Spotlight on the San Francisco Giants
There should be a lot of excitement by the Bay, and not only for the Warriors. It’s an even numbered year, which bodes well for San Francisco, which has won 3 of the last 5 World Series championships. The Giants have a strong core around catcher Buster Posey (6.1 wins above replacement), shortstop Brandon Crawford (21 homers), and ace Madison Bumgarner (2.93 ERA). To give MadBum more help, the Giants added starters Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samarzija, two high-upside, high-risk pitchers. If Cueto and Samarzija reach All Star form and the bullpen is above average, San Francisco will run away with the division.
- Arizona Diamondbacks
Small-market teams that spend big in free agency typically fail, but my money’s on the Diamondbacks to contest the Giants for the division crown. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt (.321 average) is a Triple Crown threat and centerfielder A.J. Pollock is emerging as one of the best players in the majors. Both could make a run at the MVP award and batting title for the National League. The roster renovation brings snakeskin-patterned uniforms as well as two All Star pitchers in Zack Greinke (1.66 ERA) and Shelby Miller, and the latter change is the number one reason the D-Backs can contend. To reach the playoffs, Arizona needs more than just those four superstars. Contributions from the lower-tier players could give the D-Backs the push over the Giants and Dodgers, or a lack of production could sink them.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Like the other LA team, the Dodgers are free-falling. The difference is that the Dodgers still have a shot at making a big run to the World Series, and the reason is Clayton Kershaw (2.13 ERA). The best pitcher of his generation, Kershaw could’ve won another Cy Young last year and will now be aiming for his fourth. But Zack Greinke, the other ace, left for Arizona and a managerial change signals that this could be the Dodgers last big shot. The pitching staff is full of question marks, and while the lineup will have rookie Corey Seager and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, it could fall flat. New manager Dave Roberts has a lot of potential and expectation on his hands, but in a tough NL, the Dodgers could miss the postseason.
- San Diego Padres
San Diego will host the All Star Game, but the hometown team could fail to be represented. Just like the Rockies, the Padres just can’t get out of the dumps of the National League. The one-year makeover authored by GM A.J. Preller didn’t work to say the least, and the two best players, closer Craig Kimbrel (Boston) and outfielder Justin Upton (Detroit) are elsewhere. To an extent, the experiment continues, with OF Matt Kemp, 1B Wil Myers, and pitcher Tyson Ross possible All Stars with a lot of risk. I’d expect a busy July, rather than a busy October, in San Diego.
- Colorado Rockies
Can a baseball team really play in the high altitudes of Colorado? The experiment, also known as the Rockies, hasn’t been going too well- no division titles and only one World Series appearance in over 20 years. After Troy Tulowitzki was traded to Toronto last summer, the face of the franchise became Nolan Arenado (42 homers), an MVP candidate who will aim to bring one of the worst franchises in the majors to the postseason. With Arenado, OF Carlos Gonzalez and a couple other big bats, offense won’t be the problem, but, as usual, the pitching has been rocky. Jon Gray is a potential ace, but can he pitch well at an altitude? Look for another poor season for the Rockies.