Results tagged ‘ Matt Kemp ’

How Angels’ ‘Big 3′ stacks up in 2013 …

Josh Hamilton

I wrote recently about the Angels’ own prestigious “Big Three” of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton — how they could potentially hold up historically and in this era.

But how do they hold up in 2013? There’s little debate that the Angels now have the most talented and celebrated lineup trio in baseball, giving them arguably the game’s most potent offense. But I was a little stunned that their 2012 stats didn’t show it.

In fact, when combining each of their OPS from 2012, the Angels’ trio ranked third, behind those of the Tigers and Reds. Below is the top 15, based on combined OPS of the top three current players in each lineup (minimum is 400 plate appearances) …

  • Tigers (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson): 2.795
  • Reds (Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce): 2.759
  • Angels (Trout, Pujols, Hamilton): 2.752
  • Brewers (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart): 2.729
  • Red Sox (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli*): 2.635
  • Blue Jays (Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera): 2.627
  • Cardinals (Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina): 2.627
  • Rangers (Adrian Beltre, David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski): 2.607
  • Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin): 2.602
  • Pirates (Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez): 2.569
  • D-backs (Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel): 2.565
  • Yankees (Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira): 2.547
  • Twins (Josh Willingham, Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit): 2.532
  • Giants (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt): 2.527
  • Dodgers (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez): 2.524

* Napoli’s deal still hasn’t been finalized. 

** A special thanks to all of you for making this blog the 10th-most popular among MLB.com beat writers in 2012. You’re the whipped cream on my sundae. 

Alden 

6 Divisions in 6 Days, Day 5 …

Leading up to Opening Day, I’ll roll out an All-Star team for each of the six divisions in baseball — that includes a manager, a starting nine (with a DH also for the National League), three starters and two relievers. One catch: Each team must have at least one representative, and the skipper doesn’t count. Feel free to submit your own lineups below. I’d love to see how yours differ.

Day 5: NL West
Either of the five teams in this division could win it, and I would not be surprised.
Manager: Bruce Bochy, SFG
Lineup
Dee Gordon, 2B (LAD)
Carlos Gonzalez, LF (COL)
Matt Kemp, CF (LAD)
Troy Tulowitzki, SS (COL)
Justin Upton, RF (ARI)
Andre Ethier, DH (LAD)
Pablo Sandoval, 3B (SFG)
Yonder Alonso, 1B (SDP)
Buster Posey, C (SFG)
Rotation
Clayton Kershaw, LAD
Tim Lincecum, SFG
Matt Cain, SFG
Bullpen
Brian Wilson, SFG
J.J. Putz, ARI
Alden  

Angels 12, Dodgers 3 … (‘Big A’ opener)

Recap

Dan Haren was crisp in his final spring tune-up, Mark Trumbo homered and the Angels cranked out 14 hits for the blowout in Game 1 of the Freeway Series.

The good

Howie Kendrick, Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter each went 2-for-4.

Trumbo hit a line-drive three-run homer that just cleared the left-field wall, giving him five on the spring.

Haren gave up just one run on six hits in 5 2/3 innings, walking none and striking out five. Through 26 2/3 big league spring innings, Haren has posted a 2.05 ERA and — get this — has walked just two batters while striking out 25. Best of all for him on Monday, he got over that “dead arm” issue he had been dealing with.

The bad

Trumbo had a bit of an adventure at third base in the second inning, when he awkwardly charged a slow roller by Juan Rivera, resulting in an infield single, and had a hard time tracking a high popup by James Loney before recovering.

Jason Isringhausen struggled for his second straight outing, giving up four singles and a run while only recording one out in the seventh. That’s six runs, nine hits and four outs he’s registered in two outings since being added to the 40-man roster.

Albert Pujols update: 0-for-3 in his first game at Angel Stadium, though he also drove in a run with a walk and was robbed of a single on a slick play by third baseman Juan Uribe.

