NL West power rankings
College Contributor Network
In the last part of our 2015 MLB season preview we take a look at the NL West, home of the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. With big additions by both the Dodgers and Padres, it will certainly be no walk in the park for the Pablo Sandoval-less Giants if they want to hold onto their crown in 2015.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Another abrupt ending to the season posed a lot of questions in la-la land about the future of manager Don Mattingly. The Dodgers elected to stay with their skipper, and have added a couple of strong pieces to ensure another first place finish in 2015. Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick should fit in well for Magic Johnson's team, in what should be far and away the most dominant offense in the division.
Adrian Gonzalez was sneakily one of the best hitters in baseball last season, leading the league in RBI's with the always dangerous Yasiel Puig right in front of him in the three spot. A bottom of the lineup featuring Kendrick, Juan Uribe and Joc Pederson, who is projected to be a star in the making, will give The Blue Crew solid pop 1-9.
Zack Greinke's elbow is the big concern pitching wise for Los Angeles. With the number one spot occupied by the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw, and the bottom half of the rotation featuring a very good Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, if Greinke can stay healthy the Dodgers will be World Series or bust in 2015.
2. San Diego Padres
What a splash the Padres made in the offseason after another year of mediocrity in San Diego. The acquisitions of Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and James Shields immediately leapfrog Bud Black's team to second in the West with a chance at snagging a wild-card berth this season. With the three newcomers likely occupying the 2-4 spots in the lineup, a solid Yangervis Solarte leading off, and guys like first baseman Yonder Alonso and new catcher Derek Norris at the bottom of the order, the Padres could be playoff bound for the first time since 2006.
All along the Padres were looking for that one ace atop the rotation and they were finally able to add it in Shields, who should put up even better numbers this season in the National League. Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy will likely follow Shields in that order, all of whom are capable of putting up 200 innings this season. With that being said, the bullpen could potentially be an issue for San Diego this season. Closer Joaquin Benoit is one of the best in the league, but the issue will be bridging the gap from the starting pitchers to the ninth inning.
3. San Francisco Giants
It was a pretty underwhelming offseason for the defending World Series champions who lost Pablo Sandoval to the Red Sox. Offensively minus Sandoval, the lineup will look pretty identical to last year's with Casey McGehee likely being Panda's replacement. Last year, the Giants only finished 88-74 in the regular season, and with an improved Dodgers and Padres teams, the lack of offseason moves could have Bruce Bochy's team on the outside looking in this year.
If San Francisco is going to snag the second spot in the division it will have to be the pitching carrying the load. Madison Bumgarner had one of the best post seasons of all-time last season with his heroics, capped off by him coming in relief for five innings in game seven against the Royals. Still, injury concerns loom around both Tim Hudson (ankle) and Matt Cain (elbow) heading into the year. Jake Peavy, who turned his season around after being acquired from the Red Sox last July, and Ryan Vogelsong are good end-of-the-rotation guys, but if Hudson and Cain don't return to full health it will definitely be just 162 games played this season.
4. Colorado Rockies
Should be another neck-and-neck race for last place in the West this year. The Rockies, who edged out Arizona for the fourth spot last year, should be able to do so again in 2015. Once again for Walt Weiss's team they have a solid top-four in Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Morneau with absolutely no depth after that, with the exception of Corey Dickerson who could potentially have a big season. The biggest surprise this offseason is that the Yankees did not somehow get Tulo to replace Derek Jeter as the next shortstop of the Bronx Bombers.
Pitching is just "eh" for Colorado this year. Jorge de la Rosa, the likely opening day starter is certainly not an ace by any standards, but could end up being the only pitcher with an above .500 record this season.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks are legitimately the worst team in baseball, period. While the Phillies could give them a run for their money this year, they have absolutely no hitting besides Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. Runs are going to be very few and far between.
The addition of Jeremy Hellickson was a solid compliment to Josh Collmenter atop the rotation. Other than that, the D-Backs have no reliable pitching in place to try and conceal their lackluster offense.
Joshua Brown is a Sports Correspondent for the Boston Globe. He is a color commentator for Northeastern University basketball and hockey and also writes for USCHO and College Hoops Daily. Follow him on Twitter: @josh_brown31