UCB Predictions: National League West

Our final division for the United Cardinal Bloggers predictions takes us out west, where the money flows like water, at least in certain spots.  From pitchers’ parks to hitters’ havens, the West brings diversity and intrigue….if perhaps not a pennant race.

1) Los Angeles–While we know that money can’t buy you love nor necessarily a divisional title (ask the Yankees about that sometime), it does help a whole, whole lot.  The Dodgers have positioned themselves as the clear favorites in the division primarily by assembling talent the new-fangled way, by taking on contracts nobody else wants.

Of course, that’s not the only way they have talent.  Clayton Kershaw‘s been theirs from the beginning and that’s a huge reason they have a leg up on the rest of the division.  Yaisel Puig was signed as a free agent, but grabbing up a Cuban defector is a little different than hitting the usual market.  However, a lot of the headliners did come with some price tags attached, one way or another.  Often the big spender winds up being a disappointing team, but in this case it seems fairly probable they’ll be playing after the rest of the West has gone home for the year.

2) San Francisco–I honestly feel like I could flip a coin with the rest of this division.  No team stands out to me as an obvious choice from the others, so we’ll go with the gut because, well, there’s more of it every year so it’s doing something right at least.

I don’t know if the Giants have enough offense, especially if they get another down Pablo Sandoval year, but you do have to like the front of their rotation with Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, and Tim Hudson.  Their bullpen should be strong enough to handle the close games that their offense very well may put them into.  Sometimes it’ll only take one or two and I think the guys in orange can do that much.

3) Arizona–I think if San Diego was starting the year healthy, I’d probably put them here.  Nothing that Arizona has really excites me on either side of the ball.

I mean, sure, there’s Paul Goldschmidt and we’ll see if he can put up similar numbers to his MVP-like 2013.  Mark Trumbo might put a few balls over the wall, but that’s about all to like about him.  Even the pitching staff is a bit shaky, requiring good seasons from Bronson Arroyo and Brandon McCarthy, which may be in the realm of possibility, might not be.

4) San Diego–I really liked Josh Johnson for them, but he’s going to be out a month or more.  Cameron Maybin is an interesting talent, but he’s out for a while as well.  Chase Headley is their big gun, but he’s had a strained calf and he’s played all of five games this spring.  That’s a lot of talent that won’t be able to answer the opening bell.

With them in the mix, I think the Padres could be pretty interesting.  Everth Cabrera is back and seems to have a good chance at repeating his stats from last year.  Andrew Cashner appears to be growing into a solid pitcher.  Huston Street should be able to close out games, though he’s dealt with injury this spring as well.  If the Padres can find a way to stay close while the big names are rehabbing, the second half of the season could be real interesting for them.

5) Colorado–There still doesn’t seem to be the solution to the pitching woes for the Rockies, and while this offense is fairly stout, it doesn’t appear to be enough to overcome that deficiency.  Jhoulys Chacin has done pretty well for the Rox, but he can’t do it alone.  (Unless it’s Strat-O-Matic and you use my son’s strategy of using the same starter every game.)

You still have Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki to put up some numbers, which means that they’ll always have a puncher’s chance in a game.  Michael Cuddyer had a very good year last year, though you’d expect some regression.  Wilin Rosario is a solid catcher that helps out the offense as well.  If they could just find some average or slightly above-average pitching, they might have a chance.  I’m just not seeing that there, though.

Tomorrow, we’ll see about predicting the postseason and the awards.  If you thought these last few were bad, just wait until then!

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