NL West Preview: Loaded Dodgers Look to Take It All
The Diamondbacks' first baseman Paul Goldschmidt picks up a grounder from the Dodgers' Andre Ethier in the top of the 9th inning in the Major League Baseball opening game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket ground in Sydney, Saturday, March 22, 2014. The Dodgers won the game 3-1. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Each day this week, the VALLEY NEWS will run season previews of every major league team, division by division. Today, we begin with the National League West, with teams listed in order of finish last year:
Los Angeles Dodgers
2013: 92-70, first place (lost to Cardinals in NLCS).
Manager: Don Mattingly (fourth season).
He’s Here: RHP Dan Haren, RHP Chris Perez, 2B Alex Guerrero, RHP Jamey Wright, RHP Seth Rosin, INF Chone Figgins, LHP Paul Maholm.
He’s Outta Here: 2B Mark Ellis, 2B-OF Skip Schumaker, INF Nick Punto, RHP Edinson Volquez, RHP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Ronald Belisario, 3B Jerry Hairston Jr., INF Michael Young, LHP Chris Capuano, RHP Carlos Marmol.
Hot Spots: CF Matt Kemp continues his comeback from left ankle surgery last fall. He’s been playing in minor league games during camp and wasn’t in Australia with the rest of the team for its season-opening series against Arizona. Also not making the trip was outfielder Carl Crawford, who stayed back for the birth of his child, as well as pitchers Zach Greinke, Haren and injured RHP Josh Beckett. Greinke has been bothered by a right calf strain.
Outlook: Kershaw, coming off his second Cy Young Award at age 25, anchors one of the deepest rotations
in baseball. He received a $215 million, seven-year contract during the offseason, making him baseball’s richest pitcher. The Dodgers bolstered the rotation with the addition of Haren, who got a $10 million, one-year deal. Beckett and RHP Chad Billingsley are trying to bounce back from surgeries. Yasiel Puig, who struggled offensively in spring training, tries to follow up his stellar rookie season while facing questions about his maturity after an offseason arrest for speeding. Mattingly starts the season with a new three-year deal, shedding the lame-duck status that dogged him last year.
2013: 81-81, second place.
Manager: Kirk Gibson (fourth season).
He’s Here: OF Mark Trumbo, RHP Bronson Arroyo, RHP Addison Reed, LHP Oliver Perez.
He’s Outta Here: OF Adam Eaton, SS Willie Bloomquist, LHP Tyler Skaggs, RHP Heath Bell, C Wil Nieves, 3B Matt Davidson.
Hot Spots: Starting rotation. The elbow injury to All-Star lefty Patrick Corbin is a big blow to a unit already full of questions. The Diamondbacks were 23-8 in Corbin’s starts last season, 58-73 with anyone else. Miley, a 16-game winner two seasons ago, seems the best of the rest. Arroyo should provide some stability and durability, his sore back in training camp notwitstanding. The underachieving Cahill and injury-prone McCarthy round out the group. That leaves an opening, and the big question is whether Bradley, a premier prospect, opens with the club or gets more minor league seasoning before an inevitable call-up later in the year. If he sits in the minors for a while, Arizona adds a year to its control of his contract, but it may not be able to afford the wait.
Outlook: The top offseason priority for GM Kevin Towers was adding some power to help 1B Paul Goldschmidt, and he did that in acquiring LF Mark Trumbo, the big-hitting but strikeout-prone player who will be the everyday left fielder. Priority No. 2 was a veteran starter, and that was accomplished by signing RH Bronson Arroyo. Much depends on team health. Injuries to 2B Aaron Hill, C Miguel Montero and OF Cody Ross helped derail last season. Now things are off to a bad start this year with Corbin. If RH Archie Bradley can be the pitcher everybody thinks he can be, and do it in a hurry, or if the Diamondbacks can land another solid starter, they could be in the wild-card race and be there to take advantage should their hated foes the Dodgers falter.
San Diego Padres
2012: 76-86, tied for third place.
Manager: Bud Black (eighth season).
He’s Here: RHP Josh Johnson, RHP Joaquin Benoit, LHP Alex Torres, OF Seth Smith, SS Ryan Jackson.
He’s Outta Here: RHP Luke Gregerson, INF Logan Forsythe, INF-OF Jesus Guzman, OF Mark Kotsay.
Hot Spots: The Padres go into the season without having resolved 3B Chase Headley’s contract situation. The sides failed to agree to a long-term deal before last season and the third baseman called off talks early in the year because he didn’t want to negotiate during the season. There was no progress this offseason, either. If Headley is not traded, he can leave as a free agent after the season. He had a breakout season in 2012, hitting .286 with 31 homers and 115 RBIs, as well as winning his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. He cooled off last year and agreed to a one-year deal worth $10,525,000 to avoid arbitration, a raise from $8,575,000 last season.
