National League West Preview

by Bryce McRae on March 21, 2007 @ 16:00:00 PDT

 


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

2006 RECORD: 76-86 (Tied for last place in division, Non-playoff team)

OVERVIEW

The Diamondbacks were a team in transition last year, finally biding farewell to outfielder Luis Gonzalez and shortstop Craig Counsell, two key players from their 2001 World Series-winning team. They were buoyed by the unexpected success of starting pitcher Brandon Webb, who went on to win the National League Cy Young Award. Last season also saw the full-time introduction of youngsters such as fist baseman Conor Jackson and shortstop Stephen Drew. The team attempted to improve their starting rotation through the offseason acquisitions of starting pitchers Randy Johnson and Doug Davis. They hope that an experienced rotation will be able to keep this team in the race in case their younger players are not ready out of the gate. A division title might be too much to expect of this team, but they should definitely pose a challenge.

POSITIONAL DUEL

The Diamondbacks traded catcher Johnny Estrada to the Milwaukee Brewers this past offseason, opening the door for Chris Snyder to start behind the plate. Snyder, 26, has hit just .231 with 17 home runs in 205 major league games, but in 2006 he hit .277 with six homers in 184 at-bats. The problem is that Miguel Montero, a 24-year-old backstop highly regarded for his bat, is also competing for the starting gig heading into the spring. Montero has only four hits and 16 at-bats on his big-league resume. However, in 2005 he hit .326 with 26 homers and 95 RBI in 463 at-bats between Class A Lancaster and Double-A Tennessee. In 2006, at Tennessee and Triple-A Tucson, Montero batted a combined .286 with 17 home runs and 75 RBI. The club would love to see Montero win the job, because Snyder profiles as a backup more than an everyday catcher.

FADING FAST

In 2005, first baseman Tony Clark came out of nowhere to hit .304 with 30 home runs and 87 RBI. Given the questions at first base coming into last season, the club retained him. He failed to reward them for their loyalty, however, as he finished off the season hitting .197 with six home runs and 16 RBI in 79 games. Clark will turn 35 this season and his best years appear to be behind him. Taking out his 2005 season, Clark has hit .207, .232, .221 and .197 in each year since 2002. With Conor Jackson firmly embedded at first base, Clark's days as a contributor for the Diamondbacks appear to be over.

COMING ON STRONG

As stated above, Jackson made first base his own last season. After hitting just .200 with two home runs and eight RBI in 40 games in 2005, Jackson exploded onto the scene last year. He finished off the season hitting .291, with 15 home runs, 79 RBI and 75 runs. At only 24, Jackson should only be getting better, and with no one to challenge him, he has, arguably, the most fantasy potential of any Diamondbacks positional player.

ON THE REBOUND

Starting pitcher Randy Johnson will begin his second stint in the desert after an offseason trade from the New York Yankees. Johnson won 34 games in two years for the Yankees; however, he struggled under the pressure and failed to live up to expectations. Johnson had some of his best seasons in his earlier stint with the Diamondbacks, including a 2002 performance when he went 24-5 while posting a 2.32 ERA and 334 strikeouts. With less pressure now that he is out of the Big Apple, and playing in the more pitcher-friendly National League, expect Johnson to improve off 5.00 ERA and 172 strikeouts he had last season.

INJURY REPORT

Johnson comes into this season after having surgery Oct. 26, 2006, to repair a herniated disk in his back. He should be ready to start the season as it is unlikely the team would have traded for him without making sure he was healthy, but there is still some doubt about whether or not he'll be ready for Opening Day.

Outfielder Carlos Quentin (shoulder) had an MRI that revealed a small tear in the labrum in his left shoulder. The injury will probably eventually require surgery, but he may prolong it, but keep your eye on this situation.

