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1 - Los Angeles Dodgers
X-Factors: Joc Pederson, Brett Anderson, Yasmani Grandal
The Dodgers have been the talk of baseball ever since Magic Johnson and Co. took over the reins in 2012. But with all the talk of the Washington Nationals super pitching staff, they have flown a bit under the radar going into 2015. This past offseason, they rebuilt their front office, hiring former Rays GM Andrew Friedman, and his impact was immediately felt. They rebuilt their middle infield, bringing in Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick; two established veterans to improve their clubhouse environment. They also traded longtime Dodger Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres, opening up the center field position to mega prospect Joc Pederson. Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig will remain the threats of the offense, but the real danger of the Dodgers is their lethal pitching staff. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, and Zack Greinke is the best #2 starter in any pitching staff around. I don't see how this team misses the playoffs; how deep into the playoffs they'll get another story. (PS: Happy Birthday Kershaw!)
2 - San Francisco Giants
X-Factors: Casey McGehee, Matt Cain, Angel Pagan
Uh oh, it's an odd year season, which is about the worst thing the Giants could ask for. San Francisco has won each of the past three even year World Series, despite being overshadowed by the massive payroll and superstars with the Dodgers. They've got three reasons to feel better than the Dodgers, but in 2015 they're already off to a scary start. Hunter Pence fractured his forearm and will miss the start of the season. Casey McGehee will be replacing fan favorite Pablo Sandoval, who left the team not because of money considerations but of some sort of "disrespect". Madison Bumgarner hasn't looked great in Spring Training, and yes, I understand the "it's only Spring Training" thing. I expect last year's hero to have a good 2015, as long as he doesn't feel too much wear from the excessive amount of innings he pitched. The Giants have become my second favorite team after visiting San Francisco last season, and I'll be rooting for Joe Panik to build off his successful rookie season at second base. However, I see them just missing the playoffs, because so many teams have improved around them. But if anyone embraces negativity, it's this team, and if they can make the playoffs, perhaps they could conquer the odd year!
3 - San Diego Padres
X-Factors: Wil Myers, Jedd Gyorko
I will credit San Diego for their great overhaul this past winter. It was a lot of fun watching their new young GM AJ Preller completely start over with one of the more embarrassing franchises in recent history. He was able to add Matt Kemp, James Shields, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, and Derek Norris to a team in desperate need of leadership and star power. Shields will bolster the rotation into one of the National League's finest, as he will join Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross; two extremely promising right handers. My biggest concern is chemistry. There hasn't been a team rebuild of this caliber that has worked since the 2009 Yankees, showing that it takes so much more than name value to create a winning team. Wil Myers has been traded twice now and is 24 years old. For a player with as much potential as he is said to have, it makes you wonder if there's something about his game that other teams don't want to bother with. He will be taking his talents to center field, where he has played 9 games in his career. And what's a baseball without worrying about Matt Kemp, who this time goes into the year with two arthritic hips. If they don't win this year, will they try to sign Justin Upton long term, or will this be a one year colossal failure? We have yet to see, and until we do, I can't say they'll be making the postseason.
4 - Colorado Rockies
X-Factors: Carlos Gonzalez, Young Pitching Staff
Will the Rockies ever solve their pitching conundrum? It is so rare to see a pitcher succeed at Coors Field, which is especially scary for big name prospects Eddie Butler and Jon Gray, who will be at an unfair advantage from the get-go. But luckily for them, they won't have to worry about run support, as this team is chock full of productive hitters. Last year brought Nolan Arenado, Corey Dickerson, and Charlie Blackmon to the forefront, and they should be expected to bring much of the same to the table in 2015. The key to the Rockies is the health of their two superstars, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. With big seasons from each of them, they could be a surprise team surviving the stretch run. Unfortunately, too much would have to go right for that prediction to make any sense.
5 - Arizona Diamondbacks
X-Factors: Yasmany Tomas, Archie Bradley, Jeremy Hellickson
A few years ago, this would not have been a last place team. The Diamondbacks have acquired some pieces over the years to help advance the rebuilding phase, yet they still are a little bit behind the rest of the West. A healthy season from one of baseball's best, Paul Goldschmidt, could catapult this time in a few years with other players stepping up alongside, but he appears as if he'll have to carry much of the load in 2015. Yasmany Tomas, the recent Cuban player to become part of Major League Baseball, does not seem to have an established position. It will be difficult for him to make strides at the plate until he is comfortable in the field, because frustration does carry over to different parts of the game. Overall though, the D-Backs are not yet relevant, but give it a few more seasons and I feel like they could contend once again.
Division MVP: Troy Tulowitzki
Division Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
Playoff Teams: Los Angeles
The NL West has potential to be one of the more interesting divisions in 2015, but I feel like it will be a bit underwhelming. Can the Giants, and even the Padres make the playoffs? Probably, if things go their way more often that not. But instead, I chose the Marlins and Cardinals to beat out these teams as Wild Cards. My predicted division MVP was Tulowitzki, but it could easily be Paul Goldschmidt, Buster Posey, or even Kershaw as well. Tulo is one of the more fun players to watch when healthy, and I would love to see him make a run for NL MVP, although it will be hard to win on a poor Rockies team.
That will conclude the division by division previews for you all. I hope you enjoyed reading each blurb about your favorite team(s) and be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts on how I did with these and if you would like me to try to do them next year as well! Playoff and Award predictions are coming soon to drewscards, and I hope to see you all there!