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NL West Preseason Outlook

by | Staff Writer

San Francisco Giants

2010 record: 92-70
Finish: First place, defeated Texas Rangers in World Series
Manager: Bruce Bochy, fifth year

Spring training site: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Pitchers & catchers' first workout: Feb. 15
First full workout: Feb. 19

Key additions: Miguel Tejada
Key losses: Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe

Offseason grade: B

Tim Lincecum's ERA climbed to 3.43 last season after a 2.48 in 2009. (US Presswire)  
Tim Lincecum's ERA climbed to 3.43 last season after a 2.48 in 2009. (US Presswire)  
The Giants mostly stood pat, re-signing a lot of players who made up their championship team and swapping Renteria for Tejada at shortstop.

2011 outlook: Hoping to recapture the magic

Offense: There will be a lot riding on Aubrey Huff repeating his big season after signing a two-year, $22 million contract. Also key: a bounceback by Pablo Sandoval, whose average dropped 62 points between 2009 and 2010. His left-handed bat is important to the effectiveness of this lineup. Freddy Sanchez, who batted .292 last season, is coming back from shoulder surgery and is questionable for the start of spring training.

Defense: The Giants are among the best in the league, but Tejada's lack of range at age 36 -- he'll be 37 in May -- is going to be a concern.

Pitching: This was the coin of the realm for the Giants last year, and has the potential to be as good or even better. Madison Bumgarner will be around from the beginning, and if you figure he takes the 11 starts Todd Wellemeyer made last season, that's an upgrade. With Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, the Giants boast the best rotation outside Philadelphia. The bullpen, led by Brian Wilson's beard, should be strong again.

Intangibles: One concern for the Giants is age. They were pretty long in the tooth in several spots last year, and are even older this season, you know, due to the progression of time.

Key player: Sandoval. It looks like he has slimmed down, and foot speed was a lot of the reason his batting average dropped so much last season. If they get 2010 Panda, the offense will again be a patchwork affair trying to get enough support for the pitching. If they get something resembling 2009 Panda, that takes some of the pressure off.

Top prospect: First basemen Brandon Belt. His time is coming, probably soon. He destroyed Class A and Double-A pitching last season but got just 13 games at Triple-A, so they'll probably want to see him more at that level, but expect to see him this season. When he arrives, he'll presumably take Huff's spot at first with Huff moving to a corner outfield spot.

For the season to be successful: Obviously fans will be rooting for a repeat, but just getting into the postseason without the down-to- the-wire drama would be a good place to start.

San Diego Padres

2010 record: 90-72
Finish: Second place
Manager: Bud Black, fifth season

Spring training site: Peoria, Ariz.
Pitchers & catchers' first workout: Feb. 14
First full workout: Feb. 19

Key additions: Jason Bartlett, Cameron Maybin, Orlando Hudson, Jorge Cantu, Aaron Harang, Brad Hawpe, Chad Qualls
Key losses: Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Tejada, Jon Garland, Kevin Correia, Yorvit Torrealba, Chris Young, David Eckstein, Tony Gwynn Jr., Jerry Hairston, Scott Hairston

Offseason grade: C

Orlando Hudson is one of many new faces on the Padres. (US Presswire)  
Orlando Hudson is one of many new faces on the Padres. (US Presswire)  
The Padres lost their best player, five of their eight regular starters on offense, and relievers who pitched over 150 innings last season. That's a lot. What they got back was a lot of potential and some question marks.

2011 outlook: As the Magic 8 Ball would say, "ask again later"

Offense: If the 2010 Padres could hit, they wouldn't have been in position to lose the division in the final week. And now they're going forward without Gonzalez, the only Padre who drove in more than 58 runs for them last season. As it stands, there's not a player in their regular lineup who batted higher than .268 (Hudson) or had more than 68 RBI (Ryan Ludwick -- and his offense fell off a cliff after arriving at Petco Park). It's tough to see where the runs are going to come from.

Defense: The Padres played tremendous defense last season, part of what made the pitching so successful. Most of their personnel replacements look like a wash.