IMPACT PROSPECTS

OF Chris B. Young

SP Dustin Nippert

C Miguel Montero

PROJECTED LINEUP

1) OF Chris B. Young (.243, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 10 R, 2 SB)

2) 2B Orlando Hudson (.287, 15 HR, 67 RBI, 87 R, 9 SB)

3) 3B Chad Tracy (.281, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 91 R, 5 SB)

4) OF Eric Byrnes (.267, 26 HR, 79 RBI, 82 R, 25 SB)

5) 1B Conor Jackson (.291, 15 HR, 79 RBI, 75 R, 1 SB)

6) OF Carlos Quentin (.253, 9 HR, 32 RBI, 23 R, 1 SB)

7) SS Stephen Drew (.316, 5 HR, 23 RBI, 27 R, 2 SB)

8) C Chris Snyder (.277, 6 HR, 32 RBI, 19 R, 0 SB)

PROJECTED ROTATION

1) SP Brandon Webb (16 W, 3.10 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 178 K)

2) SP Randy Johnson (17 W, 5.00 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 172 K) w/ NYY

3) SP Livan Hernandez (13 W, 4.83 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 128 K) w/ WAS and ARI

4) SP Doug Davis (11 W, 4.91 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 159 K) w/ MIL

5) SP Edgar Gonzalez (3-4, 4.22 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 28 K)

BULLPEN

Middle Relief: RP Brandon Lyon (2 W, 0 SV, 3.89 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 46 K)

Setup: RP Jorge Julio (1 W, 16 SV, 4.23 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 88 K)

Closer: CL Jose Valverde (2 W, 18 SV, 5.84 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 69 K)

COLORADO ROCKIES

2006 RECORD: 76-86 (Tied for last place in division, Non-playoff team)

OVERVIEW

While still ranking as one of the top hitters' parks in all of baseball, Coors Field saw one of the best pitching rotations in franchise history. The team had a collective ERA of 4.66, while they also threw five complete games (four shutouts). Starting pitchers leading the way were the since-departed Jason Jennings, former ninth overall draft pick Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook. The team lost Jennings (Houston Astros) in the offseason but will hope Francis and Cook continue their upward climb this season. They also picked up last year's major league leader in losses, starting pitcher Rodrigo Lopez (Baltimore Orioles). They hope a change of scenery will help him, although this might not be the best environment for that. The 2006 season also saw a changing of the guard on the offensive front as outfielder Matt Holliday and third baseman Garrett Atkins took over the top roles in the offense. First baseman Todd Helton, the club's leader for almost their entire history, suffered through one of his worst seasons in recent memory, although it was still strong. If the club's pitching can keep up their form from last year, this team could challenge for a playoff or wild card spot.

POSITIONAL DUEL

Now that Javy Lopez has been released, catcher Chris Iannetta is someone who the Rockies believe could be their catcher of the future and of today. He will turn 24 just as the season is beginning and in 21 games with the club last season hit .260, with two home runs and 10 RBI. He will be given every chance to take the starting job, but if he fails he will likely wind up back at Triple-A. Catcher Yorvit Torrealba (shoulder) comes into this season after shoulder injury last September. He also missed time earlier in the year with the same injury. In 65 games with the club last year, he hit .247, with seven home runs and 43 RBI. Iannetta is all but guaranteed to win.

FADING FAST

The title of this section might be a little misleading as first baseman Todd Helton is not falling too quickly; however, his batting average and home runs have declined each of the past four seasons. His run and RBI totals were close to 2005 totals (he had two more runs and RBI in 2006 than in 2005). While the numbers he put up are still above-average (.302 batting average, 15 home runs, 81 RBI, 94 runs), they were not close to what he has put up in previous seasons. Part of that has come from a move higher in the lineup, which has changed his role with the team to one where he is asked just to get on base, while part of it has come from age. He will turn 34 this season and in his nine full seasons with the Rockies he has averaged 154 games per season. A balky back has taken its toll. He might not be at the end of the line but the decline is already evident in his play.

