Spring season is at its midpoint which means the regular baseball season is just around the corner. Now, the spring season cannot be trusted to be a predictor of how the regular season will play out, but it can tell us how players are feeling going into the start of a new baseball season and developments that occur in March can impact how a team performs during the season’s beginnings.
Though some divisions look to be pretty clear in terms of who’s competing and who will occupy the basement, the NL West may turn out to be the most competitive division in MLB. The reigning World Series champions occupy this division as well as perennial contenders who would be threats to capture any division. Without further ado, here’s a look at the NL West.
San Francisco Giants: Some people think the Giants won’t repeat as champions for 2015 due to the Giants’ success for even years and lackluster play for odd years. This author believes the Giants won’t repeat because repeating is extremely difficult. It also doesn’t help they lost fan favorite Pablo Sandoval to the Red Sox during the offseason and have a shaky starting pitching lineup. Madison Bumgarner is without question an ace, but the rotation looks puzzling when you get past the 2014 World Series MVP. Matt Cain has struggled throughout the spring and is still in recovery mode from shoulder surgery going into the regular season. Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson are big question marks and it looks like former 2-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum would operate better as a reliever than a starter at this point of his career. On offense, a breakout season from Joe Panik could even out the loss of Sandoval, but the loss of Hunter Pence for the beginning of the regular season due to a fractured forearm won’t help the lineup. Expect the Giants to contend but fall short of clinching the division. They may claim a wild card spot, but an unlikely series of events would have to occur for San Francisco to see themselves in the Fall Classic again.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Winning the division isn’t an option for LA. It’s a requirement. The 1-2 combo of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke top off a stellar starting rotation. Joc Pederson has looked excellent this spring, which is good news for the Dodgers since part of the reason for trading Matt Kemp to San Diego was the notion that Pederson would begin to emerge as a starter for LA. The addition of Yasmani Grandal, Howie Kendrick, and Jimmy Rollins brings veteran experience to the Dodger squad and should help Pederson, Yasel Puig, and other young players mature. The bullpen is still the major weakness for the Dodgers, and only the regular season will show if any improvements have been made. This is a team that’s built for success and has the spending power to add or drop anyone they feel won’t help them get to the Fall Classic. Fans will settle for nothing less than an appearance in the World Series.
San Diego Padres: On paper, the Padres actually look like a formidable team. They made moves in the offseason without losing a significant portion of their prospects by adding Matt Kemp and starter James Shields. When Kemp is healthy and at his best he’s still one of the better hitters in the league and although Shields is on the wrong side of 30, his presence can only enhance an already stacked pitching squad. The problem with Kemp is his tendency to end up on the disabled list. The Padres’ offense needs Kemp to be healthy in order for the trade to pay off and herein lays the major issue with the moves the Padres have made. They’re calculated gambles that won’t be known if they’ve paid off or not until the regular season is over. Look for the Padres to improve from last year, but fall short of threatening the playoff hunt.
Arizona Diamondbacks: The most interesting thing about the D’backs this spring is the battle for spots in the rotation. Right now, only Josh Collmenter and Jeremy Hellickson are lock-ins for the starting rotation. It looks like Andrew Chafin will likely start as a reliever if he is to play in the majors this year. The franchise doesn’t want to risk overworking one of their top prospects. The D’backs will be expecting to improve, but not enough to contend this year.
Keep an eye out for more preview posts throughout the week.
p.s. The Colorado Rockies: pppsssshhhhhhh