Last but not least, the NL West.
The Dodgers should be able to defend their title as champs. Offensively, they are a sound team. Andre Eithier and Matt Kemp continue to shine and produce. They were also successful last year when Manny was out for 45 games. James Loney is a great first baseman while Russell Martin remains one of the best well rounded catchers in all of baseball. Pitching is coming along as well. One of my favorites, Chad Billingsley, should lead the charge and become the ace of this staff. Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda will also produce 8-12 wins to help move this team along.
The D-backs are loaded with offensive talent. Even ex-Osprey outfield Gerardo Parra was able to get into the mix last year. Over the 120 games he played, put up a .290 average and 60 RBI’s. The offense is riddled with young, talented players that have been around this organization for awhile. Justin Upton, C.B. Young and Chris Jackson will all return to start in the outfield. Watch out for Mark Reynolds at third, as he is becoming one of the best hot corner players in the game. The pitching staff starts with Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson. Don’t forget about Brandon Webb. He was injured all of last year, but will look to come back at full strength, rumored sometime around May.
Colorado is the next logical fit in this division. I am generally not a fan of their pitching staff,primarily since they play a mile high. But last year, this talented staff was able to hold off most of the competition and performed well. Look for a repeat of last year from Jimenez, Cook and De La Rosa. Brad Hawpe is trying to fill the offensive shoes of Matt Holliday, while Troy Tulowitzki continues to have a brilliant start to his young career.
The California teams will round out the rest of this division. The Giants do not offer much in terms of defense or hitting. They have a great pitching in Tim Lincecum, and decent #2 in Matt Cain but that is about it. Zito has yet to return to his glory numbers for the A’s. Offensively you have Aubrey Huff and the ever versatile Pablo Sandoval, and the sometimes powerful Aaron Rowand. They will be able to beat the Padres, but not sure about the Rockies or D-Backs
Take away Adrian Gonzalez and I am not sure who else you have to choose from for offense. Tony Gwynn jr. is coming along nicely, but still has a long career ahead of him. They have other talented players, but none appear to have the power to protect Adrian. Pitching wise, it is not pretty. You have Jon Garland and Chris Young, but there are bright spots in Clayton Richard and Kevin Correia. I don’t see much here to take over the west this year. But the AL West is a competitive division, thing will shift and change in the coming seasons.