PTBN’s 2014 National League West Preview

This is Part Six of Place to Be Nation’s Major League Baseball division previews, focused on the National League West.

To read Part One, the A.L. East, click here. For the A.L. Central, click here. For the A.L. West, click here.

For the N.L. East, click here. For the N.L. Central, click here.

Just as before, teams are listed in predicted order of finish.

The Dodgers are hoping for a lot of power from Yasiel Puig in 2014
The Dodgers are hoping for a lot of power from Yasiel Puig in 2014

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

2013: 92-70, won N.L. West

Key additions: SP Dan Haren, SP Paul Maholm, RP Brian Wilson, RP Chris Perez, UT Chone Figgins, IF Justin Turner

Key losses: RP Ronald Belisario, 2B Mark Ellis, SP Chris Capuano, SP Ted Lilly, SP Ricky Nolasco, RP Carlos Marmol, SP Edinson Volquez, UT Michael Young

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [1]

Rotation  [1]

Bullpen [1]

LF Carl Crawford (L)

Clayton Kershaw (L)

currently on DL

Kenley Jansen (R)

SS Hanley Ramirez (R)

Zack Greinke (R)

Brian Wilson (R)

1B Adrian Gonzalez (L)

Hyun-jin Ryu (L)

Chris Withrow (R)

CF Yasiel Puig (R)*

Dan Haren (R)

Chris Perez (R)

RF Andre Ethier (L)

Paul Maholm (L)

Paco Rodriguez (L)

3B Juan Uribe (R)

C A.J. Ellis (R)

2B Dee Gordon (L)/Justin Turner (R)

* Starting CF Matt Kemp is on the DL to begin the year. When he’s healthy, Puig probably moves to RF, while Ethier and Crawford turn into a weird lefty-lefty platoon and/or spell righties Puig and Kemp often.

Strengths: Starting pitching, lineup balance, closer, payroll depth

Weaknesses: Health concerns, back of rotation, bottom of lineup

Best case scenario: Kershaw and Kemp return from injuries earlier than expected to give the team a boost; the role players (Uribe, Ellis, Gordon) play to their strengths and compliment the superstars that fill out the rest of the lineup; Puig gets along with everyone; the outfield crowding becomes a strength, whether with a time-share or trade; the rotation stays healthy; the team dominates its division en route to the playoffs.

Worst case scenario: Kershaw and Kemp both miss significant chunks of the season; the role players falter as do a few of the usually-reliable stars; some combination of Ramirez, Crawford, Gonzalez, and Grienke spend time on the DL; the bullpen blows up in front of Jansen; Puig feuds openly with everyone, especially manager Don Mattingly, created unnecessary distraction; the team collapses and misses the postseason.

Bold, but unlikely prediction: Back-end starters Haren and Maholm combine to win 30 games; the rotation overall tallies 75 victories.

The Giants hope for another MVP-caliber season from catcher Posey
The Giants hope for another MVP-caliber season from catcher Posey

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

2013: 76-86, tied for 3rd in N.L. West

Key additions: SP Tim Hudson, OF Mike Morse OF Tyler Colvin

Key losses: SP Barry Zito, RP Chad Gaudin, RP Jose Mijares

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen  — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [4]

Rotation [2]

Bullpen [2]

CF Angel Pagan (S)

Madison Bumgarner (L)

Sergio Romo (R)

3B Pablo Sandoval (S)

Matt Cain (R)

Javier Lopez (L)

C Buster Posey (R)

Tim Hudson (R)

Santiago Casilla (R)

RF Hunter Pence (R)

Tim Lincecum (R)

Jean Machi (R)

1B Brandon Belt (L)

Ryan Vogelsong (R)

Yusmerio Petit (R)

LF Mike Morse (R)

SS Brandon Crawford (R)

2B Joaquin Arias (R)

Strengths: Starting pitching, lineup’s top six, bullpen depth

Weaknesses: Injuries, defense, lineup’s lower third, age of rotation

Best case scenario: The offense (10th in the N.L. in runs per game last year) wakes up as a slimmed-down Sandoval, perennial MVP Posey, Pence, Belt and new left fielder Morse combine to blast 95 home runs for a team that slugged just 107 (14th in the N.L.) in 2013; the starting staff sees Tim Hudson recover from the ankle injury that prematurely ended his season; Tim Lincecum pitches well in No. 4 spot, benefitting from a lesser workload and pressure; Matt Cain bounces back from his worst full season (0.5 bWAR), while Madison Bumgarner continues to shine as one of the top lefties in all of baseball; the bullpen pitches well when called upon; the team challenges the Dodgers for most of the season, ultimately snaring a Wild Card berth.

