Welcome to your 2012 NL West Round Table Preview with Rockies beat writer Steven Folsom and Diamondbacks writer Matthew Hesse. 2011 brought many surprises in baseball and one of those was the NL West. The Giants didn’t repeat and the Diamondbacks stormed back from a last place finish in 2010 to winning the division in 2011. What will 2012 bring? Well, let’s get started.
Biggest offseason addition
Steven: My initial thought was the Diamondbacks trade to acquire P Trevor Cahill from the Oakland Athletics, but I feel he needs to prove he can regain his 2010 form. He’ll be moving from a pitcher’s friendly park to a hitter’s friendly one. In the meantime, I’ll go with the Rockies and their free agent signing of OF Michael Cuddyer. He is valuable because of his versatility in the field. His bat should love Coors Field and will provide a formidable foursome with Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton.
Runner-up: Padres trading for P Edinson Volquez and 1B Yonder Alonso from Cincinnati.
Matthew: Michael Cuddyer and Trevor Cahill are pretty obvious key additions. I think the Giants potentially have the biggest addition adding bats in the Bay Area with Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera. These moves will help the Giants keep the Diamondbacks honest. Are these power hitters who will put up MVP numbers? Absolutely not, but they can help get the Giants some runs on the board with decent base hits.
Runner-up: It will be interesting to see how Jeremy Guthrie performs for the Rockies. He faced some tough teams out in the AL East. Playing against some quieter bats and pitching in pitcher friendly ballparks in the NL West could help his numbers.
Biggest offseason loss
Steven: I don’t feel like any team had a significant loss in the offseason, but I’ll go with former Giants OF Andres Torres. He was such a sparkplug for a weak Giants offense on their way to winning the World Series in 2010. Injuries caused him to have a very poor 2011 campaign, but if he regains his 2010 form with the New York Mets in 2012, the Giants will miss him atop their lineup.
Runner-up: Former Padres P Mat Latos traded away to Cincinnati.
Matthew: Padres losing Mat Latos was a huge loss. Yes, they got some significant talent in return but it will still sting the rotation. Combine that top-of-the-line starter with the loss of their closer Heath Bell and the Padres are in shambles. They didn’t win a ton of games in 2011 but it will only get worse in 2012.
Prospect to watch for
Steven: The Arizona Diamondbacks rotation already is formidable, but whenever RHP Trevor Bauer makes his way to the big leagues this year the rotation could potentially be dominant. Bauer has been compared to Giants P Tim Lincecum (who happens to be a two-time Cy Young award winner) and was selected 3rd in last year’s draft.
Runner-up: Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado.
Matthew: As a Diamondbacks fan I hope that no one sees Trevor Bauer in 2012. If we see Bauer that will be because of an injury or because Collmenter/Saunders have performed that poorly. The prospect to look out for in 2012 is Drew Pomeranz. He debuted in the Majors at the end of the season in 2011 for the Rockies and he was sharp in spring training this year. The Rockies biggest question mark is in their rotation and Pomeranz is ready for that role as a starter.
Runner-up: Tie between Diamondbacks Trevor Bauer (pending their starters performance) and Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado.
Position Player of the Year
Steven: There are MVP candidates scattered throughout this division, but my choice is Diamondbacks OF Justin Upton. We sometimes forget he is only 24 years old. He has already been a great player, and the thought of him improving as he enters his prime can only cause opposing pitchers to tremble.
Runner-up: Tie between Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki and Dodgers OF Matt Kemp.
Matthew: Matt Kemp will get it done for the MVP this year, not only in the NL West but the entire National League. Upton will put up great numbers and so will perennial MVP candidate Troy Tulowitzki. However, Kemp will be energized by the purchase of the Dodgers and he will be looking to get other players excited to come out west and re-energize this Dodgers franchise. They may not be a threat this season, but the Dodgers will be a tough out for years to come.
Runner-up: Diamondbacks OF Justin Upton
Pitcher of the Year
Steven: Dodgers Clayton Kershaw was last season’s Cy Young award winner. The Giants have a two-time Cy Young award winner in Tim Lincecum. I’m not going to choose either of them. Instead, my money is on Lincecum’s teammate Madison Bumgarner.
