NL West Preview

Yes the Dodgers still have their ownership group, so yes, they will still spend all of the money available to the NL West (besides that which Sabean has stashed away for stupid crappy contracts, or as Brian refers to it as, his emergency supply).

Predicted order of finish:

1) Los Angeles Dodgers

Yes spending all of the money doesn’t always translate to drastic success on the field (just look at Toronto). That being said, LA has gone about stockpiling a ton of talent in key positions. Last year’s rookie sensation Yasiel Puig figures to play a huge role in both the Dodgers success and bringing attention to west coast baseball again this year. Love him or hate him there is little denying that he is quite entertaining on the field. Apparently he’s after the spot that Paul Walker (R.I.P.) left open in the Fast and the Furious franchise with his off the field pursuits as well. As Duane Kuiper recently put it, “He’s fast on the field and off of it.” Besides him, and there is a lot of talent in the LA lineup just nobody tell ESPN. The Dodgers lineup contains Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp (newly put back together and everything), Hanley Ramirez, Juan Uuuuuuuuuuribe, and Carl Crawford or Andre Eithier along with a second baseman and catcher.

But don’t think the happy funtimes in LA end with the lineup. Oooooooh not even close. The rotation includes Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chad Billingsly (maybe), Josh Beckett, Dan Haren and are backed up by bunch of other decent arms or good prospects. Oh you thought we were done? Well nope. The bullpen includes such arms as Brian Wilson, Paco Rodriguez, J.P. Howell and likely closer(?) Kenley Jenson. The weak spot of the Dodger roster is probably that it includes Brandon League (who they actually traded for on purpose at one point).

Prediction: They’ll win the division and could do so fairly easily. They are just too deep for the other teams in this division.

2) San Francisco Giants

This is probably a homer pick. Honestly I have no clue what to expect out of this team. A lot of that depends on how well Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong can pitch this year after struggling-to-sucking all of last year. Tim Lincecum changed his offseason routine for like the 4th year in a row of finding some miracle to return him to his Cy Young form of old (Note to Tim: It ain’t happening. You aren’t gonna throw that hard ever again, so you have to learn how to actually pitch better). They also need Tim Hudson to bounce back off a severe ankle injury. One thing that they don’t need to bounce back is steadying force and emerging staff ace Madison Bumgarner (note: I remember Giants fans totally roasting this pick when it happened a few years ago because “baw, we don’t need another starter, baw.”) Their bullpen, which was so dominant just two seasons ago, has plenty of question marks as well. Chief amongst them is what the hell is up with closer Sergio Romo this spring. Granted it’s Spring Training but slow pitch softball pitchers have had more success at getting outs than he has recently. They also have Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt.

The Giants added Mike Morse for “lineup depth,” or “D.L. depth” or something this offseason. When your big free agent acquisitions are Mike Morse and a coming off of injury Tim Hudson, well you could be in trouble. Buster Posey and Hunter Pence anchor the Giants lineup. They also have a smaller Panda (Pablo Sandoval), Brandon Belt and the better defensively than offensively Brandon Crawford. The Giants will need to hope that Angel Pagan can stay healthy and that Morse (or Blanco) can do something in left field.

Prediction: They might contend for the division for a little while, but will fall off the pace. They’ll probably be in the Wild Card hunt because anyone near .500 anymore is that, but will struggle to get even that.

3) Arizona Diamondbacks

I probably would have put the Diamondbacks second, but just this past week Pat Corbin damaged his UCL and will now get to rehab from Tommy John surgery instead of anchoring the Arizona rotation. Now the Diamondbacks turn to Bronson Arroyo, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy and hopefully not Oliver Perez, will make up the Arizona rotation. On paper that rotation still looked fairly talented until the phrase “hopefully not Oliver Perez,” was uttered. Thankfully for the Diamondbacks the phrase, “Now pitching for Arizona, Heath Bell,” won’t at any point follow up an Oliver Perez appearance, so not all is bad in the greater Phoenix area. They’ll have to have a productive year out of J.J. Putz. They also have David Hernandez, Patrick Collmenter, Joe Patterson and I have already run out of names I recognize out of the Arizona bullpen.

Notorious NL West killer Paul Goldschmidt anchors the Diamondback lineup. They have a stud behind the plate as well in Miguel Montero. Otherwise they have Didi Gregorius, Mark Trumbo, Cody Ross, Gerardo Parra (and his cannon attached to his shoulder), Martin Prado and Aaron Hill. Overall they bring a strange mix of great defense with semi-competent offense and good hitting with bad defense. It will be interesting to see how they’ll mesh and if it’s enough to make up for a rotation that at times might take some lumps

Prediction: They fight with the Giants for .500 and a Wild Card spot. It’s honestly probably going come down to which team sustains fewer injuries.

4) San Diego Padres

The Padres are probably closer to the Giants and Diamondbacks than they are the Rockies. Recently they have been known as a factory of hard throwing sinker/slider right-handed relievers with East Coast prep-school lacrosse team type stereotypical names (Luke Gregerson, Brad Boxberger, etc.). They are now gone and in has come the Jaoquin Benoit and Huston Street type, so expect the Padre bullpen to experience some struggles figuring out it’s new identity with retread pitchers instead of newly minted production line models. In the rotation the Padres will have Josh Johnson, Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner and some guys you probably have never heard of before.

Chase Headley leads the rejuvenated Padre lineup that also includes Carlos Quinten, Cameron Maybin, one of Yasmani Grandal and Nick Hundley, Seth Smith or Will Venable, Yonder Alonso and Evereth Cabrera. Headley was a potential MVP candidate and figures to get even better this year. The one problem with the Padres is they have had plenty of roster turnover since last season, and if they struggle despite Headley playing well again, they might pull the trigger on a trade. That being said, a lot of their moves this offseason have been made to make this team compete now. With the loss of Corbin in Arizona, a fourth place finish would be greatly disappointing, but they are relying heavily on Josh Johnson and Ian Kennedy turning back into their past good form.

Prediction: Honestly I don’t know. If Johnson and Kennedy suck, they are in for a long year. If not, add them into the mix with SF and Arizona competing for a Wild Card spot.

5) Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have always had some type of pitching issues. This came to a head a couple years ago when they went with a 4-man rotation and kept pitchers to 75 pitches with a secondary pitcher going like 40 or so pitches behind him. I don’t know if this had any effect one way or the other on the franchises success but it certainly made Rockies games last about 20 minutes longer than they actually needed to with all the visits and pitching changes. Seriously, pretty sure the Rockies pitching coach and manager got two-for-one deals on hip replacement surgery that offseason. They’ve abandoned that plan and now have Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Brett Anderson, Tyler Chatwood and Franklin Morales headlining their decent (on paper) pitching rotation. The highlight of their bullpen is the fact LaTroy Hawkins hasn’t retired (seriously, I didn’t know either).

Justin Morneau replaces Todd Helton (who did retire) as a solid candidate to take in the DL pool that the Rockies run with their best players including Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Willin Rosario provides some clank in the lineup and some clang behind the plate (translated he’s good at hitting but not so much at catching). Additionally, Michael Cuddyer and Nolan Arenado or Ryan Wheeler round out a decent lineup.

Prediction: The Rockies will do some things well, but their pitching probably lets them down again. They probably won’t be as bad as last year. Oh and their mascot will send about 10 people into a homicidal rage throughout their 81 home games this season.

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