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2011 NL West All-Star Team and Division Preview

March 28, 2011

The NL West will be a close division this year what with two of the game’s best pitching staffs (LA and San Fran) and some of the game’s best young stars (Tulowitzki, CarGo, Kemp, Upton). San Diego seems to be worse off than last year after losing Adrian Gonzalez and coughing up the division late last year. Arizona has a good offense and its pitching is young and promising but not enough to compete in the division yet. The Rockies have a solid core of young players but too many holes in their lineup, noticeably first, second and third base, should prevent them from competing all the way to the end.

C: Buster Posey, San Francisco – Posey is by far the best catcher in the division and even a sophomore slump wouldn’t change that.

1B: Aubrey Huff/Brandon Belt, San Francisco – As of now Huff is likely the opening day starter at first base, but that could change quickly. Regardless whether or not Huff or Belt, who put up a monster .352/.455/.620 line in the minors last year, plays the majority of the time at first this season won’t matter. The other first basemen in the West are below either Huff’s or Belt’s talent level.

2B: Kelly Johnson, Arizona – Johnson posted career-highs in runs, homers, RBIs and slugging percentage last year in his first year in the desert. He offers the most power out of any NL West second baseman.

3B: Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco – A lot of under-performing youngsters or middling veterans in the NL West at third bsae. But Sandoval should bounce back from a bad year.

SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado – A no-doubt pick here. Despite playing in only 122 games last year Tulo finished in the top two in homers, RBIs and average among shortstops.

OF: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado – Little Pony finished in the top three in homers, RBIs and average among all outfielders last year in only his first full year. A little regression may come his way this year, but his power and speed are legit.

OF: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles – The first Dodger on the list had a “down year” last year but still hit a career-high 28 home runs, topped 80 runs and RBIs and stole 19 bases. With Joe Torre gone and Rihanna off to some other guy Kemp should rebound and pick up where he left off in 2009.

OF: Justin Upton, Arizona – Andre Ethier has been the more consistent right fielder in the NL West, but Upton’s 162-game averages (159 hits, 23 homers, 80 RBIs, 16 SB) are great. And he’s only 23 years old with plenty of room to grow.

SP: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco – The two-time Cy Young winner had his worst professional year last year but won 16 games and hit the 200 strikeout mark for the third year in a row.  A strong playoff run bodes well for Lincecum’s 2011.

SP: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles – Kershaw, 23, has placed in the top four in batting average against the past two years, and he’s worked on his main buggaboo – wildness – by improving his WHIP and K/BB throughout his three major-league seasons.

RP: Brian Wilson, San Francisco – A little uncertainty here with Wilson as he might open the season on the DL, but his main competitor, Heath Bell, could possibly be traded during the season if the Padres fall out of the race. Wilson will have plenty of chances to rack up saves this year once he gets healthy.

Projected standings

  1. Los Angeles 89-73
  2. San Francisco 88-74
  3. Colorado 85-77
  4. Arizona 75-87
  5. San Diego 73-89

Division MVP – Clayton Kershaw – It’s hard giving it to a pitcher, and I was leaning toward Tulowitzki but with me projecting the Dodgers to win the division and the Rockies to get third I needed to go with a Dodger. I expect Kershaw to have a monster year.

Division Cy Young – Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw wins the NL Cy Young. … Justin Upton goes 30-30. … The Padres score the fewest runs among NL teams. … The Dodgers lead the majors in ERA.

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