NL West Betting Outlook
March 27, 2013
By Matt Zylbert
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Last week, I gave you my in-depth predictions for the American League heading into 2013. Now, it’s the National League’s turn to be dissected. Without further ado, here are your spoilers pertaining to what exactly will occur in the NL this season…
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers In the trade with the Red Sox last year, the Dodgers also picked up Josh Beckett, who enjoyed an absolute resurgence after coming over from across the country, as he looked like his vintage self again, albeit in a smaller sample size of games. Even so, all indications point to the old Beckett making his presence felt in the Los Angeles rotation. Other than that, the Dodgers continued their retooling during the offseason, garnering Zack Greinke with a record-setting contract. He’s sandwiched between one of the best aces in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, and fellow new pickup Hyun-Jin Ryu, who comes over after excelling in Japan. Also featuring Chad Billingsley in the fifth slot, not to mention outstanding depth with veterans Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, and Ted Lilly waiting in the wings, the Dodgers’ pitching staff has tremendous potential. Their bullpen is pretty dependable, too, with Brandon League solidified as the team’s closer, and other reliable arms in Kenley Jansen, Matt Guerrier, J.P. Howell, and Ronald Belisario. Oozing with talent everywhere, the Dodgers are surefire World Series contenders.
There’s no denying that Los Angeles is one of the biggest sports cities in the country, if not the biggest. Thus, it’s no surprise to see, especially in recent years, how the LA sports scene has been booming with action, both on the field and off, in terms of excessive dealing. The Angels obviously made a huge splash with their transactions, and the same could be said for the Dodgers as well, who are seeking a comeback to prominence after narrowly missing the postseason a year ago, despite a fabulous start. Of course, much was made of the mega deals they conducted midway through last season with Boston and Miami, bringing them impact players on both sides of the ball. Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Hanley Ramirez were added to the offense and are expected to be focal points of the lineup in their first full season with the club, along with superstar Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. While Ramirez suffered an injury in the World Baseball Classic that will keep him out of action the first two months of the season, the Dodgers are loaded enough to the point where they can survive without him in the meantime.
Predicted Record: 92-70
San Francisco Giants
Much like their World Series run in 2010, the Giants caught most people by surprise a year ago with an extensive brilliant run, before ultimately taking it all to record their second championship in three years. Does this have the makings of a dynasty? Most likely not, but that doesn’t mean they’re not fielding a perennial contender once more for the upcoming campaign. A main reason why San Francisco has been so successful recently is that they’re a well-oiled, balanced machine that excels in just about all facets of the game. In other words, they’re remarkably consistent. Take a look at their starting rotation: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, and Barry Zito. All five guys started over 30 ballgames and were around all year, which is rare for any team to get that kind of stable pitching. Some had their ups and downs, particularly the latter three on the staff, but for the most part, they hung in there and were effective enough to keep the Giants’ push going. A lot of that also had to do with the bullpen, which is quite easily regarded as one of the best in baseball. Even with the loss of Brian Wilson, everyone collectively worked together to comprise a truly dominant unit. Sergio Romo stepped up tremendously to establish himself as a feared closer, while the crew of Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, and Santiago Casilla is as deadly as it gets when it comes to relief pitching.
Within their lineup, the Giants exhibited much of the same kind of consistency, getting valuable production all year long from Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, and the reigning National League MVP Buster Posey. All three are likely to pick up where they left off, and their offense might be even better this year. Brandon Belt, for instance, is a popular sleeper candidate, as many have been waiting for him to break out. Having more experience now, that is definitely very possible. Additionally, role players like Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro know their niche in the batting order and serve them well, while also fulfilling some of the other intangibles that are often overlooked by baseball fans. In a nutshell, this is a championship squad that remains untouched from last year, and considering a lot of their young players are still in their prime, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t go deep yet again. They’ll be dealing with a more competitive division this time around, however.
Predicted Record: 86-76
When one of the main headlines surrounding your team’s season involved the unique departure of both of its television announcers (One for regularly wearing a suit instead of the team-mandated polo shirt; the other for a second DUI in 15 months), well, that means it wasn’t a very successful season. Such was the case in 2012 for Arizona, who saw their much-adored broadcasting pair of Daron Sutton and Mark Grace unexpectedly get the ax at different points in the year (It bares mentioning that Greg Schulte, who shifted over from radio play-by-play to TV, filled in beautifully, but unfortunately is going back to radio in 2013), while their roster of ballplayers failed to live up to the hype following the team’s division title in 2011. Even so, the club avoided finishing below .500, and will still have some buzz around their team entering this new season. Despite losing Justin Upton, the Diamondbacks still possess a very potent offense, with a lot of their talent either just getting started or on the verge of entering their prime. The most glaring example of the latter statement involves the ultra-powerful Paul Goldschmidt, who has the tools to be one of the best power hitters in the National League for a long time. Jason Kubel, though not nearly as young, can also fall under that category, as he’s hit the best stretch of his career. Aaron Hill is coming off an efficient season as well. Furthermore, one of the players netted in the Upton trade with Atlanta, Martin Prado, is beginning to realize his own offensive potential. As for guys just getting started, look no further than Adam Eaton, who figures to be the club’s lead-off hitter for years to come, although he’s hurt to begin the campaign. Also bringing in Cody Ross and Cliff Pennington, the Diamondbacks’ offense can continue to be live.