Best quote

Pujols, on the pressure of a big contract and a new team: “To tell you the truth, there’s [three] times that I feel pressure: my first at-bat in Spring Training, first at-bat Opening Day and first at-bat in the playoffs. The rest is just baseball. My dad always told me you can’t be afraid of making a mistake; you always need to learn from your mistakes. And there’s no pressure at all. I’m playing the game that I love.”

Best play (that I saw)

In the second inning, Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp robbed Trumbo of extra bases, diving to his right to snare a line drive in the gap.

Alden

Game 31: Dodgers-Angels …

Dodgers (14-13)

Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Adam Kennedy, DH

SP: RH Jamey Wright

Angels (17-11-2)

Erick Aybar, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Albert Pujols, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Torii Hunter, RF
Vernon Wells, LF
Mark Trumbo, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Peter Bourjos, CF

SP: RH Dan Haren

Some notes from this morning …

  • Big day for the Angels fans who decide to make it out to The Big A tonight. It’ll be their first time seeing Morales since that fateful May 29, 2010, game that saw him suffer a broken left ankle on a walk-off grand slam. And, of course, it’ll be their first time ever watching Pujols in an Angels uniform. Pujols, on the pressure of living up to his new contract: “I’ve been feeling pressure for 12 1/2 years, 13 years since being a professional. To tell you the truth, there’s [three] times that I feel pressure — my first at-bat in Spring Training, my first at-bat Opening Day and first at-bat in the playoffs. The rest is just baseball.”
  • No more Gatorade at the Angel Stadium clubhouses and dugouts. It’s all — from the coolers to the cups to the towels — “Oh Yeah!”, a nutritional company Pujols is a major spokesman for.
  • Big night for bullpen sages LaTroy Hawkins (Kansas State fan because his godson, Elijah Johnson, plays for the team) and Scott Downs (who played at the University of Kentucky). Both are rocking their gear, neither is scheduled to pitch today and both are hoping they can watch a little bit of the action from the clubhouse TVs.
  • Mike Scioscia, on the decision to slot C.J. Wilson as the No. 4 starter (though that hasn’t been officially declared yet): “If you have an abundance of lefties, you might want to break it up. You’re certainly breaking up length with a guy who’s not going to get deep enough, but that’s definitely not the issue we’re dealing with here. Maybe the No. 5 guy, if we have a guy who doesn’t have a lot of length we would have length surrounding him. The way this was set up is really the versatility to move who ever’s in the fourth spot forward if we had to, and it gave us a way to get a good look at the start of the season. Once the season starts, there’s no 1, 2, 3 and 4. We have four guys who are front-end-of-the-rotation guys, so that’s the way we’re going to look at it.”

Some links from Sunday …

Some AL West links …

And the Miami Heat’s road struggles continue. On Sunday, they got torched by the Celtics at The Garden.

Alden

1st half is almost over; time for invisible hardware

Pretty unreal that the first half of this 2011 baseball season will ceremoniously end in three days.

It has been yet another busy one.

The Pirates, Indians and Diamondbacks are well-positioned in their respective divisions. The Phillies and Red Sox are on top as expected. The White Sox and Twins have struggled. Matt Kemp, Lance Berkman, J.J. Putz, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes have experienced their own respective revivals. Manny Ramirez has retired. Bartolo Colon has turned back the clock. Derek Jeter hasn’t. Jose Bautista has gotten even better. Bob Geren, Edwin Rodriguez and Jim Riggleman have departed. Davey Johnson and Jack McKeon are back. The Mets’ and Dodgers’ stability have come into question. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds have taken the stand. Eric Hosmer, Jemile Weeks, Lonnie Chisenhall, Dustin AckleyMike Trout and a host of others have come up. Buster Posey has been lost for the year. Joe Mauer has become somewhat of a first baseman. Bryce Harper has dominated. Dan Uggla, Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford and Adam Dunn have all struggled with new teams. Justin Verlander and Francisco Liriano have thrown no-hitters. And pitching in general has continued to dominate.

One more weekend series remains before the All-Star break, and soon after that, we’ll reveal our cumulative first-half awards. But before I depart to Phoenix on Saturday morning, I figured I’d give you my own.

