Every year it’s the same thing. The Dodgers outbid everyone for the studs and other teams scramble to try to catch up. Last year it was the Padres adding some big names. That experiment failed miserably and the team was blown up quicker than it was assembled. This year things took a different turn.
Los Angeles Dodgers. For once, the Dodgers could be looking up to begin a season. Yes, the Giants have had more success winning two World Series Championships but they haven’t exactly been pre-emptive favorites from the outset. LA still has Clayton Kershaw and signed Scott Kazmir in the offseason (which should work out, though it’s up for debate how important that was). Brett Anderson and Alex Wood should be somewhere in the 3,4,5 range in the rotation. Then the 5th guy will be a competition between Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brendan McCarthy, and maybe even Joe Blanton if he makes the roster.
And while finding a guy to hopefully match some of Zach Greinke’s production (because NO ONE will replace him) important, it’s something that this group should be able to do by committee. Finding a realistic option to produce runs could be an issue if some of their top options are up to par.
Yasiel Puig has been mercurial at best. The guy is in the news for his off-the-field antics just as often as his highlights on it. So when you pin a great amount of success on whether Puig can come through or not it’s tough to feel too good about it. Last season saw Puig essentially become a 4th outfielder even after Matt Kemp has left for the Padres. That wasn’t supposed to happen and much of it can be attributed to the lack of effort from the young player. He’s still only 25 and has tons of potential. But he’s yet to unlock any of that and put it all together over the course of a season. This might be a make or break year for the outfielder.
Colorado Rockies. Can the Rockies ever build a true winner in the thin air of Colorado? Because they’ve tried spending money (back when Mike Hampton got 120 million and it was unprecedented) and they’ve tried to roll the dice with a young group of talented hitters several times. They finally decided to scrap last year’s team trading Troy Tulowitzki and start over. Hopefully for their sakes they start over from the ground up.
This year’s team still has plenty of talent guys to build around. While Carlos Gonzalez may very well eventually be traded, he’s a guy that can carry a team even if he’s not expected to lead this one. Gerardo Parra has been a more than serviceable option and comes to this squad ready to contribute. Jose Reyes will be forever overpaid and Mark Reynolds will hit tons of home runs but strike out plenty as well. Should be interesting. Also expected to help out are DJ LeMahieu (coming off a great season at the plate), Ben Paulsen, and Charlie Blackmon (who looked very good last year). But the big bopper in this lineup is Nolan Arenado. He only his .287 last year and that’s gotta go up a little for a #3 hitter. But 42 homers and 130 RBIs are more than enough to keep a team afloat. If Arenado can be that stability outside the friendly confines of Coors Field, then the Rockies could avoid the basement in the NL West.
San Diego Padres. Last year the Pads loaded up with talent from every angle. Most of it has come and gone and they’ve tried to move even more of it. With Andrew Cashner, James Shields, and Tyson Ross; they should have enough pitching to stay in games and compete with the best teams. A season ago, injuries derailed much of their season with regards to pitching and the back end of the rotation just killed them. If they can stay healthy there’s no reason why they can’t be competitive.
Hitting wasn’t supposed to be a problem last season. But they couldn’t keep the excitement of the preseason going. Swapping some big names and letting guys go in free agency has helped switch things up. But while guys like Derek Norris, BJ Upton, Matt Kemp, Yangervis Solarte, and Alexei Ramirez will be important cogs, if not vital trade bait, Wil Myers will be the guy that must come up big.
Coming into the bigs with the ability to play behind the plate AND literally anywhere else on the diamond, Myers was the golden boy for the Tampa Bay Rays before he was traded to the Padres. The former Rookie of the Year had a rough first season in San Diego. He struggled to field even the easiest of fly balls and hit just .253. If he can return to the form of his first season when he was ROY in only 88 games then there’s a chance Myers could resurrect a career going in the wrong direction.
Arizona Diamondbacks. Not sure what is more a consensus vote, the Diamondbacks having a great chance of winning it all or the Diamondbacks paying way too much for Shelby Miller. EIther way, they’ve got a very good staff right now. Miller plus the huge contract to Zack Greinke added to a healthy Patrick Corbin, a good year by Rubby De La Rosa, and maybe Robbie Ray at the back end. But they’ve got two great options in pen (Daniel Hudson and Randall Delgado) if they need it.
Paul Goldschmidt might be the best player in baseball. The numbers he puts up with virtually no protection are astonishing. And they should only get better with a few more solid bats in the lineup. AJ Pollock, David Peralta, and Yasmany Thomas should be guys that help produce runs, but getting on base will be vital. Jean Segura could be that guy to do just that. Segura was picked up on the cheap and has the game to really boost this club. After a down year, this could be the right time to get things together. He’s got decent power, speed, range, and has shown the ability to hit for average.
San Francisco Giants. This time as the second fiddle to Arizona rather than the Dodgers, there’s still the likelihood that they could win it all while the Dodgers win the division and the Diamondbacks implode. But we will have to wait and see about all that. They may have overpaid for Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, but if they play up to their potential the Giants will be the only ones laughing. Madison Bumgarner should continue to be one of the most dominant guys in the game and Jake Peavy can build off of last season’s success things will be great. That’s 4 former front end guys will opening day-ability. But there’s a reasonable chance that those guys will at least be above average.
Matt Cain is coming off an injury-plagued season after a similar 2014 campaign. Without question, Cain is an ace at his best. His best might very well be behind him. But he’s still only 31 and you can’t know that for sure. So this team potentially has 5 guys with #1 capability. And all they have to do is score some runs, right?