This is a 2 team race. The Giants have built it right, and the Dodgers have spent like drunken sailors trying to catch up (although if you signed an 8 billion dollar TV deal wouldn’t you?!) But the other 3 teams don’t have the coin to spend with the Dodgers and aren’t yet near being built like the Giants are. I would love to hype this up and make it sound like it will be more exciting than this, but I really don’t see it.
1. San Francisco Giants – The champs are here! 2 times in 3 seasons and this is now officially the model franchise in the Majors. They walk around with cans of arrogance, spraying it everywhere. They wear pink tights with blue jackets that have giant pins on them that say “Yes, I am a model”. Yet for some reason they don’t get the respect that other 2 time champs have. That pitching staff is just filthy. If Lincecum can get his velocity back (which I honestly doubt), or learn to become an effective pitcher throwing 91-92 MPH, this staff will go from one of the best to scary. If spring training is any indication, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Then the bullpen is almost as scary as the starters. Sergio Romo was untouchable in the playoffs last season and he has the perfect demanor to be an elite closer. And while the offense isn’t great it will improve as guys like Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford get more experience. Nobody in this lineup will panic in a big spot, and most of the time they deliver on cue. Then of course the reigning MVP doesn’t suck either. Buster Posey is Mr. Everything to this team, and that was pretty obvious when you seen the difference between the 2011 Giants and the 2012 Giants. Had he not been injured in 2011, this franchise might be entering this season as the 3 time defending champs. On top of all that they have one of the best managers in the game in Bruce Bochy. Its just simply the best run franchise in MLB.
2. LA Dodgers – All that spending and I only got them 2nd in the division. I’m now scared for my life because the fans at Dodger stadium are HARDCORE! I’ve been to Yankee stadium, it’s mellow compared to the fans that frequent Chavez Ravine. It was 50/50 if I was going to walk out of there or leave in a body bag. Had I been rockin’ Yanks gear that day, I don’t think I would be writing this. Also I was lucky to avoid the bullet that Robinson Cano sent into our seats that day, the 10 year old kid sitting beside us took that one for the team! Anyhow, the Dodgers. I have a tough time believing they won’t get in the playoffs. The pitching is damn good and I’m expecting Josh Beckett to come on a bit this season now that he’s out of the spotlight in Boston. Same goes for Carl Crawford, as long as he’s healthy he will likely have a pretty big chip on his shoulder and get back at least to being somewhat the player he was. If he can then this lineup will be lethal! Matt Kemp is one of the best players in baseball, Adrian Gonzalez can mash, and once he gets back Hanley Ramirez is amazing….when he feels like playing. So they have the potential to be the best lineup in baseball. The staff, if Beckett does what I’m expecting, could be the best in baseball as well. Zack Grienke added to Clayton Kershaw is scary stuff by itself. The bullpen is solid but they don’t have a proven closer and that of course is always a big concern for a team. All the potential is there for this team to be great, but still too many question marks for me to put them ahead of the Giants in the division. I think they’ll need time to mesh.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks – This team doesn’t get any headlines being in the same division as the Giants and Dodgers, but you can’t sleep on the D-backs. This is a well run organization with a lot of really good young talent. I think the lineup will miss the threat of Justin Upton. He had a down year last year but he was still the biggest threat in their lineup. They have some nice bats like Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Hill, and Jason Kubel, but nobody with the talent that Upton had. Little Adam Eaton will miss the first 2 months with a sprained elbow but by the all-star break he should be their full time CF and leadoff man. He is good on the base paths, and in the minors had a .456 OBP so he can get on base. A limited guy who gives you a maximum effort every day. Scouts are very excited about how this pitching staff will look going forward. Trevor Cahill is the key in my opinion. If he can get back to the level he was pitching at for Oakland when he went 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA then this staff will have it’s ace they can lean on. Ian Kennedy comes into the season as their number 1, and Kennedy is nice but he’s not an ace. So they need someone to emerge weather it’s Cahill, Kennedy, or someone else. The bullpen is very good. Putz is great when he’s healthy, Heath Bell struggled in Miami but he’s fine in a setup role, and David Hernandez is pretty filthy. Lefties Tony Sipp and Matt Reynolds aren’t scaring anyone but as long as manager Kirk Gibson uses them right they’ll be fine. This is the one team in the division that is sneaky good. Remember they’re only a year removed from being NL West champs.
4. Colorado Rockies – It doesn’t feel that long ago that the Rocks were the best young team in the game. They had that amazing run to the World Series, of course only to get flat out curb stomped by the Red Sox. But they then came back with a great 2009 season and made the playoffs and seemed to be trending way up. But fast forward to 2013 and it feels like the late 90’s/early 2000’s all over again where they have an awesome lineup but simply cannot pitch. Jhoulys Chacin will be their opening day starter and he has pretty good stuff but he doesn’t know how to pitch yet and certainly isn’t a guy who should be leading a staff. And after Chacin you really can’t say many nice things about the rotation. A lot of lefties….don’t know if they’re really crafty….everyone wants a crafty lefty, you can’t just be a lefty. Then you’re just weird and people don’t like you. The bullpen is a bit better, Rafael Betancourt is a solid closer. He along with Rex Brothers and Matt Belisle make the Rocks pretty safe with a lead past the 7th inning. But I think its safe to say that this lineup will have to score them a ton of runs, and despite that being a pretty tall order they are capable of doing just that. They need to stay healthy of course, but when they are Troy Tulowitzki is an MVP candidate, Carlos Gonzalez is one of the best bats in the game, Wilin Rosario is one of the best hitting catchers in baseball, but I don’t like the lack of speed. Sure Dexter Fowler can fly, but he can’t steal bags. Gonzo led the team with 20 last season. They’ll need to address that if they want to get in the hunt in this division. I doubt they are in the hunt though. I really like some of the guys on this team, but just too many flaws to finish above 3rd.
5. San Diego Padres – This is a pretty well run franchise, but the new ownership has yet to give management the money (even a little bit) to compete with the big dogs in this division. They have finally changed brought in the fences like ownership finally did in Seattle (both parks were tough to hit in during the steroid era let along now!) So we will see what kind of effect that has on the team, but personally I think in the short term it will hurt the Padres more than it will help. They don’t have much power in their lineup to take advantage of a little more hitter friendly park. Chase Headley does, Carlos Quentin does when he feels like it, but the lineup in general isn’t going to intimidate anyone. I like rookie 2B Jedd Gyorko. As of writing this it looked as though Gyorko was going to start the season as the Padres 2B and all this kid does is hit. While I don’t think the new dimensions will help out the lineup much, I think it could hurt this staff. There are some decent arms on this staff, but its far from anything special. Andrew Cashner has the best stuff, but he apparently is starting the season in the bullpen due to an offseason injury to his thumb. That bullpen is very solid though, easily the strength of this club coming into the season. Huston Street had a great season and has been a solid closer for a long time now, Luke Gregerson is one of the best setup men in the game, and Joe Thatcher is a very effective lefty for them. Bud Black has done a good job there with the limited talent he has had, but to get this team to finish higher than 4th would be a shock to me.
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