The time has come for the final installment of '08 RAPs. It's been fun doing this, but I'm glad that its time for the season to start.
After covering the Entire NL Western division this week, it is time to make my final predictions for the 2008 campaign. But first, as always, let's break down the division according to pitching and offense.
While the Rockies' ace, Jeff Francis was very impressive in the playoffs last year, in my mind he is nothing more than a good number 3 type guy. Also, the last two spots in that starting rotation are either inexperienced or bad.
The Rockies' young closer, Manny Corpas looks like a stud, however, the rest of the pen, including oft-trade rumored, Brian Fuentes, is anything but a sure thing.
Unless Jason Schmidt returns to top form soon, the Dodgers are in pretty big trouble in their starting rotation. While Billingsly impressed greatly last year, Derek Lowe is getting old and Brad Penny is very inconsistent. That leaves import, Hiroki Kuroda in a position where he has a lot of pressure on him: not good for his first year.
I'm a big fan of Johnathan Broxton as a future All-Star closer. However, if the Dodgers are insistent on leaving aging closer, Takashi Saito in that role, they could be let down by their pen.
The Giants have a very strong, young duo in Lincecum and Cain who they'll be able to rely on for years to come. Also, I honestly feel that Barry Zito will have a tremendous year, with an ERA in the low threes.
Also Brian Wilson and Johnathan Sanchez should do an adequate job in the San Francisco pen.
Brandon Webb and Dan Haren at the head of the rotation sounds a lot better than Brandon Webb and Livan Hernandez. Also, if Randy Johnson wants to reach 300 wins, he must have a good year this year.
While the D'Backs did lose their closer, Jose Valverde, they picked up a more reliable and consistent guy in Chad Qualls. However, if Tony Pena and Brandon Lyon can't pitch as well as they did last year, this bullpen could be a mess.
Last year I thought it would be the Padres year. Everything went well: Jake Peavy and Chris young dominated, the bullpen was scary good, and the Padres had, in my opinion, the best closer in baseball history entering the last game of the season to the prototypical baseball song: Hells Bells, ready to finish off the Wild Card birth. But it all fell apart.
This year, I believe the Pads will once again have a dominant pitching staff.
Not much explanation needed here. Without Bonds, the Giants are nothing.
Outside of Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres have a pretty soft offense. They need Khalil Greene and Jim Edmonds to step up. Also look for Chase Headly to make a big nise.
The time has come for stud prospect, Justin Upton to reach stardom. The Diamondbacks last year had to rely on Chris Young and Eric Byrnes for most of their production. However, this year they should be able to count on Mark Reynold, and all the other young guys.
With Andruw Jones added to a group that includes Jeff Kent, Russell Martin, and James Loney, you have enough for an above average offense. Imagine if Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier excelled as well.
After getting screwed out of the NL MVP last year, expect another huge year from Matt Holliday. Company that with all the other solid, young guys in that lineup and you've got an unbelievable lineup for years to come.
1. Arizona: 95-67
2. San Diego: 84-78, 11 GB
3. Los Angeles: 83-79, 12 GB
4. Colorado: 82-80, 13 GB
5. San Francisco: 65-97, 30 GB
Division MVP: Dan Haren: He will make the difference for Arizona this season.
Runner Up: Adrian Gonzalez
Divisional CY-Young: Brandon Webb: He's solid every year.
Runner Up: Jake Peavy
Well, that concludes '08 RAPs. Looking forward to '09 Raps next year. However, please be here for the first "Game of the Week" tomorrow!