NL West: Long Term Status – Interesting
I call the National League West “baseball’s far division” because so much national baseball coverage is devoted to the teams of the northeast, with an even more intense emphasis on the American League teams of the region. It makes sense. The Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies put asses in seats, in ballparks across the country and in the living rooms, too. The big boys have a big business to run and if you put the Padres and Diamondbacks on the sponsors grind their teeth. But there is a whole other way of baseball out here. And it’s about to get even more interesting, just like it always seems to.
The Giants have been good for a while, though they have been terribly light hitting for some time. But if they keep adding pieces as unlike Aubrey Huff and Jeff Keppinger as possible (Hunter Pence, Melky Cabrera) they can be as good as they were on offense with Grissom, Kent, Bonds and Aurilia. Extending Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner was actually three smart moves disguised as two. They locked up their current ace (Cain), and their future ace (Bumgarner), while signaling to their former ace (Tim Lincecum) the timely end of a fruitful relationship.
The Dodgers already have one of the National League’s three best position players in Matt Kemp (tied with Andrew McCutchen and Joey Votto), and last year’s Cy Young winner in Clayton Kershaw. But things are about to get crazy in Los Angeles, as the Dodgers are sure to start spending on par with the big three. They have already used their newly deep-ified pockets to obtain Shane Victorino and Hanley Ramirez as they try to beat out the Giants for the division flag. Giants and Dodgers: Those are the (relatively) big names. What about the guys that can’t get put on national TV on Wednesday night, yet?
Let’s not forget that the Padres were recently purchased for a handsome (we’re talking Gael Garcia Bernal handsome) sum of $800M. The new owners don’t even have the keys yet and they have already changed the direction of a franchise that has been sprinting backwards for several years. Before the sale the club would have made no effort to extend Carlos Quentin even for the reasonable $9M a year for 3 seasons they agreed on.
The Padres were ranked as having the number one farm system in baseball by ESPN’s Keith Law prior to the 2012 season. This major wave of young talent has already delivered four starting pitchers: Cory Luebke, Anthony Bass, Joe Weiland, and Andrew Cashner, a catcher: Yasmani Grandal, a firstbaseman: Yonder Alonso, and a couple of fireballers out of the ‘pen in Miles Mikolas and Brad Brach. True, the four SPs are all on the DL at the moment, and so is Grandal (though both he, Cashner and Bass should return soon), but there is much more on the way. Top prospect Jedd Gyorko has raked at every level and will soon be manning third, perhaps playing some second base this September, until Josh Byrnes can net his club even more young talent by dealing Chase Headley in the off-season. With an influx of minor league talent and Major League money coming simultaneously, the Padres could leap into an era of constant contention soon.
The Rockies and Diamonbacks however, remain enigmatic.
Arizona is actually in contention, but their pitching has been inconsistent outside of Wade Miley, while outfielders Justin Upton and Chris Young both struggle to live up to their cornerstone billing. Trevor Bauer looked putrid in his brief call-up walking a ton of hitters and getting hit very hard. But Bauer is unpolished, and besides, the future of the D-Backs on the mound is in many capable hands. Bauer is just one of five high ceiling starters topping Arizona’s prospect rankings, giving the team a potential starting rotation of Trevor Bauer (A)*, Tyler Skaggs (A-), Archie Bradley (A-), Andrew Chafin (B), and Patrick Corbin (B-). All but Corbin project as possible number two starters or above, according to minorleagueball.com.
You can read more about the dismal state of the perpetually pitcherless Rockies here. But the short version is that the Rockies, who once looked so promising, boasting two of the most electrifying players in baseball (Tulo and CarGo), have sunken into an abyss of hopeless remedies for their extreme home environment. And say what you will, but that is interesting to watch.
Enjoy the spending, the rebuilding and the wreckage on equal footing. Like a fine potpourri, the scents mingle, and maybe they waft across the planes to intrigue the nostrils of some distant baseball fan, who will turn his heart’s desire Westward and be rewarded. However, if he does not redirect his attentions, do not be angry with him, but take pity on him, grunting for his hype-mired, and stagnant goliath. For we watch a new division spawning itself each season, like a fern breaching the ashes of wildfire, only to go up in the next inferno.
*Prospect Grades from www.minorleagueball.com