NL WEST TEAM PREVIEWS
Teams listed in order of finish last year.
2012: 94-68, first place (World Series champions).
Manager: Bruce Bochy (seventh season).
He's here: OF Andres Torres, RHP Chad Gaudin, RHP Ramon Ramirez, RHP Sandy Rosario, INF Wilson Valdez, INF Kensuke Tanaka.
He's outta here: OF Melky Cabrera, RHP Brian Wilson, RHP Clay Hensley, C Eli Whiteside, 1B Aubrey Huff, RHP Guillermo Mota, OF Xavier Nady, INF Freddy Sanchez, INF Ryan Theriot.
Projected lineup: CF Angel Pagan (.288, 8 HRs, 56 RBIs, 29 SBs, 15 triples), 2B Marco Scutaro (.306, 7, 74 with Rockies and Giants, NLCS MVP), 3B Pablo Sandoval (.283, 12, 63, World Series MVP), C Buster Posey (.336, 24, 103, 39 doubles, NL MVP), RF Hunter Pence (.253, 24, 104 with Phillies and Giants), 1B Brandon Belt (.275, 7, 56), LF Gregor Blanco (.244, 5, 34, 26 SBs), SS Brandon Crawford (.248, 4, 45).
Rotation: RH Matt Cain (16-5, 2.79 ERA, 193 Ks), LH Madison Bumgarner (16-11, 3.37, 191 Ks), RH Tim Lincecum (10-15, 5.18, 190 Ks, matched career high with 17 wild pitches), LH Barry Zito (15-8, 4.15), RH Ryan Vogelsong (14-9, 3.37).
Key relievers: RH Sergio Romo (4-2, 1.79, 14 of 15 saves, .185 BA against), LH Javier Lopez (3-0, 2.50, 7 saves), RH Santiago Casilla (7-6, 2.84, 25 of 31 saves), LH Jeremy Affeldt (1-2, 2.70, 3 saves).
Hot spots: Lincecum, the former ace and two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, struggled so badly last season that he was banished to the bullpen in the postseason. He shined in his new role, posting a 2.55 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 172/3 innings. He was nearly unhittable in the World Series, allowing only one of 16 batters to reach base safely. He cut his hair in the offseason and added 10 pounds of muscle in hopes of regaining the form that helped him dominate hitters early in his career. Whether it works will be a major question early in the season for the defending champions.
Outlook: General manager Brian Sabean's offseason plan? Don't mess with success. He brought back almost the entire crew that helped San Francisco win a second World Series title in three seasons, with players who accounted for more than 95 percent of the postseason at-bats and all but 12/3 innings pitched still on the roster. San Francisco rewarded older players such as Scutaro, Pagan and Affeldt with lucrative contracts to return through free agency. The starting pitching once again with be a strength, led by Cain and Bumgarner. But the competition should be even tougher this season in the NL West with the big-spending Dodgers trying to supplant their rivals. One positive for the Giants is that in both seasons in which Posey has been healthy, they have won the World Series. The Giants are counting on Posey to lead them to the top of the division for the next decade, signing him to a $167 million, nine-year contract Friday, a deal that includes a club option for 2022 that could raise the value to $186 million over 10 years.
Los Angeles Dodgers
2012: 86-76, second place.
Manager: Don Mattingly (third season).
He's here: RHP Zack Greinke, LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu.
He's outta here: 1B James Loney, OF-1B Juan Rivera, RHP Jamey Wright, LHP Randy Choate, RHP Joe Blanton, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, OF Shane Victorino, OF Bobby Abreu.
Projected lineup: LF Carl Crawford (.282, 3 HRs, 19 RBIs with Red Sox), 2B Mark Ellis (.258, 7, 31), CF Matt Kemp (.303, 23, 69), 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.299, 16, 103 with Red Sox and Dodgers), SS Hanley Ramirez (.259, 24, 52 with Marlins and Dodgers; expected to miss eight weeks after thumb surgery), RF Andre Ethier (.284, 20, 89), 3B Luis Cruz (.297, 6, 40), C A.J. Ellis (.270, 13, 52).