Here goes …

AL MVP

Jose Bautista (.333 BA, 1.158 OPS, 29 HR, 61 RBI)

* Simply the best player in baseball right now. He’s getting very little to hit and taking advantage of every mistake. 

AL Cy Young

Justin Verlander (11-4, 2.26 ERA, 138 SO, 143 1/3 IP)

* A no-hitter in progress every time he takes the mound. 

AL Rookie of the Year

Michael Pineda (8-5, 2.58 ERA, 106 SO, 108 IP)

* A physical specimen with great stuff who stays within the strike zone. 

AL Manager of the Year 

Manny Acta (Indians 47-39, 1 1/2 games up in the AL Central)

* Easy choice with the way the Indians have performed. Everyone expected them to eventually fall off, but they’re still in first place.

NL MVP 

Jose Reyes (.354 BA, .398 OBP, 32 RBI, 30 SB, 15 3B)

* The most electrifying player in baseball right now. Let’s hope he doesn’t miss too much time on the DL. 

NL Cy Young

Jair Jurrjens (12-3, 1.87 ERA, 1.066 WHIP, 110 2/3 IP)

* In a league with names like Halladay, Lee, Lincecum, Johnson and Greinke, Jurrjens has put up the best numbers. 

NL Rookie of the Year 

Danny Espinosa (.249 BA, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 11 SB)

* Not a great crop right now. Espinosa has put up the power numbers and provided Gold Glove-caliber defense. 

NL Manager of the Year 

Tony La Russa (Cardinals 47-42, tied for first place in the NL Central)

* No Adam Wainwright, a mediocre Chris Carpenter and Albert Pujols (by their standards), plus bullpen issues, and still TLR has them on top.

– Alden

** Filed this week: The NL has the pitching to win the All-Star Game; Werth, Uggla, Dunn and Crawford have all struggled with new contracts and new teams; MLB, New Orleans agree on new Urban Youth Academy; MLB, MiLB deal perhaps a sign of labor peace throughout industry. 

*** I haven’t watched the replay of the Rangers fan who died while trying to retrieve a baseball on Thursday night. I can’t. It would sadden me too much, and would make me think of how devastated I would be to lose my father. My heart goes out to that little boy and his family. 

My AL & NL lineups differ from yours …

… But only slightly.

See, I never expect perfection when so many fans from so many different places and with so many different biases vote so many times. But, I gotta say, the 32.5 million of you who voted this year didn’t do half-bad. Of course, I would’ve made a few changes.

Here’s my lineup …

American League 

Catcher- Alex Avila, Tigers: Easy choice. Joe Mauer has barely played, Carlos Santana has struggled, and Russell Martin‘s production at the plate went south after a hot start.

First base- Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: Another no-brainer. He’s fitting in perfectly at Fenway, and if not for a man named Bautista, he’s the best hitter going.

Second base- Robinson Cano, Yankees: Something tells me he’ll be dominating this position for years to come.

Third base- Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: Solid, healthy year — and you can’t say the same about Evan Longoria.

Shortstop- Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians: I’m sorry, but you can’t pick Derek Jeter (pictured above by The Associated Press). I could understand if this was his final year and you want to send him out a la Cal Ripken Jr. But Cabrera has been an offensive and defensive key for the thriving Indians.

Outfield- Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: Um, yeah, he’s good.

Outfield- Curtis Granderson, Yankees: Off to one of his best starts while looking very good in that 2 hole.

Outfield- Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: He’s providing what Boston needs from him — getting on base, stealing bases and serving as a steady presence at the top of the order — while putting up power numbers to boot.

Designated hitter- David Ortiz, Red Sox: “Big Papi” needed a good start in his walk year, and he has it.

National League 

Catcher- Brian McCann, Braves: Unreal that he’s made it to six straight All-Star Games and hadn’t started one until this year. Glad that will change.

First base- Joey Votto, Reds: He’s the reigning NL MVP and is off to another great start even if the power numbers aren’t where they were at this point last year. (I know what you’re thinking, but keep reading.)

Second base- Rickie Weeks, Brewers: All-around solid year, and Chase Utley is still working his way back.