Outlook: While some people think San Diego will contend for a wild-card spot, the burden of proof is squarely on the Padres after seasons with 91, 86 and 86 losses. They added more players than usual in the offseason and are increasing payroll. Then again, local and TV money is increasing this season. The reason for the optimism is the pitching staff, which is led by RH Andrew Cashner and was bolstered by the addition of RH Josh Johnson. The Padres had hoped they were getting a healthy Johnson, but he is expected to be out four to five weeks after straining his right forearm late in spring training. Johnson was an All-Star with the Marlins in 2009 and 2010, and led the NL with a 2.30 ERA in 2010. But he struggled last season with Toronto and had bone spurs removed from his right elbow. The Padres also signed RH Joaquin Benoit, who had been Detroit’s closer. The Padres will be relying on five players coming off surgeries: Johnson, LF Carlos Quentin (knee), Headley (knee), center fielder Cameron Maybin (wrist) and C Yasmani Grandal (knee).
San Francisco Giants
2013: 76-86, tied for third place.
Manager: Bruce Bochy (eighth season).
He’s Here: RHP Tim Hudson, OF Michael Morse, RHP David Huff.
He’s Outta Here: LHP Barry Zito, OF Andres Torres, RHP Chad Gaudin, LHP Jose Mijares, OF Brett Pill, RHP Guillermo Moscoso, RHP Sandy Rosario.
Hot Spots: Starting rotation. After being the strength of the team on the way to two World Series titles in three years, the struggles of the rotation was a big reason for last season’s drop-off. RH Matt Cain had his highest ERA since his first full season in 2006 as he gave up a career-high 23 homers. RH Tim Lincecum had his second straight season with an ERA over 4.00 as he struggles to adjust without the velocity that helped him win two Cy Young Awards. RH Tim Vogelsong’s ERA jumped more than two runs and his strikeout, walk and home run rates were all his worst in three seasons since rejoining the Giants. RH Tim Bumgarner was the consistent starter, but San Francisco will need bounce-back seasons from the others and Hudson, coming off a serious ankle injury, if it wants to compete.
Outlook: The Giants narrowly avoided becoming the second team to go from a World Series title to last place, beating out Colorado by two games last season. Despite the disappointing result, GM Brian Sabean made few big moves in the offseason after re-signing Lincecum and RF Hunter Pence in the hope that his own players can rebound to their championship level. Having a healthy Pagan at the top of the lineup will be a big help. San Francisco was tied for first place when Pagan went down with a serious hamstring injury in late May and then went 49-64 the rest of the way. Along with a healthy CF Angel Pagan, the Giants are hoping weight loss and a contract year provide a needed spark for 3B Pablo Sandoval, and Morse adds needed power to left field after San Francisco got a major league-low five home runs from that position last season.
2013: 74-88, fifth place.
Manager: Walt Weiss (second season).
He’s Here: LHP Brett Anderson, RHP LaTroy Hawkins, LHP Boone Logan, LHP Franklin Morales, RHP Jordan Lyles, OF Brandon Barnes, 1B Justin Morneau, OF Drew Stubbs.
He’s Outta Here: 1B Todd Helton, INF Jonathan Herrera, OF Dexter Fowler, LHP Josh Outman, LHP Jeff Francis, RHP Rafael Betancourt, RHP Roy Oswalt, C Yorvit Torrealba, LHP Drew Pomeranz.
P Hot Spots: The Rockies have been keeping a close watch on RH Jhoulys Chacin’s sore shoulder this spring. Chacin was the team’s top right-handed starter a year ago and he’s an integral part of a revamped rotation. Should he miss any time, Franklin Morales or Jordan Lyles figures to step in. LF Carlos Gonzalez strained his right middle finger last season, dramatically affecting his power, but appears to be healed. Although he opted against offseason surgery, Gonzalez has moved his right hand up on the bat in the hope he won’t aggravate the finger again. RF Michael Cuddyer, Gonzalez, SS Troy Tulowitzki, Morneau and C Wilin Rosario form a potent middle-of-the-lineup combination.
Outlook: The Rockies will miss the clubhouse leadership of Helton, who hung up his spikes after 17 seasons in the Mile High City. His replacement at first, Morneau, isn’t trying to be Helton — “irreplaceable,” Morneau said of Helton — but merely fit in. Like Helton, Morneau has quite a knack for making his fielders look good by scooping anything in the area. The Rockies shored up their bullpen, which was an area of concern after last season when they posted an NL-worst 4.23 ERA.
The biggest key to Colorado’s season is the health of Tulowitzki, who has played in 438 of a possible 648 games over the past four seasons because of an assortment of ailments that included a broken wrist, groin injury and broken rib.