The National League West has been a toss up division in recent history. The trend will continue this season. Despite the Giants winning the World Series last year, this division is up for grabs. The Giants made a fantastic playoff run last season and brought the National League West a World Series trophy.
The Giants will have to work extremely hard to repeat their miracle run of 2010. The Rockies and Dodgers will pose as big threats to the Giants. The Padres and Diamondbacks should also be a thorn in the Giants side this year. I am fully expecting the National League West to be a tight race until September. I think that a certain team will stand out in September and go on a fantastic run to clinch the division. It will be an exciting division.
1. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies had a mediocre season last year. They finished 83-79, and they lost the last eight games of their season. That losing skid at the end of the season wiped the Rockies' playoffs dreams away. This team was talented last year, but they couldn't put it all together.
One of the Rockies biggest headlines in 2010 was the emergence of Ubaldo Jimenez as a dominant pitcher, or not. Ubaldo had an amazing first half of the season last year; his first half success was up there with legendary pitchers. After his great first half everything went downhill. It seemed as if Ubaldo lost "It". He was still a solid pitcher, but he was nowhere near the ace that the Rockies needed him to be.
Ubaldo will be the Rockies Opening Day starter this season, with good reason. This kid has great stuff and a great makeup. If he can capture even just 50 percent of his success in the first half of 2010, then the Rockies will be satisfied.
There is not that much talent behind Ubaldo in the Rockies rotation. Their rotation is definitely not bad, but I think that it is in the middle of the pack. Jorge De La Rosa is a fantastic No. 2 starter, and I believe that he will build on his success from last season.
Jhoulys Chacin, Jason Hammel, and Aaron Cook follow De La Rosa in Colorado's rotation. The end of the Rockies rotation can either be good or bad. It's simple as that. Know one exactly knows what to expect from Chacin, Hammel, and Cook. They can either push this Rockies rotation over the top, or do the opposite.
Although those three pitchers are extremely important for the Rockies this season, Jimenez and De La Rosa are the two key pitchers in Colorado's rotation this season. If Jimenez pitches like a true ace and De La Rosa complements him nicely in the rotation, then that will drastically improve the Rockies playoff chances.
The Rockies lineup is above average. Troy Tulowitzki is a legitimate MLB superstar, and he will lead this team on offense, but last year, he got some unexpected help. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez had a breakout season last year. He showed that he can be one of the league's top five-tool players.
It is going to be interesting to see how Gonzalez performs this season. Last season might have been a fluke or a sign of things to come. Gonzalez will be key to the Rockies this season. Their success will depend heavily on him.
I personally believe that Gonzalez will have another great season this year. I believe that because he had a fantastic OBP last year. His OBP was .376, and that shows that he adjusted to the pitchers adjustments to him, and he knows how to make his way on the basepaths. And when he is on the basepaths, he is a thorn in every pitcher's side. He stole a total of 26 bases last season.
The rest of the Rockies lineup is not bad. The Rockies are hoping that youngster Dexter Fowler plays up to his potential. They are also hoping to get another solid year from their veteran Todd Helton. Colorado's lineup should be one of the better ones in the league this year.
The Rockies bullpen isn't exactly a strength, but they do have a great closer in Huston Street. Their bullpen lacks depth, but Street should make up for that. The bullpen will lose some games for the Rockies this season, but not a staggering amount.
Overall, the Rockies are a very good team. They have their share of superstars, but they also have a good amount talent surrounding them. This team should be in close contention all season, but pull off a Rockie like hot streak and make their way into the playoffs.
Key Batter: Carlos Gonzalez
Key Pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have a very balanced team this season. Their pitching has the potential to be fantastic, and their lineup is above average. Clayton Kershaw is looking to take a big step this season. The sky is the limit for Kershaw, and if he can live up to his potential, then he will become one of the most feared pitchers in the league.
Chad Billingsley also has a lot of potential. When Billingsley first came to the bigs, many Dodgers fans saw him as the team's future ace. Unfortunately Billingsley didn't live up to his potential, but he still is a great young pitcher in the league.
Billingsley is better fitted as a number two or three starter. He will be the Dodgers number two pitcher, and I believe that he will do great in that role this season. Kershaw and Billingsley will give the Dodgers a dynamic one-two punch for many years to come.
The Dodgers made a smart move and re-signed Ted Lilly this offseason. Lilly is an underrated pitcher and he fits very well in the Dodgers rotation. Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla will fill out the rotation at the four and five spots, respectively. That is not the sexiest rotation out there, but it is very solid and reliable.
The Dodgers' offense will not be overly good this season. They have lost a little bit of their deepness on the offensive side of the ball. Although their offense has recently took a bit of a dip in my opinion, they still have a great nucleus of young sluggers.
Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Andre Ethier are all great young players for the Dodgers. If all of those guys stay healthy and play up to their potential, then the Dodgers offense should be above average this season.
The Dodgers will have a bunch of veterans in their starting lineup this season. Rod Barajas, Casey Blake, Marcus Thames and Juan Uribe will all most likely be in the Dodgers Opening Day lineup this season. Those four guys are a little old, and the Dodgers are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with at least two of them. If at least two of those four guys pan out, then the Dodgers should be in good shape.
This upcoming season is going to be crucial for the Dodgers shortstop, Rafael Furcal. Furcal used to be one of the top shortstops in the league, but he has been experiencing a steady decline in production in the past three years.
He is going to be 33 years old this upcoming season, and he is hoping for a bounce back season. If Furcal can have a solid season, then he will help the Dodgers mightily.
The Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton is a fantastic pitcher. He is accompanied with Hong-Chih Kuo and Matt Guerrier in the Dodgers bullpen this season. Kuo and Guerrier are solid late inning pitchers. The Dodgers bullpen should be above average this season.
The Dodgers will miss Joe Torre, but I think that this team is ready for a great season. If this team catches a couple of breaks this season, then they will contend in their division this season. I'm not sure if the Dodgers will be good enough to win their division, but they should be in the race for most of the season.
Key Batter: Rafael Furcal
Key Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw
3. San Francisco Giants
I surprised myself by putting the Giants here in the standings, but I really don't believe that this team will repeat their success this season. I'm not trying to take anything away from the Giants' spectacular season last year; the Giants and their fans totally deserved their World Series title last season. I even believe that everybody should have the Giants as the team to beat this season. The defending champion should always be the team to beat, regardless of the situation.
The reason why I don't believe that the Giants will compete this year is simple. I don't think that they will catch as many breaks as they did last season. San Francisco caught lightning in a bottle last year with many players. Cody Ross, Juan Uribe, and Aubrey Huff all had surprising seasons last year for the Giants.
The truth is that not all of those three players will repeat their great 2010 season. Buster Posey is also a question for the Giants this season. He had a dynamite rookie campaign last season, but there is always the possibility of a "sophomore slump". I personally think that Posey will have a great season this year, but that doesn't mean that the Giants will have a great season.
Pablo Sandoval will be key for the Giants this season. He has showed that he can be a great player, but he has been hurt by inconsistency. If Sandoval can play up to his potential and be consistent, then he will give the Giants a much needed boost.
The Giants strength this season will once again be their pitching. Tim Lincecum is arguably the best pitcher in the league, and Matt Cain is a fantastic number two pitcher. Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner, and Barry Zito fill out San Francisco's rotation.
The Giants will hope for Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito to build upon their solid 2010 seasons. Madison Bumgarner has been one of the Giants highest touted prospects. He has a great makeup, and he was pretty good in the playoffs last season. Bumgarner will be key for the Giants this season. If Bumgarner can pitch up to his potential, then he will make the Giants starting pitching so much better.
I would not be surprised if the Giants win their division this season, but I also won't be shocked at all if they finish in third. This team has a great coach, a lot of a heart, and a lot of confidence. But that can only take you so far.
Sure, last year it took them to the World Series and they won, but that was with a bunch of breaks that went their way. I'm not taking anything away from the Giants World Series victory. I'm just saying that I don't believe that the Giants will catch as many breaks this season then they did last season. It might be a long season for Giants fans.
Key Batter: Pablo Sandoval
Key Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner
4. San Diego Padres
The Padres are an interesting team this season. Last year, San Diego won 90 games and shocked everyone. This year might be very different. The Padres lost their lone superstar player, Adrian Gonzalez, this offseason. With Gonzalez gone, the Padres lineup is a lot worse than it was last year.
The Padres made a lot of moves this offseason. The Gonzalez trade headlined all of them, but the Padres made some other big moves this offseason. They acquired Cameron Maybin, Orlando Hudson, Brad Hawpe and Jason Bartlett, and Ryan Ludwick will have his first full season as a Padre.
The Padres messed around with a good thing, but you can't blame them. They had no choice but to trade their superstar Gonzalez. This is a small market team, and it's tough for them to maintain their star players.
Some of San Diego's acquisitions were really good ones. I like that they got Maybin. Maybin has so much potential, but he just hasn't lived up to his potential. A change in scenery might be what he needs. I think that Maybin will have a breakout season, and it will turn out to be a great move for the Padres.
The Padres lineup will most likely be below average. It won't be horrible, and it should put up a decent amount of runs, but the National League West has a lot of great pitching, and I'm not sure if the Padres can compete with them.
Pitching was the Padres strength last season. Many small names stepped up in big ways. I'm pretty sure that the Padres pitching won;t be good as it was last year. A lot of people are expecting another big season from Mat Latos. If Latos can pitch like a true ace, then he will at least give the Padres a legitimate ace. If he falters, the Padres will be in deep trouble.
This Padres team isn't horrible, but they are simply not good enough to compete with the rest of their division this season. Padres fans should still have a lot of hope though, this team proved everyone wrong last season. Will they do it again? We will see.
Key Batter: Cameron Maybin
Key Pitcher: Mat Latos
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks have had a rough past couple of seasons. The D-Backs are just not that good this season. Their offense and pitching are below average, and it will be extremely hard for them to compete this season.
The D-Backs will have an exciting outfield this season. Justin Upton is one of the top young players in all of baseball. The sky is the limit for this kid, and a lot of people are expecting a huge season from him. Chris Young is also a nice young outfielder for the D-Backs. Those two players should keep D-Back baseball exciting.
The Diamondbacks don't really have any other big offensive threats behind those guys. Kelly Johnson will look to repeat his strong 2010 season; his performance will be key to the D-Backs this season. Stephen Drew will also be looking to have a great season this year.
The Diamondbacks pitching is a little weak, but I am expecting big things from Joe Saunders this season. Zach Duke might also play up to his potential and help strengthen the D-Backs lineup. J.J. Putz will be the Diamondbacks closer this season and he is looking to revive his career.
Diamondbacks fans will have some things to look forward to this season, including the All-Star Game. Arizona will be hosting it, and I won't be surprised if Justin Upton plays in the All-Star Game this season. The D-Backs just aren't talented enough to win the division this year, but they should be an exciting team to watch. Much better days are ahead for the Diamondbacks and their fans.
Key Batter: Justin Upton
Key Pitcher: Zach Duke