(Photo via bleacherreport.com)
5. Colorado Rockies – The Colorado Rockies are most likely not going to be competing for a playoff spot this year. However, that is not because of the hitters in their lineup. While Colorado’s sluggers’ stats will always be criticized for playing in the high altitude for 81 games, their talent cannot be questioned. Even after trading Troy Tulowitzki at last year’s trade deadline, the Rockies lineup still has four terrific hitters in Carlos Gonzalez, D.J. LeMahieu, Charlie Blackmon and of course, Nolan Arenado. Arenado in particular took an absolutely huge leap in his play last year by hitting 42 home runs and having the most runs batted in in all of Major League Baseball with 130. The problem with the Rockies is of course their starting rotation. While it would be hard for anybody to make half of their starts at Coors Field, the Rockies don’t have pitchers that can even compete in the high-altitude. Their rotation should consist of Jorge De La Rosa, Chad Bettis, Jordan Lyles, Tyler Matzek, and Rookie Jon Gray. The lowest ERA out of those five last season was a 4.09 by Tyler Matzek, and he only pitched 22 innings the whole season. Enough said
4. San Diego Padres – Going into last season, the San Diego Padres were expected to compete for a playoff spot after a busy off-season where they acquired Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Craig Kimbrel, and James Shields. After finishing 74-88 and losing Justin Upton in free agency and trading Craig Kimbrel, the Padres come into this season with much lower expectations. The Padres made no big moves this off-season and while they have some attractive pieces in their rotation such as Tyson Ross, James Shields, and Andrew Cashner they will mainly focus on developing prospects and trying to reach the 75-win plateau.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks – During the 2015 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks showed their front office that they had one of the most productive offenses in baseball headlined by A.J. Pollack and MVP finalist Paul Goldschmidt. The front office responded in a big way this off-season by signing Zack Greinke to a six year, $206.5 million contract and trading for Atlanta Braves ace Shelby Miller, even though it meant trading the number one overall pick in this past year’s draft, Dansby Swanson. They also strengthened the back end of their bullpen by signing Tyler Clippard to set up Brad Ziegler. However, even after all of these moves, the Diamondbacks still only project to finish 3rd in the NL West. This is because of the questions surrounding the back end of the rotation and the bullpen as a whole. The Diamondbacks will definitely improve this season, but it is difficult to see them being better than the top two teams in this division.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers – The Dodgers have won three straight division titles, but I predict that they will be dethroned this upcoming year. The Dodgers lost CY Young runner up Zack Greinke, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they also lost him to a division rival. They tried to offset the loss by signing Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda, but those two can’t come close to matching Greinke’s talent. To make matters worse, left hander Brett Anderson, who accepted the Dodgers qualifying offer this off-season, went down with a back injury last week and will miss 3 to 5 months. If the Dodgers want to win their 4th straight division title, they are going to have to make a lot of things happen. Yasiel Puig is going to have to have a huge bounce back season after hitting just .255 last season and hitting only 11 home runs. Secondly, someone is going to have to step up behind Clayton Kershaw in order to give the Dodgers a viable number two starter. However, the way things are shaking up, it might be tough to find that starter.
1. San Francisco Giants – It’s an even year and the Giants have won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014. So because it’s 2016 they are obviously going to win the World Series, right? Well, I don’t know if I would go that far, but the Giants definitely made some big upgrades in the off-season. They shored up a very shaky starting rotation by signing Johnny Cueto to be their 2nd starter and Jeff Samardzija to be their 3rd starter. Cueto is a very reliable starter who at times in his career has looked like a top 5 pitcher in all of baseball, while Samardzija struggled last year with an ERA of 4.96. However, he has shown that he can be a very good major league pitcher when he pitched to a 2.99 ERA in 2014. They also signed a quality leadoff hitter, Denard Span, to play center field and be their stolen base threat. After all of these moves the Giants, being carried by All Stars Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence should win the NL West in a tight race with the Dodgers.
– D. Celauro