His power evaporated and he swung and missed much more often, but he’s certainly young enough to turn things around. And yes Rich, Gonzalez is a beast playing in unfriendly confines.
Sully: Chad Tracy is not a very good fielding first baseman and he has a career 102 OPS+. I know this roster-assembly thing is not easy but if you're a club with high aspirations, sheesh, can't you find someone in professional baseball who can offer you more than Tracy as a first base option?
AVG OBP SLG Hudson, O. .279 .351 .414 Lopez, F. .271 .342 .397 Barmes, C. .265 .307 .406 Frandsen, J. .275 .331 .397 Eckstein, D. .273 .340 .350
Rich: Which Felipe Lopez did Arizona sign? The bum who "hit" .234/.305/.314 in 100 games with Washington or the hero who hit .385/.426/.538 in 43 games with St. Louis? While his 2009 rate stats will undoubtedly fall somewhere between these peaks and valleys, look for the eight-year veteran to benefit by hitting at the top of the lineup in Chase Field.
Jeremy: I’m realizing the Dodgers have quite a lineup. If a second baseman who projects to hit better than league average is your worst hitter, you’ve done well for yourself.
Sully: Good point on Orlando Hudson, Jeremy. He's the type of acquisition that might tip the balance of power in the NL West.
AVG OBP SLG Blake, C. .264 .335 .441 Reynolds, M. .258 .334 .478 Atkins, G. .293 .355 .470 Sandoval, P. .297 .329 .461 Kouzmanoff, K. .274 .324 .463
Rich: Did the Dodgers really sign Casey Blake, who turns 36 in August, to a three-year, $17.5M contract three months ago? Aside from the Raul Ibanez and Edgar Renteria signings, this one has to be one of the silliest of the off-season. But all is not lost, Dodger fans. Ned Colletti included a team option at $6M for 2012. You know, just in case.
Jeremy: Lot of free-swingers in this group. Pablo Sandoval swung at the highest percentage of pitches outside the strike zone of any player, by far. I wonder if he and Bengie Molina will push each other to see who can have the shortest at bats. Kevin Kouzmanoff has some pop that is sapped by PETCO, but you can’t blame his league worst strikeout to walk ratio on the ballpark. And we can’t forget that Mark Reynolds broke the single season strikeout record last year.
Sully: I think Garrett Atkins is one of the likelier bounce-back candidates in the division. He struggled in 2008, but he was very good in 2006 and 2007. Just 29, look for Atkins to return to form this season.
AVG OBP SLG Furcal, R. .284 .353 .411 Drew, S. .274 .330 .453 Tulowitzki, T. .278 .348 .445 Renteria, E. .284 .343 .406 Rodriquez, L. .263 .324 .350
Jeremy: I’m looking forward to watching Troy Tulowitzki play a full season. I think that he’s easily the Rockies’ best player.
Sully: Good one on Stephen Drew, Rich. That's something the projection systems can't capture. While it would be silly to ignore all of the past data, it's entirely possible that something clicked for Drew during the second half of 2008.
AVG OBP SLG Ramirez, M. .300 .397 .540 Jackson, C. .291 .373 .452 Smith, S. .283 .351 .452 Lewis, F. .270 .346 .414 Headley, C. .271 .347 .443
Rich: Seth Smith went 0-fer against lefthanders last season. Granted, the sample size was only 11 at-bats. But there is little in Smith's past to suggest that he can hit southpaws. To wit, the former second round draft pick has gone yard only four times in more than 500 plate appearances vs. lefties over the past four minor league seasons. Based on Smith's inability to hit LHB, I was surprised to learn that the Rockies sent Matt Murton (.311/.382/.484 career vs. LHP) to Triple-A on Monday.
Sully: If Chase Headley puts up those numbers this season while playing home games at Petco, that will make him a nice little corner outfielder - especially for the price. Not that anyone will notice, of course.
