The 2011 NL West title was won by the team who had the 6th lowest payroll ($53,639,833) in the MLB: the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 2011 Diamondbacks featured a lot of young players to go along with veterans that other teams didn’t want on their roster. Besides the Dbacks, the rest of the division was far less than spectacular with Arizona being the only team that finished with more than 87 wins. Outside of the Dbacks, the other teams in the division had either multiple health problem on their team or a significant off the field distraction.
Arizona Diamondbacks: What a magical season last season was by the young and exciting Arizona Diamondbacks. Before the 2011 season started, the Diamondbacks were picked by the prognosticators to finish in last place and receive a high draft-pick in the following year’s draft. At the start of the season it looked like the prognosticators would be correct as the Dbacks had a 11-15 April. However, after the month of April, Arizona went 83-53 the rest of the season and in fact finished every other month with a record of better than .500. Manager of the year award winner Kirk Gibson built a staff that featured a great deal of successful former players that included former Cubs manager Don Baylor, former Cub infielder Eric Young, and former Indians Ace Charles Nagy. As for the players, they were led by MVP candidate Justin Upton, and even though the Diamondbacks didn’t feature the greatest offense (hitting .250 as a team), they always seemed to get a key hit when they neded it most last year. As for this year’s lineup, Arizona should have shortstop Steven Drew back from his injury to go alongside Upton, Chris Young, Ryan Roberts, Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Montero, and former Twins outfielder Jason Kubel. As for the pitching staff, the Diamondbacks finished in the top-half of the league last year with a 3.80 team ERA. Led by Ace Ian Kennedy, (who finished fourth in the Cy-Young voting with a 21-4 record and a 2.88 ERA), Arizona also features other young pitchers Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders, and Josh Collmenter to go along with former A’s All-Star Trever Cahill. On paper, Arizona should be an even more improved team this year and once again compete for a division title.
San Francisco Giants: The 2010 World Series Champs had a difficult 2011 season that started off on the wrong foot when star catcher Buster Posey was apart of a collision at the plate and unfortunately needed surgery for torn ligaments in his left ankle and a broken bone in his lower left leg. Once Posey went down for the year, the Giants season started to unravel and the team never recovered. As the season progressed on, it seemed like the entire season the Giants were trying to find the chemistry they had from the year before but never could find it. As for this year, if Posey is healthy, the Giants once again should compete for a division title or at the minimum a playoff spot. San Francisco is fractionate that they have two of the top National League pitchers in their rotation with 2-time Cy-Young Award winner Tim Lincecum and All-Star Matt Cain along with young up-and-comer Madison Bumgarner and 2011 All-Star Ryan Vogelsong. The Giants also feature one of the best bullpen’s in baseball led by Brian “The Beard” Wilson, along with veteran relievers Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez. As for the Giants offense, it showed a few holes that were exposed last year which led to the Giants finishing with the 3rd worst team average in baseball last year. For the Giants to be successful this year, they need Pablo Sandoval to continue his play from last year, Buster Posey to come back fully healthy, newcomers Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan to hit at least .280 this year, and Aubrey Huff to return to his career averages and not last years stats. If the Giants offense returns and the pitching stays healthy, the Giants will be close to the top of the NL West Division the entire year.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Throughout entire 2011 season, the Dodgers were surrounded with a Hollywood Drama as they featured questions about the teams future with Dodgers ownership in such chaos. At the start of the season, the Dodgers and first year manager Don Mattingly looked distracted by the situation as they had a losing recorded in each of the first four months. As August started, the Dodgers finally started playing good baseball and as they finished with a record above the .500 mark (82-79). As tough a season as it was for Los Angeles, outfielder Matt Kemp almost hit for the triple crown (.324 average, 39 Home Runs, and 126 RBI) and pitcher Clayton Kershaw won the Cy Young Award last year (21-5 record with a 2.28 ERA). For the Dodgers to be successful in 2012, they need pitcher Chad Billingsley to take the next step and become a All-Star caliber pitcher, the rest of the rotation to become capable 3-5 starters, and have Andre Ethier return to the player he was in 2010. If this occurs, Los Angeles should become a contender in the NL West. On the other hand, if the Dodgers don’t get off to a good start, they should look to trade star outfielder Andre Ethier (his contract is up after this year), and add more depth to their minor league system.
Colorado Rockies: With Prince Fielder signing with the Detroit Tigers, the Rockies now feature the best 3-4 under 27 years and under combination in baseball with Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. The 2011 Rockies were surrounded all season by the question of wither they would trade Ubaldo Jimenez or not. In the end, just a few days before the trade deadline the Rockies decided to trade Jimenez to Cleveland for former first round picks Alex White and Drew Pomeranz. I feel that Ubaldo is a very good pitcher, but White and Pomeranz have the potential to become two of the key fixtures in the Rockies rotation in 2012 and beyond. As for 2012, the Rockies once again will feature one of the best lineups in baseball highlighted by Tulowitzki and Gonzalez to go along with Dexter Fowler, Todd Helton, former Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer, and veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez. Like many other Rockies teams, this teams ceiling will be determined by their rotation. The rotation features young starters Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Chatwood, Guillermo Moscoso, and Drew Pomeranz along with veteran and former Orioles starter, Jeremy Guthrie. If the pitching of the Rockies is holds up and is consistent, the Rockies just might be October baseball once again, however, if the pitching is inconsistent and not reliable, the Rockies season will be over before the trade deadline.
San Diego Padres: After having a great 2010 season, slugger and San Diego native Adrian Gonzalez was traded to Boston for a package that included prospects Casey Kelly and Anthony Rizzo (whose name will be brought up in a few sentences). The 2011 Padres never recovered from the loss of Gonzalez and finished the 2011 season 20 games below .500 (71-91). After the season, the Padres decided to trade Ace Mat Latos to Cincinnati for top prospects Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal along with former All-Star pitcher Edinson Volquez. With the Padres holding onto two of the best first base prospects in baseball, the Padres decided to trade Anthony Rizzo (see, I told you I would address him again) to the Cubs for pitcher Andrew Cashner. In the offseason, the Padres also added all-star closer Huston Street along with former White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin to improve their offense. The 2012 Padres will feature an interesting lineup which includes: Quentin, Cameron Maybin, Orlando Hudson and Chase Headley to along with pitchers Tim Stauffer, Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez, and Cory Luebke. As for the 2012 San Diego Padres, I don’t see this Padres team becoming a contender this season, at the same time, former GM Jed Hoyer (now the Cubs GM) has left the Padres with a wealth of prospects in their minor league system. The Padres future looks bright, but the 2012 Padres season might be tough on Padres fans.
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