Welcome to the land of pretty ocean sunsets, marine layer and thin air. Three of the teams in the National League West play in pitcher's parks while the other two play in two of the best hitter's parks. Factor that in when you vote for best lineup in the division.
Key question: Is Don Mattingly going to have Yasiel Puig hit leadoff?
It appears so. He hinted as much earlier in February. Puig did have the better on-base percentage than Carl Crawford, and Crawford also can't hit left-handers anymore (.206/.261/.290). Considering Crawford's days of stealing 50 bases are also long past, his value as a leadoff hitter has diminished. Moving Puig there would be a creative idea, although I suspect if he turns into a 30-homer monster he'll move back down in the order.
Yasiel Puig, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Alex Guerrero, 2B
But should Crawford hit second? Certainly not against-left-handers. Mattingly wants to maintain left-right balance, but managers obsess too much over that. For example, say Kemp starts the season on the DL and Ethier is in center. Against right-handers, Ethier should be higher in the order than Uribe, even if that means finishing the lineup with three straight right-handed batters. Why? Because Ethier is a better hitter than Uribe. Worry about beating the starting pitcher, not matchups that may happen in the late innings.
For all the talk about the crowded outfield situation, nobody really mentions that Crawford and Ethier should both be benched against left-handers. Ethier hit .221/.275/.338 against left-handers in 2013, and that's about what he's done for several years now. You can argue that Scott Van Slyke deserves to start against lefties at least in place of Crawford. But with all the big egos I'm not sure Mattingly is ready to make it five guys for three positions just yet.
Key question: Where does Mark Trumbo hit?
With his ability to hit 35 to 40 home runs, the inclination is to bat him cleanup behind MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt. That's not really the best use of resources, as Trumbo's sub-.300 OBP means he's better suited for a lower spot in the order.
Gerardo Parra, RF
Martin Prado, 3B
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
Mark Trumbo, LF
Aaron Hill, 2B
A.J. Pollock, CF
Kirk Gibson has a lot of flexibility here. Parra could lead off against right-handers with Pollock assuming that role against lefties, with Cody Ross perhaps getting time in right field. Prado or Hill could hit second. Gregorius and Owings could platoon at shortstop. The D-backs do need a bounce-back year from Montero to provide a little more left-handed power.
With all the various injuries last year, the Diamondbacks used 138 different lineups (not including pitchers). They may do that again, but hopefully because Gibson will maximize his creative possibilities. He has the ability to form some positive platoons and keep everyone rested. And don't bat Trumbo cleanup.
Much better, that's for sure. Posey hit .325 with a .931 OPS in the first half, .244 and .643 in the second. Belt hit .260 with a .784 OPS in the first half, .326 and .915 in the second.
Angel Pagan, CF
Marco Scutaro, 2B
Brandon Belt, 1B
Buster Posey, C
Hunter Pence, RF
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Gregor Blanco, LF
Brandon Crawford, SS
By the end of the year, Bruce Bochy was going Belt-Posey-Pence-Sandoval in the three through six spots so that's what I listed here. I also listed Blanco in left field ahead of Morse because when things are all said and done I'll predict he plays out there more often. It could end up being a good platoon: Blanco with defense and decent OBP against righties, Morse with power against lefties (if he actually stays healthy).
Scutaro had another good year at the plate, hitting .297 with a .357 OBP and more walks than strikeouts. He's not a bad No. 2 hitter, but he's not a great one either since he has little power (two home runs) and he's now 38. He does, however, fit the old-fashioned image of a second-place hitter with bat control. However, in 2014 you want more power from that spot in the lineup. I'd probably go Belt-Pence-Posey-Sandoval in the two-through-five spots.
Key question: Will they score 700 runs for the first time since 2007?
Petco Park doesn't help, but the Padres haven't finished higher than 10th in the NL in runs scored since ranking ninth in 2007. They haven't ranked in the top half of the league since ranking eighth in 2004.
Everth Cabrera, SS
Will Venable, RF
Chase Headley, 3B
Carlos Quentin, LF
Jedd Gyorko, 2B
Yonder Alonso, 1B
Nick Hundley, C
Cameron Maybin, CF
Considering the Padres ran out 145 different lineups in 2013, it's almost pointless to project their batting order considering they also have Chris Denorfia and Seth Smith, who should see a lot of time in the outfield, with Smith perhaps battling Alonso for time at first base as well. There is potential here: Can Headley produce stats closer to his 2012 numbers? Can Gyorko improve upon a solid rookie season? Will Yasmani Grandal get a shot at catcher? Will Quentin stay healthy?
The Padres are hoping for an A's-like success story in the lineup. Maybe there isn't one big star here, but there are no glaring weaknesses. You do wonder if it's time to punt on Maybin. He missed most of 2013 with wrist and knee injuries and his career batting line is now .248/.311/.370 in nearly 1,800 plate appearances. They may be better off giving center field to Venable and Denorfia and working Smith and Kyle Blanks into right.
Key question: Who is going to hit leadoff?
Well, that's not exactly clear yet. Walt Weiss has basically outlined his lineup by announcing Michael Cuddyer will hit second, followed by Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Morneau and Wilin Rosario. Gotta maintain that right-left-right thing at all costs!
Cast of thousands, LF/CF
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Carlos Gonzalez, CF/LF
Troy Tulowitzki, SS
Justin Morneau, 1B
Wilin Rosario, C
Nolan Arenado, 3B
Gonzalez could end up in left or center, or both, depending on what happens between Charlie Blackmon, Drew Stubbs, Corey Dickerson and Brandon Barnes in spring training. The lineup could also change against left-handers, with Cuddyer moving to first base and one of the backup outfielders moving to right. At least, that's what should happen, since Morneau hasn't hit lefties in recent years.
I can't really argue against that lineup too strongly, even with the leadoff spot unsettled. Blackmon, Stubbs and Dickerson all have their pluses (and negatives) so Weiss may able to mix and match. Stubbs has the longest track record and continues to struggle against righties, so he looks like an obvious platoon bat, maybe with Dickerson, who has hit at every level of the minors. Blackmon had 49 strikeouts and seven walks with the Rockies. Don't be fooled by that .309 average; he's not that good.