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BASN’s 2007 MLB Previews: Scouting The NL West
By Tony McClean
Updated: March 31, 2007
NEW HAVEN, Ct.– Welcome to Opening Day and the final installment of BASN’s 2007 Major League Baseball previews. Over the last five days, we taken a look at all the divisional races for the upcoming campaign.
Today, we end our series with the NL West. While many critics have taken their potshots at the division, two teams made the playoffs from here. The Padres are look to three-peat, but the Dodgers and Giants have made some dramatic changes to put themselves in the race.
Will it be enough? Lets take a look.
(Teams listed in order of predicted finish).
1. LOS ANGELES DODGERS
It appears that after last year’s playoff sweep against the Mets, GM Nick Colletti decided to go back to the “Dodger Way”. That way is a strong pitching staff coupled with a balanced lineup. Adding ex-Giant Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf to a rotation that already includes Derek Lowe and Brad Penny potentially gives Grady “Slingblade” Little one of the best staff in the game. While the lineup may lack a little power, you do get the feeling that with guys like Juan Pierre, Jeff Kent, Rafael Furcal, and Nomar Garciaparra, the Dodgers shouldn’t have too many long scoring droughts. I don’t think it’s premature to think that this is the team to beat.
Outlook: Can you believe the fact that L.A. has won a postseason game since winning the World Series in 1988? If this year’s team does what we think it can, we’ll be able to retire that phrase this October. Barring any real serious injuries, L.A. will be in this race all season and will eventually take home the division crown.
2. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
While much of the Giants’ season will be focused on the two Barry’s, two other folks you may wanna keep your eyes on are newly acquired OF Dave Roberts and sophomore hurler Matt Cain. Roberts gives San Fran a quality leadoff hitter which should bode well for a lineup that definitely has some age to it. Cain, who thrived as rookie in ’06, should also improve especially with someone like Zito to bounce ideas off of. While the knock on this team is its age, I still think that they’ll be a team that can seriously contend in this division.
Outlook: With all the controversy surrounding him, it’s usually this kind of atmosphere that fuels one Barry Lamar Bonds. If you think he came back just to past Henry Aaron, you’re probably missing the point. He also still hopes to get back to the postseason. While it will be difficult to win this division, this team could very easily be in the thick of the wild card race.
3. SAN DIEGO PADRES
Yes we dropped the defending champs to third, but it’s not because we don’t think they can contend. In fact, the top of their rotation (Jake Peavy, Chris Young, and Greg Maddux) can hang with the best of them. A lineup that includes the Giles brothers (Marcus and Brian) along with youngsters Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Kouzmanoff will be respectable as well. But I see the improvements made the Dodgers and Giants and I just think that the Pads will have a hard time to three-peat. Will they be in contention all year? No doubt. But they may have to settle for a wild card berth.
Outlook: If San Diego can squeeze any wins out of an aging David Wells, it would give new manager Bud Black another quality arm in their rotation. The team will certainly get a good idea of what the division will be like in April when they play 23 games against their divisional brethren. A fast start could give them an early edge.
4. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
When I see this year’s D-Backs squad, my mind thinks of a certain American League team in the Midwest. We all didn’t know much about the Detroit Tigers entering the season a year ago and look what happened. Now we’re not saying Arizona fans should go out a buy World Series tickets, but there are definitely some comparisons. A bunch of young players who got their feet wet a year ago are now looking to rise in the standings. It still may take some time, but you get the feeling that the Baby Backs have a bright future. They may not be quite ready to contend, but they’ll give some teams fits at times.
Outlook: The core of the Arizona lineup will be comprised of players who have been highly touted throughout their rise through the minors. As for the pitching staff, the Big Unit will start the year on the DL. However, the other starters appear more settled. Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb, Livan Hernandez and Doug Davis all having histories of throwing 200 or more innings. That will bode well for this young team.
5. COLORADO ROCKIES
They’re still staying away from the “Blake Street Bombers” mentality in Colorado and it may be just what the doctor ordered. Their 76 wins last year was a nine-game increase from 2005. That may not sound like much, but for a franchise looking to take major steps in a competitive division, its a lot. The Rockies aren’t ready to contend as of yet, but there are building blocks being formed at homer-happy Coors Field. They traded one of their best pitchers (Jason Jennings) to the Astros, but they did get back speedy OF Willy Taveras who will give them some much needed defensive help. There’s still some pop with OF Matt Holliday and 1B Todd Helton (if he survives the trade rumors), but it’s about run production in Colorado.
Outlook: Management thinks they’re good enough to contend in the NL West. They have a chance to prove it in their first 19 games, all within the division. However, their 31-44 record against the West last season was the worst of any NL team in its division, and it occurred in a season when the Rockies led the division as late as July 5. Colorado is trying to turn the corner, but 2007 isn’t the year for them to do it yet.