1) San Francisco Giants
With their young and talented pitching staff the Giants are in a great position to defend their World Series title in 2011. Giant pitchers led all of baseball last year in ERA, strikeouts, and opponents batting average. They were also second in runs allowed and their bullpen recorded a league best 57 saves, most coming from closer Brian Wilson who converted 48 of his 53 attempts. The Giants should be stronger this season as an offensive fantasy baseball power as well. With a few off-season moves and young emerging talent in the line-up, they hope to bolster their numbers from a year ago. I fully except the Giants to win this division again in 2011, and make a run in the post season towards another World Series Title.
Offseason Grade | B
The Giants made the necessary moves needed to set themselves up for a run at a repeat. The first major obstacle was resigning their best offensive player from a year ago Aubrey Huff. Huff led the team in hits, RBI, and HR in 2010. A big free agent signing was getting SS Miguel Tejada, a player they feel can really help in the middle of their line-up. The one major loss was 3B Jose Guillen who was second to Huff on the team in the major offensive categories. The Giants are hoping that Pablo Sandoval can help pick up the slack.
Fantasy Player to Watch: Buster Posey
2010 Stats: Hits: 124 – Runs: 58 – HR: 18 – RBI: 67 – Average: .305
Projected 2011 Stats: Hits: 155 – Runs: 95 – HR: 32 – RBI: 105 – Average: .300
2) Colorado Rockies
The Colorado Rockies were in the top 5 of all major offensive categories in 2010; Runs, HR, Hits, and slugging percentage. They also have top level players at multiple positions including, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Ubaldo Jimenez. The Rockies have the talent to compete with anyone in baseball but the concern going forward with this team is their apparent lack of mental toughness. The Rockies closed out last season losing eight straight games and they were 19 games below .500 on the road in 2010. The main question surrounding this ball club is whether they will get it done down the stretch to win a wild card spot in 2011.
Offseason Grade | A-
The Rockies had a very busy off-season, They started off by locking down their two best offensive players to long term contract extensions, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Both considered some of the best at their position in the league, it is very important to have them in house for the next seven years. The Rockies also made moves to help their pitching staff, as well signing Jorge De La Rosa who should be the second or third starter in the rotation. They also bolstered their bullpen with the acquisition of Matt Lindstrom.
Fantasy Player to Watch: Carlos Gonzalez
2010 Stats: Hits: 197 – Runs: 111 – HR: 34 – RBI: 117 – Average: .336
Projected 2011 Stats: Hits: 185 – Runs: 125 – HR: 40 – RBI: 122 – Average: .325
3) San Diego Padres
One of the most surprising teams of the 2010, the Padres are going to have difficulty repeating that success in 2011 after losing their best player in the offseason, Adrian Gonzalez. The Padres do have two of the best young pitchers in the league though, Mat Latos, and Clayton Richard. Their bullpen is solid as well. Heath Bell had 47 saves in 2010, Mike Adams and Joe Thatcher also proved to be very reliable. The main reason why the Padres won’t win 90 games again however, is due to their lack of offense. Not one player on their current roster had a batting average above .270 in 2010 and no one hit more than 17 home runs.
Offseason Grade | C
Losing Adrian Gonzalez was a big blow for them this off-season. He was a two time gold glove winner at 1B and the Padres will miss his leadership qualities. They did sign some good young talent though, notably Aaron Harang and Jason Bartlett. Bartlett was one of the best young SS in the AL last year and they are hoping he can develop even more with the Padres. They also got stronger on defense with the signing of Orlando Hudson who will likely start for them at 2B. They still receive a grade of a C because they failed to get any real offensive help.
Fantasy Player to Watch: Mat Latos
2010 Stats: W: 14 – L: 10 – ERA: 2.92 – K: 189 – Whip: .1.08
Projected 2011 Stats: W: 16 – L: 8 – ERA: 3.03 – K: 205 – Whip: 1.15
4) Los Angeles Dodgers
With a record slightly below .500 last season the Dodgers have something to build upon in 2011. They have an above average starting rotation, headed by the young left hander Clayton Kershaw who was an All-Star in 2010. Along with Kershaw they have Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda, both winning more than ten games last season. The problem with L.A. is in their hitting. The Dodgers ranked toward the bottom of the NL in hits and runs scored last year. They are going to need big years from hitters like Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp if they are going to compete in this division in 2011.
Offseason Grade | B
The Dodgers were able to resign Rod Barajas and Hiroki Kuroda. They also added Jon Garland as well as Juan Uribe. Not having to deal with the circus that is Manny Ramirez for this off-season has greatly helped the Dodgers. With a few minor changes to their lineup I expect slightly better offensive numbers than in 2010, but they still do not have enough overall talent to compete with the other teams in their division.
Fantasy Player to Watch: Clayton Kershaw
2010 Stats: W: 13 – L: 10 – ERA: 2.91 – K: 212 – Whip: 1.18
Projected 2011 States: W: 15 – L: 7 – ERA: 2.78 – K: 220 – Whip: 1.25
5) Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks should be somewhat improved going into 2011 but not enough to avoid last place. The one strength the Dbacks have to lean on is there starting rotation with a couple very good young starters. After acquiring Daniel Hudson from the White Sox last year, he went on to go 7-1 with Arizona with a 1.69 ERA. Ian Kennedy also showed a lot of promise in 2010, and they will also have Joe Saunders back to head their rotation. The questions still remain with the offense however, after setting a major league record last season for total strike outs. The only place they can go is up. Players like Kelly Johnson and Chris Young will have to carry this offense in 2011.
Offseason Grade | B-
The Diamondbacks made several key signings this off-season. The first being the acquisition of Closer J.J Putz. Arizona had a lot of problems with their bullpen last year and they are hoping he can sure that up. Armando Galarraga was also brought in from the Tigers to help out at the end of their rotation. Some questions still lie in their rotation, as well as who will be playing 1B for them at the start of the season.
Fantasy Player to Watch: Daniel Hudson
2010 Stats: W: 8 – L: 2 – ERA: 2.45 – K: 84 – Whip: .1.00
Projected 2011 Stats: W: 14 – L: 8 – ERA: 3.05 – K: 190 – Whip: 1.15
Tags: 2011 fantasy baseball, buster posey, carlos gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw, Daniel Hudson, Fantasy Baseball, fantasy baseball NL West, Mat Latos, national league west preview, NL West Players to Watch