COMING ON STRONG

In just his second full season with the Rockies, third baseman Garrett Atkins showed he has the potential to help replace first baseman Todd Helton as the focal point of the Rockies' offense. His 2005 numbers, while solid with a .287 average, 13 home runs and 89 RBI, were only a stepping stone to his offensive output last year. He ended the season hitting .329, with 29 home runs and 120 RBI. His run total also jumped from 62 in 2005 to 117 in 2006. He also showed he has patience at the plate by drawing 79 walks. He will have big shoes to fill if he is to be the player that Helton was, but last season showed he very well could reach that level.

ON THE REBOUND

Outfielder Brad Hawpe had a breakout season last year, but the bulk of came on the strength of a first half in which he hit .310 with 15 homers and 49 RBI in 84 games. After the All-Star break, he batted .268 with seven home runs and 35 RBI in 66 games. Part of his downfall was his performance against lefties, against whom he hit just .232 in 69 at-bats. He has reportedly added eight pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-3 frame. To improve on his .293 average, 22 homers and 84 RBI, he'll need to maintain consistency throughout what should be his second full season and hit southpaws.

INJURY REPORT

Starting pitcher Brian Lawrence suffered a shoulder injury prior to the 2006 season, which put him out for the whole year. With extensive tears to his rotator cuff, it is unknown how he will respond this year, so it is something to keep an eye on in spring training.

Torrealba suffered two separate shoulder injuries last year and the team brought in Lopez to see if Lopez can win the starting job. Torrealba did work out with the team this offseason and they signed him to a one-year contract, meaning he is likely healthy but it is unknown if he will be able to hold up for a full season.

IMPACT PROSPECTS

SS Troy Tulowitzki

SP Jason Hirsh

3B/OF Jeff Baker

3B Ian Stewart

PROJECTED LINEUP

1) OF Willy Taveras (.278, 1 HR, 30 RBI, 83 R, 33 SB) w/ HOU

2) 1B Todd Helton (.302, 15 HR, 81 RBI, 94 R, 3 SB)

3) 3B Garrett Atkins (.329, 29 HR, 120 RBI, 117 R, 4 SB)

4) OF Matt Holliday (.326, 34 HR, 114 RBI, 119 R, 10 SB)

5) OF Brad Hawpe (.293, 22 HR, 84 RBI, 67 R, 5 SB)

6) SS Troy Tulowitzki (.318, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 15 R, 3 SB)

7) 2B Kazuo Matsui (.267, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 32 R, 10 SB) w/ NYM and COL

8) C Chris Iannetta (.260, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 12 R, 0 SB)

PROJECTED ROTATION

1) SP Jeff Francis (13 W, 4.16 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 117 K)

2) SP Aaron Cook (9 W, 4.23 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 92 K)

3) SP Rodrigo Lopez (9 W, 5.90 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 136 K) w/ BAL

4) SP Brian Lawrence (Missed 2006 season with injury)

5) SP Byung-Hyun Kim (8 W, 5.57 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 129 K)

BULLPEN

Middle Relief: RP Ramon Ramirez (4 W, 0 SV, 3.46 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 73 K)

Setup: RP LaTroy Hawkins (3 W, 0 SV, 4.48 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 27 K) w/ BAL

Closer: CL Brian Fuentes (3 W, 30 SV, 3.44 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 73 K)

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

2006 RECORD: 88-74 (Second place in division, Eliminated in NLDS)

OVERVIEW

The Dodgers' season ended with a disappointing three-game sweep by the New York Mets in the NLDS. They did finish tied for the best record in the division with the Padres, which is something to build on for this season. They will probably have to rely on their pitching more as they lost outfielder J.D. Drew this offseason to the Boston Red Sox. From top to bottom, their starting rotation could be the best in the division with the offseason signings of starting pitchers Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf. They have speed up front in their lineup (outfielder Juan Pierre and shortstop Rafael Furcal combined for 95 stolen bases last year) but they lack a power hitter to bring them home (first baseman Nomar Garciaparra was the only Dodger to reach 20 home runs that is still with the team). With an aging offense, it appears as though the Dodgers' window could be closing with their current one-through-five hitters averaging nearly 34 years of age.

