2016 MLB Preview: National League West

2016 MLB Preview: NL West

T. S. Eliot once remarked that April is the cruelest month. One of the ways in which that's true is it's the opening of the MLB and a few teams that have no chance of winning the Big Enchilada will have brilliant opening months. But, Alexander Pope was also correct when he wrote, "Hope springs eternal in the human breast." I'm as guilty of this as anyone. Each year at this time I launch into my MLB predictions—a bit of prognostication with as much likelihood of being accurate as running the bracket for the NCAA basketball tournament.

Have I learned my lesson? Of course not! Here we go, starting with the National League East. Here's my order of predicted finish:  Giants, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Rockies, Padres.

10, 12, 14 and 16
The San Francisco Giants win in even years and my calendar says 2016. They are betting that Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardizija are better pitchers than their records suggest and that Matt Cain's injuries are behind him. That's hoping for a lot, but a staff headed by Madison Bumgarner still looks better than anyone else's in a year in which the NL West is poised to return to its status as MLB's worst division. The SF offense, spearheaded by Posey, Belt, and Crawford, isn't fearsome but will get the job done.

If the Giants falter, for the first time since it snowed in Phoenix, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a shot at the division, though it would require breakout years from a few guys to complement the magnificent Paul Goldschmidt—an MVP candidate—and A.J. Pollock. But stealing Greinke from the Dodgers was a coup and I like the upside of Patrick Corbin. But it says here that the pitching is too thin and that a roster headed by Red Sox flops like Miller and De La Rosa won't get it done. I'll say second, but fourth wouldn't surprise me.

For once, the Los Angeles Dodgers don't come close to have to having a fearsome henhouse of hurlers. There is perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw and then not much: hot/cold Scott Kazmir, an untested Japanese import (Maeda), a so-so Korean who missed all of last season (Ryu), and still-wet-behind-the-ears Alex Wood. Not enough. What date do you have in the annual "When Does Puig Become a Distraction" pool? I've got July 1. I like Adrian Gonzalez and Corey Seager, but then it's a steep falloff. And, yes, that includes Joc Pederson, my vote for the most overrated prospect in the NL.

The Colorado Rockies held onto Carlos Gonzalez for the moment, Gerardo Parra is serviceable, and Nolan Arenado is a star in the making, but the Rox are always several pieces short. Pitching? All one needs to say is that Jorge De La Rossa (9-7, 4.17) is the ace and Jason Motte the closer. Ouch!

Last year a lot of people (not me!) saw the San Diego Padres as a possible playoff team. Nobody feels that way now. They have exactly one guy that another team would give major prospects to acquire: pitcher Andrew Cashner, and his stock is falling. Things are so bad in San Diego that Fernando Rodney is the closer and management is considering a swap of bad contracts: James "Longball" Shields for Pedro Sandoval. Who in their right mind wants the Beluga Panda?  If things go very well the Pads will stay out of the basement, but I'd not wager on that!

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