By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo)
The 2015 MLB season is near, so it’s time to start projecting how things will shake out. Let’s get right to it, here is the National League West preview. The teams will be listed in order of how I expect them to finish.
Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68)
How is he not the most exciting player in baseball?
I don’t think this year’s Dodgers are quite as good as the squad that won 94 games last year, but it’s still a frightening opponent any day of the week. They have the best pitcher in the game in Clayton Kershaw, and a former Cy Young behind him in Zack Greinke. The rest of the rotation is solid as well, and that will be the strength of this club in 2015.
The lineup took a hit when it lost Matt Kemp within the division. He was a big bopper for them in 2014, and losing a player capable of hitting 30 home runs is tough to replace. The man taking his spot will be Joc Pederson, a big time outfield prospect who smacked 33 home runs and stole 30 bases at Triple-A last season. That’s a lot to expect from a rookie, but if he is great out of the gate he can lessen the sting of losing Kemp.
Brandon League rebounded from a gross 2013 to put together a nice campaign last season. He’ll be able to hold down the fort while L.A. waits for Kenley Jansen to heal up. Once back, the Dodgers bullpen shouldn’t have too many issues holding leads.
San Francisco Giants (88-74)
The defending champs return their most important players from last year’s World Series team–ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner and catcher Buster Posey–but will be missing arguably their most popular player, “Kung-Fu Panda” Pablo Sandoval. Luckily for San Fran, Sandoval may not be as irreplaceable as he seems.
Well at least in the regular season.
The Panda hasn’t hit .300 since 2011, has never topped 16 home runs, and has a tendency to miss time although he did remain healthy last year. Casey McGehee isn’t going to make fans forget their portly third-sacker, but he can lessen the blow.
The Giants’ lineup is lacking in power, but it is competent from top to bottom in a division of teams with glaring strengths and weaknesses. Behind Bumgarner in the rotation is a deep crew of veterans. Matt Cain will be the most important of these veterans; He’s posted a 4.00 or higher ERA in each of the past two seasons, but has a history of being a workhorse with excellent control. If he can regain it, then the Giants will push L.A. for the NL West crown.
San Diego Padres (77-85)
The Pads remade the roster this offseason, and at the plate they should be miles better than they were last year, when they ranked dead last in runs per game. Adding powerful hitters like Matt Kemp and Justin Upton will make them far more potent, and those are two hitters that shouldn’t fear PETCO Park’s caverns too much.
Adding James Shields was a huge move too, making this rotation competitive with any in baseball.
So why third? Defense. Upton is not a good defensive outfielder, and Kemp was shockingly bad last year in L.A. In fact, he was so bad they had to remove him from center field, which created tension and added motivation to move him and clear room for Pederson. Alexi Amarista is the only projected everyday starter that was a plus defensively last season, and when you play in a ballpark that suppresses offense, being able to prevent runs becomes very important. San Diego won’t be near the top in that sense, and that puts pressure on Wil Myers to really live up to his potential right now.
Colorado Rockies (66-96)
Great with the bat AND the glove
The reason the Rockies are ranked this low are health and pitching. Offensively, this team could lead MLB offensively if the lineup stayed healthy. SS Troy Tulowitzki never does though, and neither does OF Carlos Gonzalez. Together they may form arguably the NL’s scariest one-two punch, but extended, frequent DL stays ruin things. Surrounding those two pillars are exciting players like 3B Nolan Arenado and OFs Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon. If these guys stay out of the trainer’s room WATCH OUT!
Then you look at Colorado’s pitching though, and Jorge De La Rosa is the No. 1, and Latroy Hawkins is still closing. It’s hard enough to pitch at Coors Field as is, but when the club enters the season with subpar talent from the outset, they’re handcuffing themselves.
Arizona Diamondbacks (64-98)
There’s some cool stuff going on here, but for the most part this team has the look of a non-factor. Paul Goldschmidt is a kraken in this lineup, but he’s surrounded by unproven talent like A.J. Pollock and Yasmany Tomas, or flawed hitters like Mark Trumbo (peep his OBP for the past two seasons).
The starting rotation looks bleak, even if Jeremy Hellickson develops into something resembling a No. 1. Addison Reed has great stuff, but he was too hittable at times last season; Brad Ziegler is there to take over the job if Reed stumbles, but he’s no great shakes himself. Overall, the D-Backs have nothing to hang their hats on, and that’s why they will struggle.