Third base- Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: Having a solid year, and for some reason very few realize it.

Shortstop- Jose Reyes, Mets: No doubt about this one. Not sure why it took him so long to pass Troy Tulowitzki.

Outfield- Ryan Braun, Brewers: One of baseball’s best keeps getting better.

Outfield- Matt Kemp, Dodgers: He’s the first half’s NL MVP if not for a guy named Reyes. Looks like a change in managers has done him well, for whatever reason.

Outfield- Lance Berkman, Cardinals: Didn’t expect him to have the first half he’s had, but glad to see I was wrong.

Designated hitter- Prince Fielder, Brewers: Not fair? Hey, it’s my lineup!

– Alden 

** What I wrote this week: Fielder at ease in his walk year; Yankees haven’t stopped winning since being swept by the Red Sox. 

Star gazing as we approach vernal equinox


Spring Training .jpg

NOT FLORIDA — I won’t make it down to Florida for Spring Training until early March, but I’m sure the Grapefruit League will be fine without me. A lot happened this offseason, and there’s a lot to watch this spring, especially among the upper-echelon guys. So, I thought I’d put together an easy-to-follow guide. Print it out, fold it up and put it in the back pocket of your Bermuda shorts as you weave through camps this spring. 

Here goes nothin’
… 

Coming back from injury

Star players whose 2010 seasons ended on the shelf

* Chipper Jones (Lake Buena Vista, Fla.):
It looked like Chipper’s career would be over when the 38-year-old tore his ACL
in August, but now he’s
aiming
to be ready for Opening Day
. If he’s healthy and contributing — even if it’s not at an
All-Star level — the Braves are title contenders. 

peavy.jpg

* Stephen Strasburg (Viera, Fla.):
Strasburg’s meteoric rise came to a screeching halt with the dreaded Tommy John
surgery in August. He won’t be ready until September, but he has already been tossing a ball
, and Tommy John has a pretty good
track record with regards to comebacks. 

* Jason Bay and Johan Santana (Port St. Lucie,
Fla.)
: Bay’s rough first season in Queens was put out of its misery
when a concussion ended his season in late July, and now the right-handed power
hitter must prove he could succeed within the spacious dimensions of Citi Field. Santana’s
season was cut short last year because of left shoulder surgery and he isn’t
expected back until midseason, though he
has
begun throwing at his Fort Myers, Fla., home
. The Mets need Santana to return to full health, since he’s still owed at least $77.5 million over the next four
years. 

* Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby
Ellsbury (Fort Myers, Fla.)
: The healthy returns of Youkilis
(thumb), Pedroia (foot) and Ellsbury (ribs) will be key if the Red Sox are
going to cash in on widespread expectations of an American League crown
(including from me).
Youkilis and Pedroia both say they’re feeling good,
and Ellsbury is expected to be ready to go from the jump. But can they continue
to produce at the same level? 

* Jake Peavy (Glendale, Ariz.):
Injuries have limited Peavy to 33 starts the last two years, and shoulder
surgery knocked him out in early July last year. Peavy (pictured above) is
pushing
to be ready by Opening Day
, but the White Sox will be cautious — because they know that
even with all the success they’ve had this offseason, Peavy may still be the key in
2011. 

* Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan (Fort Myers,
Fla.)
: Even without their biggest run producer and closer — and
thanks to the services of Jim Thome
and key bullpen additions — the Twins were the first team to clinch a playoff
spot last year. This year, the comebacks of
Morneau (concussion) and Nathan (Tommy John surgery) will be vital
for success in an improved AL Central. 

* Brandon Webb (Surprise, Ariz.):
Nobody is expecting him to fill the void of
Cliff Lee, but it’d be nice if Webb could retain some of what made
him one of baseball’s best pitchers two years ago and help shore up a pretty
questionable Rangers rotation. Webb, coming off shoulder surgery, has made
exactly one Major League start since the end of the ’08 season. 

* Grady Sizemore (Goodyear, Ariz.):
This is a big year for Sizemore, who was one of baseball’s best center fielders
from 2005-08 but has been derailed by injuries the last two seasons. An Opening
Day return still seems possible. But can he return to form after knee surgery? 