Worst case scenario: The offense lags behind Posey; Morse is a bust; Sandoval’s offseason weight gets put back on; the pitching staff crumbles as Hudson’s ankle still gives him trouble, Cain’s downhill slide continues, Lincecum, Bumgarner, and Vogelsong all struggle; the team trades off whatever it can in mid-to-late July and finishes last in the division for the first time since 2007.

Bold, but unlikely prediction: Brandon Belt leads the team with 25 home runs and finishes with a better MVP finish than Posey.

With his strong offense and defense in left field, Carlos Gonzalez is one of the best in baseball.
With his strong offense and defense in left field, Carlos Gonzalez is one of the best in baseball.

COLORADO ROCKIES

2013: 74-88, 5th in N.L. West

Key additions: SP Brett Anderson, 1B Justin Morneau, OF Drew Stubbs, OF Brandon Barnes, RP LaTroy Hawkins, RP Boone Logan, SP Jordan Lyles, RP Nick Masset, P Drew Pomeranz

Key losses: 1B Todd Helton, OF Dexter Fowler, OF Tyler Colvin, C Yorvit Torrealba

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen  — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [2]

Rotation [4]

Bullpen [5]

CF Drew Stubbs (R)

Jhoulys Chacin (L)

will begin on DL

LaTroy Hawkins (R)

RF Michael Cuddyer (R)

Jorge De La Rosa (L)

Rex Brothers (L)

LF Carlos Gonzalez (L)

Brett Anderson (L)

Wilton Lopez (R)

SS Troy Tulowitzki (R)

Tyler Chatwood (R)

will begin on DL

Matt Belisle (R)

1B Justin Morneau (L)

Juan Nicasio (R)/Jordan Lyles (R)

Adam Ottavino (R)

C Wilin Rosario (R)

3B Nolan Arenado (R)

2B D.J. LeMahieau (R)

Strengths: Offense, top three starters

Weaknesses: Defense, bottom of rotation, bullpen, overall pitching due to ballpark

Best case scenario: Newly acquired Brett Anderson stays healthy for a full season and is not phased by Coors Field, leading the team in wins, strikeouts, and pitching WAR; Justin Morneau also finds Colorado to his liking, slamming 25 home runs for the first time in five seasons; the team gets great defense from the outfield and the infield, helping mitigate the pitching staff’s weaknesses; the team contends for a Wild Card, but settles for an over-.500 finish.

Worst case scenario: Anderson gets hurt, Chacin and De La Rosa do too, devastating the rotation; the bullpen wears out quickly trying to prop the ailing starters, leading to more injuries; Tuol misses too much time; Arenado regresses from a good rookie season; Morneau cannot find his power; Gonzalez gets banged up despite playing left field; the team craters in the basement of the division, barely winning 70.

Bold, but unlikely prediction: Morneau hits 30 bombs.

The D'Backs hope Paul Goldschmidt repeats (or bests) his 2013 totals: 36 HR, 125 RBI, .952 OPS.
The D’Backs hope Paul Goldschmidt repeats (or bests) his 2013 totals: 36 HR, 125 RBI, .952 OPS.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

2013: 81-81, 2nd in N.L. West

Key additions: SP Bronson Arroyo, RP Oliver Perez, RP Addison Reed, OF Mark Trumbo

Key losses: RP Heath Bell, 3B Matt Davidson, CF Adam Eaton, 1B Eric Hinske, SP Tyler Skaggs

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen  — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [3]

Rotation [5]

Bullpen [3]

RF Gerardo Parra (L)

Wade Miley (L)

Addison Reed (R)

3B Martin Prado (R)

Bronson Arroyo (R)

Brad Ziegler (R)

1B Paul Goldschmidt (R)

Trevor Cahill (R)

Oliver Perez (L)