Bumgarner had a horrible April last year and still ended the season with a 13-13 record and a 3.21 ERA. I think the Giants offense is better this year, giving Bumgarner more opportunities at wins.
Runner-up: Dodgers P Clayton Kershaw.
Matthew: In 2011, the NL West was dominated by pitching and 2012 will only get better. The Dodgers, Giants, and Diamondbacks all have at least one Cy Young candidate. It is hard to pick against Clayton Kershaw. Bumgarner could easily get off and running but unless the Giants get run support he will more likely be close to the record he had last year. Kennedy and Hudson had amazing years for the Diamondbacks. The problem with them is they were almost too flawless that there will be a drop off in 2012. Come September Kershaw will be the 2012 Cy Young candidate from the NL West but will not repeat as Cy Young winner.
Runner-up: Diamondbacks P Ian Kennedy
Biggest disappointment for 2012
Steven: Padres OF Carlos Quentin comes over from the Chicago White Sox to try to hit home runs where fly balls go to die at Petco Park. It won’t help matters that he has been injury prone the last few seasons and will miss at least the first month of the 2012 season with a knee injury. But my choice isn’t solely based on the injuries, it’s the anticipated drop in production.
Runner-up: Giants OF Melky Cabrera
Matthew: The entire San Diego Padres team. The players added in the Mat Latos trade will not perform to their potential and neither will players like Carlos Quentin. The Padres will post one of their worst seasons since 2008.
Biggest surprise for 2012
Steven: For me it will be Giants P Madison Bumgarner. I think he will be in the Cy Young discussion in September. Being in the same rotation as Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain makes it difficult to generate Cy Young buzz, but I think he’ll be their best pitcher this season and generate discussion for the award.
Runner-up: Huge year for Dodgers OF Andre Ethier.
Matthew: My surprise for 2012 will come in the form of a GM in Kevin Towers for the Diamondbacks. I see Towers trading Chris Young if his strikeout rate doesn’t improve. In 2010, Towers traded Mark Reynolds who struck out a lot. In 2011, Towers traded Kelly Johnson who struck out a lot as well. Chris Young struggles in the same sense, but is still a fan favorite. At the end of the day though, Kevin Towers is a very smart GM. Each trade has been beneficial and Towers will not trade Young for a bag of peanuts and with 4 strong outfielders one of the outfielders is expendable.
Comeback player of the year
Steven: There’s one clear choice on this one and it’s Giants C Buster Posey. He hits in the middle of their lineup and catches a top pitching staff. His season-ending injury last season derailed the Giants’ quest for another championship. As Posey goes, so go the Giants and that is why I have them winning the NL West in 2012.
Matthew: Buster Posey will be the comeback player of the year for the NL West. Mainly, because he was out all of last year and he will be looking to get the Giants back where he is comfortable, first place. Another player to look out for is Jeremy Guthrie in his new environment. He might be able to bounce back and have a career year. Whether this happens or not remains to be seen but it is very possible.
Expected records and finish
- San Francisco Giants 90-72
- Arizona Diamondbacks 88-74*
- Colorado Rockies 83-79
- Los Angeles Dodgers 78-84
- San Diego Padres 68-94
- Arizona Diamondbacks 89-73
- San Francisco Giants 88-74*
- Colorado Rockies 85-77
- Los Angeles Dodgers 74-88
- San Diego Padres 64-98
There you have it from two writers who have their eyes squarely on the NL West. It will be interesting to see how the first couple months of the season play out and what kind of moves may result (i.e. Matt’s observation of OF Chris Young being expendable). Although it seems the national media is not paying much attention to this division, I think I can speak for Matt when I saw we both think this will be an exciting divisional race all season. Being out west can be difficult to attain national attention (unless you’re Albert Pujols) but I think it will be a tight race throughout.
Thanks for checking out our NL West preview. Look out for more Round Table articles from NL West writers as we progress through the season. You can follow Matt for Diamondbacks and other baseball related thoughts in between articles on twitter @matthewrhesse and you can follow me @steven_folsom.
About the Author
Written by Steve Folsom
Sports has always been my passion in life. I enjoy all sports but baseball is by far my favorite. I bring an analytical perspective to my sports consumption. Follow me on Twitter @Steven_Folsom.