For the past few days we’ve been previewing the 2013 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League West.
The National League West will be portrayed by many as two alpha teams (the Giants and Dodgers), a beta team (the Diamondbacks) and a couple of pretenders (the Padres and the Rockies). This is, we feel, an unfair characterization.
The Giants are an alpha team as all defending World Series champions should be. Their pitching is great, their offensive leaders are young and in their prime and they are managed by one of the steadier hands in the game in Bruce Bochy. The Dodgers, due to all of their payroll expansion and star power, may very well be too, but there is a lot of uncertainty with that team in terms of injuries and in terms of how all of those disparate parts can come together. After all, much of that star power didn’t gel in Boston, so it’s not a given it will gel in L.A.
The Diamondbacks are a talented bunch, but they too are suffering from injuries and it remains to be seen if their focus on hard-nosed, gritty character guys like Martin Prado and the like will work as well as having insanely talented young sluggers in the fold like Justin Upton.
The Padres are being undersold, we believe. They lack star power but they have youth on their side and many players who can be expected to improve. Maybe not a playoff team, but not an also-ran either. We believe they may surprise.
The Rockies, well, OK. They’re the Rockies and probably don’t have the pitching to compete. It’s the same old story in Colorado now as it has always been.
Below are our team-by-team previews for the NL West as well as our HBT Extra feature on the division. Enjoy.
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.