Pitching: Should be strong again, with Garland out of the rotation and replaced by hometown boy Harang, who is better than his recent results and should thrive at Petco. Mat Latos, 23, has Cy Young potential. The bullpen, led by closer Heath Bell, probably can't match last season's stellar numbers but should be good again.

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Intangibles: The Padres by all accounts had a great clubhouse last season, despite the pitchers' frustration with their lack of support. With so many new faces, will they maintain that?

Key player: Maybin. Acquired from the Marlins, the 23-year-old's story has been one of tantalizing potential and frustrating results. Petco isn't exactly a cure-all for hitting blues, but the Padres hope he'll benefit from a fresh start.

Top prospect: Right-hander Casey Kelly. The top name acquired from Boston in the Gonzalez trade, the former first-round pick had a bit of a rough go at Double-A last season, going 3-5 with a 5.31 ERA in 21 starts. The Padres will be watching the 21-year-old closely this season.

For the season to be successful: Staying in the picture in a winnable division would make for a fun summer in San Diego.

Colorado Rockies

2010 record: 83-79
Finish: Third place Manager: Jim Tracy, third season

Spring training site: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Pitchers & catchers' first workout: Feb. 15
First full workout: Feb. 22

Key additions: Jose Lopez, Ty Wigginton, Matt Lindstrom
Key losses: Miguel Olivo, Clint Barmes, Brad Hawpe, Octavio Dotel

Offseason grade: B+

The Rockies primarily spent the offseason tending their own fire, locking up Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez and re-signing Jorge De La Rosa.

2011 outlook: Banking on a playoff return

Todd Helton's batting average often is a sign of the club's success. (US Presswire)  
Todd Helton's batting average often is a sign of the club's success. (US Presswire)  
Offense: The Rockies were third in the NL in runs last season, and should be powerful at the plate again behind Gonzalez and Tulowitzki. The shortstop had a ridiculously strong finish to 2010 after returning from a wrist fracture, and while it's not reasonable to expect that to continue, he should be able to put up some big numbers for a full season.

Defense: The Rockies are about average defensively.

Pitching: The health of the rotation will be a key for the Rockies, who needed 35 starts last season from players outside their starting five. Ubaldo Jimenez could win 20, and 23-year-old Jhoulys Chacin could be poised for a big year after putting up a 2.98 ERA in 21 starts last season (He pitched out of the bullpen seven times). Matt Lindstrom, acquired from the Astros, is a nice addition to the bullpen.

Intangibles: The Rockies have room to improve their baserunning; their conversion rate on steals was 18th in baseball last season. But they don't have a lot of running threats beyond Dexter Fowler and Gonzalez.

Key player: Todd Helton. Fun fact: Helton's combined batting average in 2007 and 2009, when the Rockies made the playoffs, was .322. In 2008 and 2010, when they finished in third place both years, it was .260. At the risk of stating the obvious, a healthy and productive Helton will make the Rockies a much better club.

Top prospect: Left-hander Christian Friedrich. He had a tough 2010, thanks in part to an elbow problem, but has great stuff (career strikeouts per nine innings of 10.7) and could make it to Colorado this season.

For the season to be successful: If the pitching holds up, there's no reason the Rockies can't be a playoff team.

Los Angeles Dodgers

2010 record: 80-82
Finish: Fourth place
Manager: Don Mattingly, first season

Spring training site: Phoenix, Ariz.
Pitchers & catchers' first workout: Feb. 17
First full workout: Feb. 22

Key additions: Jon Garland, Juan Uribe, Matt Guerrier, Marcus Thames, Tony Gwynn Jr., Dioner Navarro
Key losses: Russell Martin, Scott Podsednik, Ryan Theriot

Offseason grade: B

Given their financial constraints, the Dodgers couldn't pull a big makeover, and didn't really need one. The addition of Garland addressed their biggest need and makes sure they can hang in the pitching-rich division.

