It seems as though every year, we in the baseball world forget about the National League West.  The American League East gets heralded for its depth and history, while the A.L. West has the dynamic parody.  All the while, the San Francisco Giants in the N.L. West have won two of the past three World Series and are looking to defend their crown again in 2013.  The Los Angeles Dodgers made a heck of a lot of noise this past offseason and could knock the Giants off their perch.

1 - Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68)

Projected Starting Lineup:

LF - Carl Crawford

2B - Mark Ellis

CF - Matt Kemp

1B - Adrian Gonzalez

RF - Andre Ethier

SS - Luis Cruz

C - A.J. Ellis

3B - Nick Punto

Projected Bench:

C - Tim Federowicz

2B/OF - Skip Schumaker

IF - Justin Sellers

IF - Juan Uribe

IF/OF - Jerry Hairston

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Clayton Kershaw

2 - Zack Greinke

3 - Hyu-Jin Ryu

4 - Josh Beckett

5 - Chris Capuano

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Brandon League

SU - Kenley Jansen

SU - Ronal Belisario

MR - J.P. Howell

MR - Matt Guerrier

MR - Paco Rodriguez

LR - Aaron Harang

Around the All-Star break of 2012's season, the Dodgers brought in Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford in one of the biggest trade deadline deals of all-time.  I bought in pretty highly on them for the second half, but they were not able to get into the playoffs.  Regardless, the move's shockwaves still linger as Carl Crawford - who was injured most of 2012 and did not play for the Dodgers after the trade with Boston - is set to make his Dodger debut on Opening Day, along with Gonzalez, Beckett and some other new faces as well.

Joining Crawford in Dodger blue this season is Zack Greinke, who signed a huge contact with Los Angeles a few months ago and will be the number two guy behind former Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.  That duo has all the tools to be one of the more deadlier ones in baseball.  Hyu-Jin Ryu was brought in from Japan and has a lot of question marks surrounding him, but Asian imports seem to have a knack for early career success in the MLB.

There's a slew of injuries hindering this potential World Series contender, including their starting SS Hanley Ramirez.  Hanley tore a thumb ligament in his hand while playing in the World Baseball Classic and will miss at least the first month.  There is a glaring hole in this lineup without him in it.  Chad Billingsley is another difference maker on the DL as the pitcher missed part of last season as well.

I like the lineup, but I do not love it.  Crawford needs to prove he can still be an effective leadoff man after some forgettable campaigns in Boston while Andre Ethier needs to insert himself back in the top of batting average leaders.  Matt Kemp - one of the best all-around players in the game - needs to have a full season that is not riddled with injuries like 2012 was.  I am looking forward to the (hopefully) eventual debut of Cuban mega-prospect Yusiel PuigPuig had an absolutely ridiculous Spring Training and now finds himself in the minors.  Should he crush the ball as well as he did this past month there, he will be in Los Angeles sooner, rather than later.

I am buying in on the Dodgers and I will be honest, I am not completely sold on them.  The injuries are going to kill them if they pile up and linger, but there is so much talent on this roster, it is kind of hard to ignore.

2 - San Francisco Giants (93-69)

Projected Starting Lineup:

CF - Angel Pagan

2B - Marco Scutaro

3B - Pablo Sandoval

C - Buster Posey

RF - Hunter Pence

1B - Brandon Belt

LF - Gregor Blanco

SS - Brandon Crawford

Projected Bench:

C - Hector Sanchez

C - Guillermo Quiroz

IF - Joaquin Arias

IF - Nick Noonan

OF - Andres Torres

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Matt Cain

2 - Madison Bumgarner

3 - Tim Lincecum

4 - Barry Zito

5 - Ryan Vogelsong

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Sergio Romo

SU - Santiago Casilla

SU - Javier Lopez

MR - Jeremy Affeldt

MR - George Kontos

MR - Jose Mijares

LR - Chad Gaudin

It is very difficult to pick against a team that is a World Series win away from creating a dynasty in the baseball world.  While they are not the most overly talented group - not to say there is not high quality players on this roster - the Giants exemplify just how far fan impeccable combination of talent and team chemistry can take you.

