The weather is getting warmer. The days are getting longer. Spring training is in full swing, and you can almost smell the freshly cut grass, hot dogs and peanuts of your local ballpark. The Rangers and Astros will kick off the season in just a few short weeks, and it is now time for a round of useless division predictions so we can all start getting our mind out of basketball mode and into its baseball preset. If you saw the Orioles finishing in second place in the notorious American League East or the Oakland A’s winning the AL west, then these projections aren’t useless. As it stands, we never know what twists and turns will take place over the course of 162, but we’re going to try to look into the future and see where things will stand come October.
National League West:
San Diego Padres, 5th place
With a supremely mediocre lineup to accompany its supremely mediocre starting rotation, the San Diego Padres figure to be the NL West bottom dwellers for a few more years. Edinson Volquez will lead the tip of the spear on the mound in 2013, following a sub par 2012 that saw him finish with a 4.14 ERA. Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin will lead the offensive charge, which again underlines how mediocre this team is. On the bright side for Ron Burgundy’s bunch, they still play in the most beautiful ballpark in the big leagues.
Colorado Rockies, 4th place
While the Rockies have had a decently solid nucleus in place for the last few seasons, the results have yet to translate to the win column. They finished a whopping 30 games behind the Giants in 2012, but could be poised to have a more competitive 2013. Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Todd Helton are as formidable in the middle of the lineup and nearly anyone, but it is the starting rotation that leaves more to be desired. Juan Nicasio has been the walking definition of bad luck to start his major league career, breaking his neck in 2011and having a bum knee in 2012. If the rotation can manage to not get knocked around in the altitude, the Rox should improve on their 64 wins of a year ago.
Arizona Diamondbacks, 3rd place
After a winter of wheeling and dealing, and ultimately trading their all-star left fielder Justin Upton to Atlanta, the Diamondbacks could have a bit of a hill to climb. The lineup could have its issues through the course of the summer in the dessert, but the starting rotation appears to be a strength heading into 2012. Ian Kennedy and Trevor Cahill are both looking to build on strong campaigns a year ago, and new addition Brandon McCarthy should also give a boost. Highly touted prospect left-hander Tyler Skaggs could be the wild card for the Diamondbacks, and if the rotation can stay healthy, they may be a dark horse candidate akin to the A’s of a season ago. Of course, they could disintegrate and lead to a miserable year, but the D’backs have a few things going for them.
San Francisco Giants, 2nd place
Feels wrong picking the defending World Series Champions to finish second place in their own division, but you’ll see why in about 90 more words. The whole gang is back to try to win their third title in four years, a mixture that obviously seems to yield positive results. Buster Posey is the returning NL MVP, and the starting rotation is just as nasty led by Matt Cain. If Tim Lincecum can return to his old form, the Giants may not care about all the money being spent by their division rivals in So. Cal.
Los Angeles Dodgers, 1st place
So, that happened. After a Magic Johnson led group bought the team last spring for over a billion dollars, they immediately began throwing money around like it was as useless as the paper it was printed on. They acquired Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford over the summer, and then backed the brinks truck up to Zach Grienke’s doorstep to lure him to LA. Over 260 million dollars in added payroll later, the Los Angeles Dodgers have taken the torch from the Yankees as the big spenders of the league, and with a whole spring to let the acquired talent gel, they look as dangerous as anyone. Don’t forget former Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw at the top of the rotation to go along with Greinke either. These guys better hope the ‘making it rain’ approach works or they’ll be a national laughing stock.