San Diego PadresSeason 35: 71-91
Offseason: lost C Bonk Christian, RP Mat Grabowski, and SP Hi Reid in FA. Released RP Branden Wilkerson, RP Marvin Diaz, and C Yuniesky Rios. Signed FA RP J.J. Bibby, RP Freddy Connor, SP Spike O'Brien, C Harry Ugueto, SP Cesar Carrera, and OF Joe Hughes. Promoted 1B Odrisamer Ortiz and OF Alberto Mercado.
Outlook: The Pads were "significantly runs-challenged" last year (#16 in the NL with 492 runs), and their off-season moves aren't going to help a lot. Of the lineup moves they made, I like the Rule V pick of Ortiz (#6 in the Rule V, originally a 3rd-rounder), although maybe some of those all-or-nothing power hitters like Mercado and Harry Moreno will get hot and carry the team for awhile.
Although it's partially a result of their park, the pitching fared better last year with a 3.61 ERA (8th in NL...3.15 at home, 4.11 away). Roland Hoover (13-10, 2.80 ERA) and Jerome Speaker (13-11, 2.83 ERA) led the way, and may typify the type of pitcher to use in San Diego - cheap and decent-not-great ratings - at least during the rebuilding phase.
By the way, are they rebuilding? I think so - they've got the payroll under $50MM and are shepherding their eleven (11) 1st-round draft picks from the last 2 drafts toward the majors. Meanwhile, they're keeping it competitive.
Season 35: 88-74, won Division, lost to Houston in 2nd Round
Offseason: Lost always-a-closer-candidate-but-never-a-closer Adrian Beck, backup SS Neifi Johnson, #4-type SP Wladimir Diaz and C Enrique Osuna to FA. Grade on losses: mild damage
Signed 2B Paulo Abreau (.769 OPS) and RP Manny Bong (5-5, 5.75 ERA) in FA. Promoted RP Roybell (best rookie first name) Robinson (Season 31 10th round). Grade on additions: fair
Overall Offseason Grade: C+
Outlook: The Rockies have a nice little dynasty brewing. They've won 86+ games 8 straight years, been to the playoffs in 7 of those, and won the West 4 of the last 5. But since taking the Rays to 7 games in the Season 30 WS, they've won exactly one (1) playoff series. Can they break through in the brutally competitive NL?
The Rockies are pretty good at almost everything. Their 6th-ranked offense (724 runs) runs on theft (196 SB's led the NL); then 1B Orval Miller and 3B James Bacsik drive home the felons (their 235 RBI was 33% of the team's total...seems like a lot although I really don't know how it compares).
Their usually-reliable pitching had some problems in S35 (10th in NL ERA). Staff ace Stubby George did his usual excellent thing (15-11, 2.88, but starters Miguel Urbina (70 points over career ERA) and Wandy Mateo (50 points over career ERA) really struggled, and now Mateo is out for a good chunk of this year. Even with Mateo out, expect a return to the upper half of the NL in Team ERA.
Colorado plays solid but not spectacular defense, posting a .985 fielding percentage and a 61/24 difference on good/bad plays. 2-time GG 1B Miller erases quite a few bad throws with his glove (22+ plays).
Season 35: 75-87
Offseason: Lost LF Julio Nunez, backup OF Yuniesky Nunez and 2B Bill Matthews to FA. Grade on losses: unmitigated disaster (although not the fault of current management...previous management inexplicably took Nunez to arbitration 3 times, and he predictably flipped SF the finger on his way out the door).
Signed C Enrique Osuna (.232/14/52), OF Mitchell Pederson (.227/26/77), and most of their own free agents. Grade on additions: uninspiring, but we'll see
Overall off-season grade: F, but 98% of that belongs to the previous management's bungling of Nunez.
Outlook: Despite the angst surrounding the Nunez departure, this is still a team that won 75 games last year, and still has talent from the 3 straight 96+ win teams of a few years back.
The present and future of the Giants' offense belongs to LF Douglas Lindor and CF Yamil Pinto, the prime dividends of the Season 33 surrender trade of ace Maicer Comacho to the Nationals. Paco Sandoval is a solid power-hitting infielder, although he might fit better in a more generous hitter's ballpark. And 1B Yorvit Gomez (just re-signed) remains an underrated gem with his lifetime .384 OBP.
I like the rotation front 3 of Santos, Tavarez and Palmeiro. I like the just re-signed Slick Adkinsson and Wolf Sauer much less (especially at those prices), although to be fair, they have both performed very well for Giants fans (3.58 and 3.28 career ERA's respectively). If all 5 of the starters put together pretty good seasons, this team could enjoy a pitching ranking as high as the top 5 or 6.
The Giants enjoy a pretty solid defense anchored by 3-time GG shortstop Renyel Ozuna. I don't know if he can still contend for GG's, but he'll keep the infield defense stable for the next couple of years.
Season 35: 76-86
Offseason: In free agency, lost Freddy Conner (5-2, 4.17), 1B Doug Hines (.259/15/48), RP Rodney Stuart (5-3, 5.25), and IF Juan Cordero (.294/11/44). Grade on losses: nothing of consequence
Signed CF Benny Vincente (.235/0/12, 24 SB) and a couple of their own FA's. Grade on the 1 addition: B+
Overall off-season grade: A (if what I think they've done is correct)
Outlook: The Dodgers appear to have improved their team defense dramatically just by putting the correct players in the correct positions (I say "appear" because it's not certain until they actually do it in the regular season). Last year, shortstop was mostly a debacle shared by natural 3B Andrew Wathan (.953 fielding %, 13 bad plays) and natural 2B/3B/CF Kosuke Takada (.935 fielding %). When light-hitting Fernando Thomas manned SS, he managed a .981 fielding % and 6 good plays. Good move #1: it looks like they've turned over SS to Thomas. Good move #2: signing Benny Vincente to play CF. Last year's CF position wasn't as big a mess as SS, but it could use improving (Takada and Quentin Blair combined for 11 bad plays, and Blair kicked it around to the tune of a .932 fielding %). Vincente will fix all that. If Vincente hits nothing and they need runs, they can turn to Season 31 IFA Jair Cortez in CF - he's pretty much a clone of Takada defensively and will outhit Vincente by a mile.
Hitting and pitching-wise, I expect the Dodgers to come in about where they did last year - upper 2nd-half for both. But with a much-improved defense and a few breaks, LA could surprise.
Division Outlook: I like the Rockies to repeat again, although I it wouldn't surprise me if either the Giants or Dodgers or both made a race of it. It's probably going to be easier to win this division than claim a wild card.