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N.L. West Fantasy Preview

Troy Tulowitzki

Within this division rests the World Series champions, Coors Field killers, ace pitching studs, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The best team in the division isn’t even the one with the most highly regarded fantasy talent, which can only speak volumes for the division’s depth.

San Francisco Giants

The reigning world champions’ biggest strength is it’s rotation where staples like Tim Lincecum will once again be highly coveted commodities. The offense is nothing to scoff at either as a mix of the old and young look to provide some pop to your team.

Buster Posey (C)

The N.L. Rookie of the Year impressed by hitting .305 with 18 HR and 67 RBI in 108 games. Posey posted two months where he hit 7 home runs, so he definitely has that power potential. Still only 24, Posey has the chance to be fantasy’s best catcher in 2011.

Aubrey Huff (1B, LF)

Showing he still has gas left in the tank, huff put together a comeback season of .290/26/86 with 100 runs scored. His skill set was very similar to his tremendous ’08 season. While others worry about age, just use that argument against them to let Huff drop a couple extra rounds.

Other Hitters

  • Pablo Sandoval (1B, 3B) -Kung Fu Panda can’t hit lefties (.227) and can’t hit on the road (.208). However, two huge months in 2010 prove he still has the skills to make it happen.
  • Andres Torres (CF, RF) - Looks like a decent bet for 20-20 on paper, but he never had that power in the minors, so be careful.
  • Cody Ross (CF, RF) - Will jump a few rounds thanks to huge 2010 postseason, but power is on the decline. Don’t overpay.

Tim Lincecum (SP)

It took a bad May (4.95 ERA, 23 BB in 36.1 IP) to slightly throw off an elite season. Assuming he keeps the free passes down, we will see the Cy Young version of Lincecum this season. A run at 20 wins, sub-3.00 ERA and 230+ K’s look like a certainty.

Matt Cain (SP)

Cain has become a model of consistency with his 4th straight season of 200+ IP and sub-4.00 ERA. He holds steady skills with great K/BB and BB/9 with a solid K/9 just above 7.0. There are no holes in his game and he’d can easily be the anchor of your staff.

Other Pitchers

  • Jonathan Sanchez (SP) - I won’t bet on another 3.07 ERA, but I will say high 3.00 with K/9 over 9.0. Just watch out for those walks (96 last season)
  • Madison Bumgarner (SP) -The kid has excellent control and induces plenty of groundballs while still growing in the strikeout department.
  • Brian Wilson (RP) -Oblique strain likely to prevent him from making opening day, but when he gets back, Wilson is an elite closer with the K’s, groundballs, and K/BB worthy of the best. All hail The Beard!

San Diego Padres

Ok, so Adrian Gonzalez has left town, which means the offense is lookin’ slim this season. While it is true that you won’t be jumping through hoops for Padres hitters, you can still find great deals on pitching.

Hitters

The only guy on this team who has a legit shot at 20 HR is Ryan Ludwick, and still nobody should draft him. I know it looks like I am just half-assing this section, but seriously, here are a list of names on this offense: Will Venable, Jason Bartlett, Brad Hawpe, Cameron Maybin, Orlando Hudson, and Chase Headley. Would you seriously consider having any of those players start for your team? I didn’t think so.

Mat Latos (SP)

His first full season produced elite stuff as Latos gave owners a 2.92 ERA and 14 wins. He strikes out just over a better per inning and his GB rate was a robust 45%. While the Padres wanted to limit his IP last season, they let him off the leash for over 185. I wouldn’t dwell on the workload, this kid is for real.

Other Pitchers

  • Tim Stauffer (SP, RP) - Great as reliever and starter. Ridiculous GB rate of 55% could yield incredible results.
  • Heath Bell (RP) - Last two seasons: 2.32 ERA, 10.63 K/9, and 89 saves. Need I say more?

Colorado Rockies

I’ve been playing fantasy baseball since 2004 and as far as I can remember, this is the first time that two Colorado players will not only go in the first round, but in the top six.

Carlos Gonzalez (LF, CF, RF)

How legit is he? Well, we all know that the Coors Factor is a possibility. As we see, Gonzo hit .380 at home and that’s where 26 of his 33 HR came from as well. After his .336/34/117/26 season in 2010, we would be foolish to expect a carbon copy. However, like I said, he is a Coors player, so while the power will remain, I’d expect the BA to drop to the .290-.300 range, but he’s worth the money.

Troy Tulowitzki (SS)

Thanks to his SS-eligibility, Tulowitzki is making a charge for top-3 consideration. Why not? When healthy, Tulowitzki can give you .290/30/90. I will caution that 15 HR and 40 RBI from last season came in his monster September. Then again, Tulowitzki has shown he can be consistently powerful over the course of an entire season, so I wouldn’t be too worried.