AVG OBP SLG Kemp, M. .299 .347 .478 Young, C. .252 .321 .469 Spilborghs, R. .294 .369 .450 Rowand, A. .275 .339 .430 Gerut, J. .280 .344 .458
Rich: Aaron Rowand is the highest paid center fielder in the NL West by far and possibly the least productive offensively. So his value must be due to his defense, right? Well, his advanced defensive metrics (-7.3 UZR/150 games in 2008 and a fifth-worst -24 Plus/Minus over the 2006-2008 period) belie his reputation as a Gold Glove-caliber fielder. But do not despair Brian Sabean supporters. Rowand is "only" owed $12M per season for the next four years.
Jeremy: Matt Kemp and Chris Young are breakout candidates who could both join the 30-30 club if thing go their way. Meanwhile, Jody Gerut might be the best player of the group but certainly won’t be recognized as such.
Sully: It's not Ryan Spilborghs' bat that concerns me. It's that he is going to be asked to man full-time center field duties. He's wholly unqualified for half of his job.
AVG OBP SLG Ethier, A. .294 .363 .475 Upton, J. .260 .346 .456 Hawpe, B. .278 .370 .490 Winn, R. .284 .342 .415 Giles, B. .280 .378 .429
Rich: While Manny was being the Dodger Manny and hitting .396/.489/.743, teammate Andre Ethier was putting up a .368/.448/.649 line over the same period. Just sayin'.
Jeremy: Similar to the situation in center field, Ethier and Justin Upton will steal the headlines while the perpetually underrated Randy Winn and Brian Giles sneak under the radar. Each one of these teams has a really solid outfield, but the Dodgers have something special.
Sully: You summed up this group well, Jeremy. They're all pretty nice players.
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Kuroda, H. 5.84 2.39 1.29 3.93 Billingsley, C. 8.69 3.66 1.32 3.57 Kershaw, C. 7.76 4.05 1.41 4.17 Wolf, R. 7.53 3.51 1.41 4.47 McDonald, J. 6.97 3.58 1.39 4.67
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Webb, B. 7.23 2.66 1.24 3.37 Haren, D. 8.08 2.00 1.19 3.59 Davis, D. 6.77 4.11 1.54 4.67 Garland, J. 4.58 2.64 1.45 4.73 Scherzer, M. 9.10 3.78 1.32 3.74
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Cook, A. 4.01 2.40 1.42 4.40 Jimenez, U. 7.69 4.71 1.48 4.31 Marquis, J. 4.82 3.68 1.51 4.93 De La Rosa, J. 7.78 4.24 1.52 4.96 Morales, F. 6.04 5.36 1.62 5.12
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Lincecum, T. 10.00 3.53 1.22 3.13 Cain, M. 7.85 3.67 1.31 3.66 Johnson, R. 8.58 2.47 1.25 3.98 Zito, B. 6.39 4.31 1.46 4.38 Sanchez, J. 8.87 4.30 1.42 4.21
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Peavy, J. 9.05 2.89 1.18 3.25 Young, C. 8.06 3.80 1.27 3.71 Baek, C. 6.06 2.76 1.36 4.43 Correia, K. 6.80 3.62 1.42 4.27 Hill, S. 5.50 2.69 1.41 4.34
Rich: There are a number of good, young arms in this division. While San Francisco may not quite match up at the top with Arizona's Brandon Webb and Danny Haren, the starting rotation is every bit as good as its offense is bad. It goes five deep. And there's no mistaken who the No. 5 guy is. Just ask him.
Jeremy: The Giants have the best rotation in the division. It seems like a really odd decision for the Diamondbacks to have opted for Jon Garland over Randy Johnson. Ubaldo Jimenez has huge upside, flashing similar stuff to Felix Hernandez. They both use the standard four pitch repertoire and are the two hardest throwing starters in the Majors, as their fastballs average 95 miles per hour. But I don’t know if anything messes up a young pitcher worse than Coors field. Maybe Dusty Baker. Maybe.
