Blog Entry

Spring position battles: National League West

Posted on: February 7, 2012 7:38 am
Edited on: February 8, 2012 3:47 pm

By Matt Snyder

We are finally just a few short weeks away from spring training beginning, so let's continue looking at some positional battles that will unfold through February and March. Monday, we looked at the AL West and now it's time to look at the NL West.

Arizona Diamondbacks
None: None yet.

I understand this probably comes off as a bit lame, but look at the D-Backs depth chart and tell me where there are any legitimate battles. From the starting lineup to the rotation to the bullpen, it would appear the defending NL West champs have very few question marks heading into the 2012 season. I would keep an eye on last year's first-round pick, starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (maybe pushing Josh Collmenter to the long relief role at some point in June or July?), but it's very doubtful he fits in the rotation out of spring. He got knocked around (7.56 ERA, 1.68 WHIP) in four Double-A starts last season. So I've got nothing here. They are already set.

San Francisco Giants
First Base: Aubrey Huff vs. Brandon Belt

Is it time to pass the torch yet? The Giants had no patience with Belt last season, as the 23-year-old prospect was shipped back to the minors in April after just 60 plate appearances. He came back to stay in the middle of July, hitting .231/.296/.469 the rest of the way, but that was only in 142 plate appearances. And he did show good power, hitting eight homers in that stretch. In 111 career Triple-A games, Belt has a .441 on-base percentage and 20 home runs. Meanwhile, Huff is 35 and coming off a season where he hit .246/.306/.370 with just 12 homers in 579 plate appearances. With the additions of Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera, it's unlikely the Giants shove Belt back in the outfield initially, so they must make a decision here. Do they leave Belt in Triple-A again, where he's proven he's a stud, have him ride pine in the bigs, or just move on past Huff and let Belt have the job?

Shorstop: Ryan Theriot vs. Brandon Crawford vs. Mike Fontenot

The 25-year-old Crawford is easily the best defender of this group, but at some point the Giants will need some offense. Crawford is a career .234/.291/.327 hitter in Triple-A. In 220 big-league plate appearances, Crawford hit .204/.288/.296 last season, so he's a complete offensive liability. Ryan Theriot hit .271 with a .321 OBP last year, and he also has no power. He does, however, have a career .282 average and .344 OBP. Fontenot hit only .227/.304/.377 last season, but he certainly has the most power of the trio here. Basically, there isn't really a good choice, but there's still one to be made. Of note: Fontenot and Crawford hit left handed, so maybe Theriot ends up platooning with one of them.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Left Field: Jerry Sands vs. Tony Gwynn Jr. vs. Juan Rivera

Did Sands' month of September give the Dodgers confidence he's ready to take over in left right away? It's possible. After hitting pretty poorly in his stint earlier in the season, Sands hit .342/.415/.493 with two homers, nine RBI and five doubles in 83 plate appearances in the last month. He's only 24, but he's also hit for great power in Triple-A (29 home runs in 418 plate appearances in Albuquerque last year). This one is all about him, with Gwynn being the backup option and Rivera being the desperation option.

Closer: Javy Guerra vs. Kenley Jansen

Guerra is the incumbent and successfully converted 21 of 23 save chances last season. He's only 26 and posted a 2.31 ERA, 1.18 WHIP in his 46 2/3 innings last season, too. So he's the obvious closer, right? I'm not so sure. The 6-foot-5 Jansen is only 24 and has elite closer written all over him. He had a rough start, but from June on, Jansen posted a 0.55 ERA, 0.67 WHIP with four saves, seven holds and zero blown saves. His stuff is nasty, as he struck out 96 hitters in 53 2/3 innings on the season. It looks like the sky is the limit, so would the Dodgers really leave him in the eighth inning due to Guerra's 2011 performance?

Colorado Rockies
No. 3-5 starting pitchers: Alex White vs. Drew Pomeranz vs. Juan Nicasio vs. Guillermo Moscoso vs. Tyler Chatwood vs. Josh Outman vs. Jamie Moyer

After stockpiling pitchers the entire offseason, it wasn't too surprising to see the Rockies trade away both Kevin Slowey and Jason Hammel. Of course, they got back Jeremy Guthrie and still have an absurd logjam behind Guthrie and Jhoulys Chacin. And Jorge De La Rosa will be back at some point later in the season (he had Tommy John surgery last June). White and Pomeranz are both young and inexperienced enough to justify more time in Triple-A, but they probably have the best stuff of anyone on the list. Chatwood got plenty of MLB experience last season, but he's still only 22 and his numbers weren't good. It's hard not to root for Nicasio, as he's coming back from a broken neck. He made some good starts for Colorado last summer, too. Outman's never really shown more than mediocrity and Moyer is 49. I very much like Moscoso's chances,  for one, as he's 28 and had a 3.38 ERA and 1.09 WHIP last season for Oakland. The ballpark difference in home games will be bad, but the NL West has fewer fearful hitters than the AL West and some spacious parks. So I'll officially predict Moscoso gets in, but beyond him, it's a complete toss up.

