It’s my favorite time of year! National League West Predictions time. The NL West plays some exciting baseball, and I expect that to continue in 2013. There are a lot of things to like with each ball club, but we can only have one winner. Here are my 2013 National League West Predictions:
1. San Francisco Giants (97-65)
Not only do the Giants have a great chance to repeat as NL West Champions, San Francisco has the talent in place to win back-to-back World Series titles. In terms of their Starting Rotation, the Giants have bar-none the best in the Division, and arguably the strongest in the entire League. The quintet of Matt Cain (2012: 16-5, 219.1 IP, 193 K’s), Madison Bumgarner (16-11, 208.1 IP, 191 K’s), Tim Lincecum (10-15, 186.0 IP, 190 K’s), Ryan Vogelsong (14-9, 189.2 IP, 158 K’s), and Barry Zito (15-8, 184.1 IP, 114 K’s) should be enough for San Francisco to take the Division again in 2013. Although the Giants’ Starters garner most of the headlines, their Bullpen is no “chopped liver” in any way, shape, or form as Santiago Casilla (25 Saves) and Sergio Romo (14 Saves) filled in well with Brian Wilson injured.
Although the Giants’ lineup doesn’t have the “stars” the Dodgers do, they do possess enough weapons in their lineup like National League Batting Champ and M.V.P. Buster Posey (.336 Batting Average, 24 HR’s, 103 RBI’s), Pablo Sandoval (12 HR’s, 63 RBI’s) and Hunter Pence (7 HR”s, 45 RBI’s in 59 Games) to manufacture an adequate amount of Runs to win games and stay competitive. It also helps that San Francisco can also receive some terrific contributions from guys in their lineup like Marco Scutaro (.362 Batting Average in 61 Games), Brandon Belt (.275 BA, 7 HR’s, 56 RBI’s), and Angel Pagan (.288 BA, 15 3B’s, 8 HR’s, 56 RBI’s, 29 SB’s) to boot.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (89-73)
Big spenders during 2012, the Dodgers should be one of baseball’s most intriguing teams to watch and follow this year. From an offensive standpoint, the Dodgers will likely field the Division’s most potent lineup. Adrian Gonzalez (.297 BA, 3 HR’s, 22 RBI’s in 36 Games), Hanley Ramirez (.271 BA, 10 HR’s, 44 RBI’s in 64 Games), Matt Kemp (.303 BA, 23 HR’s, 69 RBI’s), Andre Ethier (.284 BA, 20 HR’s, 89 RBI’s), and the currently healthy Carl Crawford must find a way to lead Los Angeles’ lineup out of the doldrums in 2013. Marked improvement must be shown after a year in which the Dodgers finished the season ranked 26th overall in Runs scored (637), 29th in Home Runs (116), and only 16th in Team Batting Average (.252).
Los Angeles could certainly use a viable #3 in their rotation to put behind former Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw (14-9, 227.2 IP, 229 K’s) and the newly acquired Zack Greinke (15-5, 212.1 IP, 200 K’s w/Brewers and Angels). Thus, 2012 newcomer Josh Beckett could be the key to that role, and the Dodgers will also need contributions from the rest of their rotation. As far as the Bullpen is concerned, Los Angeles will have to find some consistency out of an inexperienced group who will be expected to hold leads late in games, and Brandon League must shut the door as the team’s Closer. Although I do not believe that the Dodgers will win the N.L. West this year, they have enough talent to win more than enough games to earn a Wild Card berth. The talent is there, whether or not the Dodgers can live up to the hype is an entire matter altogether.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks (81-81)
How the Diamondbacks will be able to deal with the losses of Outfielders and power-threats Justin Upton and Chris Young will be a huge question the team must answer in 2013. First Baseman Paul Goldschmidt (20 HR’s, 86 RBI’s) and Outfielder Jason Kubel (30 HR’s) should supply adequate power in the absence of both Upton and Young. In addition, Aaron Hill (.302 BA, 26 HR’s, 85 RBI’s) is arguably the N.L.’s most underrated Second Baseman, Miguel Montero is a steady presence behind the plate, and Gerardo Parra and Cody Ross should form an effective platoon in the Outfield. Thus, it should be interesting to see how the Diamonbacks can sustain their two biggest losses Offensively because they do have some guys in the lineup who can hit.
