If you are going to prognosticate and likely do a poor job of it, you might as well start by shaking up your Magic 8 Ball and thinking about the National League West division first. It may very well be a 2 team race out West, but I would not want to put money on the line in trying to pick a winner. The Giants finished 8 games behind the Diamondbacks last season, but the Giants also get back a healthy Buster Posey. Too close to call?
- Arizona Diamondbacks (92-70) – The Diamondbacks bested the Giants by 8 games last season, but this year should be a lot closer. Maybe guys like Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, and Josh Collmenter regress slightly, but the addition of Trevor Cahill could be significant. With an improved Giants team in the division, I don’t see the Diamondback getting to 94 wins again, but 90-92 should get them into the playoffs.
- San Francisco Giants (90-72) – The Giants should be able to improve significantly on the measly 570 runs scored from 2011, and they still have the pitching to repeat the 578 runs allowed at the same time. Can the Giants compensate for the loss of Carlos Beltran and Cody Ross? Maybe, but it really is difficult to imagine that adding Melky Cabrera and a healthy Buster Posey will push them past the Diamondbacks. Granted, an improving Brandon Belt could be the wild card, but playing Belt at first base pushes Aubrey Huff to either the bench or an outfield spot. The team should have a bit more pop this season, but I don’t think they have improved enough to completely close the gape with the Diamondbacks. Besides, they still have Barry Zito, and the anchor that is Zito just keeps increasing the drag on payroll flexibility as the years go by.
- Los Angeles Dodgers (81-81) – Based on their projected opening day roster, this looks like a team that will be lucky to finish at .500. The Dodgers simply did not make any major moves during the offseason, and there is little to be excited about beyond Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. I expect a little regression from Kemp this year, and even with Kemp having an MVP-type season, the Dodgers do not project to be all that great.
- Colorado Rockies (68-94) – When your staff ace is out until at least July, you probably aren’t going to tread water. Yes, the 2011 Cardinals managed to pull it off, but the Rockies are not the Cardinals, and they play in a tougher division. Also, Todd Helton is about 45 and still absolutely raking for an old man (in baseball terms).
- San Diego Padres (66-96) – If the Padres are serious about building for the future, then it is completely reasonable to expect them to be cellar dwellers for a few years. That may not necessarily be a bad plan for the long term, though. The team lacks a true ace right now, but they have a lot of #2 to #4 starters who can at least make things interesting. Unfortunately, the team probably won’t score a lot of runs to back those starters, and I believe the trade of Mat Latos takes away some of their edge and attitude as well. Too bad, because they were really compelling in close games, especially when you consider the bullpen they had last season with Luke Gregerson, Heath Bell, Mike Adams, and Ernesto Frieri. Just. Plain. Filthy.
That’s it. Diamondbacks, Giants, Dodgers, Rockies, and Padres with the Diamondbacks taking the division and the Giants in the thick of the wild card hunt.
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