The lineup begins and ends with Buster Posey.  Last year's MVP winner and the best catcher in baseball has already won two World Series in his very short MLB career and has a fresh new monstrous contract to show for it.  He, with Pablo Sandoval will make this lineup go in 2013.  Angel Pagan is another guy still drying the ink on a new contract as he mans the leadoff role while Hunter Pence is about to embark on a showcase season as he looks to sign a new contract next winter.

The rotation is filthy and second-to-none.  Tim Lincecum, the former ace and Cy Young winner, is coming off a perplexing and atrocious 2012 campaign.  He has way too much talent to have a repeat performance of that.  Let's call it a fluke and expect big things from "The Freak" again in 2013.  He is surrounded by quality pitchers in this rotation with Matt Cain who leads the rotation and Madison Bumgarner who gets better every year.  Mix in veteran Barry Zito and the consistent workhorse in Ryan Vogelsong and you have one of the finer rotations in baseball.

Sergio Romo's slider is one of the most unhittable pitches in baseball and that is why he will be manning the closer role for the defending World Champs.  The bullpen is riddled with veteran arms like Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt.  All of which have pitched big games in October and provide a stabilizing force for this Giants team late in games.

One game difference between the Giants and Dodgers according to my predictions, simply because it is so difficult to choose one or the other.  Looking forward to these two great teams battling it out all summer long.

3 - Arizona Diamondbacks (78-84)

3B - Martin Prado

CF - Gerardo Parra

2B - Aaron Hill

C - Miguel Montero

1B - Paul Goldschmidt

LF - Jason Kubel

RF - A.J. Pollock

SS - Cliff Pennington

Projected Bench:

C - Wil Nieves

1B/OF - Eric Hinske

3B/1B - Eric Chavez

IF - Josh Wilson

OF - Alfredo Marte

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Ian Kennedy

2 - Brandon McCarthy

3 - Trevor Cahill

4 - Wade Miley

5 - Patrick Corbin

Projected Bullpen:

CL - J.J. Putz

SU - David Hernandez

SU - Heath Bell

MR - Tony Sipp

MR - Brad Ziegler

MR - Matt Reynolds

LR - Josh Collmenter

The Arizona Diamondbacks are pesky.  They hover around the .500 mark for much of the season and are always in MLB Network's graphic for teams "in the hunt" of a Wild Card spot.  They may do that again this season.

Arizona is putting a huge amount of stock in young 1B Paul Goldscmidt.  He signed an extension in March and will look to insert himself as the big bat in the lineup going forward.  He has had an up and down baseball career so far, but the future is certainly bright for him.  Arizona brought in Martin Prado from the Braves in exchange for Justin Upton and it is safe to say he will become one of the more popular players to Diamondback fans.  Miguel Montero and Aaron Hill both had exceptional seasons in 2012 and in the case of Hill, he has a history of one good year followed by a mediocre one.  I do not expect him to approach 30 HR in 2013 like he did last year.

The rotation is one of the more underrated ones in baseball.  Ian Kennedy, Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley (Rookie of the Year runner-up) and Patrick Corbin could be a very formidable group.  Corbin, 23, beat out top pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs for the final rotation spot coming out of Spring Training.

The N.L. West is too top-heavy for the Diamondbacks to hope to compete for the Division, but they will certainly be a respectable team with some young talent looking to continue to improve.

