Sunday, April 3, 2016

2016 Predictions - NL West

     Although it is opening day for eight teams, the boys in pinstripes don't start until tomorrow.  It is also not opening day for any of the five teams in the National League West. With that in mind, it's time to finalize my 2016 predictions by breaking down the sixth and final division, NLWest. As you may have noticed, it is called the 2016 predictions, which means it is an even year. Does that mean it is another championship banner year for San Francisco? If we learned anything from 2010, 2012 and 2014, then it should be, right? Let's take a look.

5. Colorado Rockies

     As is typically the case in Denver, the Rockies entered the winter with a desperate need for starting pitching. It's tough to find anyone who can effectively sling it in the mile-high above sea level altitude, and as per usual, they couldn't. Instead, Colorado chose to add a few new bats to a lineup that saw the organization trade away their perennial All-Star slugger Troy Tulowitzki. Although they did receive Jose Reyes in the return package for the shortstop, Reyes has found himself amidst some very serious legal trouble pertaining to a domestic violence incident he was involved in earlier this off-season. So, the Rockies signed Mark Reynolds to play first base, hoping he is bringing his 30-home-runs-a-year bat bag with him. They did manage to grab Jake McGee in a trade with Tampa for their rising star outfielder Corey Dickerson. But, what good is having a great closer if no one can get him the ball? While they still have Nolan Arenado, D.J. LeMahieu  and Carlos Gonzalez to bash the ball around Coors Field, ultimately their lack of starting pitching will be the reason they find themselves at the bottom of the barrel looking up.

4. San Diego Padres
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    A season after A.J. Preller made his general managerial debut, making trades for Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton, Melvin Upton Jr., Will Myers, Matt Kemp, Derek Norris and signing James Shields, the Padres find themselves in rebuild mode yet again. They have since moved the closer Kimbrel to Boston, Justin Upton signed a huge deal with Detroit and Ian Kennedy is now donning the Royals uniform. They also delt their second baseman Jedd Gyorko to St. Louis for centerfielder Jon Jay, in attempts to shore up their outfield defense and move Will Myers to first base.  They also signed Fernando Rodney to help with the back end of the bullpen and fill the spot left vacant by the departed Kimbrel.  Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner, two of the Padres starting pitchers, had down years by their and their teams standards and hope to rebound this season. They play in one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in all of baseball, PetCo Park.  Even with that being the case, in a division loaded with talent, I don't see them finishing any higher then fourth.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

     I know it seems crazy to have the highest payroll in baseball and a prediction of finishing third, but, here's why. Even though they have former MVP and Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw, they lost what could be considered their second ace, Zack Greinke, in a bidding war to their division rival Arizona. The Dodgers made several attempts to sign the games best free-agent starting pitching, only to sign Scott Kaznir and Japanese import Kenta Maeda. They are the most left-handed heavy staff in all of baseball, which does not bode well for them considering they are in a division that rakes against left-handed pitching.  They have a bit of a logjam in the outfield, although unlike Chicago, it's a mixed bag of older and younger players . Joc Peterson had a breakout first half last season playing centerfield, but fizzled out in the second half of 2015. Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier are both getting up there in age and with that comes a noticeable decline in skill level. The same could be said for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. One of the brightest spots for the men in blue last season was the play of their back stop Yasmani Grandal. They did manage to re-sign Howie Kendrick to play second base, although he is another player who is closer to the end of his career then the beginning. With some aging bats and shakiness in their rotation, I believe this organization will be headed back to the drawing board come seasons end.

2. Arizona Diamondbacks

     This was one of the most surprising teams in the entire off-season. The D'backs were rumored to be close to signing a deal with Johnny Cueto, only to one-up themselves by winning the Zack Greinke sweepstakes. Then, Arizona shocked the baseball world by executing the trade for Shelby Miller, sending a slew of prospects to Atlanta for the right-hander. At the end of last season, the Diamondbacks were asserting themselves as one of the most potent offense is in all of baseball and should continue their stellar play in the upcoming season. They have one of the best all-around players in the game today, Paul Goldschmidt. A.J. Pollack had a phenomenal year last season and has asserted himself as one of the top 10 outfielders in the game. Originally, they signed Yasmani Thomas to play third base last season, but, found that he may be better suited in the outfield adding an all star shortstop, in Jean Segura,  provides gold glove caliber defense and a spark plug at the top of the order. Not only do they have the afore mentioned Greinke and Miller, the D'backs have Patrick Corbin and Rubby De La Rosa, two young, very capable starting pitchers ready to learn from their number one and number two. I think this is one of the most intriguing teams to watch this season, and,  could be one of the most dynamic rosters ever assembled under Tony LaRussa.

1. San Fransisco Giants

     I know it seems obvious to pick the boys from the BayArea to take the division, but, I won't make the same mistake of picking them anywhere other then first place as I did in the prior 2010, 2012 and 2014 seasons. The Giants have managed to improve what was already a strong rotation by adding the highly sought after Johnny Cueto to pitch out of the two hole and Jeff Samardzija to pitch out of the three hole, both signing humongous deals. When you add that to a rotation that already includes one of the games best, Madison Bumgardner, Matt Cain and Chris Heston, who threw a no-hitter last season, you will find   That this is one of the best rotations in all of baseball. Offensively, they have one of the most underrated shortstops around in Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik is  A 25-year-old stud of a second baseman and is only getting better. Their captain and backstop Buster Posey continues to be one of the best young players and looks to continue his dominance in 2016, hoping to add to his already robust collection of trophies. A full season of health for Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt will also help to keep the runs coming fast and furious in one of the games most beautifu ballparks, AT&T Park. With such a well-rounded offense and pitching staff, San Francisco seems poised to hold up yet another banner at the end of the season.

 Hey 2016, let's go!

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