The 2011 NL West Standings weren’t much to look at overall.
It was hardly the 100 MPH dash that the AL East seems to be every year, but it wasn’t quite the one-horse race that the AL Central was, and could be again in 2012. The Diamondbacks held off the Giants to win the division by a healthy 6 games last season. The Dodgers turned a lot of heads by finishing at 82-79, despite the internal ownership turmoil that has been plaguing the organization. The Rockies were supremely disappointing in 2011 after making the playoffs in 2009 and finishing over .500 in 2010, they seemingly achieved far below their potential. The Padres, well they were the Padres once again finishing 71-91 and a distant 21.5 games behind the D-Backs.
Despite the near unanimous opinion that the Diamondbacks will win the NL West–yours truly is including in this pool–the division won’t be a cake walk. Here’s a quick run down of where the other teams are less than a week before the start of the season.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants again figure to be the biggest contenders to the NL West throne in 2011. Besides obviously featuring one of the best rotations in baseball (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner) the Giants had a somewhat busy offseason. They failed to resign Carlos Beltran–a trade deal acquisition–but traded mediocre starter Jonathan Sanchez for the vastly underrated Melky Cabrera. Cabrera is a pest who has a knack for the big hit and instantly helps an offense that finished 29th in runs scored in 2011. Also helping Cabrera and hold-overs Pablo Sandoval and Aubrey Huff, is the return of Buster Posey to the lineup. Posey suffered a gruesome leg injury similar to what the D-Backs Stephen Drew experienced. While the offense should be better, as always, the Giants fortunes will be tied to their talented rotation.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are sure to be a sleeper pick in the NL West this season. With a team that features a favorite for both the Cy Young–Clayton Kershaw–and MVP–Matt Kemp–it’s hard not to like the Dodgers. Just like last year, the Dodgers issues will be with depth and supporting cast around their superstars. Andre Ethier is an All-Star caliber player, Chad Billingsley had a down 2011 but is a decent complement to Kershaw, Aaron Harang–their big acquisition from the Padres–helps cushion the loss of starter Huroki Kuroda but there are a ton of question marks everywhere else on a roster filled with journeymen and unprovens. However, if a couple of guys develop and Kemp and Kershaw have seasons like last year, the Dodgers will be in the thick of it.
The 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks were what everyone excepted the 2011 Colorado Rockies to be. Things went horribly wrong for the Rockies from the start last season seeing them eventually trade ace Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians at the deadline. It might have been a good deal as Jimenez struggled terribly down the stretch for the Indians and the Rockies acquired lefty Drew Pomeranz in the deal, a highly touted prospect who has been incredible this spring. This offseason the Rockies acquired Jamie Guthrie, Ramon Hernandez and Michael Cuddyer. All three figure to play key roles on the team. Troy Tulowitski and Carlos Gonzalez are among the most exciting players in the NL, and the Rockies will score a ton of runs, their problem will be keeping runs off the board. Guthrie, a decent starter, is listed as the Rockies #1 on their depth chart and the ageless Jamie Moyer is amazingly still in the mix, winning a roster spot. The Rockies need Pomeranz to turn into a top-level ace this year. If he does, they’ll instantly move up in the standings.
San Diego Padres
The Padres really should thank the Pittsburgh Pirates for making them look good the last 2 decades. Without the Pirates, the Padres would be the model of ineptitude in baseball. The Padres continue in languish below the mediocre level and 2011 looks to be no different. Their big free agent signing this past season was extending their own Cameron Maybin, a guy who flamed out in Miami after being a key piece in the Miguel Cabrera trade to Detroit. It’s taken Maybin a long time to develop into a good major leagurer so it’s obviously fine to question his ability to take the next step. The Padres picked up Houston Street and Carlos Quentin this offseason, but it seems to be far too little to compete. After dealing ace Matt Latos to the Reds, the Padres rotation is mediocre at best. Tim Stauffer is the de facto ace now, after going 9-12 with a 3.93 ERA in 2011. Edinson Volquez and Dustin Moseley are a couple of uninspiring names the starting rotation will throw out this season. It looks to be another long, long season for the Padres. Padres fans have every right to be disappointed in this franchise. To quote a great man in American cinema–“Stay classy San Diego”.
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