The National League West lacked a clear-cut favorite to win the division for most of its recent history. That changed though in 2009 when the Dodgers were expected by almost everyone to win the division. The addition of Manny Ramirez really put them up and above their competition. The Dodgers did go on to win the NL West, but it was a lot closer than anyone had expected. Teams such as the Giants and Rockies proved that they were capable of contending with the Dodgers last year. The Dodgers had to use every ounce of their ability to come away with the NL West, and I feel that the race will be just as close as it was last year.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are one of the most complete teams in the MLB. They have quality players at almost every position. If that's not good enough, they have one of the best managers in all of baseball, Joe Torre. The Dodgers really didn't change the team up this offseason; their biggest pick-up was Vicente Padilla.
Padilla is part of the Dodgers weakness. The Dodgers pitching should be interesting to watch this year. They have two young pitchers at the top of the rotation in Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw. I am very big on the philosophy that you never know what you'll get from a young pitcher. Even though I believe that, I think that these two pitchers will be fantastic this year. They have fantastic stuff, and a great offense behind them that could be a cushion to most of their little mistakes.
Behind those two guys is where the real weaknesses start to show. The Dodgers have yet to decide on their fifth pitcher, but their third and fourth are Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla. Those two guys aren't the best pitchers, but I think if they are consistent for the Dodgers and pitch decent games then they will not hurt the team. Like I said earlier, the Dodgers strong offense may really help out their pitchers when the going gets rough.
Manny Ramirez might be playing his last year for the Dodgers, and I think he will put on a show before he leaves "MannyWood". He is past the whole PED (performance enhancing drug) situation and that means that his mind should only be on baseball. That is always a great thing for Manny, since when he is dedicated to the game he is one of the best players you will ever see.
Manny isn't the only weapon for the Dodgers' offensively. Guys like James Loney, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Russel Martin are all superb hitters. All of those guys can change any game with one swing. The Dodgers' bullpen is also very good. They have a bunch of established guys in the pen' and it's even better that they got Jonathon Broxton to close out the games for them. If the Dodgers play up to their potential then they will be a force to be reckoned with.
Key Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw
Key Batter: Manny Ramirez
2. San Francisco Giants
The Giants will be a very interesting team to watch this year. They have very nice pitching, but their batting is what gets people concerned. The Giants pitching rotation will be led by young phenom, Tim Lincecum. Lincecum has yet to hit his prime yet already has two Cy Young awards under his belt. That is one impressive feat, but Lincecum won't be the only young phenom in the Giants' rotation. Matt Cain will be pairing up with Lincecum for another season. Both of those pitchers give their team a chance to win every single day that they are on the mound.
Lincecum and Cain will do well, but what about the other three pitchers in the rotation? Barry Zito, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner will make up the Giants pitching rotation behind Lincecum and Cain. Barry Zito will probably put up above average numbers but nothing stellar. It should be interesting to see how Sanchez performs in 2010.
I think that if he hadn't thrown that no-hitter, he might not be in the Giants starting rotation right now. It's a great story, but it seems like it's only a matter of time before he wakes up from his little dream. Or not, anybody with the ability to toss a no-hitter against a major league team has some talent. If Sanchez can harness all of his abilities and really focus he should put up acceptable numbers with a few stellar starts here and there. As for Madison Bumgarner, the kid is really young, but he has plenty of talent. I'm expecting some average numbers from him this year with a lot of inconsistency. He might not have the year he wants, but his future is bright. The Giants can afford one of their pitchers to have a rough year. Lincecum and Cain will more than makeup for those pitchers' woes.
The Giants offense problem looks like it may become less of a problem this year. Mark Derosa was a huge addition for the Giants this offseason. He brings a great bat to the team and a ton of versatility. As of now he is going to be the Opening Day left fielder, but with a guy like Derosa your position can always change. I think that his bat will help the Giants offense, and Pablo Sandoval should have another great season this year. Bengie Molina will also provide a solid amount of home runs for the Giants this year. He will also continue to help control the pitching staff very well. I think that Freddy Sanchez will be a big part of the Giants offensive success. If he can continue to get on base, the offense will be solid, but if not, the Giants offense may face some problems. All of those guys are very talented and the team should put up enough runs to compete. After all, the team's pitching is so good that they don't even need to put up that many runs.