Don Mattingly is set to begin his first year at the helm. (US Presswire)  
Don Mattingly is set to begin his first year at the helm. (US Presswire)  
2011 outlook: Potential make or break year

Offense: The Dodgers were subpar offensively last season, but they should be able to hit if they can keep everyone healthy. Andre Ethier was putting up MVP-caliber numbers early last season before breaking a finger, which cost him only a couple of weeks but seemed to throw him off the rest of the year. Matt Kemp needs to step up, and some combination of Thames and Jay Gibbons needs to contribute in left field.

Defense: The Dodgers are potentially good up the middle, though second base isn't Uribe's best position, but not so good in the outfield corners and behind the plate.

Pitching: Ned Colletti not only kept the band together, re-signing Ted Lilly, Vicente Padilla and Hiroki Kuroda, he added Garland. That gives them a very solid rotation, and one that should eat innings -- all five (assuming Padilla goes to the bullpen) pitched at least 191 innings last year. The bullpen is a big question mark, and a rebound by closer Jonathan Broxton is critical.

Intangibles: The biggest battle for the Dodgers this year will play out in court, as owners Frank and Jamie McCourt draw out their divorce. Will they have to sell the team? Will the financial battle prevent Colletti from making key acquisitions during the season?

Key player: Kemp. He has to figure out whether he wants to be the budding superstar he was in 2009 or the underachiever he was in 2010.

Top prospect: Shortstop Dee Gordon. The heir apparent to Rafael Furcal, Gordon had a solid season at Double-A last year, batting .277. The 22-year-old stole 53 bases in 73 attempts after stealing 73 bases the year before at Class A.

For the season to be successful: Dodgers fans will expect to see the Dodgers in the thick of things this season, and no repeat of their first losing season since 2005.

Arizona Diamondbacks

2010 record: 65-97
Finish: Fifth place
Manager: Kirk Gibson, first full season (managed last 83 games of 2010)

Spring training site: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Pitchers & catchers' first workout: Feb. 14
First full workout: Feb. 19

Key additions: J.J. Putz, Geoff Blum, Henry Blanco, Zach Duke, Melvin Mora, Xavier Nady, Armando Galarraga, David Hernandez, Micah Owings
Key losses: Mark Reynolds, Brandon Webb, Adam LaRoche, D.J. Carrasco

Offseason grade: C

The Diamondbacks cut payroll and made a bold move trading Reynolds for bullpen help, but it's tough to look at this team and say it's appreciably better.

Daniel Hudson hopes to continue his winning ways from the end of last season. (US Presswire)  
Daniel Hudson hopes to continue his winning ways from the end of last season. (US Presswire)  
2011 outlook: Rebuilding -- or just treading water?

Offense: GM Kevin Towers decided to do something about the Diamondbacks' crazy strikeout numbers, and that meant Reynolds, baseball's single-season strikeout king, had to go. There were no other major moves, as Arizona fans continue to wait for guys like Justin Upton, Stephen Drew and Miguel Montero to meet huge expectations. The Diamondbacks should be OK offensively, but probably not better than OK.

Defense: Arizona has the potential to be pretty good up the middle and probably above average in the outfield, but pretty pedestrian overall.

Pitching: The bullpen last season was flat-out putrid, but should be less so with the signing of new closer Putz and the acquisitions of Hernandez and Kam Mickolio in the Reynolds deal. The rotation is pretty uninspiring, especially when you look around the division. Joe Saunders has had some decent seasons, but it's kind of scary that the Diamondbacks' staff ace was 9-17 last season.

Intangibles: The Diamondbacks have got to find a way to play better on the road, where they went 25-56 (.309) last season. Only the Pirates lost more road games.

Key player: Daniel Hudson. Currently penciled in as the fourth starter, he showed a lot of potential in 11 starts last season after being acquired from the White Sox, going 7-1 with a 1.69 ERA and a 4.38 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

Top prospect: Right-hander Jarrod Parker. The 22-year-old missed the 2010 season after Tommy John surgery, but reportedly is recovering well and has great potential as a starter.

For the season to be successful: At this point, Diamondbacks fans would just like to be reassured things are headed in the right direction.

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