My list looks exactly like the standings at the end of last season. There may be some shifting around towards the bottom of the division, but the main story will be Giants vs. Dodgers. Who will take the top spot? The rest of the NL West needs to figure out how to compete consistently.
1. San Francisco Giants (Keep Rollin): The Giants stole my baseball heart last year after beating my Reds. They kept their team together, resigning Scutaro and Pagan. The starting rotation should be Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum, Zito, and Vogelsong with Sergio Romo as the closer. What’s not to like? Real teams win in baseball, so I’m picking them to edge out the Dodgers for the top spot in the NL West again this season.
2. LA Dodgers (New Owners, New Expectations): A $230 million payroll is a dream for the players, but it also comes with pressure. Injuries and late trades with the Red Sox and Marlins negatively affected the team last year. They are so deep with starting pitchers in Spring Training, they will have to release at least one. Will Greinke deliver on the other side of LA? Ramirez, Gonzalez and Kemp have to stay healthy and slug away. It’s put up or shut up with the Dodgers this year.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks (Addition by Subtraction): So, Arizona has cleared out the perceived bad apples and prima donna’s (Upton and Young), although they won’t say it publically. No reason to stay where they don’t want you. With Kirk Gibson as the skipper, they wanted some “Put your head down and play the game” kind of players: Cody Ross, Martin Prado, Adam Eaton. Their bullpen is better than the Padres, so that’s why they are 3rd on my list. They remain underdogs this year.
4. San Diego Padres (Spinning the Positives): The small market Padres have been hit with the PED bug. Catcher Yasmani Grandal will be suspended for the first 50 games of the season. Shortstop Everth Cabrera and newly acquired relief pitcher Fautino De Los Santos were on the Biogenesis PED list released this year. Who knows what will come of that. San Diego has Silver Slugger Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin as big bats. They need their starting pitchers to stay healthy this year. I’m not expecting much from the Padres under the PED cloud.
5. Colorado Rockies (Learning Curve): The Rockies have a new first year manager, Walt Weiss. He was a former shortstop with the Rockies, but he has never coached in the majors. The good news is their batters are healthy right now (Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, etc.) and maybe they can keep it that way long enough to rack up a few wins.
Next week, the Central divisions.