Change-UpApril 01, 2009
NL West Preview
By Patrick Sullivan

Today, Rich, Jeremy and I preview the NL West. You can find past previews below:

AL Central
NL Central
AL East
NL East

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

Rich: Fun stat comparison... In the second half last season, All-World shortstop Hanley Ramirez hit .282/.414/.495 while the brother of J.D. Drew hit .326/.372/.556.

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.

Jeremy: Fred Lewis is one of my favorite players since he does so many things well—fielding, hitting, running. He could probably replicate Barry Bonds’ production if only Scott Boras were his agent.

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.

CYA: Lincecum

ROY: Fowler

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.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers: Will battle the Snakes for first place all season long.
3. San Francisco Giants: Won't finish first or fifth.
4. Colorado Rockies: Hey, I didn't trade Matt Holliday.

5. San Diego Padres: I've got the unders on Baseball Prospectus' 74-win projection.


Los Angeles Dodgers: 87-75
Arizona Diamondbacks: 84-78
San Fransisco Giants: 81-81
Colorado Rockies: 78-84
San Diego Padres: 66-96


Los Angeles by five games or so.
San Francisco
San Diego


We will be concluding this series with the AL West on Friday.


The Giants sent Frandsen down today and apparently will go with Burriss at 2B.

Sully-Mauer's in the NL?
"I say he ends the year as the best catcher in the league not named Mauer or McCann."

Thanks, Bob.

Burriss: .270/.332/.335 is his averaged projection line.

Gilbert, by "league" I just meant MLB. My bad for not being more clear.

Also, it was Kevin Frandsen, not J., just FYI.

Another FYI: Ishikawa hit #7 today.

Nice overview of everything, well done.

I think Lopez will benefit greatly in AZ, because Hudson, if you look at his road numbers while in AZ, was pretty much as bad as he was before AZ acquired him, and now he's hitting in one of the strongest pitcher's park in the majors, so I expect him to probably be around the low 700 OPS overall, when all is said and done.

As long as Sandoval keep on hitting like he did in 2008, I don't care how short his AB's are. Carney Lansford said in an interview on the Giants flagship station that the only hitter he can think of who hits like Sandoval, and can square up balls that would normally be a good pitch for the pitcher, is Vladimir Guerrero.

People worry too much about Renteria's salary. It looks bad in relationship to what people were getting in January and February, but I would rather have Renteria playing SS for us at $9M than Cabrera (or worse) at much less money, because Renteria would not have been available in Jan/Feb at low prices, someone would have snapped him up already, and then the Giants would be forced to acquire from the dregs, like Oakland did. That's 40 points minimum improvement by having Renteria, and if he hits as well as he's capable, it could be nearly 100 points.

Any projection of Lewis has to have a downward bias because he's been playing with a very painful bunion for years now, but he had surgery to remove that. So he probably can steal more and perhaps turn more singles into doubles and doubles into triples.

Rowand was injured almost immediately after his first game with the Giants, hit over 900 OPS for two months, then around 600 OPS the rest of the way, so as long as he is healthy and don't injure himself, I think that projection is too low by a lot, a low 800 OPS is his capability. Unfortunately, whether he stays healthy is an unknown.

First place I've seen that has acknowledged how great the Giants rotation could be.

While the Dodgers have a great bullpen up top, if you look at how their bullpen did last season, basically they all had career seasons either low 2's or very low for their career. Some are gone and the rest, well, I doubt they will ALL keep low 2 ERAs going like last year, so I expect a big drop there, relative to last year, even though they will still be very good.

I think Cain's going to win it over Haren. Lots of good things happening this season. He'll be our #3 starter, so he'll be facing worse pitching (i.e. team will score more runs for him), so he should be in the upper teens in wins this year and the Cy Young votes still take that into account. He'll pitch well again, as he has done for 3 seasons now. The Big Unit is here and he's teaching all our young pitchers how to be a pitcher rather than a thrower, passing on tips he learned while transitioning to becoming a pitcher, and he noted Cain as one who he has been tutoring a lot in a recent interview.

The Giants should be competitive this year and if their young hitters hit closer to what they did last year than to the projections, the Giants should be competing for the division title. People don't realize how winning changes when you have a rotation that is good from top to bottom, and when overall it can get the ERA close to or perhaps even under 4.00. If Giants pitchers can get their RA to 4.00, even with last year's anemic offense they would have won around 81 games.

As one can see with the rotation, their collective ERA would be around 4.00, so it won't take much improved production from a pitcher, say if Lincecum repeats the 2.96 ERA he had in the last part of 2007 (2.62 last season) or if Sanchez repeats his 3.98 ERA he had last season until his arm gave out, to get the collective RA under 4.00.

Improving the offense RS/G to 4.2 from last year's 4.0 with a 4.00 RA results in a 84-85 win season. Addition of Renteria, Sandoval, and Ishikawa should do at least that because SS, 3B, 1B had horribly bad production there last season, and that includes how well Sandoval and Ishikawa played there last season.

The Giants are an exciting team because they are young and could surprise as a team if enough position players do so.

Bengie Molina is no more than an average hitter -- until clutch time, when he shines.

Travis Ishikawa resurrected his career last season and showed this spring that he might hit left-handers.

In less than two years, Emmanuel Burriss has gone from a player who batted just .165 in High A ball and was demoted to Low A, to the winner of the Giants' second base job.

Edgar Renteria slowed down badly last season both at bat and in the field, but is in much better shape this season and seemingly poised for a better defensive season and a return to batting form, perhaps with less power than in his prime.

Pablo Sandoval hits everything but the rosin bag, and he might hit that if it were unpowdered.

Fred Lewis looks to be a guy hitting over his head, but he just keeps doing it.

Aaron Rowand has shown he can do it before, and there is always the chance he will do so again.

Randy Winn just keeps getting the job done. 

With Rowand batting seventh, it is clear the Giants have depth in their order.  They merely lack anything apporaching the height and breadth provided by Barry Bonds.

The Giants don't appear to be a hitting team at all. But they do offer the tiny possibility that sans power and on-base percentage, they might be.

The rotation could be among the best in the game, and the Giants have a combination of veterans and youngsters who might make their bullpen at least respectable, with the defense being far better than respectable except for the left side of the infield.

Oh, and just wait for the new decade! Just down highway 101 at High A San Jose alone, the Giants have eight very nice prospects covering all positions except for center and left fields.

Included in that group are perhaps the best pitcher in the minor leagues (Madison Bumgarner), 2010's likely starting catcher (Buster Posey), and the pitcher who might become the first high school hurler from the 2007 draft to reach the majors (Tim Alderson).

One of the top power prospects in the minors, Angel Villalona, will play first base there -- not that the Giants need any power.