* Kendry Morales (Tempe, Ariz.):
That offensive spark the Angels sought this offseason could be fixed by the
healthy return of Morales, whose season ended in late May after an awkward
landing at home plate caused a serious leg injury. He is
expecting
a full recovery

New in town

Notable offseason pickups and their new homes 

* Dan Uggla (Lake Buena Vista, Fla.):
Love Dan, but I feel like the Braves will regret that five-year, $62 million
extension down the road (and I know I’m not alone). Still, he’s the
right-handed power hitter they sought this offseason, and he helps make them a force. 

Lee.jpg

* Lee (Clearwater, Fla.): OK, so Lee (pictured left) is not really new. But
he’s back in Philly (or, for now, Clearwater). And thanks to him taking less
money — though nobody’s bringing out the violin for a $120 million player –
the Phillies have arguably the best rotation foursome in baseball history. 

* Jayson Werth (Viera, Fla.): One of
the most scrutinized contracts of the offseason was the seven-year, $126
million one signed by Werth. Now, he’ll try to prove he’s worthy of being one
of the highest-paid players. It’ll be interesting to see if he can without the benefits
Philly brought him — a star-studded lineup loaded with lefty sluggers and a
hitter-friendly park (though Nats Park isn’t bad for hitters, either). 

* Rafael Soriano (Tampa, Fla.):
Soriano was a great closer for the Rays last year, and now he’s a $35 million
setup man. That’s pricey, but the Yankees have the eighth and ninth locked down
now. 

* Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez (Fort
Myers, Fla.)
: Nobody had a more successful offseason than the Red
Sox, which added Crawford (seven years, $142 million) and Gonzalez (extension
pending) and now have one of the game’s best offenses. Fenway Park should prove
very friendly for both. 

* Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez (Port
Charlotte, Fla.)
: I don’t know about Manny and Johnny making the
Rays elite again, but they’ll surely make things entertaining in St. Pete. And
they were cheap (Damon at $5.25 million, Ramirez at $2 million). 

* Vladimir Guerrero (Sarasota, Fla.):
Quietly, the Orioles look to have one of baseball’s best offenses. The addition
of Guerrero 
– signed to a one-year, $8 million deal — as the designated hitter is just one of many reasons why. 

* Adam Dunn (Glendale, Ariz.): The
White Sox needed a big lefty bat for the middle of the order, and they got one
in Dunn — signed to a four-year, $56 million deal. Dunn should thrive in U.S.
Cellular Field, especially while hitting in such a dangerous lineup. 

* Victor Martinez (Lakeland, Fla.):
V-Mart, a switch-hitting catcher who can also play first base and DH, was a
nice pickup for the Tigers at four years and $50 million. They should be in the
hunt in the AL Central all year. 

* Lance Berkman (Jupiter, Fla.):
Berkman was an interesting signing for the Cardinals, especially at $8 million
guaranteed. If he reverts to pre-2010 form, it’s a bargain. If he doesn’t, it’s
a mistake signing at a time when the club can’t really afford any (see: Albert Pujols extension). 

* Zack Greinke (Phoenix, Ariz.): The
Brewers, thanks to the acquisition of Greinke, now boast one of the deepest and
best rotations in baseball. The best part about it is they didn’t really give
away any premier prospects in the process. 

* Matt Garza (Mesa, Ariz.): Garza
may not be an ace, but he’s a solid pitcher who’s been very consistent the
last few years. He gives the Cubs significant depth in their rotation. 

* Miguel Tejada (Scottsdale, Ariz.):
The defending champions will have a 36-year-old manning shortstop. Tejada gives
them a bit more punch than Edgar
Renteria
and Juan Uribe
— maybe — but a left side of the infield with Tejada and Pablo Sandoval will be, ahem,
interesting to watch. 

