This division is the worst in baseball. The representative from this bunch will not be the team with the most wins, but actually the one with the fewest losses. No one will be surprised if the champ here ends with more losses than wins.
The Dodgers appear to be the favorites, even though they lost Manny Ramirez and starter Derrick Lowe. The club still has the best catcher in the division, Russell Martin, along with other young stars such as James Loney (first base), Andre Ethier (right field), and Matt Kemo (center). Combine those up and comers with veterans Casey Blake (third), Rafael Furcal (shortstop) and Juan Pierre (left) and you have a team that could finish .500.
The pitching staff is merely okay, which still makes it the second best in the division. Chad Billingsley could be a legitimate number one guy, and veterans Jason Schmidt and Shawn Estes might have a little left. The bullpen is shaky, as is its closer. Jon Braxton saved only a little over half of his save opportunities last season.
The Diamondbacks boast a great rotation. Brandon Webb is a perennial Cy Young candidate. Dan Haren has a great arm, and Doug Davis is very underrated. The bullpen has no clear closer amid a bunch of so-so relievers.
The D’Backs are going to need their starters to throw a shut out almost every night. They ended the season with an anemic offense, and that was before slugger Adam Dunn left for free agency. There is no middle of the order threat, nor are they extremely good at getting on base. Fan favorite Eric Byrnes will run through walls during any game, but no one on the team can hit a ball over it consistently.
The Rockies may have won the pennant two years ago, but they probably can’t even contend this year. They have franchise first baseman Todd Helton to hit between right fielder Brad Hawpe and third baseman Garrett Atkins. Shortstop Troy Tolowitski
Is the only other starter remaining from that pennant winning team of a few years back.
The pitching is not very impressive either. Aaron Cooke will be the number one starter, and the team does have former Oakland closer Houston Street. The bullpen should be better than the rotation.
The only experienced hitters in the Padres projected lineup are Adrian Gonzalez (first base) and the aging Brian Giles (right field). Outfielders Jody Gerut and Chase Headley have potential, and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff shows flashes of tremendous power. The rest of the lineup is serviceable, but not enviable.
The rotation is led by stalwart Jake Peavy, but there is little depth after him. The best the bullpen can hope for is to be average and for a closer to emerge from among them.
The Giants were a little better than most analysts predicted last year. They will be getting the same predictions in 2009, but this time they may prove the analysts right. Their outfield could be good if Aaron Rowand lives up to the expectations the team had for him when they signed him for 2008. Veteran Randy Winn is a good player, but he can’t be counted on as the guy to carry this team. The acquisition of shortstop Edgar Renteria will strengthen the middle infield, and he should serve as an effective tutor for young second baseman Emmanuel Burriss.
The rotation is led by Cy Young candidate Tim Lincecum. The Giants are hoping this is the year they can something out of the huge contract they gave to Barry Zito when he left Oakland. The bullpen is shaky, but closer Brian Wilson saved 41 games last year.