With the Opening Day fast approaching and Spring Training getting underway shortly, this is the first edition of my weekly Division previews. I’ll take a look at each division and each team within that division and give you the basic facts and my predictions.
We will start in the National League out west with the NL West. After producing two playoff teams last season. This division could be up for grabs again. The Giants, the defending champs, the Dodgers, division winners, and the Padres are all teams with a realistic shot to win this division in 2015.
New GM AJ Preller has given this team automatic credibility with the moves he has made this offseason. They will feature a totally new outfield with Wil Meyers, Matt Kemp, and Justin Upton. All three of these guys were brought in through trades and they are all in a good spot to succeed in San Diego. They do have an influx of outfielders, so they may not be done dealing quite yet.
In the infield, they should be pretty set aside from shortstop. Alexi Amarista is serviceable, but he won’t get the production they may want from that position. Jedd Gyorko after coming off an injury plagued campaign in 2014 looks to rebound and breakout at second base for the Padres this season. At third base, Bud Black has some options with either Will Middlebrooks or Yangervis Solarte. This is an underrated infield that may surprise some people this season.
On the mound, their rotation should be solid. With the top three of Ross, Kennedy, and Cashner, they have a formidable top of the rotation with not a big drop off after that with Despaigne and either Brandon Morrow or Josh Johnson. In the bullpen, Joaquin Benoit should be the one to hold down the closers role and they should have enough firepower to set him up in the ninth to hold some teams and get it to the ninth for their best reliever.
All in all, I see this team being very competitive. They have the outfield to cause some havoc in the middle of the order, but outside of that might be a little bit tough to get things going. The Padres have been tied to Cole Hamels which would shore up their rotation that is probably just above average. At the end of the season, I see this team barely missing the playoffs. They have the power in the middle of their order, but the supporting pieces aren’t quite there. This season will be a step in the right direction, but they will fall just short because there are some impressive teams that also play in the NL.
After coming off a World Series last season, this team didn’t lose all that many in terms of personnel. The biggest loss for the Giants will be losing Pablo Sandoval to the Red Sox. He was a big part of what they had been doing the past few years, but they did find a good replacement in Casey McGhee. It was almost his re-coming out party last season with Miami after spending the 2013 season in Japan. He should be able to produce enough to help this team. Along with McGhee, Nori Aoki will become an everyday outfield for this team and provides an interesting dynamic at the plate as he has a similar skill set to Ichiro.
The pitching for the Giants is their strong suit. Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy, and Tim Hudson are at the top of the rotation in San Francisco, which makes them one of the best top threes in baseball. To follow that, Matt Cain will be returning after surgery ended his 2014 season. Ryan Vogelsong also came back on a one-year deal to finish out the rotation. In the bullpen, they have some good arms out there. Sergio Romo, Yusmeiro Petit, and Jeremy Affeldt should pitch some quality innings for the Giants and help them to close out some games.
At the plate, they didn’t lose much if anything. 1-8 in the order will be tough to get an out. Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt will be interesting this year because they will need to step up and provide a little bit more power than they may have in the past. Casey McGhee should fit in well in this lineup because he is very similar to Sandoval who is not on the team any more. But, Buster Posey will always be solidifying the middle of that order.
Even though this is an odd year, I still see the Giants making some noise. They may be able to catch the Dodgers this season at the top of the division and make a run in the playoffs. The only thing that worries me is the age of this team. The pitching staff with Hudson and Peavy has some age on it and injuries definitely do happen. But, with an ace like Bumgarner and great experience will propel the Giants to a 2015 NL West division title.
This is a team coming off a year in which they may have left some things on the table. They only made it to the NLDS and this is a team that may have been capable of a bit more than that. Los Angeles will be hungry to get back in contention and quickly with most of their team in their prime. Kershaw should be ready to continue his tear through the MLB as the arguably best pitcher on the planet right now.
This offseason, the Dodgers have gone out and made some moves in the infield. They acquired former MVP Jimmy Rollins from the Philadelphia Phillies to replace Hanley Ramirez and traded for power hitting second baseman Howie Kendrick from their cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. With Adrian Gonzalez at first, they can get away with an older, more experienced player at third base with Juan Uribe. In return for Matt Kemp who was traded as well, they received Yasmani Grandal who will be in a fight for the catchers spot with AJ Ellis.
Last season the Dodgers faced a problem with their surplus of outfielders. They still have that problem, but they at least saved some money with Matt Kemp by trading him to the Padres. Aside from Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Scott Van Slyke, and rookie Joc Pederson should all see time in the outfield. The real question is, who is going to get consistent playing time?
But, don’t forget about the Dodgers pitching staff, which is full of ace-like talent to follow Clayton Kershaw. The bullpen is also one of the best in baseball, but the starting rotation will be what takes leads this team.
By adding some power and consistency to their lineup the Dodgers should not be taken lightly again in 2015. They did end up winning this division last season, which got washed up with their rival, San Francisco, winning the World Series. The Dodgers did make some good moves to shore up their middle infield, but I see the Giants beating them out in a race that could go until the last game of the season. The Dodgers will get a taste of the win or go home Wild Card game in 2015.
This is a very interesting team to look at just by the basic fact that they really aren’t that bad of a team when you look at them on paper. What kills this team is the pitching. They really have no one of note on their staff other than De La Rosa and that may be attributed to the fact that the play at Coors Field, which is about as hitter friendly as you can get.
The offense for this team is funny to watch. They can rake at home, but they really struggle to get it going on the road and even when they score 4-5 runs at home, the opponent also is playing at Coors Field and they don’t have the pitching to keep up. If this team can stay healthy and maybe get a surprise or two out of their rotation, they might be competitive, but I don’t know if that is realistic.
The Rockies have some great pieces in place. Arenado at third, Morneau at first, and Tulo at short are three guys who can get it done. They have a good outfield to go along with that with CarGo, Blackmon, and Dickerson, which is why it puzzles some people as to why this team struggled as much as they did a season ago.
In the end, I see this team finishing around .500. They play in a very tough division with the Padres, Giants, and Dodgers being viable contenders for the playoffs. It might be another tough year in the Mile High city.
If you like to watch rebuilding teams, the D’Backs are the team for you! They seem to be looking ahead to the future. Even with one of the best first baseman in the majors, they don’t have the other pieces to go along with him. They did bring in Yasmany Tomas, but that wont shore up their weak rotation.
This team has a weird mix of aging players to go along with some younger pieces. Cody Ross is way past his prime and might be nearing the end of a good career. Mark Trumbo almost seems a bit out of place but he does add a good power aspect to the lineup. There honestly aren’t that many highlights with this lineup outside of the trio of Goldschmidt, Tomas, and Trumbo. We’ll see what they can muster up from the plate this upcoming season.
On the mound, they are well below average. After trading Wade Miley to the Red Sox, they did add a good piece with Rubby De La Rosa to go along with Jeremy Hellickson who came over from the Rays. Josh Collmenter also looks to establish himself a bit more at the Major League level this season.
When it is all set and done, I see this team finishing at the bottom of the division. They play in a tough division and someone has to finish last and to the D’Backs’ fans chagrin, I think it will end up being the Diamondbacks.
My Projected Standings:
- San Francisco Giants (Division Winner)
- Los Angeles Dodgers (Wild Card)
- San Diego Padres
- Colorado Rockies
- Arizona Diamondbacks
Seattle sports fan and MLB writer for International Sports Hub