POSITIONAL DUEL

With outfielder Luis Gonzalez and Pierre locked in at the left and center outfield spots, respectively, it leaves three players fighting for the final spot in right field. Outfielder Andre Ethier played 109 games in left field last year and appears to have the inside track for the job in right this year. In 126 games total, he hit .308 with 11 home runs and 55 RBI. He also scored 50 runs and stole five bases. At only 24 years old (he'll be 25 in April), many would figure Ethier to be the right fielder of the future for the Dodgers. However, they also have promising outfielder Matt Kemp, who at just 22 could have more upside than Ethier. In just 52 games with the Dodgers last year, Kemp hit .253 with seven home runs and 23 RBI. He also became just the fifth major league player to hit seven home runs in his first 18 games. Another option could be outfielder Jason Repko, who hit .254 with three home runs and 16 RBI. He also stole 10 bases and scored 21 runs. The likely option is that the Dodgers will go with Ethier and give Kemp some more time to play every day in the minors. Either way the future looks good in the Dodgers' outfield.

FADING FAST

Last year most of the Dodgers' players were right around their 2005 production levels. However, Gonzalez and second baseman Jeff Kent are approaching the backend of their 30s and could be retiring soon; Garciaparra is approaching his mid-30s. Kent is likely the one who will do so first, as he suffered through wrist and oblique injuries last year and was not the solid player he has been in recent years. He still has the ability to play as he was on pace for about the same home run, RBI and run totals as in 2005, and his average even increased; however, at this point it is unsure how much desire he has to play. He hinted at times last season of wanting to retire and spend more time with his family. With the uncertainty surrounding him, and the injuries suffered last season, it seems to be only a matter of time until his play drops off. He is also approaching the dreaded age of 40, an age when most players begin to falter.

COMING ON STRONG

Catcher Russell Martin hit .282 with 10 home runs and 65 RBI for the Dodgers in his first full season with the club. He also stole 10 bases and scored 65 runs. Russell could split some time with catcher Mike Lieberthal at the position, but it is likely Martin will still see most of the time at catcher. He should only improve on his 2006 numbers and at 24 appears to have a long career ahead of him in Dodger Blue.

ON THE REBOUND

Starting pitcher Randy Wolf came back in August 2006 from Tommy John surgery undergone in July 2005 and continued his winning streak from the previous season, running it to nine straight decisions. Wolf finished the season going 4-0 with a 5.56 ERA in 12 starts for the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies had hoped to re-sign him but Wolf opted to move closer to home and signed with the Dodgers. With a strong lineup surrounding him, the Dodgers hope Wolf can return to his 2003 form, when he went 16-10 with a 4.23 ERA. If, as expected, pitcher Mark Hendrickson doesn't win the job as the fifth starter, Wolf will also be the only left-handed pitcher in the Dodgers' rotation.

INJURY REPORT

Billingsley (oblique) suffered an oblique injury near the end of last season (September), and he struggled when he did make it back to the mound. Billingsley is only 22 years old and should be able to return just fine this year, although the Dodgers might keep an eye on his innings pitched to make sure they don't overwork him. The Dodgers say that he must compete for the last spot in the rotation.

IMPACT PROSPECTS

1B James Loney

3B Andy LaRoche

PROJECTED LINEUP

1) OF Juan Pierre (.292, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 87 R, 58 SB) w/ CHC

2) SS Rafael Furcal (.300, 15 HR, 63 RBI, 113 R, 37 SB)

3) 1B Nomar Garciaparra (.303, 20 HR, 93 RBI, 82 R, 3 SB)

4) 2B Jeff Kent (.292, 14 HR, 68 RBI, 61 R, 1 SB)