San Diego Padres
Catcher: Nick Hundley vs. John Baker vs. Yasmani Grandal

Hundley has had parts of four seasons to prove himself. Last season, he did hit well, with a .288/.347/.477 line, but injuries limited him to just 82 games. His career high, due to many different circumstances, is 85. The 31-year-old Baker has had the past couple seasons ruined due to an arm injury (Tommy John surgery and rehab took out nearly all of last season), but back in 2008-09 he hit .281/.364/.423 for the Marlins. The two could actually platoon, because Baker hits lefty while Hundley hits righty. Grandal, though, has loads of talent. He was the Reds' first rounder in 2010, is a switch hitter and has a career minor-league line of .303/.401/.488. He's only played four games in Triple-A, though, so he'd probably have to go nuts with his bat in the spring to get a shot out of the gate. The smart money is on the Padres going with Hundley as the primary starter, Baker as a backup who sees a good amount of playing time and Grandal spending most of the season in Triple-A. Maybe even a platoon with Hundley and Baker. Still, there's enough here for a potentially good three-way battle this spring. And you never know on Grandal. He jumped from High-A to Triple-A in 2011 and his experience before that was just eight Rookie League games in 2010. Maybe he's one of those guys that doesn't need much minor-league seasoning.

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Since: Nov 20, 2007
Posted on: March 1, 2012 6:51 pm

Spring position battles: National League West

I don't remember the Diamondbacks ever playing the Phillies in the playoffs last year.  As I recall they played the Brewers and it was a full five game series.

You should reallly know what your talking about before you post. 

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: February 20, 2012 1:34 pm

Spring position battles: National League West

I love the years that no one is saying anything about the Rockies like 07-09. Yes let the Giants Dodgers and D-babs be the favirites. All the Giants have is 3 starting pitchers ans no power. Dodgers have 1 pitcher and 1 outfielder the Padres have Houston Street. Watchout

Since: Dec 24, 2011
Posted on: February 19, 2012 8:30 pm

Giants are the class of the National League West

#1 in pitching, two new hitting outfielders (anything is an imporovement there!), the return of Posey and Sanchez, and some strong young talent, should make SF the team to beat. I don't count out the Dodgers though, for they have the best picther and outfielder in the league. 

Since: Dec 31, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 11:28 pm

Spring position battles: National League West

You know nothing about baseball. The Giants are rank #1 pitching in all major league in the last 3 years. I believe pitching and defend win you ballgames. Remember, Diamondbacks wast sweep by the Phillies last year in the playoff. LOL

Since: Aug 2, 2011
Posted on: February 11, 2012 7:13 am

Spring position battles: National League West

Rockies and Diamondbacks division. Giants are struggling offensively; and Dodgers have oof field problems unfortunately.

Padres won't make many in roads.

Since: Jan 30, 2008
Posted on: February 8, 2012 6:29 pm

Spring position battles: National League West

As to Belt or Huff, it depends on how Huff looks in spring training. Will he come in ready to play or looking like he hung out with Pablo Sandoval in Venezuela eating all winter? If the latter, go with Brandon Belt, with Buster Posey taking a break once a week over at first.

Shortstop is not a position that necessarily requires power, so why worry about which of three weak hitters has more power? The Giants should go with the best OPS player at the time. Get on base, guys.

The Giants were last in the National League in scoring. Because they couldn't hit home runs? No, because they were dead last in OBP, 13th of 16 in hits and 14th of 16 in walks. Forget stoilen bases. Forget home runs. Get the heck on base. Unfortunately, the best OPS on the team left, Carlos Beltran.

Since: Mar 30, 2008
Posted on: February 8, 2012 2:20 pm

Spring position battles: National League West

LoL class of the NL West.

Steve, please continue to form your opinion based on the ESPN and MLB "experts." They've done a great job at predicting winners. lol.

Since: Dec 28, 2008
Posted on: February 8, 2012 12:24 pm

Spring position battles: National League West

Sorry, but there is NOT a position battle at catcher for the Padres. Hundley is the starter, Baker the back-up, and Grandal will be in the minors.

The OF is going to be a lot more interesting. With Maybin and Quentin taking two spots, Blanks, Denorfia, Tekotte, and Venable will all be fighting for third spot. Guzman may also be looking for some OF starts if Alonso takes over at 1B like he is supposed to. A Venable/Denorfia platoon is most likely if noone steps up.

Since: Aug 7, 2008
Posted on: February 8, 2012 2:49 am

Spring position battles: National League West

No doubt that Matt Snyder is right that the Arizona Diamondbacks are the class of the NL West by far from the other run down NL West teams. Like the experts on ESPN & MLB network have said as of right now the D-backs are the second best team in the NL just behind the Philadelphia Phillies.

Since: Jun 17, 2008
Posted on: February 7, 2012 10:53 pm

Spring position battles: National League West

Lot of people here who are more concerned about Buster Posey's fantasy value than his value to the team. Whether he hits .280 at C or .280 at 1B, the difference to the team is negligible. He's doing his job offensively. Period. He might not get you the fantasy points you want at C but I don't give a rat's behind for fantasy points.

The more important consideration is not Posey at the plate. But Posey behind the plate. Read something before you post. The Giants starting pitchers LOVE it when Buster Posey is doing his job as catcher. He controls the game from the catcher's position. And controls his pitchers. Very unusual for a catcher the age of Buster Posey. But Tim Lincecum has said it, Matt Cain has said it. Buster Posey, when he's the catcher, is unquestionably the team leader. As a first baseman, he doesn't have a chance to make that contribution.

That's why his value as a catcher is so high for the Giants. Because he's already one of the best catchers in the game. If you don't know what that means -- and it doesn't mean batting average -- then you haven't been reading how confident Giants pitchers are when Buster Posey is calling the game. They don't have that same confidence with Sanchez or Stewart or Whiteside.

Buster knows it. He's a catcher. And he'll catch as long as he's physically able. 

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