Rotation: LH Clayton Kershaw (14-9, 2.53 ERA, 229 Ks, 2272/3 IP, Cy Young Award runner-up), RH Zack Greinke (15-5, 2.48 with Brewers and Angels), LH Hyun-Jin Ryu (9-9, 2.66 with Hanwha of Korean Baseball Organization), RH Josh Beckett (7-14, 4.65 with Red Sox and Dodgers), RH Chad Billingsley (10-9, 3.55).
Key relievers: RH Brandon League (2-6, 3.13, 15 of 19 saves with Mariners and Dodgers), RH Kenley Jansen (5-3, 2.35, 25 of 31 saves, 99 Ks, 22 BBs, 65 IP in 65 games), RH Ronald Belisario (8-1, 2.54, 1 save in 68 games), LH Scott Elbert (1-1, 2.20), RH Shawn Tolleson (3-1, 4.30 in 40 games), RH Stephen Fife (0-2, 2.70 in 5 games), LH Chris Capuano (12-12, 3.72 in 33 starts), RH Aaron Harang (10-10, 3.61 in 31 starts), LH Ted Lilly (5-1, 3.14 in 8 starts).
Hot spots: A lot hinges on whether Ramirez's return to shortstop is finally successful. He appeared hesitant there after the Dodgers obtained him last July 25 from Miami, where he had moved to third base. That's where he was playing for the Dominican Republic in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic when he tore a ligament in his right thumb diving for a ball. The Dodgers could move Cruz back to shortstop and play Juan Uribe, Nick Punto or Jerry Hairston Jr. at third. Or, they could keep Cruz at third and turn again to light-hitting Dee Gordon, who had appeared headed to Triple-A Albuquerque. Gordon was Los Angeles' starting shortstop last season until he had surgery July 6 for a similar injury to his right thumb. Crawford's surgically repaired left elbow also is a concern. Nerve irritation limited him in spring training and could keep him out of the opening-day lineup. Greinke's scheduled start April 2 against the Giants could also be pushed to a later date because of inflammation in his right elbow that interrupted his training camp.
Outlook: A 2013 payroll of more than $230 million bought a lot of expectations. The big ticket is the six-year, $147 million contract that Greinke signed in December. But there was more in the vault. A lot more. The Dodgers signed Ryu, who has pitched only in Korea, to a six-year deal worth $36 million. Cuban prospect Yasiel Puig, who has never appeared in a major league game, signed for $42 million over seven years. Can the Dodgers cash in? It won't be easy in the NL West with the Giants coming off their second World Series title in three years. But a pennant might be the only thing anybody accepts.
2012: 81-81, third place.
Manager: Kirk Gibson (third season).
He's here: 3B Martin Prado, RHP Brandon McCarthy, OF Cody Ross, SS Cliff Pennington, 3B Eric Chavez, 1B Eric Hinske, RHP Heath Bell, LHP Matt Reynolds, LHP Tony Sipp, RHP Randall Delgado, SS Didi Gregorius.
He's outta here: RF Justin Upton, CF Chris Young, 3B Chris Johnson, RHP Trevor Bauer, RHP Bryan Shaw, LHP Craig Breslow, RHP Matt Albers, LHP Mike Zagurski, RHP Brad Bergesen.
Projected lineup: CF A.J. Pollock (.247, 2 HRs, 8 RBIs; .318, 3 HRs, 52 RBIs, 21 SBs at Triple-A Reno, 3B Martin Prado (.301, 10, 70 with Braves), 2B Aaron Hill (.302, 26, 85), C Miguel Montero (.286, 15, 88), 1B Paul Goldschmidt (.286, 20, 82), LF Jason Kubel (.253, 30, 90), RF Gerardo Parra (.273, 7, 36), SS Cliff Pennington (.215, 6, 28 with Oakland).
Rotation: RH Ian Kennedy (15-12, 4.02 ERA, 187 Ks), RH Trevor Cahill (13-12, 3.78), LH Wade Miley (16-11, 3.33, 144 Ks, 37 BBs), RH Brandon McCarthy (8-6, 3.24 with Oakland), RH Randall Delgado (4-9, 4.37 with Braves) or LH Patrick Corbin (6-8, 4.54).
