The NL West is the “Wild Wild West” for a legitimate reason. Five potentially dominant teams, all out for the same goal, are the reason behind this very accurate nickname. All five teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies, have overwhelming potential this season which is sure to make the division even more of a chaotic adventure. As an avid Diamondback fan, I get to see each of these teams constantly when they come here to Arizona and boy do they all look good.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (97-65)
Last season, it was the Dodgers running away in the second half of the season, urged by a young Cuban star who is none other than Yasiel Puig. Taking baseball by storm, Puig had an enormous impact in the long-run, as he was widely considered the reason for the Dodgers’ playoff run. This year, look for Puig as well as Hanley Ramirez to contribute more as well as Adrian Gonzalez, a proven, power-hitting star who seems to never cease to amaze. The Dodgers are stacked in the outfield, with four all-star caliber guys to platoon, so there should be no shortage of talent at all this season, unless of course half of them go down to injury (a la Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford). Speaking of which, as just reported yesterday, Clayton Kershaw will start the regular season on the 15-day disabled list due to back pains. He was scratched from his Opening Day start against the Padres tonight, but don’t look for LA’s pitching to dwindle. They’ll stay strong with guys like Hyun Jin Ryu, Zack Greinke, and newcomer Dan Haren. Lastly, look for rookie Cuban defect Alex Gurerro to make an impact when he comes up.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks (88-74)
The Diamondbacks have been plagued by injuries early this spring, but that won’t stop them from competing this season. Although ace Patrick Corbin and relief pitcher David Hernandez have gone down with similar UCL injuries, the Diamondbacks have enough pitching depth in the minors to pick up the slack. Wade Miley and Brandon McCarthy will be the Dbacks’ “aces” this season with Corbin out, but in my opinion, that “ace” status won’t last for long. Why? Archie Bradley is why. A young right-hander who pitched in Double-A last season, Bradley impressed many at this year’s camp in Scottsdale, Arizona. An overpowering fastball, hammer-like curve, and average changeup have been compared to the likes of one of the game’s best in Justin Verlander when it comes to Bradley’s pitches. Look for him to break through in late April to mid May because I predict the Snakes will need him with another sub-par April from Trevor Cahill, who was acquired from Oakland in a trade that sent highly-touted prospect Jarrod Parker to the Athletics. Offensively, the Diamondbacks will be stronger than ever. After adding Mark Trumbo via a three-way trade with the Angels and the White Sox, he’ll provide a plethora of power in the bulk of the lineup for Kirk Gibson and Co. Aaron Hill and Martin Prado, both hit machines, should yet again provide a positive impact on the team’s ranks. Look for sophomore A.J. Pollock to provide a punch from the top of the order in center field as well as rookie shortstop Chris Owings who has proven himself as a Major League ready defender.
3. San Francisco Giants (81-81)
The Giants have been one of the oddest stories out there in baseball over the past two seasons. After winning it all in 2012, they put together an embarrassing follow-up campaign last year, going just 76-86. This season, look for better overall years from Buster Posey and Hunter Pence at the plate, as well as the streaky Giants third baseman, Pablo Sandoval. New addition Michael Morse will provide a power bat to a team that desperately needed one going into the season. Pitching-wise, Madison Bumgarner has taken over the number one role in the rotation. The overpowering lefty will be supported with Matt Cain as well as Tim Hudson, who was also signed during the offseason. Hudson was injured last season after having his ankle stepped on by Eric Young, Jr. in a Braves game against the New York Mets. The Giants will definitely be better this season but will not be better than a .500 team.
4. San Diego Padres (81-81)
Padres fans, your team is getting better. They really are. The only problem is the division that they’re in. Teams like the Dodgers, Dbacks and Giants have kept the Padres from getting on the radar. The Friars aren’t a bad ball club. Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin, and Will Venable will make up the 3-4-5 slots in the lineup this year and you can look for them to produce. Quiet second baseman Jedd Gyrko will be decent this season as well, and many experts have him making the All Star Game in Minnesota this summer. Andrew Cashner is the Padres’ brightest spot in the rotation, followed by Ian Kennedy and newly added Josh Johnson. The Padres will once again be a quiet team and they will finish no better than .500.
5. Colorado Rockies (78-84)
The Rockies have a lot of potential. The only problem is that they don’t cash it in. Players like Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Wilin Rosario are the heart and soul of the Rockies. They’re all hitters who can help the Rockies succeed in the future. Utility man Michael Cuddyer and first baseman Justin Morneau will also provide power in the lineup for the Rox, who play at Coors Field, the ballpark with the highest elevation in Major League Baseball. There isn’t really anything to look forward to pitching-wise. Colorado’s ace is Jhoulys Chacin, so if that doesn’t say anything, I don’t know what does.Oh, and not to mention the fact that they traded away center fielder and speedster Dexter Fowler. Bad move, if you ask me. The Rockies will yet again be at the bottom of the division this season.