Possibly my favorite division in all of baseball, the NL West is chock full of young, explosive talent. With the exception of the Giants, every team is poised to win now.
Winner: Colorado Rockies
Usually there's a cooling off period when a young, hungry team goes on a tear in the postseason, but the Rockies are stacked from top to bottom with great talent.
The new Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki, NL MVP runner-up Matt Holiday, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, the terribly underrated Todd Helton, and some young guys no one has heard of yet lead this lineup in a great hitters' park.
The rotation is set with a great mix of sinker-balling veterans and a couple of hard-throwing youngsters. Plus, they've got two closers finishing games. They win the division, but barely.
Runner-up: Arizona Diamondbacks
These guys are also young, hungry, and full of fire.
They've got two aces in their rotation, three closers in the back of the bullpen, and the lineup is the best young collection of talent in the league, hands down.
What will end up stopping them from winning the division is the large question marks in Eric Byrnes (probably will not hit 20 dingers and steal 50 again), and Chris Young, who has an abysmal OBP for a lead-off hitter. While their pitching will make things hard on opponents, their youth may keep them out of the playoffs.
Overrated: LA Dodgers
It pains me to say it, but I don't think the Dodgers are as good as advertised.
For one, they overpaid, again, for a free agent outfielder (Andruw Jones, who has declined statistically and defensively over the last few years), when they have two future All-Stars in Ethier and Kemp.
They have a little speed, a little power, and a little on-base skill, but not a lot of anything. Mostly, they seem to lack a definition, a team ethos. Maybe Joe Torre can correct that, but who knows.
Their solid rotation and dominating bullpen will get them into a lot of close contests, but their reliance on pricy veteran talent is holding their young guns back and may end up costing them even a bare chance at the division or the wild card.
Unless they start trimming the fat and letting the youngsters roll, they will fall behind and miss the playoffs again.
Maybe Next Year: Dodgers
The same reason they won't win this year is why they'll have to wait until 2009: Overpriced veterans holding up young talent.
I think a collapse this season at any point will spur the front office into ditching Juan Pierre and Nomar Garciapparra and letting Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and Adam LaRoche finally play their way into the lineup. That will spark the offense, the defense, and the pitching into a great team. Watch them in '09.
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