If we knew nothing else than who won the World Series every year, the National League West would look as if it was doing pretty well for itself as it is home to two of the last three world champions. Both of those teams are the San Francisco Giants, however, so it’s probably better for everyone if we had a little more information.
The division features those defending champion Giants and baseball’s newest quarter billion dollar payroll, the Dodgers. Both clubs have their sights set on a playoff run and they will have company.
The Diamondbacks made a lot of roster juggling, win now type deals this year and the Padres had a good run to end 2012. Only the Rockies can be said to have no realistic playoff hopes for 2013.
The division features big ballparks and could be a growing challenge to baseball’s previously elite divisions in the years to come. For now, it remains a bit off the pace in my book. Here’s how SABR Toothed Tigers sizes up the NL West for 2013.
[Division Rank. Team (Predicted 2013 Record, Preseason Power Ranking)]
5. Colorado Rockies (63-99, 28)
The Rockies had a bad season in 2012 and didn’t do a whole lot to make their team better for 2013. The offense, with a healthy Tulowitzki, is formidable enough to contend, but they cannot do it alone. The starting rotation and bullpen, even with generous adjustments for the tough home ballpark, are abysmal. The Rockies have a number of guys I would feel comfortable placing at the back end of my rotation, but none who belong at the front. If the Rockies won more than 75 games in 2013, I would be absolutely shocked. As you can see by my preseason ranking, I think the Rockies will be among the worst five teams in baseball this year.
4. San Diego Padres (78-84, 22)
The Padres played much better in the second of half of 2012 and actually looked like a team that could contend in 2013 with a few upgrades. Unfortunately, they didn’t make any big upgrades. They took some chances on previously injured starters who could certainly provide good value, but no one who will be a bona fide difference maker. With some good fortune, the Padres should spend a few months kicking dirt around the second wild card, but the talent just isn’t there without a couple more acquisitions.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks (82-80, 15)
The Diamondbacks have a talented roster, but also made some strange moves this offseason. They traded Chris Young, Justin Upton, and Trevor Bauer for a return of Martin Prado, Didi Gregorius, Heath Bell, and Randall Delgado. There are a few more pieces as well, but these are the ones who look to make an impact this year. They signed Cody Ross and Eric Chavez and have good pitching depth coming from the system to go along with centerfielder in waiting Adam Eaton. On the whole, this is a talented club, but they seemed to get the worse end of every move they made. That doesn’t mean they’ll have a bad season, but it does make you wonder how well the team is run. I wouldn’t be surprised by a playoff push from the Dbacks, but it will require another big year from Aaron Hill and Paul Golschmidt in addition to solid seasons from a lot of lesser pieces. The key will be how well a deep but inexperienced pitching staff can navigate through a full season. This is a good team, but not a great team and their record will reflect that.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (88-74, 11)
I’ve written on several occasions that I don’t think the Dodgers have successfully spent their way into a playoff berth, but rather have merely allowed themselves to get into the discussion. Their top two starters, Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke, are phenomenal, but the rotation is uncertain after that despite a number of options. Carl Crawford claims he’ll be ready by Opening Day, but I’m doubtful we’ll ever see him regain his Tampa Bay form. Matt Kemp is coming off an injury plagued season and Andre Either’s and Adrian Gonzalez’s best days are behind them as far as I’m concerned. This isn’t a bad team, but this is not the best team $250 million can buy. The Dodgers should be in the playoff chase right down to the wire, but they’re not going to make into October.
1. San Francisco Giants (91-71, 7)
The Giants have earned this spot in part due to history and in part due to reason. As far as history is concerned, they’ve won two World Series in three years and are due some deference for that. Rationally though, they won the division last year and return the same team minus a half season of Melky Cabrera and plus full ones from Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro. The Dodgers may be better than last year, but they also had an unusually lucky first two months last year, so that might balance out. It’s also hard to imagine Tim Lincecum doing any worse than he did in 2012 and could reasonably do much, much better. The Giants aren’t the most talented team in baseball for 2013, but they have shown the ability to exceed our expectations of them. This is a team that plays good defense and pitches well, but they are also a better offensive club than they were in 2010 when they played “torture baseball.” Buster Posey will lead the way, but he won’t be on his own. The Giants aren’t my pick for the World Series, but they are my pick to represent the NL West in the postseason.
Awards and Miscellaneous Predictions:
NL West Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
NL West MVP: Troy Tulowitzki
Most Potentially Pivotal Player: Hanley Ramirez
Division Storyline That Will Surprise Us: The Dodgers will be desperate for pitching by June.
Boldest of the Bold: Carl Crawford will be a platoon player by August.