This division was decided by three games last season and produced two playoff teams. This year I expect a three team race as there were some interesting moves by a few teams in the West. Here’s how I see it playing out.
The Dodgers were able to hold on last season and won the division. They have almost the exact same team this year and so I don’t see many questions going forward. Their lineup is very deep featuring a mix of young players with veteran experience. Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Andre Either control the outfield in Dodger Stadium and we can’t forget James Loney at first who provides power as well. The middle infield has some speed from Rafael Furcal and Ronnie Belliard so this is a very balanced team as well. They have two stellar young arms in the rotation in Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw and Jonathon Broxton as a closer. This is a very solid team and one that I fully expect to win this division and make a run in the postseason.
The boys from the bay area finished third last year and missed the playoffs by four games. This offseason they added a very versatile bat in Mark DeRosa. The former Cardinal can play both third base and a corner outfield spot as well as bat from either side of the plate. I expect him to add a lot of experience and versatility to this team. They have a lot of power as well with guys like Edgar Renteria and Pablo Sandoval (Kung Fu Panda), and speed from Freddy Sanchez and Nate Schierholtz this team has a solid line up. They also have one of the best rotations in baseball. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Barry Zito make other teams work for their runs. This team could challenge for not only a Wildcard berth but for the divison title!
The Rockies are a very interesting team. They don’t have the most talent but always seem to get the job done and contend every year. They were the surprise team a few years ago and I think they could be a dark horse this year. They have strong team with a mix of speed and power. Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton and Ian Stewart provide the pop in the line up while a young star Dexter Fowler provides speed and consistency for this team. The only thing that can hold this team back is the lack of depth in pitching. Ubaldo Jimenez and Aaron Cook really hold up the rotation and Huston Street is a great young closer, but other than that this team lacks pitching depth. All that said, the Rockies always find a way to stay in contention and I don’t expect it to be different this year.
This team will be very interesting this year as well. After last year’s horrible performance they have the most to prove. Brandon Webb is coming off of surgery and Justin Upton returning to form will be a few of the biggest things to watch for this year with the D-backs. They have talent and potential. Dan Haren compliments Webb and together they rival the Billingsley/Kershaw and Lincecum/Cain lead rotations in the division. Connor Jackson and Mark Reynolds need to become consistent producers this year as well. I’m not sold on their bullpen and especially not on Chad Qualls as thier closer. I think this team has potential but a few too many question marks for me to place them higher than the Rockies this year.
Last we get to the Friars from the lovely city of San Diego. The Padres are the weakest team in the division. The best player on the team is Adrian Gonzalez and after that it is really just a mix of guys. There isn’t a real consistent feeling to this team. They lack power and really don’t have a lot of depth either. Pitching is another question mark. They do have Chris Young but after that I don’t see much depth in the rotation. They have a great closer in Heath Bell but if the team can not produce runs I don’t see him getting many opportunites for saves. I don’t think team will be in contention this year.