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Arizona Diamondbacks

Current Outlook

The D-Backs come into 2012 as the favorites to repeat in the NL West. They're built on solid pitching, with some good young position players. Plus, having four starting pitchers that pitched 200 innings or more in 2011 should be a recipe for a club who is going to make noise in the playoffs.

Key Players

Justin Upton – It could be argued that Upton is Arizona’s most recognizable, marketable and best player. Upton gives you so much in right field. He’s a great fit in Arizona too. He’s only 24 and he’s coming off his best season as a big leaguer in 2011. Upton is the motor that drives the Diamondbacks offense. He’s a guy to keep an eye on for MVP numbers in 2012.

Paul Goldschmidt - The D-Backs have a lot riding on the Goldschmidt’s big lefty bat. He has major power and run producing potential. If Goldschmidt comes on strong in 2012, the D-Backs should be the big favorites to repeat in the West.

Ian Kennedy – Kennedy broke through in 2011 posting 21 wins and a 2.88 ERA. Kennedy must continue to be the D-Backs ace this year for the team to make a strong push to not only make the playoffs but win.

Trevor Cahill – Cahill comes over from Oakland for the 2012 season and brings with him a combination of youth and experience. He was dominant in 2010, but regressed in 2011. The D-Backs are hoping that they are getting something closer to the 2010 Cahill. If he returns to form, Arizona will have a very tough top of the rotation.

Game Plan

Your pitching staff should be the rock of this team. If your starters get you deep into most games, you should be turning the game over to an improved bullpen. As for offense, Upton, Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel and Ryan Roberts should give you enough pop to give you a chance to win.

Future Outlook

Arizona has plenty of young talent on the big league roster with Upton, Goldschmidt, Cahill, Daniel Hudson and A.J. Pollock just to name a few. In the minor leagues, Arizona has two potential top of the rotation starters that could be up sooner than later in Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs. Scouts are also very high on HS pitcher Archie Bradley. Corner infielder Matt Davidson is the closest position player, with a drop off in talent after him.

Team Ranking

The D-Backs figure to be a strong contender in the National League this year, not just in the West. With a staff full of inning eaters and a good mix of young bats and role players, Arizona could make a real run this year and go deep into the playoffs.

Organization Ranking: 7 (Contenders)
 
 
Los Angeles Dodgers

Current Outlook

The LA Dodgers enter 2012 amidst the selling of the team. Sold to an ownership group that includes former Lakers great Magic Johnson for $2 billion, the Dodgers are seeking an identity. The team as constructed is a mixed bag of veterans, up-and-coming superstars, and kids who are on their way. The upcoming season may not see a ton of change in the roster, but the team that is in place will surprise some people this year with how well they play.


Key Players

Matt Kemp – No player in Major League Baseball is more important to their team than Matt Kemp is to the Los Angeles Dodgers. With all apologies to Ryan Braun and Brewers fans, Matt Kemp should have won the MVP award last year, and will probably win it in 2012. He can do it all. Possessing power, foot speed, incredible bat speed, and one of the best approaches to hitting in all of the Majors, he’s an RBI machine. But he can’t do it alone…

Clayton Kershaw – The ace of the team and one of the favorites to win the NL Cy Young Award again in 2012. He has a nasty slider to go with two variations of the curveball and a strong pair of fastball offerings. If he pitches to form in 2012, the Dodgers could contend for the NL West Title.

Chad Billingsley – The 27-year-old right hander has got to go from being an average to above-average pitcher to a solid No. 2 rotation pitcher if the Dodgers are going to compete in 2012. Billingsley seems to have the pedigree and stuff, and he’s a former All-Star. He was once thought to have ace potential. However, Billingsley struggled in 2011, probably the worst of his career as a full time Dodger. If he can regain his mojo, the Dodgers will be playing meaningful baseball in August and September.

Dee Gordon – Named the Top Prospect in all of baseball to begin 2011, Gordon had a very solid rookie season, posting impressive numbers in only 56 games. Gordon has the kind of speed to lead the league in stolen bases; if he can get on base more consistently. Gordon projects at the top of the lineup if he can hit enough to stay there. His progress in 2012 is another vital part of the Dodgers effort in 2012.


Game Plan

The game plan revolves around \Kemp. Get your No. 1 and 2 hitters on base by any means necessary and give Kemp as many RBI opportunities as possible. Andre Ethier needs to provide some protection so opponents can’t just pitch around Kemp all season. The pitching is adequate with an ace to anchor your staff.

Future Outlook

When talking about the LA Dodgers future, two names come to mind: Kenly Jansen and Jerry Sands. Jansen is already in the majors and is being looked at as a potential shut down closer, while Sands struggled in training camp in 2012 after a middling 2011. If he can get it together, the Dodgers will have another young piece of the puzzle. Gordon, Kershaw, and Javy Guerra are among the other MLB level players who are a part of the future for LA. There are a couple of pitchers that are close to the majors (Eovaldi), but the position player prospects are very thin.

