February 6th, 2015
Some MLB teams are more balanced than others. In my opinion, every club could still use a tweak, a nudge or even a transfusion to get them off life support. Today, I begin my look at the unfinished business of the National League. The West is up first.
General manager Dave Stewart has indicated that his Diamondbacks are fairly set behind the plate. As things now stand, they will begin Spring Training with Tuffy Gosewisch as the starter and Rule 5 selection Oscar Hernandez as the back up catcher. After making his declaration, Stewart did sign veteran Gerald Laird and he is a non-roster invitee to Spring Training. The job will ultimately belong to prospect Peter O’Brien. He still has work to do on his defensive game, but O’Brien is an exciting offensive player. I look for him to wear a big league uniform at some point this season. I really like Tuffy, and maybe the club does have enough catching. But I remain concerned.
Speaking of catching, I’m among the many concerned about the nosedive performed by the Rockies Wilin Rosario last season. Never a good defensive catcher, his offense has always kept him in the lineup. But his bat tanked last year and the club has doubts. Nick Hundley waits in the wings. For me the problem begins and ends on the Coors Field mound. Somehow, the club has to get the baseball to home plate when the opposition hits during home games. That’s a shame. I think they’ll always have unfinished business on the mound. The humidor has helped but elevation, wind tunnels, and a huge outfield landscape are tough elements to overcome. If they could play only offense at home they would be World Class. But they have to pitch and play defense. Those are the rules.
For me, the Dodgers are far from perfect. Yes, I think the defense has improved with Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick up the middle. But the power has taken a hit with the loss of Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon. Each has the ability to score runs and/or knock in runs. But the pitching is still sound. Especially if Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson deliver the goods at the back of the rotation. Third base is an issue for me. And while I like Joc Pederson as a center fielder, my jury on him must remain out until at least the middle of the season. So yes, questions still remain. The bullpen? I think they could have some hiccups. But the team is still way good.
As much as I really like what the Padres have done and continue to do, I think some gaping holes remain to be filled. I’m concerned about third base (Yangervis Solarte) in particular. And I don’t see much third base depth. I’m also not nuts about Wil Myers in center. But I do like the depth they have there with Will Venable and Cameron Maybin. If they remain with the club. Who knows, they may be part of a future trade. I think we’ll see one more starter and an additional third base option before too long. Is there a James Shields in the future? How about Cole Hamels? I’m just askin’.
The Giants never cease to amaze. But I think the pitching is the huge question. Or questions. I really believe they need one or two more starters in case Matt Cain can’t come back or Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy grind to a halt. And Tim Lincecum is penciled in as the fifth starter. The starting pitching? Yikes. And the 6th and 7th guys in line may be Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit. The pitching picture is blurry. But don’t ever count them out. Just count me concerned. They always find a way and every time we write them off, along comes the front office with a mid-season rabbit flopping out of their caps.
Overall, I’m not making any predictions yet, but I do think some of the flaws could be fatal. Wounds can be addressed. Direct hits to the heart from two feet away could spell doom. And that’s my concern with pitching depth. For me, pitching carries the day in parks like Coors Field and Chase Field. AT&T, Petco and Dodgers Stadium are more forgiving. I look at games played at both Coors Field and Chase Field with a jaundiced eye. That’s where pitchers have to keep the ball down and in the park. So for me, when I make my predictions this coming spring, pitching will factor heavily in the NL West equation. I don’t think what we see now is what we’ll get in April or even in July. Remember, the season is only half over in mid-July. That’s when lots of clubs strike (like the Giants) with their best late season moves.
Hope springs eternal-we are less than two weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training. Are you ready? Man, I am. And so is my wife. Get my drift?
Thanks of reading my “On The Cusp” series on MLBPipeline.com. And thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.