In less than two weeks, pitchers and catchers will report to camp in preparation of Spring Training.
It is a time in which both teammates and fans alike are given the opportunity to wash away the stain of loss, and start their season anew. Some teams have much to improve upon, while others have seemingly made moderate to rather astounding attempts at fortifying their clubs.
As the new season approaches, no team will be looking to take care of business more than the World Champion San Francisco Giants. A team that defied the odds, and won six straight elimination games on their way to winning it all during this past round of playoffs. And to do so, they had to get through some very stiff competition-the Cincinnati Reds, and St. Louis Cardinals-which finally lead to a showdown in Motown against the heavy favorites of the series-the Detroit Tigers.
However, San Francisco was able to overcome what looked like a stacked lineup: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander were non-factors during the series, and the Giants came out victorious.
But in a newly revamped National League West, where do the Giants stack up? And are they still the favorite to win the division they ran away with last season?
Let’s take a look at some of the notable additions/subtractions the other clubs in the division have made, and where they rate out of five:
- LHP-Jeff Francis.
- RHP-Wilton Lopez.
- C-Yorvit Torrealba.
- 1B-Jason Giambi.
- LHP-Jonathan Sanchez.
- RHP-Guillermo Moscoso.
- RHP-Alex White.
Overall, Colorado did very little this off-season to improve. In fact, it looks as though they’ve actually down-graded in every category. Sure, they’ve added a bunch of minor league catchers. But losing what power was left in Giambi to retirement definitely does not help. And although Jonathan Sanchez looks all but lost, he still holds potential value for another club with his strikeout rate and the fact that he’s technically still in his prime. They’ve let go of pitching depth, and the only major upgrade they were able to muster was the re-signing of lefty Jeff Francis-which isn’t saying much. With the four man, seventy-five pitch limit formula still in full effect, don’t expect the Rockies to be much better (if at all) in 2013.
Overall rating: 2/5
San Diego Padres:
- RHP-Freddy Garcia
- RHP-Jason Marquis.
- RHP-Tim Stauffer.
- RHP-Tyson Ross.
- 3B-Jedd Gyorko.
- 3B-Cody Ransom.
- C-Yasmani Grandal-Suspended fifty games for PED use.
Though the Padres did indeed do some releasing and designating for assignment (as well as suspending one of their best players), San
Diego virtually held on to everyone important, like Chase Headley. In addition to adding major pitching depth (both in the rotation and bullpen), San Diego managed to snag one of the highest rated prospects in the league in 3rd baseman Jedd Gyorko, who tore up the minors last season with a .921 OPS, thirty bombs, and one-hundred RBI in only one-hundred and twenty-six games. With the addition of Gyorko and the sixteen other non-roster invitees, the Padres don’t look that bad going into Spring Training.
Overall rating: 3/5
- RHP-Brandon McCarthy
- LF-Cody Ross
- 3B-Martin Prado
- 3B-Eric Chavez
- RHP-Randall Delgado
- RHP-Heath Bell
- SS-Cliff Pennington
- SS-Didi Gregorious
- LF-Justin Upton
- CF-Chris Young
- 3B-Chris Johnson
- RHP-Trevor Bauer
- RHP-Matt Albers
Arizona upgraded their pitching and offense very nicely. They were the most balanced team in terms of the pickups/trades they made with the spots they needed to fill. Brandon McCarthy, Cody Ross, Martin Prado, and Heath Bell to a degree, all represent significant upgrades at their respective positions, despite the inevitable void that will be felt by Justin Upton‘s move to Atlanta. Overall, I think the snakes had a sneakily good off-season. Though trading away two very good pitching prospects in Bauer and Albers might come back to haunt them, they added some solid front of the rotation pitching, balanced power/speed in the outfield and infield, and slightly upgraded their bullpen.
Overall rating: 4/5
Los Angeles Dodgers:
- RHP-Zack Greinke.
- LHP-Hyun-Jin Ryu.
- LHP-J.P Howell.
- 2B-Skip Schumaker .
- RHP-Peter Moylan.
- C-Jesus Flores.
- LF-Shane Victorino.
- RF-Bobby Abreu.
- LF-Juan Rivera.
- 2B-Adam Kennedy.
- RHP-Jamey Wright.
- RHP-Todd Coffey.
- C-Matt Treanor.
The signing of Zack Greinke is by far the most impact-full detail of the Dodger’s off-season. The one-two-punch of Clayton Kershaw and
Greinke is now something San Francisco and the rest of the west will have to deal with. The club has flexed their spending muscle and signed many minor league free agents, including three prospects that were recently featured on MLB.com’s “Top 100 Prospects” list. They are: Outfielders Yasiel Puig (twenty-two), Joc Pederson (twenty), and right-handed pitcher Zach Lee (twenty-one). Either outfielder might find their way onto the field at some point during the season, but there is no rush as the outfield is in no trouble with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier out there. Though they didn’t add and subtract as many immediate and balanced impact players like their division rival in Arizona, this team is stacked full of proven monsters of the game, and the club should feel very confident going into 2013. Peter Moylan is an intriguing sign, and could conceivably win a relief role if he stays healthy.
