What to look forward to for MLB teams not playing in October: NL West and Central
By: Kartar Singh
- San Diego: The Padres had a pretty bad year, but this was nothing too far from what most expected. After losing their best offensive option in Adrian Gonzalez to free agency and pitching depth in the off-season, they weren’t going to go anywhere but down. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have a solid base to build upon. Their pitching rotation lead by Mat Latos is no slouch and closer Heath Bell has proven to be a great ninth inning option the past two seasons. They are in need of some offense and they are signs of that possibly coming from their farm system in the near future. First base prospect Anthony Rizzo and third base standout James Darnell are expected to be a big part of the club in 2012 and look to be ready to contribute heavily. Being a small budget team, they will have to look within the system for help but things do look up for the Padres, especially when you can’t go much lower.
- Colorado: The Rockies may not have performed well this year but they still do have a lot going for them. Young stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are both under long-term contracts and there is still hope that youngsters Dexter Fowler and Ryan Spilborghs may still pan out. Their bullpen is fairly solid with Huston Street and Rafael Betancourt closing things out. Their biggest weakness right now is starting pitching, especially with since the loss of Ubaldo Jimenez. However, help is on the way in the form of Drew Pomeranz, touted as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, not to mention catching prospect Wilin Rosario, who Rocky faithful hope is the answer to their catching conundrum (Chris Ianetta ended up being a bust)
- L.A. Dodgers: The Dodgers are probably one of the worst off teams going into the offseason. To start things off, to say that their financial state is bad would be an enormous understatement. The team was possessed by the MLB because former owner Frank McCourt couldn’t afford to keep the team afloat. That essentially rules out them spending any money to the better the team this offseason. On top of that, their farm system isn’t exactly stacked with prospects—so don’t expect any significant call-ups from Triple-A in the near future. However, they do have young talent on the team in Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, James Loney, and superstar pitcher Clayton Kershaw. This doesn’t say much however as they weren’t able to win with that core now, so Dodgers fans may have a couple more years of rebuilding ahead of them.
- San Francisco: The former world champions, although not a playoff team this year, still had a relatively successful year considering the amount of serious injuries they had to deal with over the course of the season. Huge impact injuries occurred all over the field for the Giants from skill positions such as catcher, to pitching in both the rotation and bullpen. Buster Posey was direly missed as he was essentially the sole person the Giants relied on for offensive production. His season ending injury along with long-term injuries to Brian Wilson and Jonathan Sanchez made it very tough for the Giants to stay in World Champion form. However, new players have shown promise this season. Brandon Belt showed why there is so much hype around him, starting to get comfortable in the majors during the last month of the season. On top of that, Pablo Sandoval returned to 2009 form this season, putting up good numbers offensively and raising his game to an all-star level one again. Not much needs to be done to this team for it to be a contender again, other than letting its players heal. Look for them to make noise in the pennant race in 2012.
- Houston: What isn’t wrong with this team? From bad contracts to no farm system to horrible trades, this team is in shambles. They have no pitching to speak of, horrible contracts in Carlos Lee and Brett Myers, and no help coming from within the system. The only thing the Astros can do right is either spend more money in free agency, or do what I think is the smart thing and build from within the system. Accrue a bunch of picks, wait for their bad contracts to expire and build the farm system. As of right now these are their only two options, and while what they will do next isn’t for certain, one thing definitely is. Don’t expect them to start winning anytime soon.
- Chicago Cubs: The Cubs, while not in as bad a position as the Astros, have a lot of work to do as well. Alfonso Soriano is starting to produce less and less every year and Aramis Ramirez isn’t getting any younger either. However, as old as their team seems to be, they still have some pieces to build upon. Matt Garza and Carlos Marmol are both young rising players in the league that can spearhead the team’s pitching staff and prospects Starlin Castro and Brett Jackson will help a team that needs to get younger on the field. Not to mention, the Cubs are a big budget team, so look for them to make some noise in free agency this offseason
- Pittsburgh: For the first time in as long as I can remember, the Pirates showed signs of life this season, actually being somewhat of a competitive team. They have some great youth on the team spearheaded by Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker and a young pitching staff. However, like we said before, small budget teams are not going to make any big moves in free agency and there is nothing really to speak of from within the system that will help them win right away, so it looks like that the Pirates are stuck in mediocrity for now. Who knows, maybe the two-month collapse to end the season was a fluke and they will come out firing next season. Although it’s more likely that the first four months were much more of a fluke.
- Cincinnati: Now talk about a team to look out for in the future, this is definitely one of them. Great young talent in Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, Brandon Phillips, and superstar Joey Votto is just the tip of the iceberg with them. Not to mention a rising pitching staff that includes Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, and Francisco Cordero. But that isn’t even it. They have MORE young talent on the way! Shortstop Zack Cozart and Catcher Devin Mesoraco are both healthy and ready to make a splash in the majors dispelling the only aging players on the Reds starting roster, Ramon Hernandez and Miguel Cairo. If the can get a bit of help in the pitching department, they will be a team to be reckoned with for many seasons to come.
Next week we will be covering NL East and AL West.