While the D-Backs’ Starting Rotation is younger than most other teams’ around the League, they nevertheless have talent from top to bottom. Veteran Ian Kennedy (15-12, 208.1 IP, 4.02 ERA) should be a steady presence at the top, while Wade Miley (16-11, 3.33 ERA), Trevor Cahill (13-12, 200.0 IP), Patrick Corbin (6-8, 107.0 IP), and the newly-acquired Brandon McCarthy (8-6, 3.24 ERA) rounds out the back-end. How well these younger players will be able to sustain their early-career success is another thing to watch for with Arizona in 2013. But it does bode well that Relievers David Hernandez (25 Holds, 2.50 ERA) and Brad Ziegler (17 Holds, 2.49 ERA) along with Closer J.J. Putz should be back once again too. If things go sour for Arizona’s Starting Rotation though, they might be fighting to stay out of the bottom half of the Division this year.
4. San Diego Padres (80-82)
Some are predicting that the Padres will be a “sleeper team” to make the postseason as early as this year. As awesome as that would be, I actually see that potentially happening in 2014 or 2015. Nevertheless, the Friars should be much improved again this year, and will likely hover around a .500 record until the final weekend of the season. San Diego’s Offense should be much improved this year, especially if Chase Headley (31 HR’s, 114 RBI’s) can recapture some of his late season magic, and Carlos Quentin (16 HR’s, 46 RBI’s) can stay healthy.
The loss of Yasmani Grandal will definitely hurt over the first 50 games, and questions still surround the consistent productivity of players like Cameron Maybin, Everth Cabrera (44 SB’s), and former starting Catcher Nick Hundley. Luckily for the Friars, Yonder Alonso (.273 BA, 39 Doubles, 9 HR’s, 62 RBI’s) should improve off of his solid Rookie campaign, and the extremely talented prospect Jedd Gyorko will be given every chance to win the starting Second Base job this Spring. The biggest question facing San Diego in 2013 however will inevitably revolve around their Starting Rotation, and how effective they can be from top to bottom this year.
Behind Clayton Richard (14-14, 218.2 IP, 3.99 ERA) and Edinson Volquez (11-11, 182.2 IP, 4.14 ERA), the competition for extended roles in the Starting Rotation should be “up for grabs.” As far as the Bullpen is concerned, the Padres have a terrific mix of young and old. Veterans Luke Gregerson (24 Holds, 2.39 ERA, 9 Saves) and Dale Thayer (22 Holds, 7 Saves, 3.43 ERA) performed well last year while Huston Street (23 Saves) was an All-Star Closer when healthy. Behind the elder statesmen, the Padres have a talented group of youngsters who will be jockeying for Innings in 2013 like Brad Boxberger, Brad Brach, Tom Layne, Miles Mikolas, and Nick Vincent.
A .500 record is definitely not out of the question for this team. I just see our beloved Friars going through another season of development and gelling before they make a big push in 2014 or 2015.
5. Colorado Rockies (64-98)
It could be another long year in Colorado as the Rockies are currently in the middle of a massive reconstruction project. As dim as their fortunes appear to be, the Rockies should be able to score plenty of Runs this year, especially with Carlos Gonzalez (.303 BA, 22 HR’s, 85 RBI’s), Jordan Pacheco (.309 BA, 54 RBI’s), Dexter Fowler (.300 BA, 13 HR’s, 53 RBI’s), Tyler Colvin (.290, 18 HR’s, 72 RBI’s), Wilin Rosario (28 HR’s, 71 RBI’s), and Chris Nelson (.301 BA, 53 RBI’s) in their lineup. The Rockies could be even more dangerous if they get consistent help from veterans Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, and Michael Cuddyer as well.
Although their Offense will be able to keep them in games this year, Colorado’s Pitching Staff could struggle mightily once again in 2013. The Rockies had one of the League’s worst Pitching Staff’s statistically last year, and it was not just the thin air in Denver which was responsible. Overall, Colorado had the League’s worst E.R.A. (5.22), gave up the most Earned Runs (824), and allowed the highest Batting Average against (.290). Losing Huston Street to the Padres did not help the Rockies either last season, as Street was the Friars’ All-Star representative. But the then 37 year-old Rafael Betancourt filled in decently and recorded 31 Saves last year. The Rockies however will need more depth in their Bullpen to sustain any success over the upcoming 162-game marathon, and whether or not Betancourt can recapture his 2012 success is a big question.