Sully: If Arizona wants to compete for this division, they would be well served to stretch out Max Scherzer as soon as possible. Doug Davis, Garland and then four or five innings of Scherzer will not cut it for a championship caliber back-end of a rotation; even one that features Haren and Webb at the front.
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Broxton, J. 10.84 3.31 1.18 3.02 Mota, G. 7.67 3.73 1.40 4.36 Kuo, H. 10.40 3.29 1.22 3.24
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Qualls, C 7.51 2.76 1.27 3.66 Rauch, J. 7.75 2.69 1.26 3.90 Pena, T. 6.63 2.63 1.27 3.77
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Corpas, M. 6.55 2.57 1.31 3.80 Street, H. 9.16 2.81 1.19 3.45 Buchholz, T. 7.03 2.63 1.27 3.81
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Wilson, B. 8.38 4.33 1.40 3.87 Howry, B. 7.20 2.26 1.28 3.98 Affeldt, J. 7.52 3.65 1.37 3.85
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Bell, H. 8.86 3.10 1.23 3.25 Meredith, C. 6.54 2.53 1.31 3.72 Britton, C. 6.96 3.15 1.33 3.92
Rich: Who will close in Colorado? Manny Corpas or Houston Street? The odd man out may find himself on the trading block come July, especially if the Rockies appear to have little or no chance to make the playoffs.
Jeremy: Outstanding bullpens all around. Bob Howry had a 4.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio and managed a 5.35 ERA last year. How is that possible? Guillermo Mota and Chris Britton are the only names I see here that I don’t like.
Sully: Given the pitcher he has become, can you blame Heath Bell for expressing frustration with Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson?
Rich: Ian Stewart, Jeff Baker, and whomever is replaced by Dexter Fowler in the outfield give Colorado a potent bench. Did I mention Juan Pierre? The Dodgers are on the hook for $28.5M over the next three years. But, get this, ol' Juanderful isn't even the highest-paid backup left fielder in the division. That distinction goes to Eric Byrnes, who will be paid $11M in each of the next two seasons. Wonderful.
Jeremy: Byrnes does make for a very good (if expensive) fourth outfielder. The Rockies now have a surplus of outfielders after taking on Matt Murton and Carlos Gonzalez from the As, not to mention Fowler waiting in reserve.
Sully: I agree with Rich, here. Colorado's bench is the strongest in the NL West.
Who are the awards candidates from the NL West?
Rich: MVP: Manny. No, not Corpas. Nice try.
Cy Young: The West has produced the last three NL Cy Young award winners: Webb in 2006, Peavy in 2007, and Lincecum in 2008. Let's make it four different pitchers in four years and give it to Haren in 2009.
Rookie of the Year: If it's not Fowler, the Rookie of the Year will not be coming from this division.
Jeremy: MVP: If Manny Ramirez does anything, the BBWAA will try to award him the MVP twice.
Sully: Manny has almost no competition at all for the best player in the NL West. It's a stretch but not inconceivable to me that Iannetta breaks out and becomes a top-10 MVP type player.
You could pull any NL West starting pitcher's name out of a hat and have a decent chance of picking the winner. Between the past winners and the budding stars, what a great division for those who appreciate the art of pitching.
Unfortunately for the kid, I think Spilborghs will hit too well to make room for Fowler.
Any surprises this year?
Rich: San Diego Padres manager Bud Black doesn't lose his sanity.
Jeremy: The Giants could make a run at the division if they were to acquire another bat. They have prospects to spare. And someone in that Diamondbacks outfield will hit 30 homers.
Sully: Call me crazy, but I don't hate the Padres as much as some do. With Peavy and Chris Young healthy, I think they improve off of last season's win total by at least seven games.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks: Youth, talent, and balance.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 87-75
Los Angeles by five games or so.
We will be concluding this series with the AL West on Friday.