5) OF Luis Gonzalez (.271, 15 HR, 73 RBI, 93 R, 0 SB) w/ ARI

6) 3B Wilson Betemit (.263, 18 HR, 53 RBI, 49 R, 3 SB) w/ ATL and LAD

7) OF Andre Ethier (.308, 11 HR, 55 RBI, 50 R, 5 SB)

8) C Russell Martin (.282, 10 HR, 65 RBI, 65 R, 10 SB)

PROJECTED ROTATION

1) SP Jason Schmidt (11 W, 3.59 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 180 K) w/ SF

2) SP Derek Lowe (16 W, 3.63 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 123 K)

3) SP Brad Penny (16 W, 4.33 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 148 K)

4) SP Randy Wolf (4 W, 5.56 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 44 Ks) w/ PHI

5) SP Brett Tomko (8 W, 4.73 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 76 K)

BULLPEN

Middle Relief: RP Joe Beimel (2 W, 2 SV, 2.96 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 30 K)

Setup: RP Jonathan Broxton (4 W, 3 SV, 2.59 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 97 K)

Closer: CL Takashi Saito (6 W, 24 SV, 2.07 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 107 K)

SAN DIEGO PADRES

2006 RECORD: 88-74 (First place in division, Eliminated in NLDS)

OVERVIEW

Despite making the playoffs, manager Bruce Bochy bolted for a division rival, the San Francisco Giants. The team will now turn to former Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitching coach Bud Black as their new manager. The team has a rotation that has a good mix of youth and experience, but they will need a bounce-back year from starting pitcher Jake Peavy if they are to truly be considered a contender. On the offensive side, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez solidified his standing as the most dangerous hitter in the lineup, while they will be hoping the Giles' (second baseman Marcus and outfielder Brian) can provide more of a spark to their lineup. With the solid pitching they have, this team could definitely challenge for the division, provided Peavy stays healthy and their older guys last the whole season.

POSITIONAL DUEL

Third basemen Kevin Kouzmanoff was deemed surplus by the Cleveland Indians and they shipped him off to the Padres during the offseason. However, that should not be a knock on Kouzmanoff's abilities as he was behind one of the top third base prospects, Andy Marte, in the Indians' organization. Kouzmanoff has just 56 career at-bats and has only hit .214 with three home runs and 11 RBI in those at-bats. However, he is considered by many to be a top prospect at the position. He is an unknown commodity though, which means the team could end up using other players there. One is third baseman Russell Branyan, who hit .228 with 18 home runs and 36 RBI. Branyan has power but is more suited for pinch hitting. Infielder Geoff Blum, who hit .254 with four homers and 34 RBI last year, could fill the role. The team is not opposed to using infielder Todd Walker, who hit .278 with nine home runs and 53 RBI between the Chicago Cubs and Padres, there as well. It should make for an interesting spring needless to say.

FADING FAST

None of the Padres' players showed much decline last year as most put up numbers around their career averages. Outfielder Brian Giles, at 34, probably showed the most decline as his average dropped from .301 in 2005 to .263 last season. He has shown a steady decline in RBI and home run totals over the past four season, going from 98 and 20 in 2004 to 83 and 14 last season. That doesn't represent a significant drop-off but it appears he is heading into the downside of his career.

COMING ON STRONG

After coming to the Padres from the Rangers last offseason, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez exploded onto the scene. Hitting for both average and power, Gonzalez improved from his 2005 totals of six home runs and 17 RBI to 24 home runs and 82 RBI (although he did finally play a full season). Gonzalez should continue his rise this season as he has all the potential to reach 30 home runs and 100 RBI. With solid hitters in front of him, and a manager that wants to be aggressive, expect his numbers from his solid sophomore season to improve.