The Giants bullpen was very good last year, and I expect the same this year. Sergio Romo, Brandon Medders, and Jeremy Affeldt all had fantastic seasons last year. If those guys can continue to pitch like they did last year then they should anchor the Giants pen'. The Giants also have a great closer in Brian Wilson. Brian Wilson always seems to get the job done. He has that bulldog mentality and great skills to go along with it. He will close out many games for the Giants and help them compete with the Dodgers.
Key Pitcher: Tim Lincecum
Key Batter: Freddy Sanchez
3. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies have given their fans a roller-coaster ride in the recent past. They made it all the way to the World Series in 2007, but fell apart in 2008, and then made the playoffs in 2009. The roller-coaster ride will continue for the Rockies and their fans. I think that they will have a solid record and a whole lot of positives but they won't make the playoffs. The Dodgers and Giants look too strong for the Rockies to compete with.
It seems that they have all the right pieces, but unfortunately for them so do the Dodgers and the Giants. The Rockies team is just one big question mark. Last year they started off horrible but then put together an unbelievable run to win the Wild Card. At the start of June the Rockies were 20-30. At that point of the season it really seemed like the season was over. The Dodgers were 35-18 and leading the Rox by 13.5 games, but everybody knew they weren't going to win the division. the Wild Card was still reachable, barely, but it still was.
The Rockies were 8.5 games back in the Wild Card, but the team never gave up. During this terrible streak, the Rox fired their manager and hired a new one. What a great way to change up a team, really. The Rockies started to play fantastic baseball and they refused to lose. They were on their way to clinching the Wild Card. That was last year though.
This year, you can either see the bad Rockies or good Rockies. There's really no other way to say it, and even if they do start off slow but get hot late it won't be as easy as it was last year. They will have to put up with the Dodgers and Giants. You may say that they did that last year, but now the Dodgers will have Manny with them and the Giants are just a better team.
It's going to be a crazy season for the Rockies. I think that there will be a lot of ups and downs, but it will end with one big down. They will not make the playoffs, but they still shouldn't give up. They have a good amount of young talent and I could see them winning the NL West as early as next year. If all the right moves are made Rockies fans will have nothing to worry about.
Key Pitcher: Aaron Cook
Key Batter: Troy Tulowitzki
The D-Backs have a lot of talent, but most of it is young. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. It is mostly good because young talent is what builds dynasties. Though it seems like a positive, it can't be good when there is too much young talent on a team for the present.
It's so hard to argue against too much young talent, but I'm sure everyone knows what I mean. A team with so many youngsters usually lacks leadership and smarts. Many mental mistakes are made with young players, even the most talented of them. Swinging at bad pitches and poor baserunning can happen to veterans too, but it definitely happens a lot more to young players. Young players are also very streaky. They can be hitting fantastic one series, but then hit a major slump for the rest of the month.
I think that this was the Diamondbacks biggest problem last year. Even though they have those problems, they have the best one-two punch in the MLB. Brandon Webb and Dan Haren are two of the best pitchers in the game and it's hard to believe that they are in the same rotation. Those two guys will get a lot of wins for the team, but it won't be enough. The future is extremely bright for this team though.
Key Pitcher: Brandon Webb
Key Batter: Mark Reynolds
The Padres are in the middle of a rebuilding period and rebuilding teams don't usually do well. The Padres are a mess right now. They are most likely going to get rid of Adrian Gonzalez, one of there few guaranteed productive players. If they trade Gonzalez then they will be appropriately asking for a lot of talent back.
The trading of Gonzalez is going to be crucial to the future of this team. If they can trade him for a whole lot of young talent then this organization might not be down for a really long time. Kyle Blanks and Mat Latos are bright spots for this team, and they should do pretty well this year. Other than those two however, I don't see anybody else the Padres' front office can build a team around. Maybe Chris Young can help them in the future, but I think they would be better off trading him for more young talent.
At this point, the Padres' front office has little to no room for mistakes with their moves. The Padres have to focus on acquiring young talent and if they do that, they will have a good shot of getting back up, and not make losing routine for a long time.
Key Pitcher: Mat Latos
Key Batter: Kyle Blanks
I hope you are enjoying my predictions for the 2010 MLB season, if you have any questions please ask in the comment section. I will be more than happy to answer them.