National League West Preview

Pick anyone except the Padres.

Raise your hand if you picked the D-backs to win the West last year. Now uncross your fingers hidden and tell the truth! It’s baseball’s weakest division, and the Diamondbacks just might win it again this year. Or they might finish fourth. The truth is that anyone, except the Padres, could win it.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Good: They got fabulous years out of Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. Justin Upton emerged as an everyday star (.289, 31 HR, 88 RBI). Miguel Montero appears to be an on-the-verge stud.

The Bad: It’s hard to imagine Kennedy duplicating his 21 wins from last year, the bullpen looks uncertain, and the D-backs will struggle to put up runs. The only upgrade to the offense is Mike Jacobs, and he’s more serviceable than savior.

On the Hot Seat: Aaron Hill, solid or washed up? Stephen Drew (.252 isn’t exactly superstar territory.) The bullpen.

Prognosis: In theory lightening can strike the same place twice. But odds are low.

San Francisco Giants

Good: Affeldt, Baumgarner, Vogelsong, Cain, and the magnificent Tim Lincecum…. Is there a better 1-5 staff in MLB? Pablo Sandoval is a beast.

Bad: This team needs to pitch because it simply doesn’t hit. Aubrey Huff led regulars last year with a pathetic .242 BA. The Giants lost Carlos Beltrán to free agency and didn’t try all that hard to retain him. If Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez don’t bounce back from injuries, the Giants will lose a lot of 2-1 games.

Hot Seat: Brian Wilson, super closer or one-year (2010) flash-in-the-pan? General Manager Brian Sabean has done a terrible job of assembling the lineup. He gave away Cody Ross, who is a fourth outfielder on most teams, but was an offensive threat in this anemic lineup. And there’s no other way of saying it: the Giants had excess pitching, but trading Jonathan Sánchez for Melky Cabrera is a terrible trade.

Prognosis: The same as it’s been for the past five years: If the Giants make it to the postseason they’ll be dangerous. If.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Good: Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley are a fine 1-2. Ted Lilly remains decent. And how about Matt Kemp (.324 39 HR 136 RBIs)?

Bad: Ownership remains in limbo. Subtracting Kuroda and adding Harang to the staff is a net loss. When your middle infield is Adam Kennedy and Mark Ellis there’s lots of hope for kids down on the farm.

Hot Seat: Owner Frank McCourt has his name engraved on the chair. He may have to share it with two guys in the put-up-or-shut-up parts of their career: James Loney and André Ethier, players making stud money and putting up role player numbers. The closer is Javy Guerra. Who?

Prognosis: The Dodgers are a mess, but a mess in the West might just be the best.

Colorado Rockies

Good: Troy Tulowitski–perhaps the best shortstop in the game. Carlos González continues to dazzle. Adding Casey Blake should add some punch.

Bad: Anyone not named above. The pitching staff’s ace last year after Jimenez was traded was Jhoulys Chacin, with 11 wins. Enough said.

Hot Seat: Todd Helton looks to be done. Jorge De La Rosa is coming off injuries and has a $10 million contract. If he doesn’t win immediately, I’d keep a bag packed.

Prognosis: The Rockies have a habit of being a Jekyll and Hyde team. Last year they were Jekyll and Jekyll. Others will have to stumble for them to rise.

San Diego Padres

Good: Not much. Carlos Quentin might rebound out of Chicago. He might also stink. The Padres seek to be the next coming of the 2003 Miami Marlins as they fill their roster with low-wage no-names. It’s hard to see this team jelling this year.

Bad: When the faces of the franchise are Jason Bartlett and ageing Orlando Hudson, the line between optimism and blind faith is obliterated. I know that Cameron Maybin had a good year last year, but I still say he’s the latest can’t-miss prospect who will. Ryan Ludwick led the team with 64 RBIs last year and he wasn’t brought back.

Hot Seat: Edinson Vólquez needs to bounce back or he’ll always be the player the Pads got when they “gave away” Mat Latos. General Manager Josh Brynes might be skating on thin ice as well.

Prognosis: A 100-loss season is not out of the question.


Call it a weird hunch, but I think the Dodgers are the best of a mediocre harvest. But I have no more confidence in the order of my top four picks than if I had drawn them from a hat.

1. Dodgers

2. Giants

3. Diamondbacks

4. Rockies

5. Padres

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