Overall rating: 4/5
The National League West seems much upgraded, but the one team that really sticks out is the Dodgers. Even though Zack Greinke was a huge acquisition for L.A., it wasn’t in the off-season where their club got stronger. Rather, it was a month after the trade dead-line during the regular season when Boston and L.A. pulled off what was then being heralded as the blockbuster trade of the century, which included players: First baseman Adrian Gonzalez, righty Josh Beckett, left fielder Carl Crawford, and third baseman Nick Punto.
One would think that with this infusion of powerful new faces, the Dodgers would take this major trade and breathe new life into their quickly stumbling club. Unfortunately, L.A. went on a miserable 17-18 run after the trade, and missed the postseason by eight games.
The Giants, however, ran away with the West, and finished the season going 23-12 post-blockbuster.
But its not just numbers and the threat of what a player, any player, might do individually. Its how that player melds with the rest of his teammates. If a superstar doesn’t act like a team player, it doesn’t matter how many home-runs he can blast. Working as a unit is vital to a teams success, and this Spring Training should really be a gauge on how well these new players are working together. This is something the Giants do very well, and have been able to do for the past three seasons.
Here’s what the World Champions have done so far this off-season:
San Francisco Giants:
- 2B-Marco Scutaro
- CF-Angel Pagan
- LF-Andres Torres
- 2B-Kensuke Tanaka
- SS-Wilson Valdez
- RHP-Brian Wilson
- 1B-Aubrey Huff
- 2B-Ryan Theriot
- RHP-Brad Penny
- RHP-Clay Hensley
- LF-Xavier Nady
- 2B-Freddy Sanchez.
In addition to re-signing key players Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan, the club has also added quite a few minor league players, stocking up on pitching much like L.A. and San Diego. In even greater news, all arbitration-eligible players (besides Guillermo Mota) were tendered contracts, including: Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Jose Mijares, Jeremy Affeldt, Joaquin Arias, Gregor Blanco, Santiago Casilla, and Sergio Romo.
This is perfect, as keeping continuity intact has proven to favor the Giants. Over the past three seasons, the bulk of the team has remained the same. Most notably the pitching staff, from which the team garners much of its success. Also during this course, the club has won it all twice, a feat not easily accomplished.
Overall rating: 3.5/5
I would like to say the Giants have upgraded as much as their division rivals, but they just didn’t make enough moves to rate as high as the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. Not that you have to make dozens of pickups to be considered upgraded, but the Giants fell maybe an extra bat or two short of being one of the big winners in the off-season. If they had re-signed Ryan Theriot and maybe brought in another bat or arm, I would feel a whole lot more comfortable with their options coming off the bench/going into the pen.
However, I still like the way the Giants play baseball. Incredible pitching, strong defense, and smart play-calling.
With Arizona and L.A. making some pretty big moves, most of the baseball world has picked the Dodgers to be the team to beat this coming season, based on big names and big dollars. Unfortunately for them, we’ll have to see how all these big names mesh a second time around. And San Francisco has nineteen times to show their arch-rivals who the better team is
L.A. may have Kershaw and Greinke, but the rest of the division is nowhere near as sound when it comes to pitching as the Giants are, and the club seemed to have Kershaw’s number last season where they went 2-3 against the mighty lefty.
Another feature we can all look forward to this coming season will be the added amount of inter-league play. This new schedule could be quite lucrative for the Giants, as some of the weaker teams in the National League West might fall victim to the shear power some of the American League teams carry. Or it won’t make a difference. But one of the things the Giants do have going for them is the state of their current roster. After being crowned champions for the first time since moving the franchise west after the 1958 season, the Giants leaned heavily on the aging vets that carried them to victory while defending their title in 2011, which looking back did not look very good.
This team, however, is built differently. Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval are there, even a returning Andres Torres will try and make an impact. But instead of aging vets who had career years during 2010’s run, the club has worked youth and speed into the lineup to compliment the heavy hitters in Posey and Sandoval.
No, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro are far from being considered young, but they are vastly different players from say an Aubrey Huff or Miguel Tejada. They’re built differently, and add an X-factor to this team. A type of leadership that inspires their teammates to do better. A “Pence Effect”, if you will. Plus, they are both by far better athletes, and greatly compliment the Giants growing trend in drafting/signing more players with speed.
The San Francisco Giants will win the National League West in 2013, though it will not be easy like it was last season. Arizona will be a contender despite the loss of Upton, and the Dodgers will most likely figure out a way to yet again be that annoying thorn in the Giants sides.
Either way, I like San Francisco’s chances to win the west based on the fact that the Giants play a different style of baseball than any other team. They may not have the big names, but they work oddly well together. They feed off one another. But the most important thing is that they work as a team. Each batter gets up to the box and hits not for himself, but for the guy after him. That’s the type of teammates these Giants are. The type of fan base they inspire. A family.
February 11th cannot come any quicker.