Tuesday, March 24, 2015

MLB 2015 preview, conclusion: How to win the West

We're wrapping up our baseball preview series by breaking down both the NL & AL West in one fell swoop.

NL West:

San Diego made a lot of noise in the offseason, getting Matt Kemp away from the Dodgers, and Justin Upton from Atlanta in trades. Throw in James Shields, who figures to be their opening day starter (Kansas City), and everyone seems to think they're a playoff contender already. Well, I'm not with everyone else. The Padres gave up Yasmani Grandal to get Kemp, but was that the right call? Los Angeles, you would think, might've gone into fire sale mode, not only getting rid of Kemp, but also stolen base champ Dee Gordon (Miami), and yet, they're the popular pick to win the division. They gave up on oft-injured Chad Billingsley (Philadelphia), figuring that Zack Greinke is enough to be a #2 starter behind Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, but Billingsley's absence will hurt more than help.

The pundits who think the Dodgers will win are ignoring the defending World Series champs, San Francisco, which would like to prove they can win in an odd-numbered year this century. Three titles in 5 years to most folks spells dynasty. The Giants start the season without Hunter Pence, who could be off the DL a few days or weeks into the season to boost the offense. Yes, they cut loose World Series hero Pablo Sandoval (Boston), and picked up Casey McGhee (Miami) to take his place. The offense, though, won't really kick in until Pence comes back, and, for Giants fans, that can't come soon enough.

Arizona & Colorado need more than just help. Divine intervention, anyone?

Projected order of finish:

1. San Francisco.
2. Los Angeles.
2 (tie). San Diego.
4. Arizona.
5. Colorado.

AL West:

As we've seen, it's not a good idea to anoint a team as a division champion just because of some off-season moves. It takes time for adjustments in team chemistry, among other things. Still, Seattle made a good accounting for itself last year after Jay Z's crew fleeced them for nearly $300 million to get Robinson Cano. Nelson Cruz comes from Baltimore to give the Mariners a power bat to complement Cano & Kyle Seager. However, aside from Felix Hernandez, the pitching does not scare.

Oakland swapped 3rd basemen, sending Josh Donaldson to Toronto for Brett Lawrie, and, in a curious move, let first baseman Brandon Moss go (Cleveland) after picking up ex-Met Ike Davis, who finished last season with Pittsburgh. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are the popular pick to win the division, and would like to prove that it was a fluke that they were eliminated so quickly last October. Problem is, they might not have Josh Hamilton for a length of time, if rumors of a substance abuse-related relapse are true. Bear in mind that Albert Pujols is on the downside of his career, and, aside from Mike Trout, the Angels have enough to get by on offense.

Down in the Lone Star State, Houston surprised everyone by moving out of the cellar. Hey, as long as owner Jim Crane can find a way to keep some of the players promoted from the Tri-City Valleycats in the organization long enough to reach the bigs, the Astros could be contenders again in another couple of years. Meanwhile, Texas is in rebuilding mode, more so after Yu Darvish went down for the season (Tommy John surgery). Think they're regretting letting a utility player like Craig Gentry leave (signed with Oakland last season)? Of course.

Projected order of finish:

1. Los Angeles.
2. Seattle.
3. Oakland.
4. Houston.
5. Texas.

Wild card picks:

NL: Mets, Dodgers.
AL: Red Sox, Mariners.

Of course, I could be wrong.

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