It Is the West, and Barry Lamar is the Sun 

Happy new year to all. After two months of hot stove action, ESPN.com has posted its projected starting lineups and rotations for each team. Let's take a look at their projections for the NL West, compare each team to the Giants, and make some snarky comments.

(In order of last year's finish)


ESPN's projected starters

Mirabelli c
A. Gonzalez 1b
Barfield 2b
Greene ss
Castilla 3b
Klesko lf
Cameron cf
Giles rf


- Where's the leadoff hitter? I guess Khalil Greene (.349 OBP in '04, .295 OBP in '05) or the untested rookie Josh Barfield would get the nod. Without Dave Roberts in the lineup, the only other fast, high on-base guy is Brian Giles, and he certainly won't be leading off.

- Castilla and Mirabelli are about as bad at the bottom of the order as, well, Feliz and Matheny. Maybe worse. Cameron is a decent bat but not an offensive centerpiece.

- Defense: The infield should be fine if Barfield and Gonzalez are as spry as they are young. (If Bellhorn gets starts at 2B, the defense will suffer.) In the outfield , Cameron will make up for some of Klesko's foibles, and until I hear to the contrary I'll assume Giles is good enough.

Compared to the Giants...

The lineups have some similarities. Reliance upon aging stars (Bonds/Alou; Klesko/Giles). Unproven first basemen. It doesn't speak well of San Diego to say I'd rather have Feliz than Castilla as my everyday third baseman. If Klesko has another off-year, this lineup could be the worst in the division.


C. Young
Stauffer? Estes?

As my granpappy used to say, "Williams and Peavy and the rest is skeevy." Even worse, Williams turns 40 next summer; does he have anything left in the tank? The bullpen is the strength: Hoffman closing and Linebrink setting up. Otherwise, this team doesn't scare me at all.


ESPN's projected starters

Estrada c
C. Jackson/T. Clark 1b
Hudson 2b
Counsell ss
Tracy 3b
Gonzalez lf
Byrnes cf
Green rf


- Eric Byrnes is just a placeholder for Chris Young, acquired in the Vazquez trade. The more he placeholds, the better for the division. Byrnsie shouldn't be playing CF, and he shouldn't start against right-handed pitchers.

- Counsell will probably lead off, which again is good news for the division. His lifetime OBP is .346, decent but not elite, and he doesn't have the power to make up for it.

- Once again, aging sluggers. This time it's Gonzo, Green and Clark. Green hasn't slugged .500 since 2002. Gonzo is 38 and coming off his worst year since he came to Arizona. Conor Jackson may supplant Clark full-time. Chad Tracy is the only slugger on the rise.

- Defense: Gonzo and Green have had shoulder injuries, though both rebounded defensively in '05 according to BP's Rate2. The infield will have one superior glove in Hudson.

Compared to the Giants...

The D-Backs offense isn't anything special, and their outfield defense could almost be as bad as the Giants'.


O. Hernandez

Webb can be a genuine ace. I love El Duque, but he's 52 years old and shouldn't be counted on for more than 100 innings. Russell, as Dusty used to call him, sucked early last year, went on the DL, then came back and sucked some more. He could be a pitch away from major surgery. Batista is a great poet. In the bullpen, Valverde oscillates between unhittable and throwing 0-2 pitches down the middle to Pedro Feliz. In other words, the D-Backs need their old sluggers to slug and their bright young prospects such as Stephen Drew and Chris Young to hurry along, 'cause the pitching staff is going to need lots of help.


ESPN's projected starters

Navarro c
Nomah 1b
Kent 2b
Furcal ss
Mueller 3b
Cruz lf
Lofton cf
Drew rf


- Furcal and Lofton (or Mueller) at the top of the order is a potent combo, probably the best in the division.

- Kent/Drew/Nomah in the middle is a roll of the dice; Colletti is betting on health where there hasn't been much in recent years. (Odd that the only full season of J.D. Drew's career came at the cusp of free agency, no?)

- Navarro could be a .300 hitter in the 8-hole.

- Defense: Outfield could be great depending on Lofton's skills (conventional wisdom says he's weak; BP's Rate2 says he's still above average); infield will be excellent on the left side, weak on the right side.

Compared to the Giants...

If every Giant and Dodger stayed healthy all year, the Dodgers arguably would have the offensive advantage at several positions. Nomah over SweeNiekro, Kent over Durham, Furcal over Vizquel, Mueller over Feliz, Drew over Alou, Navarro over Matheny. Bonds is better in LF, sure, and maybe Winn over Lofton, but it looks more like the Giants' key to winning the division is to take out Stan Johnston with extreme prejudice.


O. Perez

I can see Penny becoming a true ace, reeling off a Cy Young type season. Lowe and Perez, on any given night they can throw a great game, but I don't see any long-term advantage over the Giants top three or four. Bullpen: Gagne is the NL's best if he returns to form. D. Sanchez could be great set-up, Brazoban could go either way. If health and luck fall their way, and Billingsley becomes this year's Matt Cain, the Dodgers may run away with the West.


Todd Helton
Todd Helton
Matt Something
Deer Meat

Are they still going to wear those purple-and-gray pinstriped atrocities? Or the shiny silver-and-black sleeveless tops? Change the unis, guys, and maybe I'll care.


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