* Adrian Beltre (Surprise, Ariz.):
The Beltre signing — for five years at $80 million — gives the Rangers an
instant upgrade at third base (at least defensively). But does it make them a better team overall? Not
if it ends up costing them Michael
Young

* Vernon Wells (Tempe, Ariz.): It
was seen as a desperation move in many circles, and it surely is costly. But if
Wells — still owed $86 million the next four years — can repeat his 2010 performance, the Angels can stay in
the hunt in the AL West. 

Back to elite status? 

Elite players who had a down year — by their standards — in 2010 

Hanley .jpg

* Hanley Ramirez (Jupiter, Fla.): By his
standards, Ramirez’s 2010 — .300 batting average, 21 homers, 76 RBIs, 32
stolen bases and one public bout with his manager — was a down one for the
star shortstop. Could Hanley (pictured
right
) return to being the National League’s best shortstop, or has Troy Tulowitzki permanently taken that
crown from him? 

* Carlos Pena (Mesa, Ariz.): Pena
has averaged 36 homers and 102 RBIs over the last four seasons, but last year’s
.196 batting average was an embarrassment. Perhaps being reunited with his old
hitting coach,
Rudy Jaramillo,
in Chicago can make a difference. 

* Justin Upton (Scottsdale, Ariz.):
Is this the year Upton finally proves he’s a franchise-type player? Last year,
when he hit .273 with 16 homers and 79 RBIs, he wasn’t, and it led to new general
manager Kevin Towers listening to offers for his right fielder.
But Upton has all the tools, and he says he’s
ready
to have a big year

* Matt Kemp and Jonathan Broxton (Phoenix,
Ariz.)
: Broxton’s 4.04 ERA in 2010 was by far his highest in five full seasons in the Majors, and Kemp’s .249 batting average was a big
shock. Perhaps a new skipper could do the trick? 

* Sandoval (Scottsdale, Ariz.): Can
he return to being the “Big Panda” of 2009, the one who hit .330 with
25 homers and 90 RBIs? The Giants will need him to in hopes of repeating. And it
seems he
feels
the same way

* Chone Figgins (Peoria, Ariz.): Maybe there was just something in the water in Seattle last year that caused everyone to struggle at the plate. Nonetheless, Figgins had a rather unimpressive showing in his first year with his new team, sporting career-lows in batting average (.259) and on-base percentage (.340). Now, he’s dealing with trade rumors

* Jose Reyes (Port St. Lucie, Fla.): An assortment of injuries limited Reyes the last few years and greatly diminished his production. Now, he says he’s feeling good, and he’s entering his walk year. Big year for the speedy shortstop.

* Derrek Lee (Sarasota, Fla.): Lee hit .310 and averaged 26 homers and 84 RBIs from 2005-09. But a bad back limited him to a .260 batting average, 19 homers and 80 RBIs in 2010. Now, he’s in Baltimore on a one-year, $7.25 million contract. 

* Phillies’ middle infield (Clearwater, Fla.): Chase Utley (.275 with 16 homers and 65 RBIs) and Jimmy Rollins (.320 on-base percentage and eight homers in 88 games) are coming off down years. They’ll need to step up now that Werth is gone. 

* Red Sox starters (Fort Myers, Fla.): Mainly, the two veterans — Josh Beckett and John Lackey. Regardless of all the moves the Red Sox made on offense and in the bullpen, starting pitching always wins out (see: 2010 Giants). So, the success of this 2011 team will ultimately begin and end with the effectiveness of that staff. Beckett (6-6, 5.78 ERA) and Lackey (14-11, 4.40 ERA) need to be better. 

* Yankees infield (Tampa, Fla.): Well, at least three-quarters of it. All eyes are on Derek Jeter, who’s 36, coming off his worst year and recently signed to a three-year, $51 million contract with a fourth-year option. Rightfully so. But Alex Rodriguez (career-low .270 batting average) and Mark Teixeira (career-low .256 batting average) need to be more efficient to help make up for a shaky rotation in the Bronx. 

