2010 MLB Preview: NL West

In order to help get you ready for the MLB season, we’re doing division-by-division rankings with quick overviews on how each club could fair in 2010. Next to each team, you’ll also find a corresponding number written in parenthesis, which indicates where we believe that club falls in a league-wide power ranking. Be sure to check back throughout the next two weeks leading up to the season, as we will be updating our content daily. Enjoy.

All 2010 MLB Preview Content | AL East Preview | AL Central Preview | AL West Preview | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Last up is the NL West.

1. Colorado Rockies (7)
Before I wax poetically about the youthful Rockies, I have an axe to grind about the television broadcasting crew of Drew Goodman, Jeff Huson and George Frazier. Those three form one of the most biased, nonobjective broadcasting teams in baseball history. I’m not kidding. The Rockies never get the same calls as their opponents do. The Rockies never get the national recognition like everyone else does. The Rockies are the greatest team to ever walk the planet and if they played a roster compiled of Jesus, Moses, God and the 12 apostles, Colorado should win 5-4 in extras nine times out of 10. If not, the Rockies beat themselves, because there’s no way Jesus and the gang were better. Don’t believe me? Just ask Goodman, Huson and Frazier. All right, now that that’s out of the way – the Rockies are a damn fine club and should leapfrog the Dodgers in the division this year. Their core – Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta, Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez – are all 27 years old or younger and that doesn’t include 26-year-old stud Ubaldo Jimenez, who is absolutely filthy when he’s on. Throw in key veterans like Todd Helton (a perennial .300 hitter) and Jeff Francis (who could win 15-plus games filling in for the departed Jason Marquis), and Colorado has the tools to make a deep run. The question is whether or not starters Francis and Jorge De La Rosa will keep their ERAs below 5.00 and the young offensive players can move forward in their development and not backwards. But outside of the ultra-annoying broadcast team, I love the Rockies from top to bottom this year and believe they can do some damage in 2010.

2. Los Angles Dodgers (12)
Dodger fans are probably thinking to themselves, “Hey clown face – nothing has changed. This is the same team that won 95 games last year, so what’s with this second place nonsense?” And they would be right to think that – I do have a clown face. But whether fans want to admit it or not, owner Frank McCourt’s divorce from wife and former CEO Jamie McCourt will have an affect on their club this season. In fact, it already has seeing as how the Dodgers’ spending was limited this winter. Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake should keep L.A. competitive throughout the season and there’s likely to be a knock down, drag out fight between them and the Rockies for first place. But what happens when Kershaw, Billingsley, Vicente Padilla, Hiroki Kuroda and James McDonald start making trips to the DL? Ownership certainly isn’t going to spend money on replacements, so experienced players may have to step up and that usually spells trouble. Plus, if guys like Rafael Furcal, James Loney and Russell Martin don’t rekindle the magic they had earlier in their careers, Kemp, Ethier and Blake may find it harder to keep the club afloat by themselves. Don’t forget that Manny only hit .255 after taking a pitch off the wrist in late July last year, so his best days are likely behind him as well. Do the Dodgers boast the same roster as the one that was so successful last year? Yes, but the power has seemingly shifted in the division.

3. San Francisco Giants (15)
Watching the Giants on a nightly basis is like watching a unicorn, in all its mythical wonderment and greatness, frolic around an empty field for three hours, only to be intermittently beaten by some idiot caveman with a club. Only, the ironic thing is that the caveman doesn’t really know how to use the club, so he just flails at the unicorn for three hours until both of them tire out and collapse. San Fran’s pitching staff, in all its mythical wonderment and greatness, is outstanding, but its offense continues to be a cross between a used baby diaper and hot garbage. Reigning two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum is the best pitcher in baseball and 25-year-old Matt Cain is a Cy Young-contender in the making. When his heads on right, Jonathan Sanchez can be equally frustrating to hitters and his ’09 second half (which included a no-hitter) suggests that he has a bright future. Barry Zito will never live up to his contract, but he was productive and reliable for the first time in a Giants’ uniform last year and fifth starter Todd Wellemeyer had a great spring. The problem is that GM Brian Sabean hasn’t a clue when it comes to positional talent. With exception of the fun-loving star-in-the-making Pablo Sandoval and future prospect Buster Posey, the Giants don’t have any hitters that will keep opposing pitchers up at night. The offseason additions of Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff, as well as the re-signings of Freddy Sanchez and Juan Uribe should help, but all four of those players are complementary pieces on a good team. On the Giants, they’ll all be counted on as key contributors, which is a problem. This club won 88 games last year – more than any team that didn’t make the postseason. Their starting pitching, Sandoval and their bullpen are rock solid, but if the G-Men hope to make the playoffs this year, then guys like Aaron Rowand, Bengie Molina, Edgar Renteria and Nate Schierholtz (who will finally have the opportunity to play full time) have to step up in a big way. We’ll see if Sabean did enough this offseason to give the Giants a shot.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks (19)
In Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, the D-Backs have an outstanding 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation but the problem is that Webb isn’t healthy. He hopes that his shoulder injury will heal soon and is targeting a late April return, but that might be a little optimistic. Edwin Jackson was a nice offseason pickup, but ‘Zona has to hope that he’ll pitch closer to his first half production of last year (2.52 ERA) and not his second half (5.02). If Webb returns quickly and Jackson pitches well, then the D-Backs have enough pitching to challenge anyone. But there’s a ton of question marks surrounding the rotation (outside of Haren obviously) entering the season. Offensively, youngsters Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds will supply plenty power, while the return of Conor Jackson and newly acquired Adam LaRoche should boost the offense as well. But the key might be outfielder Chris Young, who had a great September after being demoted to the minors earlier in the season to fix his swing. If his September production wasn’t an anomaly, then Arizona certainly has enough offense to compete for the Wild Card. I just don’t trust the pitching and for as good as the offense could be, the D-Backs have several hitters that struggle to get on base on a consistent basis. If Webb were healthy, I could envision this club finishing higher than this. But I don’t think they’ll get out of the gates strong and it could sink their season.

5. San Diego Padres (24)
For a team that was forced to cut costs, the Padres finished a respectable 75-87 last season. Adrian Gonzalez, Kyle Blanks, Chase Headley and Everth Cabrera comprise and solid offensive core, but the problem is that their starting pitching is beyond suspect after the club traded Jake Peavy to the White Sox last year. Mat Latos may soon assume the No. 1 role, but he his little big league experience and there’s just not an ace among Jon Garland, Kevin Correia and Clayton Richard. Those three can certainly eat innings, but none of them are the top of the rotation arm that the Padres need to replace Peavy. The bottom line is that the Pads could surprise this season, but if Gonzo is traded at the deadline like many expect, then San Diego will sink to the bottom of the NL West. And even if he isn’t dealt, the Padres might still fail to get out of the West basement due to their starting pitching (or lack their of).

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