Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 result: 92-70, 1st place lost to St. Louis in NLCS 4-2
Of all 30 previews, this is the one where I have to practically be held at gunpoint to not let my excitement distort an honest prediction, having been born in Southern CA to a Dodgers family. The Dodgers’ historic second-half run in 2013, followed by a deep but ultimately disappointing playoff run, brings unprecedented expectations to the 2014 campaign. But unlike the dizzying amount of money spent on high-priced free agents in 2012, LA approached the hype this time around with a brilliantly restrained offseason. Aside from Clayton Kershaw’s record-setting extension, their moves were comprised of smart re-signings (Brian Wilson, J.P. Howell, Juan Uribe) and a few upgrades (Dan Haren, Chris Perez). The only new question mark is 27-year-old Alexander Guerrero (a Cuban defect like Yasiel Puig), who will take veteran Mark Ellis’s place at second. Otherwise, with the team basically the same as last year, it comes down to performances from leading players. In particular, a full season of a more mature Puig, a full season of Hanley Ramirez, and (god-willing) Matt Kemp playing 130-140 games could push the Dodgers into scary-good territory.
Prediction: 100-62, 1st place
San Francisco Giants
2013 result: 76-86, tied for 3rd place
Unlike in 2011, when key injuries like Brian Wilson and Buster Posey could take the lion’s share of blame for the team fading down the stretch, the Giants’ follow-up to their second championship was simply anemic. They faded rapidly throughout the summer, with only a September surge keeping them out of the cellar. But this is still the team that’s won two World Series titles in three years, and the already deep starting rotation should get a boost from the addition of Tim Hudson. The Boys from the Bay probably won’t grab another trophy this year, and their extensions for Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong could easily end up being dead weight. But a few smart upgrades to an already outstanding core should at least get them in the playoff mix. (If only Mark Mulder’s comeback attempt had panned out, he could very well have come to SF at one point for a Moneyball A’s reunion with Barry Zito and Hudson!)
Prediction: 91-71, 2nd place
2013 result: 81-81, 2nd place
Even with a crop of excellent players, such as Paul Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks haven’t gelled enough since their 2011 NL West crown, all while the division has only gotten better. This can be significantly attributed to their constant trading of young players and prospects, most regrettably Justin Upton to Atlanta last year. GM Kevin Towers didn’t change course this time around, dealing top pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs and Rookie of the Year favorite Adam Eaton to the Angels for powerful (if inconsistent) outfielder Mark Trumbo. In my view, this trade is something of a steal, as I feel the Halos undervalued Trumbo’s potential and his power will go well with Goldschmidt’s. Then again, this is the same team that traded Max Scherzer, so their judgment on letting Skaggs go is highly questionable. All in all, this is a team that should make some noise in the race, but not be able to hang in there with the more balanced squads in the west.
Prediction: 80-82, 3rd place
2013 result: 74-88, 5th place
If the Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t exist, I would love to go full-blown polly in previewing this Rockies squad simply for adding my favorite player, Justin Morneau, to their roster (along with LaTroy Hawkins, making Denver the premiere destination for aging ex-Twins). Morneau will seek to carry the torch for the retired Todd Helton. In spite of his post-concussion inconsistency, Morneau should be aided by the most homer-friendly stadium in baseball. Aside from Morneau, the Rocks’ limited payroll prompted a greater reliance on trading for players, such as starter Brett Anderson and reliever Boone Logan. Ultimately, the Rockies’ acquisitions aren’t far-reaching enough for a serious run, but they did spend more than usual and given their relative history of winning when least expected could take a step forward in a challenging division.
Prediction: 76-86, 4th place
San Diego Padres
2013 result: 76-86, tied for 3rd place
The NL West as a whole is a stellar division, and the fact that every team finished with more than 70 wins last year deserves notice. But even with every team markedly improved going into 2014 and most having a strong case for winning the division, the Padres still feel like the real odd man out to me. They certainly weren’t helped last year by injuries to Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin, but even with everyone healthy the Friars could seek to be a little more ambitious in free agency. Aside from the reasonable acquisition of Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit, they’ve placed a high risk/high reward gamble on starter Josh Johnson, who in his rare moments of complete health approaches ace territory. If injuries get the better of him and other starters, however, the Padres will regress.
Prediction: 70-92, 5th place
Who will win the NL West in 2014?
- San Francisco Giants (50%, 1 Votes)
- Los Angeles Dodgers (50%, 1 Votes)
- Arizona Diamondbacks (0%, 0 Votes)
- Colorado Rockies (0%, 0 Votes)
- San Diego Padres (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 2