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As much as it pains me to do so, It's hard not to pick the Dodgers to win the NL West this season. They have an excellent blend of productive veterans, and youngsters on the rise. Even if Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciapara cannot stay healthy all year, the Dodgers have a ton of talent who could come up and take those positions from them. Andre Either and Matt Kemp have already put Juan Pierre and his 11 million dollar-a-year salary on the bench. Their pitching has the same depth as Chad Billingsly proved last year that he's ready and capable. The Dodgers also have young lefty Clayton Kershaw waiting in the wings. If Jason Schmidt can come back healthy by mid-season, it would be like adding another ace to an already strong rotation. The bullpen looks solid again lead by Saito and Broxton. They have too much talent and depth not to win this division.
The Diamondbacks are another team that has a wealth of young talent. They are still a little too young in their everyday lineup to beat out the Dodgers for the division, but they are pretty close. They lost a couple solid pieces of last years division winning team as Tony Clark and Jose Valverde both left the team this winter but did land ace number 2 in Dan Haren. I'm not sure they covered Valverde's spot in the bullpen. They are hoping Brandon Lyon can become the closer he was supposed to be a few years ago, but most baseball people think Tony Pena is better suited for the role. Webb and Haren provide a great 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation and I like Davis and Owings, but Randy Johnson shouldn't be counted on to do much and he hasn't really proved anything this spring. They still have one of the better rotations and lineups in the league so they should be among a handful of teams battling it out for a wild card birth.
The Rockies surprised the baseball world last year with their late season surge to the World Series. It is going to be awfully tough for them to repeat in a very good division. The young Rockies' lineup and their strong bullpen lead them to the Series last season and will be what carries them this year. If Morales and Jimenez develop and can give the Rockies 30 starts apiece, then the Rockies will be right there with the Dodgers and D-Backs. Matt Holliday is an MVP candidate and Garret Atkins and Brad Hawpe are two of the more underrated hitters in the game. I am also anxious to see what Tulowitzki does in his second full big league season. They certainly have the pieces in place to be contenders for years to come, but this year the division is a little too tough.
The Padres could have really improved this winter had they decided to spend a little bit of money. They added Randy Wolf and Jim Edmonds to a team that needs a lot more than just those two. I would rather have Mike Cameron in center over Edmonds at this point in his career and even with the 25-game suspension, they should have brought him back. They also had a chance to get some legit right handed power in their for the first time in a while with Andruw Jones but they passed. They have young Chase Headley waiting in the wings and he looks like he could be a premier power hitter at the big league level. Their rotation looks decent with the addition of Wolfe but right now, they don't have near enough offensive fire power to keep up with the Dodgers, D-Backs and Rockies.
The Giants are without Barry Bonds for the first time in 15 years and it definitely shows in their offense. The Giants should be among the worst offensive teams in the league this season, and although they have strong starting pitching, and an up and coming bullpen, their offense and defense will have them battling to avoid a 100 loss season. It would be nice to get a rebound season out of Barry Zito, but he has looked bad this spring. Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum are bright young arms that will carry the rotation for years to come. Noah Lowry can't seem to stay healthy for an entire year and his 2008 season will once again be cut short due to arm issues as he isn't expected to join the rotation until May. I like the makings of the young bullpen lead by Brian Wilson. Merkin Valdez should make the squad and could be a darkhourse as a closer/set-up man if Wilson or Walker struggle. It's going to be a long season in the city by the bay, but it should be interesting to see which of their young players ( Fred Lewis, Nate Schierholtz, Eugenio Velez, Dan Ortmeier and Rajai Davis) can actually play at this level.
The Giants Baseball Blog-http://giantsbaseballblog.blogspot.com/