Previewing the NL West
Editor's note: ESPN.com has teamed with ESPN The Magazine and the SweetSpot Blog Network to produce this year's preview capsules. Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian examined the American League and the National League, respectively. They ordered the teams based on how they think they'll finish, while also breaking down each team's best- and worst-case scenarios.
The SweetSpot bloggers provided the projected lineups, pitching rotations and bullpens, which are mostly approximations based on the latest information. In most cases, they don't include players who will open the season on the disabled list. The lineups reflect the most likely batting order against a right-handed starter and are subject to change.
Click on the links below to go directly to a capsule for each National League West team:
Colorado Rockies | San Diego Padres
- Best-case scenario: Newcomer Trevor Cahill shines in a rotation led by repeat 20-game winner Ian Kennedy, Justin Upton is the NL MVP and Jason Kubel adds an offensive spark. Manager Kirk Gibson refuses to allow complacency to set in after a surprising 2011, and the Diamondbacks repeat as division champs.
- Worst-case scenario: History shows that it's difficult to maintain a high level of play after making a huge jump like the D-backs did last season (plus-29 wins). Starter Josh Collmenter turns out to be a one-year wonder, Ryan Roberts can't handle the everyday 3B job and Arizona falls from first to third in the West.
- Best-case scenario: Brandon Belt ditches left field to settle in at first base, a healthy Buster Posey is able to catch 125 games and the Giants have a demonstrably better offense than last year. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain do their one-two thing, and the Giants finish first.
- Worst-case scenario: Posey's surgically repaired left ankle bothers him all year, meaning more time at first base and less production at the plate. Angel Pagan isn't the answer in the leadoff spot, or any spot, and the Giants again score the fewest runs in the league and fall to third place.
- Best-case scenario: The club's impending sale provides a cash infusion that is used to acquire a slugger at the trade deadline to support Kemp. Kershaw repeats as the NL Cy Young winner, and the Dodgers not only rebuild their brand but also win the West.
- Worst-case scenario: Kemp doesn't get pitches to hit and fails to reach his goal of becoming MLB's first 50/50 player, the residue of the Frank McCourt years persists, changes can't be made in time and the Dodgers finish around .500 again. That could mean fourth place in this division.
- Best-case scenario: Troy Tulowitzki runs away with the NL MVP, Carlos Gonzalez returns to his 2010 form, and young hurlers Drew Pomeranz and Juan Nicasio help pitch this team to a first-place finish in what is arguably the most wide-open division in the game.
- Worst-case scenario: The addition of Jeremy Guthrie to the rotation can't mask the fact that the Rockies lack a bona fide ace, Rafael Betancourt can't handle closing and there just isn't enough thump surrounding Tulo and CarGo to keep this club out of fourth place.
- Best-case scenario: 1B Yonder Alonso is the NL Rookie of the Year, former White Sox OF Carlos Quentin provides needed punch and Cameron Maybin adds power to his repertoire. The Padres don't contend, but at least they're fun to watch.
- Worst-case scenario: The big ballpark spooks Alonso, Quentin and every other hitter, and the team scores fewer than 600 runs again. The starting pitching slides back without ace Mat Latos, the Padres miss closer Heath Bell's energy and they finish last without making a sound.
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2012 MLB PREVIEW: NATIONAL LEAGUE
FRIDAY, MARCH 30
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