Just like a Hollywood movie, the Los Angeles Dodgers stormed to the National League West title leaving the rest in their wake. The Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies all failed to even worry the Dodgers a little. The Dodgers winning record of 92-70 is the benchmark each team will try to reach this season. In order to do so, all teams have considerably strengthened their rosters this off-season.
First up are the Arizona Diamondbacks. Their 2013 season was comprised of Paul “Goldy, Goldy, Gone!” Goldschmidt and not much more, as yet again they finished with a 81-81 record. They entered the off-season with lots of work to do and they soon went about this as they added Addison Reed to lock down the ninth. Reed, who recorded 33 saves last year, will hope to build upon his impressive 2013 season and help propel the Diamondbacks back into the post-season. Another edition, Bronson Arroyo, will be a key player in 2014 for Arizona. Arroyo personifies durability and will be a key piece to the rotation which will be lead by Patrick Corbin and Trevor Cahill.
Paul Goldschmidt had himself one heck of a season in 2013, he hit 36 home runs and 125 RBI along the way to finishing second in the MVP voting to Andrew McCutchen. He again will be the key man for the Diamondbacks in 2014, only this year he will have slugging left fielder Mark Trumbo behind him. Trumbo who was acquired from the Angels will provide some much needed protection and power in clean up for Goldschmidt. Overall, Arizona will fly to Australia for the opening series against the Dodgers with high hopes and an impressive roster.
The San Diego Padres finished 2013 with a rather disappointing 76-86 record tying with the Giants for third place, they enter 2014 hoping for some rebound performances. Jedd Gyorko, Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin and Will Venable all have some improving to do and with the speedy Cabrera at the top of the order – who missed 50 games in 2013 due to his involvement in the PED scandal – they could form a dangerous line-up.
Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner were a very impressive one-two punch at the top of the Padres rotation, with some run support, they could easily improve upon their 2013 seasons. Cashner will hope to continue where he left off, he had a superb second half to the season, including his 1-hitter against the Pirates. Josh Johnson could be a steal for their rotation, if he can return to the Johnson who played in two All-Star games, after an injury plagued 2013 season in which he finished with an ERA of 6.20 for the Blue Jays. Huston Street should close again, but new signing Joaquin Benoit will provide some competition, regardless of who closes the Padres bullpen should have the ability to close out games. All things considered, the Padres could surprise some and steal the NL West title or a wildcard spot.
The Colorado Rockies pitching was again their downfall; they scored over 700 runs, but allowed a lot more, leading to them finishing bottom of the NL West. With a dangerous line-up that includes Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tolowitzki they are set to cross home plate an awful lot, having said that, with Dexter Fowler now an Astro they lack a lead-off man, Josh Rutledge and Nolan Arenado will have to up their game as they are set to hit 1-2 for the Rockies on opening day.
Pitching has always been the problem in Colorado, in order to combat the problem they added Brett Anderson who they hope will return to form and boost the Rockies play-off credentials. Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio and Taylor Chatwood will have to kick up a gear, all four starting pitchers finished 2013 with ERAs over 4.00, this will have to be lowered if the Rockies are serious about playing into October.
The San Francisco Giants entered 2013 as the reigning World Series Champions, but they became the thirteenth straight team to not defend their title as they dropped to third in the NL west, tied with the Padres. Their off-season hasn’t been grabbing the headlines, but good solid deals should put them in contention, they resigned Hunter Pence, and added Michael Morse. If Sandoval can stay fit, Belt can finally hit his peak and Posey can return to his Most Valuable Player form of 2012, they could have a very scary line-up.
Pitching depth is a problem. Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner have the potential to be an excellent 1-2 combination, Bumgarner will hope to continue where he left off last year, and Cain will expect to return to his 2012 form that saw him pitch a perfect game and start the All Star game. Tim Lincecum isn’t going be the Cy Young-winning ‘Freak’ of past, but hopefully he can make the transition into a solid number three starter. Providing Tim Hudson – who inked a two year deal with the Giants in free agency – and Ryan Vodelsong can stay healthy they could be a perfect back end of the rotation.But with minimal pitching depth, that is a big if.
Finally, the champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers who stormed to the title with their star studded line-up,despite numerous injuries to stars like Andre Either, Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp they still finished 11 games ahead of the Diamondbacks. Their infield lacks depth, and is a problem which needs to be addressed – Stephen Drew would be ideal, but I doubt the Dodgers are willing to spend big to land Drew – nonetheless they have Cuban phenomenon Yasiel Puig heading into his sophomore year, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Andre Either and Matt Kemp should return at some stage, giving the Dodgers one of the scariest line-ups in the game.
They also have an abundance of relievers and starters, Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw will continue to dazzle hitters, and Zack Greinke is a pretty impressive number two starter. Hyun-Jin Ryu is also entering his sophomore year, Josh Beckett, Dan Haren and new addition Paul Maholm will fight it out in spring training for the 4-5 spots, with Chad Billingsley said to be returning in June also. Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson and J.P Howell will be the perfect for late inning work, opposition hitters will not be looking forward to playing the Dodgers.
My Prediction? I think the Dodgers will probably win the division again, having said that the Diamondbacks, Padres and Giants will all challenge and should secure the wildcard spots, the Rockies lack of pitching, takes them out of the running for me. The Dodgers and Diamondbacks opening series in Australia will be exciting and should set the tone for the rest of what is set to be an intriguing NL West in 2014.