Second Half Preview: NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks
What Went Right: Aaron Hill looks like his pre-struggle self from Toronto, even if you discount his two cycles. After a slow start, catcher Miguel Montero and Paul Goldschmidt have started hitting like they're capable of. Gerardo Parra has gotten more playing time than expected, and remains one of the best fourth outfielders in baseball. Wade Miley has come out of nowhere to become a solid part of the Arizona rotation. Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, and Joe Saunders have been solid enough in the rotation, albeit not dominant. Jason Kubel has played better than expected on an every day basis.

What Went Wrong: Daniel Hudson blew his elbow out, and had Tommy John surgery. Trevor Bauer has been hot and cold in three major league starts this year. Third baseman Ryan Roberts has been putrid. Stephen Drew missed the first three months of the season, and hasn't been impressive in nine games since his return. Prospects Josh Bell and AJ Pollock flopped in short tenures in the majors. Chris Young has struggled offensively since returning from an injury in mid-May. Justin Upton hasn't pllayed up to a superstar level, and the team is thinking of doing the unthinkable and dealing their franchise player.

Best Case Scenario: The pitching staff puts it all together, led by Bauer and Kennedy, and becomes one of the best staffs in the National League. Young and Upton get the offense back on track, and the Diamondbacks storm the top of the NL West and win their second straight division title.

Worst Case Scenario: Bauer continues to struggle. Upton is dealt, and GM Kevin Towers undervalues him and gets robbed on the deal. The Diamondbacks continue to languish in third place, and without a franchise face anymore, questions surface about their long-term future.

Key Player: Justin Upton. The Diamondbacks are listening to trade offers for Upton. Ignoring the fact that this is completely insane, if Upton keeps struggling in the second half of the year, it will have a huge effect on the rest of his career. Arizona could trade Upton for a lesser package if he continues to flounder. By the same token, they *shouldn't* sell for 50 cents on the dollar. Hopefully, Upton rolls out and starts raking this month, and stays in the desert.

Colorado Rockies
What Went Right: Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez are playing extremely well, even if their gaudy offensive numbers are the product of Coors Field. Tyler Colvin is looking at least like a solid platoon bat. Wilin Rosario's power has translated quite well to the majors. Matt Belisle has been one of the top relievers in baseball.

What Went Wrong: Everything else. The pitching staff aside from Belisle has been a disaster, and Jim Tracy's 75 pitch limit for starters is absolutely not helping matters at all. Bringing in Jeremy Guthrie was a huge mistake. Todd Helton looks cooked at first bsae. Michael Cuddyer is hitting, but not well enough to justify his huge contract. Ramon Hernandez got hurt, lost his starting job to Rosario, and is now hanging out in the minors. Troy Tulowitzki is hurt (again). Jason Giambi hasn't recaptured his bench magic from last season. 

Best Case Scenario: The Rockies perform a scorched earth policy on their roster, starting off with Tracy and GM Dan O'Dowd. Every veteran that isn't nailed down is dealt, and the team at least tries to build for the future.

Worst Case Scenario: Tracy keeps his job, O'Dowd refuses to trade anyone, and the team goes into the offseason with a horrendous roster and a terrible management team in place.

Key Player: Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer isn't part of Colorado's long-term future. The Rockies need young pieces, not aging corner outfielders with limited upside. O'Dowd should have never signed Cuddyer, and he should look to move him ASAP. It just makes sense.

Los Angeles Dodgers
What Went Right: Matt Kemp was the best player in the world in April, but has played sparingly since. Andre Ethier was also pretty good flanking Kemp in the outfield. Catcher AJ Ellis has been pretty damn good behind the dish. The rotation has been very good, led by Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. The bullpen has been excellent.

What Went Wrong: Kemp is hurt, Ethier is hurt, and the rest of the offensive pieces have been absolutely awful aside from Ellis. The offense is the only major issue with the Dodgers, but it's a pretty major one.

Best Case Scenario: Kemp and Ethier come off of the DL before the end of July, and pick up right where they left off, hitting enough to power the offense to a NL West title.

Worst Case Scenario: No Kemp + no Ethier = no playoffs. For as great as the Dodgers' pitching staff is, they're not going anywhere without a big bat in the middle of the lineup. If Kemp and Ethier don't come back soon, it could be a long summer for the Dodgers.

Key Player: Matt Kemp, of course. In 36 games, Kemp hit 12 homers (which still leads the team…) and had a 1.163 OPS. He's missed 51 games, and is still third among Dodgers' hitters with 2.3 fWAR. Suffice to say, his impact on LA's lineup cannot be understated, and the Dodgers need him back quickly if they want to win the division.

San Diego Padres
What Went Right: Chase Headley has been one of the best third basemen in baseball this year, both on offense and defense. Carlos Quentin has only played in 33 games, but is second on the team in homers behind Headley. Chris Denorfia has been an amazing fourth outfielder. Huston Street has been good as the closer in 24 innings. Yasmani Grandal has raked in ten games in the majors.

What Went Wrong: Cameron Maybin has taken a huge step back after getting a contract extension. 13 different pitchers have gotten starts due to injuries, including guys like Kip Wells, Jeff Suppan, and Jason Marquis. In case you forgot, it's 2012. Yonder Alonso and Will Venable have also been disappointments on offense. 

Best Case Scenario: The Padres are in a tough spot, because they're not going to contend with this roster, but they don't have many sellable pieces. If they can get good value for guys like Quentin, Street, and possibly Denorfia, they should consider that a success. They can't hang on to players like they did with Heath Bell last year.

Worst Case Scenario: Can it get any worse? Well, if the Padres trade Headley and don't get a top 25 prospect (plus more) in return, I'd consider that a pretty big whiff for the team.

Key Player: Yonder Alonso. When the Padres acquired Alonso as one of the centerpieces of the Mat Latos trade last winter, they expected him to be a mid-range starting first baseman for them for years. This year, he's struggled mightily, and it's not a product of Petco Park either. Can he ever reach that level, or is this just who he is?

San Francisco Giants
What Went Right: Melky Cabrera has apparently signed a deal with the devil, and has somehow improved upon his breakout 2011 campaign. Buster Posey has continued to play like an elite catcher. Angel Pagan has been revitalized with the Giants. Pablo Sandoval has hit when healthy, and Brandon Belt has hit when playing. 3/5 of the rotation has been incredible.

What Went Wrong: Tim Lincecum has an ERA of near six and a half, and just doesn't look right on the mound. Barry Zito is Barry Zito. Closer Brian Wilson threw just two innings before blowing his elbow out and getting Tommy John surgery. Aubrey Huff has been awful (shockingly), and the Giants have gotten nothing offensively up the middle.

Best Case Scenario: Lincecum turns it around, Cabrera keeps getting lucky, and a complete Giants team looks worlds better than their 2010 World Championship team en route to the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: Cabrera hits like he did in 2010 for the Braves, Sandoval can't stay healthy, and the Giants offense looks similar to that of the 2011 team as the Diamondbacks pass them in the standings.

Key Player: Tim Lincecum. He's a two-time Cy Young winner that is being plagued by bad luck (sub-60% strand rate!), bad control (4.66 walk rate), and declining velocity (just a 90.4 mph fastball). Is he hurt, or is this year just a fluke? The final two and a half months of the year will go a long way towards determining if Lincecum is broke beyond repair, or if he just needs some better luck or a mechanical tweak.

Joe Lucia

About Joe Lucia

Joe is the managing editor of The Outside Corner and an associate editor at Awful Announcing. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and is smack dab in the middle of some of the best (and worst) sports fans in the country.

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