Key relievers: RH J.J. Putz (1-5, 2.82, 32 of 37 saves), RH David Hernandez (2-3, 2.50, 98 Ks in 681/3 innings), RH Heath Bell (4-5, 5.09, 19 of 27 saves with Marlins), RH Josh Collmenter (5-3, 3.69), LH Matt Reynolds (3-1, 4.40 with Rockies), LH Tony Sipp (1-2, 4.42 with Indians).
Hot spots: Shortstop, where light-hitting Pennington and Bloomquist, plagued by a sore back last season, will split time as top prospect Gregorius, acquired from the Reds in the three-team deal that sent Bauer to the Indians, waits in the minors. Right field, where the franchise's biggest name, Upton, and his multiple talents are gone, sent to the Braves in the trade for Prado. The newly signed Ross was penciled in there, but a calf injury could have him on the DL when the season begins, leaving the spot to Parra.
Outlook: General manager Kevin Towers was busy in the offseason, working to reshape the club's personality into an aggressive, team-oriented unit that depends less on the home run and more on timely hitting. But an arm injury to speedy rookie Adam Eaton, slated to be the center fielder, has messed up the master plan. Eaton is out six to eight weeks. Adding to the injury woes, versatile Willie Bloomquist sustained a back injury five days before opening day. Prado and Hill are counted on to be the contact hitters the team needs in its revamped offense. If McCarthy can stay healthy and the bullpen is as good as advertised, the Diamondbacks, division champions in 2011, believe they have the pitching to contend with the Giants and Dodgers in the tough NL West. The question is, can they score enough and avoid their myriad baserunning blunders of a season ago?
San Diego Padres
2012: 76-86, fourth place.
Manager: Bud Black (seventh season).
He's here: RHP Tyson Ross, RHP Freddy Garcia.
He's outta here: RF Cory Burns, INF Andy Parrino, LHP Andrew Werner, RHP Micah Owings, RHP Dustin Moseley.
Projected lineup: SS Everth Cabrera (.246, 2 HRs, 24 RBIs, NL-high 44 SBs), RF Will Venable (.264, 9, 45) or Chris Denorfia (.293, 8, 36), 3B Chase Headley (.286, 31, 115), LF Carlos Quentin (.261, 16, 46), 1B Yonder Alonso (.273, 9, 62), 2B Jedd Gyorko (.328, 24, 83 in 92 games at Triple-A), CF Cameron Maybin (.243, 8, 45, 26 SBs), C Nick Hundley (.157, 3, 22).
Rotation: LH Clayton Richard (14-14, 3.99 ERA, 107 Ks), RH Edinson Volquez (11-11, 4.14, 174 Ks), RH Jason Marquis (8-11, 5.22 with Twins and Padres), LH Eric Stults (8-3, 2.92), RH Tyson Ross (2-11, 6.50 with Oakland) or RH Andrew Cashner (3-4, 4.27, 5 starts, 33 appearances).
Key relievers: RH Huston Street (2-1, 1.85, 23 of 24 saves), RH Luke Gregerson (2-0, 2.39, 72 Ks in 712/3 IP), RH Brad Brach (2-4, 3.78), RH Dale Thayer (2-2, 3.43, 7 saves), LH Joe Thatcher (1-4, 3.41), RH Anthony Bass (2-8, 4.73), RH Tim Stauffer (0-0, 5.40, 1 start) or LH Tommy Layne (2-0, 3.24).
Hot spots: The Padres already are in trouble, and this after they made no major offseason additions to a roster that finished 18 games behind the Giants. Headley, coming off one of the best seasons in club history, broke his left thumb in spring training and is expected to miss two weeks. Logan Forsythe could take over at third. Gyorko, the Padres' top prospect, played third base until switching positions last season in the minor leagues. Quentin played little during the spring after having surgery on his right knee in the offseason. Young catcher Yasmani Grandal is suspended for the first 50 games after testing positive for testosterone, and Cabrera's name was listed in the records of a now-closed Florida clinic at the center of a Major League Baseball investigation into banned performance-enhancing drugs. RHP Casey Kelly, the key prospect acquired from Boston in the trade for Adrian Gonzalez, appears headed for reconstructive elbow surgery.
