Each team's MLB website has a nice feature called "Depth Chart." I decided to start there. Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory has ZiPS projections for all the NL West clubs and I've relied on much of that material for this post. You must check out those links--the ZiPS material is really fun, it's got more personality than you'd think. I've included noteable CHONE projections from FanGraphs as well, as that system tends to be less optimistic than the Bill James stuff. In a Brian Sabean-position player world it is always smart to plan on injuries, age-related declines, and substandard performances. We'll go by order of finish in 2009: LA, CO, SF, SD, AZ.
But before we begin, here's a pithy quote from Dave Cameron of FanGraphs:
However, we need to make a distinction: projections are not predictions. Projections are information about what we think we currently know, while predictions are speculation about things that we probably cannot know.
One of our favorite things about being baseball fans is making predictions. And if you've got predictions, RMC wants to hear 'em. These, lads, are projections. They are cold, cruel things, based on rational minds and empirical data sets. They are not romantic or fanciful. There's enough romantic fantasy in baseball, wouldn't you say? Think about it--would you even be a Giants fan if you had no capacity for dreaming the impossible dream?
(Depth Chart: ZiPS. I have 4 OF for some and 5 for others.)
LAtriners: Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Jason Repko.
This is a scary bunch. Kemp and Ethier are two players any club would kill to have. Both young and both studly. CHONE says Manny will only play 114 games and get fewer than 500 PAs but that he will still rake (.280/.374/.511). His age and fielding drop his WAR to 2.8 but he still puts up a 139 wRC+. Add in 130 OPS+ each for the other two and that is a formidable trio.
Crockies: Seth Smith, Carlos Gonzalez, Brad Hawpe, Dexter Fowler, Ryan Spilborghs.
A solid if unspectacular bunch, but with depth and flexibility. OPS+ projections are 117, 104, 116, 90, 97 across the board. CHONE sees Smith as a 130 wRC+ and 2.3 WAR player and Hawpe as a 129 wRC+ and 2.2 WAR player.
GIANTS: Mark DeRosa, Aaron Rowand, Nate Schierholtz, John Bowker.
Note that I've dropped Fred Lewis and Eugenio Velez. CHONE and ZiPS project Fred as a 103 wRC+ (1.3 WAR) and 104 OPS+ guy (.274/.352/.427) but he's persona non grata in the Bochy-verse so I've "cut him loose." Schierholtz (.289/.325/.459, 103 OPS+) and Bowker (.269/.338/.434, 102 OPS+) have similar ZiPS lines, but CHONE likes the Dirtbag (115 wRC+, 2.1 WAR) better than the Olympian (107 wRC+, 1.6 WAR). We need one of our youngsters to step up and deliver--we know what Rowand will do, he's consistently Mr. Average (96 wRC+), and DeRosa is consistently Mr. Slightly-Above-Average (105 wRC+). Boring. They are really boring. Sure, there's a 1-in-5 shot that they'll exceed "average" and reach "very good," but I'm not banking on that. Let's hope we get some flash and sparkle from the youth brigade.
Puds: Kyle Blanks, Scott Hairston, Will Venable, Aaron Cunningham, Anthony Gwynn.
The ZiPS stuff is out-of-date--it still has Brian Giles on the roster. The only thing notable about this bunch is that Will Venable's dad, Max, was a Giant. Oh, and the Gwynn kid. Seriously, San Diego is hurting. That has to help the Giants. Of course, we were 8-10 against them last season.
Snakes: Conor Jackson, Chris Young, Justin Upton, Gerardo Parra.
CHONE says Justin Upton is a 3.8 WAR player (138 wRC+). Mr. Upside! This guy is the real deal and he is only 22. Live by the youngsters and die by the youngsters is the motto in AZ. The mercurial Chris Young was demoted last year, and cannot seem to live up to the organization's expectations. CHONE says he'll put up an 89 wRC+ but Bill James sees more (110 wRC+). Conor Jackson, the old man of the group, put up fine seasons in 2007 (115 wRC+) and 2008 (118 wRC+, 3.4 WAR!), but illness and injury devastated his 2009. ZiPS sees a .278/.357/.441, 103 OPS+. Obviously the D-backs will rely on the number one pick of the 2005 draft and hope the rest of the youngsters can deliver Rowandesque or DeRosean quality in much younger bodies.
That's my quick-and-dirty survey of the men patrolling the vast greenswards of the NL West. "Greensward" is a Miller-ism, he pops that one out in many a broadcast, perhaps that's the sort of thing that helped his Frick case. Congrats to Jon M. regardless! He's a silver-tongued one, to be sure, and we are lucky to have him manning the booth.