– Alden Gonzalez

** Check out my take on why greed shouldn’t be to blamed in the situations of Albert Pujols and Young. 

*** And check in next week, for a look at the most important Spring Training position battles.  

**** Photo credit above: The Associated Press 

6 Divisions in 6 Days: NL West

With this being the final week of Spring Training (crazy, right?), I figured it’d be justified to take a look at all 30 clubs and examine where they stand, what they need and where it looks like they’ll finish heading into the 2010 season. So, leading up to Opening Night between the Red Sox and Yankees, I’ll touch on one of the six divisions each day Monday-Saturday. Today, Day 5, we look at the National League West …


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for manny_ramirez_dodger.jpg
Dodgers: They’ve gone backwards a bit, which is what makes this one of the most evenly matched divisions in baseball. But the Dodgers are still a big threat. Yeah, Manny Rarmirez‘s best days are behind him. And, sure, having Vicente Padilla start on Opening Day doesn’t say much about your rotation. But the Dodgers’ lineup is solid, with a still-very-productive Ramirez and up-and-coming studs in Matt Kemp, James Loney, Russell Martin and Andre Ethier. The rotation has some nice young arms in Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. And the back end of that bullpen is very good with George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton. Other clubs in this division are starting to catch up, but you still have to look out for the Dodgers. 

Rockies: Last year, Jim Tracy was a miracle worker with the way he turned them into a playoff team after taking over for Clint Hurdle. In his first full season as manager in Colorado, he’ll direct a very formidable bunch once again. First off, that bench is the best in baseball — and it’s not even close. As reserves, the Rockies have established everyday players like Miguel Olivo, Melvin Mora and Jason Giambi, and other solid pieces in Ryan Spilborghs and Seth Smith. Think benches don’t matter much in baseball? They’re crucial throughout the aches and pains of a 162-game season, and this one will be huge in boosting the Rockies. As for the starting lineup, there’s nice pieces in Dexter Fowler, Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki, but they won’t hit much for power. The rotation is good, but not great. And I still have doubts about whether Huston Street (who will start the season on the disabled list) can be relied upon as closer for a full season. Still, the Rockies will be in the hunt all year. 

Giants: The Giants step into the 2010 season with the same problem — offense. Let’s get the obvious positives out of the way first. With Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Barry Zito, their rotation is one of the best in baseball. And Brian Wilson is a solid closer. (The rest of the bullpen doesn’t really matter, since starters will be going seven or eight innings for most of the season, anyway.) But will they hit? I don’t think so. They went into the offseason knowing they needed more punch in the lineup, but all the Giants ended up with was Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa. That’s not enough. They’ll need Aaron Rowand, Pablo Sandoval and Freddy Sanchez to do a lot of the heavy lifting, and that’s never a good sign. As was the case last year, pitching will keep them in it. But they’ll need a Trade Deadline move for a big bat if they want to get over the hump. 

Padres: They’ll finish last in the division, but the Padres, I believe, are on the upswing. I don’t foresee Adrian Gonzalez — very affordable this season, and with a very affordable club option for 2011 — being traded during the regular season, and Kyle Blanks is a nice counterpart in the middle of the lineup. They also have some nice, young position players in Tony Gwynn Jr. and Everth Cabrera. Heath Bell is a top-tier closer. And the rotation isn’t too bad, with Jon Garland, Chris Young, Matt Latos, Kevin Correia and Clayton Richard. They’re a rebuilding team, and they don’t have nearly enough to compete this year — or even next year. But I think they’re on their way up (with or without A-Gonz). 

Diamondbacks: If Brandon Webb is healthy and right, the D-backs — losers of 92 games last season — could end up being the most-improved team in baseball. With Dan Haren and new acquisition Edwin Jackson, they can have a very nice top three in that rotation. But how and when Webb returns from shoulder surgery will be critical, of course. The bullpen isn’t great, but I like their offense. I love Justin Upton. Combine him with Mark Reynolds, newcomer Adam LaRoche, a healthy Conor Jackson and a Stephen Drew who should be better, they’ll be much more improved scoring runs. But even with the Webb of 2008, I felt this team would fall just shy of the postseason. Without him in top form, they’ll struggle to finish at .500.
NL West champion: Dodgers

– Alden Gonzalez
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