Los Angeles Dodgers
2015: 92-70, first place, lost to New York Mets in Division Series.
Manager: Dave Roberts (first season).
Hot Spots: Starting Rotation and Left Field. Now that Zack Greinke is gone to division-rival Arizona after signing a $206.5 million deal, the rotation is a question mark behind Clayton Kershaw. Los Angeles failed to lure any big-name additions, and several remaining starters are injured. Brett Anderson is out three to five months following back surgery, and Hyun-Jin Ryu (left shoulder) won’t be ready until mid-May. Brandon McCarthy (elbow) is on the 60-day disabled list, and Mike Bolsinger won’t be available to open the season because of a strained oblique. That leaves the No. 5 spot up for grabs. … Andre Ethier (.294, 14 HRs, 53 RBIs) was set to be the starter in left field until he fouled off a pitch in spring training and broke his right leg. He will be sidelined until at least June or July, setting up a potential platoon of Carl Crawford and Van Slyke.
Outlook: In his first job as a major league manager, Roberts will guide the Dodgers in pursuit of a fourth straight NL West title and another chance to end their disappointing run of early exits from the postseason. Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir will try to fill the void created by Greinke’s departure. Maybe one of them can form another imposing 1-2 tandem with Kershaw. Tall order, though. Adria Gonzalez anchors the offense, and the 21-year-old Corey Seager will be the team’s first rookie shortstop since Jose Offerman in 1991. One of baseball’s best prospects, Seager is pegged as a big run producer in the future. Yasiel Puig is capable of injecting excitement or dismay at any moment and will be expected to get back to his old self after injuries caused him to miss more than half of last season. Joc Pederson earned an All-Star nod as a rookie last year before tailing off badly in the second half, but the Dodgers like his defense and are confident in his bat.
San Francisco Giants
2015: 84-78, second place.
Manager: Bruce Bochy (10th season).
Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. The additions of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija strengthened the top of the rotation, but questions remain about the bottom two spots. Jake Peavy made just 19 starts last season after missing almost three months with a back injury. Matt Cain, once the ace of the staff, has battled injuries the past two seasons and is 4-11 with a 4.83 ERA in 28 games during that span. Cain also missed time this spring to have a cyst removed from his upper right arm. Waiting in the wings if Cain or Peavy falters is Chris Heston, who went 12-11 with a 3.95 ERA as a rookie last season.
Outlook: The Giants appear to have all the ingredients they need to contend in the top-heavy National League and possibly extend their pattern of winning a championship every other year. San Francisco took home World Series titles in 2010, `12 and `14, but missed the playoffs the season after each crown. This roster could be the most complete one the Giants have had during this run. GM Bobby Evans went on a spending spree in the offseason to strengthen the rotation and up-the-middle defense. He committed $220 million to Cueto and Samardzija to provide needed support behind Madison Bumgarner. The Giants also signed Brandon Crawford to a $75 million, six-year deal and Denard Span to a $31 million, three-year contract to fill holes in center field and the leadoff spot. With Buster Posey and Joe Panik also in the fold, the Giants are as strong as they have been in years up the middle. The bullpen has most of its key parts back, with the exception of Jeremy Affeldt, and the lineup has no weak spot.
2015: 79-83, third place.
Manager: Chip Hale (second season).
Hot Spots: Middle Infield and Left Field. There’s been a wide-open competition for roles at shortstop and second base. Slick-fielding but historically light-hitting SS Nick Ahmed looks to lose playing time to Jean Segura, who was having a torrid spring. Segura spent some time at second base, too, where Phil Gosselin also was in the mix. Regardless of the combination, the Diamondbacks should have strong defense up the middle. Yasmany Tomas was a disappointment last season and the Cuban bopper has been shifted from right field to left. He’s being pressed by multitalented youngster Socrates Brito, who can play all the outfield positions. The fifth spot in the rotation was up for grabs in the spring but the 24-year-old Robbie Ray was easily the best of the candidates.
Outlook: The Diamondbacks stunned almost everyone by signing Greinke to a $206.5 million, six-year contract. Days later they landed Shelby Miller, shipping some of their best young talent to the Braves in the deal. Hale, GM Dave Stewart and baseball operations chief Tony La Russa believe the 1-2-3 punch of Greinke, Miller and a healthy Patrick Corbin should make Arizona a contender in the NL West. Most of the components return in a lineup that ranked second in the league in runs last season, anchored by the emergence of A.J. Pollock and fellow All-Star Paul Goldschmidt, runner-up for NL MVP two of the last three years. Arizona expects big things from David Peralta, too. The defense should be good, with the exception of the sometimes-shaky Tomas in left. Success depends on the back end of the rotation, the middle infield, the bullpen, and whether Miller and Corbin can provide top-level support behind Greinke.
San Diego Padres
2015: 74-88, fourth place.
Manager: Andy Green (first season).
Hot Spots: Shortstop and First Base. The highlight of a relatively quiet offseason for general manager A.J. Preller was acquiring Alexei Ramirez. Although he’s 34 and coming off a down year offensively for the White Sox, he’s still a long-needed upgrade at shortstop. Wil Myers is coming off another injury-marred season and will take over at first base, where the former outfielder will be tutored by new bench coach Mark McGwire. The Padres also must decide whether slugging outfielder Jabari Blash, plucked from Seattle in the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings, will make the roster.
Outlook: The Padres have tried to blunt talk that they’re rebuilding, but they certainly don’t appear to have enough talent to hang with the top three teams in the NL West: Los Angeles, San Francisco and Arizona. The Padres went for immediate results when they loaded up with big names last offseason, but finished with a worse record than they did in 2014. Most of their moves this offseason were designed to replenish the depleted farm system and acquire draft picks, meaning they’re not going with the win-now philosophy that fell short in 2015. Even so, the Padres will need a fast start and good health just to keep within reach of the big spenders in the division. The top three in the rotation, Tyson Ross, James Shields and Andrew Cashner, will have to carry the load for an offensively challenged club. No one will be surprised if they miss the playoffs for the 10th straight season.
2015: 68-94, fifth place.
Manager: Walt Weiss (fourth season).
Hot Spot: Shortstop. Jose Reyes remains under investigation in accordance with baseball’s new domestic violence policy. The four-time All-Star was placed on paid leave pending completion of criminal proceedings. He was arrested in Hawaii on Oct. 31 following an argument with his wife and pleaded not guilty to a charge of abuse of a family or household member. He was released after posting $1,000 bail and is scheduled for a trial starting April 4, the day the Rockies open the season at Arizona. With Reyes absent, Trevor Story has played well this spring, showing power and an ability to hit for average at a position occupied for years by Troy Tulowitzki until the star slugger was traded to Toronto last summer.
Outlook: The Rockies certainly didn’t sit around this winter after a fifth straight losing season. The first step by general manager Jeff Bridich was to retool a struggling bullpen. He signed Jason Motte and Chad Qualls and then traded for Jake McGee in a deal that sent Corey Dickerson to Tampa Bay. Colorado is counting on big seasons again from Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez, who combined for 82 homers and 227 RBIs last year. Charlie Blackmon is a threat to steal anytime he gets on base. One thing Colorado didn’t do was upgrade the rotation. Jorge De La Rosa and Chad Bettis are the top starters on a staff that could rely heavily on youth – including Jon Gray. The prized prospect struggled at Coors Field in a limited sample size, allowing 20 runs at home and just six on the road last season. He strained an abdominal muscle with less than two weeks left in spring training, and it’s uncertain how long he’ll be out. Chris Rusin has been sidelined this spring by inflammation in the middle finger of his pitching hand.
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