ON THE REBOUND

Starting pitcher Jake Peavy (shoulder) is only 25 years but he suffered from shoulder tendonitis during the middle part of the season. While he didn't miss much time because of it, he still posted only an 11-14 record, with a 4.09 ERA. It is a testament to his ability that those are not considered good numbers for him. Part of the reason for his poor record was due to a lack of run support. He also had 11 quality starts in which he did not get a victory. He struck out 215 batters last season, which shows he still has the ability to dominate. With a better offense this year, expect Peavy to put up numbers more on par with his No. 1 status on the team. Having a former pitching coach (Bud Black) as his manager also should go some ways to making sure Peavy is ready for the season and does not wear down.

INJURY REPORT

Shortstop Khalil Greene suffered a finger injury in early August and never really recovered from it the rest of the season. He tried to return at one point, but was unable to continue and wound up on the disabled list. With the Padres in the playoffs, Greene's sole contribution was as a defensive replacement for Blum. Because the injury was just one that required rest (something he has had this offseason), Greene will likely return healthy in 2007.

Starting pitcher David Wells suffered a knee injury early in the season when he was with the Boston Red Sox and it looked as if his season, and career, was likely going to end with a whimper. However, he returned to the Red Sox and after showing he was healthy, he was traded to the Padres. He pitched well in his time with the club but many thought he would retire this offseason. He surprised everyone however, and returned to the club. With his build, age and past injuries, it is questionable whether he will be able to make it through a full season without missing a start. There is also the chance the Padres will rest him towards the end of the season as he has been brought in especially for his playoff experience.

IMPACT PROSPECTS

3B Kevin Kouzmanoff

OF Paul McAnulty

PROJECTED LINEUP

1) 2B Marcus Giles (.262, 11 HR, 60 RBI, 87 R, 10 SB) w/ ATL

2) OF Mike Cameron (.268, 22 HR, 83 RBI, 88 R, 25 SB)

3) OF Brian Giles (.263, 14 HR, 83 RBI, 87 R, 9 SB)

4) 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.304, 24 HR, 82 RBI, 83 R, 0 SB)

5) SS Khalil Greene (.245, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 56 R, 5 SB)

6) 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff (.214, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 4 R, 0 SB) w/ CLE

7) OF Terrmel Sledge (.229, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, 0 SB)

8) C Josh Bard (.333, 9 HR, 40 RBI, 30 R, 1 SB)

PROJECTED ROTATION

1) SP Jake Peavy (11 W, 4.09 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 215 K)

2) SP Greg Maddux (15 W, 4.20 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 117 K) w/ CHC and LAD

3) SP Chris Young (11 W, 3.46 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 164 K)

4) SP David Wells (3 W, 4.42 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 38 K) w/ BOS and SD

5) SP Clay Hensley (11 W, 3.71 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 122 K)

BULLPEN

Middle Relief: RP Cla Meredith (5 W, 0 SV, 1.07 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 37 K)

Setup: RP Scott Linebrink (7 W, 2 SV, 3.57 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 68 K)

Closer: CL Trevor Hoffman (0 W, 46 SV, 2.14 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 50 K)

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

2006 RECORD: 76-85 (Third place in division, Non-playoff team)

OVERVIEW

After failing to make the playoffs, the Giants made some major changes to their team entering this season. They let go of starting pitcher Jason Schmidt (Los Angeles Dodgers) and signed starting pitcher Barry Zito to a massive seven-year, $126 million deal. Manager Felipe Alou was not retained, with the club instead turning to former San Diego Padres manager Bruce Bochy. Bochy brought outfielder Dave Roberts with him. He also plans to use a more aggressive style, especially on the base paths. That is without mentioning the ongoing saga surrounding outfielder Barry Bonds. Bonds was a free agent, but after much deliberation, the team finally signed him to an agreement. Needless to say, this is a team built to win now, but they may lack the players needed to do so.

POSITIONAL DUEL

Russ Ortiz, who last year with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Baltimores went 0-8 with an 8.14 ERA, has won the fifth starter spot. He outlasted Brad Hennessey and Jonathan Sanchez for the gig. A 15-game winner just three seasons ago, Ortiz's career has seemingly fallen apart. However, Ortiz believes Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone discovered a flaw in his mechanics that has helped him rediscover his form.