Their rotation looks to be in polished shape as well, led by Ian Kennedy. Brandon McCarthy was signed to re-join former Oakland teammate Trevor Cahill in the middle of it, while the team has a slew of prized blue-chippers in Wade Miley, Tyler Skaggs, and Patrick Corbin that will round it out in some form very effectively, with the immensely talented Daniel Hudson set to return later on following Tommy John surgery. The bullpen isn’t that great, but they do have J.J. Putz still closing out games, and added Tony Sipp and Heath Bell in hopes of improving the overall unit. Arizona fields a fun team every year, and 2013 should be no exception. Their interesting balance makes them a team to watch out for.
Predicted Record: 83-79
Every year, it seems like the same ol’ script in Colorado: Lots of firepower on offense, but little starting pitching to back it up. A lot of that has to do with playing at hitter-friendly Coors Field, where the ball is always flying, but a good portion should be accredited to how the team is assembled. This year’s Rockies appear to be sticking to the usual screenplay under first-year manager Walt Weiss, albeit with more hope concerning their pitching than in the recent past. First, on offense, it all begins with the club’s two main stars, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. Without question, there is no doubt that each is among the best at his respective position, but the problem for both has been staying on the field. Tulowitzki especially has suffered from injury woes, having missed a whopping 174 games combined over the past three years, while Gonzalez always makes at least a couple of annual visits to the disabled list. If they can stay healthy, that would make a huge difference in terms of giving them a shot at postseason contention. Looking at the rest of their lineup, there’s talent abound that can successfully complement the presence of their two main attractions. Michael Cuddyer, for example, has always been a steady run-producer, and proved that once again last year in his first ride with Colorado. Wilin Rosario and Josh Rutledge are two young promising players, each coming off successful rookie campaigns. In addition, Dexter Fowler could be close to fulfilling his potential as a top-flight lead-off man. And, of course, you can’t talk about the Rockies’ offense without bringing up grizzled veteran Todd Helton, who can still rake and provides leadership.
Starting pitching has been Colorado’s undoing in the past, but a turnaround is possible. Hope for that begins with the fact that the Rockies are ditching the horrendous 75-pitch limit they had in place last year for its pitchers, which failed miserably. On top of that, they’re beginning the year with three key starters that each missed more than half of 2012, Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, and Juan Nicasio, all of whom are capable of making a difference. In any event, there are some fine veterans beyond them in the form of Jon Garland and Jeff Francis, not to mention potentially good young pitching in Drew Pomeranz and Tyler Chatwood, so there’s insurance in the rotation as well. The bullpen looks shaky, but at least Rafael Betancourt was effective last year in his first season as the closer, so if they can just get him a lead, they’ll be in good shape. Don’t be surprised if the Rockies return to relevancy.
Predicted Record: 77-85
San Diego Padres
It’s hard putting the Padres here. It really is. If you weren’t paying close attention last season, you probably didn’t notice the miraculous second-half that San Diego enjoyed, even at one point pulling to within six games of the final wild card spot in September. Considering this was a team that was previously 20 games under .500, that’s an enormous turnaround. However, as Opening Day nears, San Diego is already embattled with the same issue that caused them to struggle in the first two months of last year - injuries. Chase Headley, the club’s best hitter coming off a monster campaign in which he unexpectedly led the National League in RBI, is out all of April, plus more, with a fractured thumb. Considering the Friars have little depth offensively, that could be huge, especially since their other feared slugger, Carlos Quentin, is iffy to start the season following arthroscopic knee surgery. Furthermore, the organization’s promising young catcher, Yasmani Grandal, who was a big reason for San Diego’s second-half surge last year, is serving a 50-game suspension for PEDs to begin his 2013. In the meantime, the Padres will have to lean heavily on the likes of Will Venable and Yonder Alonso, not to mention sleeper candidates Cameron Maybin, Nick Hundley, and Jedd Gyorko, meaning they’ll be struggling for run support, even with the team moving the fences in at spacious Petco Park.
Injuries have hit their pitching staff as well - just like last year - as Andrew Cashner, the prized youngster who was expected to take a major step forward, probably won’t be available at the start. Additionally, the Padres are waiting for Corey Luebke and Joe Wieland to get back from Tommy John surgery, while also just seeing high-end prospect Casey Kelly go through the same procedure that will knock him out for the entire year. At least the Padres possess a nice 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, with two proven gamers in Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard, and there is also Eric Stults, who was a pleasant surprise after being claimed off waivers from the White Sox last May. San Diego features a solid bullpen as well, as they have had in recent years, with shutdown set-up men in Luke Gregerson and Dale Thayer working under all-star closer Huston Street. When they’re at full strength, this is a quality ballclub, but unfortunately, that is not the predicament they find themselves in.
Predicted Record: 70-92