Team Ranking

Los Angeles is an interesting team to try and grade. Some people are down on them, and some (like me) see a potential breakout team. I can’t objectively rate LA as contenders in 2012, but I don’t think they are as far away as some pundits think.

Organization Ranking: 6 (Middle of the Road)
 
 
Colorado Rockies

Current Outlook

The Rockies are returning most of its best players from the 92-win team from last year. Ubaldo Jimenez is gone, and the Rockies have tried to reload with players like Ramon Hernandez, Marco Scutaro and Michael Cuddyer. Troy Tulowitizki and Carlos Gonzalez return and 49-year old Jamie Moyer made the rotation of Spring Training. So how do the '12 Rockies stack up in the NL this year? Let’s find out.


Key Players

Troy Tulowitzki – Tulo is now clearly the franchise player in Colorado. The superstar shortstop is only 27 and just entering his prime. He is the face of the Rockies and he forms a scary trio with Carlos Gonzalez and newly acquired Michael Cuddyer. Tulowitzki can do it all, and he’ll have to for the Rockies to make a run at the playoffs.

Carlos Gonzalez – Gonzo has had two consecutive seasons of All-Star caliber play for Colorado. He’s also entering the prime of his career and Rockies fans hope that he’ll be manning left field for a long time to come. Gonzalez has a great combination of speed and strength, stealing at least 20 bags to go with at least 25 home runs each of the last two seasons. He’s a legitimate star and a cornerstone for Colorado.

Jeremy Guthrie – Guthrie comes over from Baltimore with a track record that isn’t very impressive on paper. Colorado is hoping he can be the top veteran on this year’s staff. If he can finally pitch up to his ability at 33, in a hitter’s park no less, then Colorado will be dangerous. Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio figure to be up and down as young, exciting rotation pitchers this season, so Guthrie’s veteran presence (along with Moyer’s) could go a long way towards the development of the young pitchers.

Todd Helton/Jason Giambi – It’ll be interesting to see how much the combination of Helton and Giambi can give the Rockies. Helton enters the season at 38 years old and Giambi is 41. That’s a lot of age at first base. Helton is a Colorado legend and potential HOFer; he managed to hit .302 last season in 124 games. Giambi showed good pop in 131 at-bats last season hitting 13 long balls. They combined for 27 home runs and 101 RBIs last season. Can they produce at that level again?


Game Plan

Dexter Fowler needs to get on base giving Gonzo, Tulo, Helton and Cuddyer the chance to put big numbers on the scoreboard this season. The veteran duo of Guthrie and Moyer need to be good. Chacin and Nicasio need to continue to improve and perhaps even breakout this season.

Future Outlook

The future looks very bright for Colorado. Chacin is 24, Nicasio is 25, Drew Pomeranz is 23, Rex Brother is 24, Tulowitzki and Gonzalez are entering their prime, and there is more help in the minors. 3B Nolan Arenado is the top prospect. Scouting reports say he has All-Star potential with a great strikeout ratio and a good glove. Tim Wheeler and Willin Roasario are also future contributors. There are a lot of interesting pitching prospects who have been up and down, and are rated a bit lower because of that.

Team Ranking

The Rockies boast a strong lineup built to take advantage of Coors Field. The pitching staff is the huge question mark. With starters who are either old, young, average, or a combination of the two, I’m not comfortable ranking them as high as other people might be for '12. The next few years however, could see the Rockies as perennial contenders.

Organization Ranking: 6 (Middle of the Road)
 
 
San Francisco Giants


Current Outlook

The San Francisco Giants front office is baffling. They gave Aubrey Huff a two-year extension in the off-season worth $22 million. The contract of Barry Zito has handcuffed them year after year when trying to add free agent pieces, though they did smartly lock up Matt Cain with a five year, $112 million deal. It had to be done. Unfortunately it leaves the Giants' offense looking anemic heading into the '12 season. With Brian Wilson going on the DL for the season, the lock-down bullpen suddenly doesn’t look so unstoppable either.

Key Players

Buster Posey – Posey is a ray of hope for the Giants. One of the best young catching prospects in a long time, Posey has all the tools. If he’s all the way back from his horrific injury, he’ll help anchor the lineup and give them a decent middle of the order. Sandoval, Posey, and Huff are a pretty decent 3-4-5 combination.

Tim Lincecum – “The Freak” has looked a little bit more mortal the past couple of season. In '11, he was 13-14 but did throw 217 innings with a 2.74 ERA. Lincecum’s fastball has been down to start the 2012 season, causing further concern. San Francisco needs Lincecum to regain his 2008-2009 form if they are going to be contenders in the NL West. He is one of the smartest pitchers in the game, and possesses a fiery determination to win.

Matt Cain – The %100 million man has to come through in a huge way for San Francisco to have any shot at winning the NL West. He’s consistently thrown for 200-plus innings in his career, and his stuff is unquestionable. His win totals however, haven’t reflected his ability due to a lack of offensive run support. Cain and Lincecum are a formidable one-two punch. But for SF to win, they have to be the unstoppable duo that they are capable of being.