FADING FAST

There are many candidates, but it's hard to believe that Bonds he will return to the dominant level at which he had been before the last two seasons. Not including his 2005 season when he played just 14 games, last season Bonds' average dropped below .300 for the first time since 1999. He also failed to reach 30 home runs for the first time since the 1991 season. With all the surrounding baggage he brings, in addition to the 20 years of wear and tear on his body, Bonds' best years are behind him. Twenty-plus home runs should still be reachable for him; however, after that he may just be an average fantasy player now.

COMING ON STRONG

Starting pitcher Matt Cain was solid in his first full season with the club, posting a 13-12 record with a 4.15 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. He also struck out 179 batters. Cain is 22 years old, which showed as he was inconsistent from start to start last year. Despite that, in May he still threw his first complete-game shutout of the year. He also had a stretch during August and September when he allowed just one earned run in 42 innings over six starts. With another year under his belt, Cain has all the ability to develop into a No. 1-type starter on this team.

ON THE REBOUND

After the season ended, starting pitcher Matt Morris (ribs) admitted to pitching with a fractured rib on his right side and a stress reaction to two other ribs on either side. That injury could have been one reason why Morris went 0-4 with a 7.42 ERA in the month of September and 2-8 from July 25 on. In the five seasons prior to last season, all with the St. Louis Cardinals, Morris had averaged nearly 16 wins per season. He also posted ERAs of 3.16, 3.42, 3.76, 4.72 and 4.11, successively, in those seasons. With a full offseason to recover, Morris is expected to be healthy again for spring training and should be able to regain his form from the 2005 season, when he went 14-10 with a 4.11 ERA and had 117 strikeouts.

INJURY REPORT

Closer Armando Benitez battled arthritis and knee and elbow injuries last season; however, he remains the team's starting closer. He is 34 years old and is entering his 12th major league season. Benitez has only thrown 68 1/3 innings over the last two seasons). It is not known how he will respond to closing this season, but the team is ready with relief pitcher Brian Wilson to step in should Benitez not be healthy. Wilson may have only one career save and two wins, but the club feels as though he has the ability to close at the major league level.

IMPACT PROSPECTS

RP Brian Wilson

SP Jonathan Sanchez

SP Tim Lincecum

IF Kevin Frandsen

PROJECTED LINEUP

1) OF Dave Roberts (.293, 2 HR, 44 RBI, 80 R, 49 SB) w/ SD

2) SS Omar Vizquel (.295, 4 HR, 58 RBI, 88 R, 24 SB)

3) OF Randy Winn (.262, 11 HR, 56 RBI, 82 R, 10 SB)

4) OF Barry Bonds (.270, 26 HR, 77 RBI, 74 R, 3 SB)

5) 2B Ray Durham (.293, 26 HR, 93 RBI, 79 R, 7 SB)

6) C Bengie Molina (.284, 19 HR, 57 RBI, 44 R, 1 SB) w/ TOR

7) 1B Rich Aurilia (.300, 23 HR, 70 RBI, 61 R, 3 SB) w/ CIN

8) 3B Pedro Feliz (.244, 22 HR, 98 RBI, 75 R, 1 SB)

PROJECTED ROTATION

1) SP Barry Zito (16-10, 3.83 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 151 K) w/ OAK

2) SP Matt Cain (13-12, 4.15 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 179 K)

3) SP Matt Morris (10-15, 4.98 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 117 K)

4) SP Noah Lowry (7-10, 4.74 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 84 K)

5) SP Russ Ortiz (0-8, 8.14 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 44 K)

BULLPEN

Middle Relief: RP Kevin Correia (2 W, 0 SV, 3.49 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 57 K)

Setup: RP Brian Wilson (2 W, 1 SV, 5.40 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, 23 K)

Closer: CL Armando Benitez (4 W, 17 SV, 3.52 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 31 K)

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About Bryce McRae

Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.


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