1. Colorado Rockies
The big-spending Rockies aren’t quite ready to declare themselves the division champions considering the Giants won it all. But with a rebuilt roster and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and center fielder Carlos Gonzalez signed well into the future, manager Jim Tracy has high hopes for a team that was plagued by injuries in 2010 and lost 13 of its final 14 games to finish 83-79 and third in the N.L. West.
And ace Ubaldo Jimenez leads a talented rotation after he won 19 games last season and started the All-Star game.
2. San Francisco Giants
The Giants still look an awful lot like they did last fall, when this bunch of castoffs and misfits surprised everybody by getting by the mighty Phillies in the N.L. Championship Series and then handling the Texas Rangers in five games to win the World Series.
General manager Brian Sabean kept nearly his entire roster intact for what he hopes is another deep October run, losing World Series MVP shortstop Edgar Renteria and also utility infielder Juan Uribe to the rival Dodgers. But San Francisco signed veteran shortstop Miguel Tejada, plenty familiar with Bay Area baseball after winning the 2002 A.L. MVP for the Oakland Athletics.
3. San Diego Padres
A late 10-game losing streak did in the Padres last season – and they know full well they should have been a playoff team with 90 wins. San Diego had an N.L.-best 76-49 record on Aug. 25 and had a chance until the season’s final day, when it lost at San Francisco.
The Padres look much different going into 2011, having traded away All-Star slugger Adrian Gonzalez to Boston in a mass exodus of players and boosting the lineup with a handful of new faces. The team must make up for Gonzalez’s production after he hit .298 with 31 homers and 101 RBIs last season.
Closer Heath Bell’s 47 saves were one shy of the majors-best 48 by San Francisco’s Brian Wilson.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
Don Mattingly has been waiting for his chance to be a manager, and the former Yankees star takes over in place of Joe Torre for a team that went 80-82 last year.
The Dodgers signed Juan Uribe away from the Giants in one of their bigger moves of the winter after he produced career bests of 24 home runs and 85 RBIs in his second season with San Francisco.
GM Ned Colletti insisted the divorce of Los Angeles owners Frank and Jamie McCourt wouldn’t affect offseason spending, and the Dodgers committed more than $80 million in signings over the winter – including a three-year, $21 million contract for Uribe.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
New Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers doesn’t sugarcoat his team’s chances as Kirk Gibson begins his first full season as manager. Towers has turned around franchises during his days in San Diego, and he is now running a club that struck out 1,517 times last season and finished in last place in the West for the second straight season.
The team’s 65 wins in 2010 matched the second-lowest victory total in franchise history.
Capsules and predictions by Janie McCauley, Associated Press