The regular season begins this Sunday at 5:05PM PST when the Texas Rangers play the Houston Astros in that famous AL West rivalry, which means this week is all about previews, bold predictions, and message board put downs. I will say I am not good at predicting things, so let’s get that straight. Like everybody else though, I have an opinion on the matter of how events will play out. As I preview these divisions, I’ll tell you a little of what sport betting sites see, what computer simulations see, and what I see. The teams will be previewed in the reverse order I expect them to finish. Let us preview the NL West, where my predictions mean I have no respect for managers that have transformed Eric Gagne‘s career (“Trace, you’re crazy!”), the intangibles, and recent success.
5. Colorado Rockies
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 25/1, 60/1, 150/1
Stuart sees: a team that if healthy, could hit their way to third place in the division. Really! It’s just that I don’t know how healthy they can be, and their starting pitching is mostly what I would call “not good.” Jeff Francis and Jon Garland bring up the back of the rotation, and I’m not sure how long that’s going to work, especially Francis. Maybe he’ll wind up with the Marlins some time this season. The bullpen is whatevers with Rafael Betancourt handling the save opportunities, and the bench not being horrible for a bench. That lineup led by Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, and Troy Tulowitzki should be respected, and yea, Michael Cuddyer and Todd Helton are older, but if they’re in the lineup, you respect that, too. With this team, I’m just waiting for the wheels to come off in terms of health and then watch the pitching suffer. I’m glad they tried that four-man rotation last year to try and innovate, and hope they try something else this year. Maybe less sacrifice bunting by position players?
4. San Diego Padres
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 14/1, 40/1, 75/1
Stuart sees: a farm system that’s good, but just saw Casey Kelly and Rymer Liriano go down for a significant amount of time, so the Padres won’t have a starter and a worthy OF reinforcement to help them out in the middle of the season. They’ll probably get some assistance elsewhere from within, but knowing your back-up plan isn’t as readily available as you hoped it’d be isn’t quite the start to the season you were hoping for. Back to the major league club, I’m curious how Jedd Gyorko will do as he springs onto the scene at 2B, and I’m sure he won’t mind that Petco brought its fences in. 2012 second-half erupter Chase Headley will miss a month with a thumb injury, and Yasmani Grandal decided to be stupid so he’s missing fifty games, so if the Padres start slow, don’t be all too surprised. The bullpen should be good (again), with the rotation holding their own, promising to be that annoying team that doesn’t just let you trample them in September when you need those wins. I say the ceiling for this team is third, the floor being last. Yea, yea, I can hear you, I know that’s not a super-bold prediction.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 13/2, 25/1, 60/1
Stuart sees: a front office that went out of its way to make its squad worse because Justin Upton wasn’t good enough for them, and their bullpen didn’t have enough 9th-inning experience so they decided they would be happy to pay for Heath Bell, and why not ship off Chris Young, and get Cliff Pennington, too… as your starting shortstop. Sure, Didi Gregorious will be diddling about in the minors, but if the moves the DBacks made this off-season didn’t make your eyes roll, what will? Trevor Bauer was given up on, and I’m just hoping they trade top prospect Tyler Skaggs to the Giants for someone “gritty” because intangibles, that’s why. Each part of this Diamondbacks roster should be able to pull its own weight at the major league level, which makes them sound remarkably average, and that’s where I think they are, but maybe a few games above that. This team can win the division, and they might have a couple guys that can provide some help in the home stretch if they so desire to bring them up in Matt Davidson, Didi, and Skaggs.
2. San Francisco Giants
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 8/5, 13/2, 12/1
Stuart sees: loyal Giants fans getting ticked at me putting them here just because I predicted they would win just about every three-game or playoff series against their opponent last season which means I should place them first here, too. Some Giants fans after 2010, and now after both 2010 and 2012 get extremely butthurt when you don’t put the team they support in first, as if that’s disrespecting their team. It’s not at all disrespecting their team as it is respecting what the team ahead of them has put together by throwing around money to bring in talent. Changes to this team include: the bench of Nick Noonan, Andres Torres, and Cole Gillespie, and long-reliever Chad Gaudin in the bullpen. Outside of that, not too much different. The Giants must have someone in the crowd of Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, and Barry Zito to step up their game to both compensate the regressions that will happen with Gregor Blanco, and help them make up for the difference in talent on paper between them and the Dodgers. This team can definitely win the division, but I don’t see them finishing any worse than third. I am hoping they do not part with any of their top pitching prospects again to bring in someone this year, but I am worried it will happen.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
From a Spring Training game vs. the Giants, but take note:
— Stuart Jones (@HeHitsItDeeeeep) February 26, 2013
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 5/6, 4/1, 9/1
Stuart sees: a new land of evil, sure it’s a new kind of blue, or whatever the slogan is, and it’s funny how we associate large amounts of spending with being bad, but the contracts the Dodgers handed out to the likes of Zack Greinke and Matt Kemp weren’t all that obnoxious at all. Swallowing up Carl Crawford‘s, taking a risk on Hyun-Jin Ryu, though, are just going to anoint you king of the moneys by people observing the game. A rotation led by Kershaw and Greinke (though the latter might be a little slow out of the gates) followed by some decent guys in Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, and the question mark Ryu, we’re just wondering who can stay healthy, and who Ryu really is: is he a starter? Or an expensive reliever? The spring of Yasiel Puig came to a halt when the Dodgers wisely optioned him to the minors to get an extended look at him there to see if he can develop some plate discipline, but I’ve heard a lot of positive reports on him even without said discpline. Their bullpen is good, so anything that lineup that includes Kemp, Gonzalez, and the platoonable Andre Ethier can put together in the form of a lead, I expect them to hold it down. Injuries are really the only thing that I can see bringing these guys down (hello, Hanley Ramirez‘s thumb), or Don Mattingly bunting them all over the place. The floor is third, but it is an unlikely floor at that.