4 - San Diego Padres (73-89)

Projected Starting Lineup:

SS - Everth Cabrera

RF - Will Venable

LF - Carlos Quentin

1B - Yonder Alons

3B - Jedd Gyorko

C - Nick Hundley

CF - Cameron Maybin

2B - Alexi Amarista

Projected Bench:

C - Joh Baker

1B/OF - Jesus Guzman

1B/OF - Mark Kotsay

IF - Cody Ransom

OF - Chris Denorfia

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Edinson Volquez

2 - Clayton Richard

3 - Eric Stults

4 - Jason Marquis

5 - Tyson Ross

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Huston Street

SU - Luke Gregerson

SU - Brad Brach

MR - Andrew Cashner

MR - Joe Thatcher

MR - Dale Thayer

LR - Anthony Bass

The disabled/restricted list for the San Diego Padres is extensive, to say the least.  Chase Headley, who had a major breakout year in 2012 by winning both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger at 3B while leading the league in RBI is nursing a fractured thumb and will miss the first month.  The Padres sorely need him back if they want to tease anyone into thinking they could be decent.  Their catcher Yasmani Grandal is sporting a nice suspension to start the season as he has the potential to be the second best bat in the lineup behind Headley.

Pitchers Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland and Casey Kelly all have two things in common.  They are young and they are injured.  Luebke had Tommy John surgery midseason in 2012 and now Casey Kelly has gone under the knife for the very same surgery here in 2013.  Count him out for the Padres' roster for the entire season.  As these young guys try to prove they can actually stay healthy, mediocre pitchers like Eric Stults, Jason Marquis and Tyson Ross will continue to fill rotation spots.  Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard are the only guys worth much on this team.

Keep an eye on Jedd Gyorko at 3B this year.  The rookie could spark the Padres to a little early season success if he can come out firing and help stop the bleeding that the loss of Headley provides.

The bullpen is fine, you could certainly do worse than Huston Street and Luke Gregerson to close out games - it just does not seem like they will have a lot of leads to maintain with this team.

5 - Colorado Rockies (68-94)

Projected Starting Lineup:

CF - Dexter Fowler

2B - Josh Rutledge

LF - Carlos Gonzalez

SS - Troy Tulowitzki

RF - Michael Cuddyer

1B - Todd Helton

C - Wilin Rosario

3B - Chris Nelson

Projected Bench:

C - Yorvit Torrealba

C/IF - Jordan Pacheco

IF - Jonathan Herrera

IF/OF - Reid Brignac

OF - Eric Young

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Jhoulys Chacin

2 - Jorge De La Rosa

3 - Juan Nicasio

4 - Jeff Francis

5 - Jon Garland

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Rafael Betancourt

SU - Matt Belisle

SU - Wilton Lopez

MR - Rex Brothers

MR - Edgmer Escalona

MR - Adam Ottavino

LR - Chris Volstad

One of the oldest baseball adages is pitching wins championships.  While the Rockies are no World Series contender, the saying holds true as this team became one of the worst in baseball in 2012 with a horrendous pitching staff.  They employed a four-man rotation for much of the season - not for strategy - but rather out of necessity because they literally did not have five guys worthy of starting Major League Baseball games on a regular basis.  You can argue this holds true for 2013 as well.

Seriously, Jon Garland has not been relevant in years.  Now you have guys like him and Jeff Francis attempting to resurrect their careers in one of the more prominent hitter's ballparks.  Good luck there.  Even their "good" pitchers (Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio) would be lucky to be back-of-the-rotation guys on good teams.  Throw in the bullpen - disregarding the solid veteran closer Rafael Betancourt - and you have one of the worst pitching staffs in recent memory.

That last paragraph saddens me because it will hinder the Rockies all season long en route to a dreadful year.  Which means we do not get to see studs like Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki flourish in a Pennant race.  Both guys dealt with injuries last year - in Tulo's case, he has been dealing with injuries for his entire career - but when healthy, are All-Star worthy.  Tulo especially could be considered the best SS in all of baseball when he is actually on the field.  I am certainly rooting for the two of them so fans in Colorado have some sort of saving grace.

Until this team moves to Petco Park or gets pitchers worth a damn, the Rockies are going to continue to compete...for the first overall draft pick.


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