Friday, March 24, 2006

2006 Season Preview - NL West

Neil and I will do a more in-depth review of the AL East prior to opening night, but for the other (read lesser ;-)) leagues, we thought we would stick to a brief, informative format - really who looks at a Red Sox / Yankee blog for our thoughts on the Colorado Rockies? And to help you out we have added links to a blog on each team so that you can read the thoughts of someone who does know each of these teams.

So to start off that process - the NL West -

San Diego Padres
2005 Record: 82-80; Position 1st

Major Off-season Moves:
Add - C Mike Piazza, INF Vinny Castilla, OF Mike Cameron, SP Chris Young
Minus - INF Mark Loretta, SP Adam Eaton, RP Akinori Otsuka

It appeared at times last year that the Padres didn't want to win the NL West - 13 losses in 16 games just after the All Star break just wasn't pretty. The moves the Padres have made seem a little mixed to this observer - I struggle to believe that Piazza, Castilla and Embree will help in '06, but the (re) signings of Cameron, Giles and Hoffman together with continued strong contributions from the likes of Peavy, should help ensure that the Padres remain competitive in the relatively weak West.

2006 Projection: 81-81; Position - 2nd
Padres blog link - Ducksnorts
Arizona Diamondbacks
2005 Record: 77-85; Position 2nd

Major Off-season Moves:
Add - INF Orlando Hudson, OF Chris Young, SP Orlando Hernandez, SP/RP Miguel Batista
Minus - INF Troy Glaus, SP Javier Vazquez

OK, so Neil and I are talking about how we will structure this review, and having blinked myself, I asked... where did the D'backs finish in '05 - needless to say neither of us guessed 2nd. The loss of Glaus and Vazquez clearly hurts in the short term, but helps the team financially in the long term, and the addition of one of the AL's best defensive 2B helps as well. Perhaps in a few years we will look back at 2005/06 and see the biggest on field move as the addition of Young, the D'backs CF of the future, while the key off field move (and the most interesting from a Sox viewpoint) for the D'Backs was the appointment of Josh Byrnes as GM - adding another team to the sabermetrics school.

2006 Projection: 75-87; Position - 3rd
D'backs blog link - AZ Snakepit
San Francisco Giants
2005 Record: 75-87; Position 3rd

Major Off-season Moves:
Add - OF Steve Finley, SP Matt Morris, RP Tim Worrell, RP Steve Kline
Minus - INF Edgardo Alfonzo, INF JT Snow, SP Brett Tomko, RP LaTroy Hawkins

The key number for the Giants in 2005 - 14 - the number of games that a certain LF played in last year. Is it fair to say that as goes Barry Bonds 2006, so goes the Giants? I think so - if Bonds hits as we know he can, and plays in anything over 120 games then the Giants are in the mix. If he doesn't - either because of renewed injury, or because of action by Bud Selig (unlikely and unfair) or the court system (likely and... who knows), then the Giants can look forward to a final shrinking of the Bonds era world series opportunities. From my projection below, you can tell where my thoughts point.

(And I only put Finley in as a major move so I could giggle!)

2006 Projection: 73-89; Position - 4th
Giants blog link - Jay's Giants Blog
Los Angeles Dodgers
2005 Record: 71-91; Position 4th

Major Off-season Moves:
Add - INF Nomar Garciaparra, INF Rafael Furcal, INF Bill Mueller, OF Kenny Lofton, SP Brett Tomko, SP / RP Jae Seo
Minus - OF Milton Bradley, SP Jeff Weaver

Well the D'backs may have added a team to the sabermetrics school, but Paul Depodesta was a high profile casualty from the same school in 2005. Ned Colletti has put his stamp on the team with a number of significant FA signings and trades, as well as hiring a new field manager - Grady Little (Neil H now stops blogging for a while to get over the shakes...). The Dodgers farm system is highly rated at the moment and the moves he made were achieved without sacrificing much at that level. I may be crazy here, but I think the Dodgers will win the West in '06, which the LA press will celebrate as a victory for old school baseball, regardless of the truth. The signings they have made will help, the return from injury of Gagne will help, and the continued weakness of the West will do the rest.

2006 Projection: 85-77; Position - 1st
Dodgers blog link - Dodger Thoughts
Colorado Rockies
2005 Record: 67-95; Position 5th

Major Off-season Moves:
Add - C Yorvit Torrealba, RP Jose Mesa, RP Ray King
Minus - OF Larry Bigbie

Isn't that a glorious list of changes for a 67-95 team... but at least they re-signed BH Kim, who showed in the WBC that the glory days are here again (that is a little harsh, BH pitched well enough for the Rockies in 2005). The Rockies are reliant on the continued improvement of the younger players on their 25, and a hoped for bounce from Todd Helton - aside from that... But I am a polite guy, I will give the Rockies a 3 game improvement in '06, just don't use me as your betting line guide.

2006 Projection: 70-92; Position - 5th
Rockies blog link - Up in the Rockies

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