Brandon Crawford – Ranked the sixth best prospect in all of baseball in 2011, Crawford was a call up last season and saw action in 66 games. He enters the 2012 season as the starting shortstop. Crawford is going to have to give SF not only solid defense, but he needs to be a capable bat as well. He’s only 25, but the Giants need another player to get on base. While you could argue that Angel Pagan is more important, I feel like Crawford is the kind of prospect that fans can get excited about if he can just swing the bat.


Game Plan

Pitching, pitching and more pitching. Cain, Lincecum, Zito and Bumgarner are your best four starters. Ride them as deep into games as possible. With closer Brian Wilson done for the season, the closing duties have fallen to the duo of Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez. So without Wilson to turn to, you need to keep your bullpen out of the game until you absolutely have to use them. On offense, try to put the right pieces around Posey and Pablo Sandoval.

Future Outlook

The Giants have some nice young prospects, not the least of which is Brandon Belt. Belt has been in and out of manager Bruce Bochy’s doghouse, but his talent is undeniable. The 24-year-old left hander has the kind of power to really spark the Giants offense in need of one. Posey is only 25; Crawford is 25; Bumgarner is 22.

Down on the farm, San Francisco boasts future center fielder Gary Brown and middle infielder Joe Panik for a rebuilt top of the batting order in the near future. They are deep at catcher and there are a lot of raw pitching arms in the pipeline.

Team Ranking

Say what you will, but I have a hard time projecting this Giants team to contend in the NL in 2012. Even in the wide open NL West, it seems like an uphill climb. They have tremendous pitching talent, but lack the offense to support it.

Organization Ranking: 6 (Middle of the Road)
 
 
San Diego Padres

Current Outlook

The Padres made major changes to the team in the 2011-2012 off-season, maybe more-so than any other team. A new GM (Josh Byrnes) means big changes. Gone is young pitcher Mat Latos, first base prospect Anthony Rizzo and closer Heath Bell among others. Newcomers include Edinson Volquez, closer Huston Street, Yonder Alonso, super prospect C Yasmani Grandal, Carlos Quentin and reliever Andrew Cashner.

Key Players

Cameron Maybin – The 27-year-old Maybin, could become a fixture in San Diego. He’s an ideal outfielder for Petco Park with his blinding speed and nose for the ball. The Padres need him to hit at the top of the lineup and cut down on his whiffs. He has the potential to be an outstanding player. He stole 40 bases last season in San Diego with 24 doubles and 8 triples. If Maybin can be a top of the order hitter and lock down the huge center field in Petco, he’ll become a star.

Chase Headley – Former mega-prospect Headley has never quite lived up to what was expected from him. He was a tremendous all around talent on the way to the majors. He’s 27, so now is the time unless he is a late bloomer like St. Louis’ David Freese. If Headley can show all of his skills consistently, for the Padres, then look out.

Yonder Alonso – The 25-year-old first baseman acquired from Cincinnati has earned the starting job in San Diego. He’s going to get his chance this season to show what he’s got. I personally think the sky is the limit for Alonso, as a lefty power hitter. If he has the kind of big season that his talent suggests he should, the Padres will be in the hunt in '12.

Cory Luebke – Luebke got a chance last season to start and he acquitted himself well. He was 6-10 with a 3.29 ERA, striking out 154 in only 139.2 innings pitched. Many feel he has the stuff to be one of the elite young lefties in the majors. If he continues to improve and gets some run support, he’ll be the big story in San Diego. Luebke is ready to have a great season.

Game Plan

Maybin and Orlando Hudson need to wreak havoc by getting on base and being aggressive on the base paths. Headley, Jesus Guzman, Quentin and Alonso can knock them in with gappers hit into Petco’s expansive outfield. Don’t play for the longball, use the ballpark. When pitching, use your top three (Volquez, Luebke, and Richard) and try to get it to the strength of your bullpen, Cashner and Huston Street.

Future Outlook

The future looks very bright for San Diego. The shrewd moves that the Padres made during the off season have netted them the No. 3 minor league system according to Baseball America. Help is on the way in the form of catcher Yasmani Grandal, outfielder Rymer Liriano, and a quartet of pitchers in Robbie Erlin, Joe Weiland (already in the majors), Brad Boxberger, and Casey Kelly. Outfielder Donovan Tate has disappointed to date, but he still has Grade-A tools.

Team Ranking

Once again, the Padres are hard to project, because so much of what they will achieve will depend on young or unproven players. If they are great, then the Padres can compete this year. If they are average or worse, it could be a tough season in San Diego. Either way, the organization is in good shape going forward. For 2012, I’m a little more reserved.


Organization Ranking: 6 (Middle of the Road)

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Member Comments
# 1 badflounder @ 04/26/12 10:39 PM
A couple corrections for your Rockies section. They didn't win 92 games last year and Carlos Gonzalez nickname is "CarGo" not "Gonzo". I believe "Gonzo" is Adrian Gonzalez nickname.
 

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