Other Hitters

  • Ian Stewart (2B, 3B) - You could do worse at such a shallow position. A legit shot at .250 with 25 HR.
  • Seth Smith (LF) - Awful 2nd half (.192) combined with inability to hit lefties (.154) are putting the 25 HR potential in doubt.

Ubaldo Jimenez (SP)

15-1 with a 2.20 ERA before the break, Jimenez was coasting to the Cy Young. Then his weakness in the free passes department bit him. While Jimenez is god-like with his groundballs and strikeouts, the one hole in his game were the 92 walks (4.2 BB/9 in 2nd half). Still, he’s an elite anchor for your team.

Jorge De La Rosa (SP)

Think of him as a less flashy version of Jimenez. They both have great strikeouts coupled with elite GB%. The only difference is that De La Rosa is more generous with the walks. Other than that, it’s basically the same guy.

Other Pitchers

  • Jhoulys Chacin (SP) - 3.28 ERA in 137.1 IP. Just like Jimenez and De La Rosa, combines the grounders and strikeouts.
  • Huston Street (RP) - While ERA will be over 3.00, which is considered a tad bit high for a closer, he will still get 30 saves.

Los Angeles Dodgers

While the Dodgers have two great hitters you’ll be fighting over in drafts, their rotation seems to be flying under the radar as it has four strong starters worthy of your time.

Matt Kemp (CF, RF)

Kemp snuck his way into first rounds last year thanks to the potential for a 30-30 season. He fell short on those expectations by hitting .249 with 28 HR and 19 SB. Kemp swiped only 4 SB after the break and hit .233. Is this the real Matt Kemp? I’m not sure, but I’m not paying top dollar to find out. My personal verdict: Overrated!

Andre Ethier (LF, RF)

I say Ethier is the better power hitter than Kemp, but he just can’t hit lefties (.247 career, .233 in ’10). He was on his way to an elite season when a broken pinkie in May seemed to mess him up for the rest of the year. Power and hitting legit…except against lefties.

Other Hitters

  • Rafael Furcal (SS) - Take a risk on his health, but if you do, then he will hit .290 with 30 SB.

Clayton Kershaw (SP)

Let’s make it two straight seasons of sub-3.00 ERA and 185+ K’s with Kershaw fanning 212 batters last season. Kershaw had some minor control problems to start the season, with 1/4 of his walks coming in the first month, but he settled down nicely (including cutting down his walks from ’09). Rising K’s, declining walks, and only 23 years old!

Chad Billingsley (SP)

Billingsley had a nice rebound from a disappointing ’09 campaign that saw his ERA rise over 4.00 for the first time as a starter. He produced 12 wins and a 3.57 ERA, but what is noteworthy are his increased GB% and decreased walk totals. We still have not seen his best.

Other Pitchers

  • Hiroki Kuroda (SP) - Third straight sub-4.00 season and he is increasing strikeouts every year.
  • Ted Lilly (SP) - Not flashy, but 3.70 ERA and 170 K are pretty much a lock at this point.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks  for the most part are not worth your time. They do have talent spread around sparingly, but not a lot of players I would feel 100% comfortable with.

Justin Upton (RF)

At the end of the day, Upton failed to live up the hype he set in 2009. He ended up with 17 HR and 69 RBI to go with a .273 BA. A torn shoulder labrum zapped power at end of season, so if healthy there is still hope. If not, he is in danger of walking in brother B.J.’s footsteps of a one season power wonder. Wait a second…

Actually, in B.J.’s breakout 24 HR season, he hit .300 and then followed it up with a disappointing season (9 HR) where he hit .273. In 2009, Justin had his breakout power season (26 HR) where he hit .300 and then followed it up with a disappointing campaign where he hit (*CUE SCARY MUSIC*) .273! Coincidence, or genetics?

Chris B. Young (CF)

Well, things couldn’t get worse than ’09 (.212/.311/.400) and Young bettered himself all around by hitting .257 with 27 HR and 91 RBI. Young also increased his walk total to 74. If he maintains patience and keeps steadily increasing his hitting, then .270/30/90 is not out of the question.

Other Hitters

  • Kelly Johnson (2B) - While I won’t call for another 26 HR, he is still good for .280/20/60 with 12-15 SB.
  • Stephen Drew (SS) - Not worth reaching for, but .275/15/70 within range.

Ian Kennedy (SP)

What we have in Kennedy is a man who does not dominate one single category, but instead delivers respectable stats across the board. He finished on a high note with 1.55 ERA in 29.0 September innings. Kennedy will get you decent K numbers, but he does have a knack for the longball (26 HR allowed). Still young enough to improve and a more than respectable starter.

Other Pitchers

  • Daniel Hudson (SP) -Posted 1.69 ERA after coming over from Chicago. The 45% FB rate points to rise in ERA, but very good strikeout numbers also say that he won’t implode.
  • J.J. Putz (RP) - The New York experiment was a disaster and Putz rebounded with the familiar 2.83 ERA and 10.8 K/9. Will close and has the stuff.

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