Outlook: There's not much optimism that the Padres will avoid a fifth losing season in six years. That leaves fans to wonder what they will do with Headley, whose breakout season produced Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, as well as 31 homers and an NL-best 115 RBIs. He earned a $5.1 million raise when he and the Padres avoided salary arbitration by agreeing on an $8,575,000, one-year contract. The Padres don't seem inclined to sign him to a long-term deal, at least not right away. They apparently want to see if Headley can have another big season. They control his rights through 2014, and his trade value has never been higher. Many fans fear the Padres will trade Headley, as they did Jake Peavy during the 2009 season and Gonzalez in December 2010.
2012: 64-98, fifth place.
Manager: Walt Weiss (first season).
He's here: RHP Wilton Lopez, SS Reid Brignac, RHP Jon Garland.
He's outta here: Manager Jim Tracy, 1B Jason Giambi, RHP Alex White, RHP Guillermo Moscoso, RHP Josh Roenicke, LHP Matt Reynolds, LHP Jonathan Sanchez.
Projected lineup: CF Dexter Fowler (.300, 13 HRs, 53 RBIs, 12 SBs, 72 runs), 2B Josh Rutledge (.274, 8, 37), LF Carlos Gonzalez (.303, 22, 85), SS Troy Tulowitzki (.287, 8, 27 in 47 games), RF Michael Cuddyer (.260, 16, 58), 1B Todd Helton (.238, 7, 37), C Wilin Rosario (.270, 28, 71), 3B Chris Nelson (.301, 9, 53).
Rotation: RH Jhoulys Chacin (3-5, 4.43 ERA, 69 IP), LH Jorge De La Rosa (0-2, 9.28, 3 starts), RH Juan Nicasio (2-3, 5.28), LH Jeff Francis (6-7, 5.58), RH Jon Garland (missed last season because of shoulder surgery; 1-5, 4.33 in 54 innings with Dodgers in 2011).
Key relievers: RH Rafael Betancourt (1-4, 2.81, 31 of 38 saves), RH Matt Belisle (3-8, 3.71, 3 saves), RH Wilton Lopez (6-3, 2.17, 10 saves with Houston), LH Rex Brothers (8-2, 3.86).
Hot spots: The Rockies will ease the wear and tear on Helton by giving him more days off. The five-time All-Star is a lifetime .320 hitter but batted a career-low .238 in 69 games before having season-ending surgery Aug. 10 to repair a torn labrum in his right hip. On the days the 39-year-old Helton sits, Cuddyer, Tyler Colvin or Jordan Pacheco will take his spot. A longtime franchise icon, Helton apologized and asked for forgiveness after getting arrested during the offseason in a Denver suburb and charged with drunken driving.
Outlook: This time last year, Weiss was coaching his son's high school baseball team. Now, the first-year manager inherits a Rockies squad that's coming off a season in which they lost a franchise-record 98 games. The team made no bold offseason moves, banking on bounce-back seasons from veterans coming off injuries. The Rockies have their leader back in Tulowitzki, who was sidelined in late May by a groin injury that eventually required surgery to remove scar tissue. They also are counting on De La Rosa rounding back into form. After winning 16 games in 2010, he was the team's ace in 2011 before tearing a ligament in his left elbow. He made three September starts last year, hitting 94 mph with his fastball and giving the team optimism. But he was rusty, posting a 9.28 ERA in 102/3 innings. Colorado is hopeful Chacin can develop into an ace after an injury-filled 2012. The Rockies just brought in Garland to help bolster their suspect staff. The 33-year-old right-hander missed the last 11/2 seasons after shoulder surgery. He went 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in four starts for Seattle this spring and asked for his release after he was informed he wouldn't make the Mariners' starting rotation. To make room for Garland in their rotation, the Rockies sent Drew Pomeranz to minor league camp. The left-hander was a key piece in the July 2011 trade that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland.
-- ASSOCIATED PRESS