LF Mark Trumbo (R)

Brandon McCarthy (R)

Josh Collmenter (R)

2B Aaron Hill (R)

Randall Delgado (R)

Joe Thatcher (L)

C Miguel Montero (L)

CF A.J. Pollock (R)

SS Chris Owings (R)

Strengths: Defense, bullpen

Weaknesses: Starting pitching, overall offense, Mark Trumbo with a glove

Best case scenario: The relief pitching picks up a beleaguered starting staff often, but Cahill, McCarthy, and Arroyo pitch enough innings so as not to burn out any relievers; Reed saves 40 games-plus; Goldschmidt has an MVP-caliber season (again); Trumbo crushes 40 homers in the desert; youngsters Pollock and Owings take steps forward on offense and defense; the team hangs around with L.A. for most of the season and ends up a Wild Card threat.

Worst case scenario: More injuries and ineffectiveness plague the D’Backs, who have already lost projected 2014 ace Patrick Corbin; the bullpen implodes; Goldschmidt becomes an island of production in a sea of nothingness; Trumbo’s worse with the bat than he is with the glove (if that’s possible); the team flounders all season, leading to Kirk Gibson being shown the door before October; the team finishes under .500.

Bold, but unlikely prediction: Trumbo hits 40 home runs.

Second-year second baseman Jedd Gyorko hopes to improve on his freshman campaign
Second-year second baseman Jedd Gyorko hopes to improve on his freshman campaign

SAN DIEGO PADRES

2013: 76-86, tied for 3rd in N.L. West

Key additions: RP Joaquin Benoit, OF Seth Smith, SP Josh Johnson, RP Alex Torres, RP Tony Sipp

Key losses: RP Luke Gregerson, 2B Logan Forsythe

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen  — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [5]

Rotation [3]

Bullpen [4]

CF Cameron Maybin (R)

will begin season on DL

Andrew Cashner (R)

Huston Street (R)

2B Jedd Gyorko (R)

Ian Kennedy (R)

Joaquin Benoit (R)

3B Chase Headley (L)

Tyson Ross (R)

Dale Thayer (R)

1B Yonder Alonso (L)

Eric Stults (L)

Alex Torres (L)

LF Seth Smith (L)

Robbie Erlin (L)/Josh Johnson (R)

Johnson will begin season on DL

Nick Vincent (R)

LF Will Venable (L)

C Nick Hundley (R)

SS Everth Cabrera (S)

Strengths: Rotation, defense, bullpen

Weakness: Power, lineup depth, budget, obvious lack of stars

Best case scenario: The offense (12th in the N.L. with 3.81 runs per game) sees a rebirth from Headley; Gyorko follows up his rookie year (23 HRs in 125 games) with even better power numbers; Alonso, Carlos Quentin, and Cabrera all play more than 100 games after all three failed to do so last year; Johnson comes off the DL and partners with Cashner and Kennedy to give the team a solid 1-2-3 atop the rotation; No. 4 starter Tyson Ross and No. 5 starter Eric Stults pitch better than their slots would indicate; the team (11th in the league in 2013 at 3.98) posts a Top-5 ERA in the league; the bullpen produces good numbers; the team contends in a bland division for the top spot for a few months, but does finish over .500 in second place.

Worst case scenario: Johnson, Quentin, Alonso, and Cabrera remain snake-bitten and all miss loads of games; Gyorko backslides, as does Headley; the pitching staff gets worse instead of better; the team’s lack of any true stars kills fan interest in a division with Posey, Kershaw, Puig, Tulowitzki, etc.; the team finishes in last place.

Bold, but unlikely prediction: Tyson Ross (3-8, 3.17 ERA last year) leads the team in wins.

My postseason, Cy Young and MVP picks for 2014 were covered in a PTBN Extra Point podcast, so check it out to hear that plus quite a bit more about the 2014 season.

That covers all six divisions, so now there’s nothing left to do…but PLAY BALL!

Author: Joel Barnhart

A big-time baseball nerd, Joel is currently teaching English as a Second Language in San Antonio, Texas. In addition to his MLB passion, he enjoys good whiskey, good music, good movies, and good friends. He is currently engaged in an ongoing 12-year online debate over the merits of bubble wrap.