Los Angeles Dodgers
2016: 91-71, first place, lost to Cubs in NLCS.
Manager: Dave Roberts (second season).
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He’s Here: 2B Logan Forsythe, RHP Sergio Romo.
He’s Outta Here: INF-OF Howie Kendrick, C Carlos Ruiz, RHP Louis Coleman, RHP Jose De Leon, RHP Carlos Frias.
Projected Lineup: 2B Logan Forsythe (.264, 20 HRs, 52 RBIs in 127 games with Tampa Bay), SS Corey Seager (.308, 26, 72, NL Rookie of the Year), 3B Justin Turner (.275, 27, 90), 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.285, 18, 90), C Yasmani Grandal (.228, 27, 72), RF Yasiel Puig (.263, 11, 45 in 104 games), CF Joc Pederson (.246, 25, 68 in 137 games), LF Andrew Toles (.314, 3, 16 in 48 games).
Rotation: LH Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA, 172 Ks in 21 starts), RH Kenta Maeda (16-11, 3.48, 179 Ks), LH Rich Hill (12-5, 2.12 in 20 starts with Athletics and Dodgers), LH Hyun-Jin Ryu (0-1, 11.57 in 1 game), LH Alex Wood (1-4, 3.73) or RH Brandon McCarthy (2-3, 4.95 in 10 games).
Key Relievers: RH Kenley Jansen (3-2, 1.83, 47/53 saves, 104 Ks), RH Sergio Romo (1-0, 2.64 with Giants, limited to 40 appearances because of forearm flexor strain), RH Chris Hatcher (5-4, 5.53), LH Luis Avilan (3-0, 3.20), RH Ross Stripling (5-9, 3.96), LH Grant Dayton (0-1, 2.05), RH Josh Ravin (0-0, 0.93) RH Pedro Baez (3-2, 3.04), RH Brock Stewart (2-2, 5.79).
Hot Spot: Trainer’s Room. Beyond Kershaw and Maeda, the rotation is reliant on several pitchers coming off injuries, including Ryu, Wood, McCarthy and left-hander Scott Kazmir (10-6, 4.56, 134 Ks), who will begin the season on the disabled list with a left hip injury that is affecting his velocity. Kazmir missed most of the last two months of 2016 with back and neck issues. Prized youngster Julio Urias (5-2, 3.39, limited to 77 IP) will open at extended spring training, but could play an important role down the road.
Outlook: The Dodgers are coming off their fourth consecutive NL West title and a trip to the NL Championship Series, so they appear to be perhaps the biggest threat to the Cubs’ dominance in the National League. Los Angeles is still looking for its first trip to the World Series since winning the 1988 title. Having won the NL Rookie of the Year award, Seager expects to be ready for opening day after being sidelined in spring training for most of March with a strained oblique. The Dodgers succeeded in keeping much of the roster intact, including re-signing Jansen, Turner and Hill. The outfield will be a platoon situation involving right-handed hitters Puig, Trayce Thompson and Scott Van Slyke, and left-handed hitters Andre Ethier, Kike Hernandez, Pederson and Toles.
San Francisco Giants
2016: 87-75, second place, wild card, lost to Cubs in NLDS.
Manager: Bruce Bochy (11th season).
He’s Here: RHP Mark Melancon, C Nick Hundley, 3B Jae-gyun Hwang, INF Jimmy Rollins, RF Justin Ruggiano.
He’s Outta Here: RHP Santiago Casilla, RHP Sergio Romo, LHP Javier Lopez, LF Angel Pagan, RHP Jake Peavy, RF Gregor Blanco, INF Ehire Adrianza, RHP Joe Nathan.
Projected Lineup: CF Denard Span (.266, 11 HRs, 52 RBIs, 12 SBs), 1B Brandon Belt (.275, 17, 82, 41 2Bs, 104 BBs), C Buster Posey (.288, 14, 80, 33 2Bs), RF Hunter Pence (.289, 13, 57), SS Brandon Crawford (.275, 12, 84), 3B Eduardo Nunez (.288, 16, 67, 40 SBs with Twins and Giants), 2B Joe Panik (.239, 10, 62), LF Jarrett Parker (.247, 12, 33) or Mac Williamson (.223, 6, 15).
Rotation: LH Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA, 251 Ks), RH Johnny Cueto (18-5, 2.79), LH Matt Moore (13-12, 4.08 with Rays and Giants), RH Jeff Samardzija (12-11, 3.81), RH Matt Cain (4-8, 5.64) or LH Ty Blach (1-0, 1.06 in 4 games).
Key Relievers: RH Mark Melancon (2-2, 1.64, 47/51 saves with Pirates and Nationals), RH Derek Law (4-2, 2.13, 1 save), RH Hunter Strickland (3-3, 3.10, 3 saves), LH Steven Okert (0-0, 3.21), RH George Kontos (3-2, 2.53).
Hot Spot: Bullpen. Trying to close games was an adventure last season for the Giants. They had 32 blown saves in the regular season, including nine in September. Bochy then went through five relievers in the ninth inning of Game 4 against the Cubs, and San Francisco was eliminated from the Division Series after allowing four runs for a 6-5 defeat. That led to the offseason departures of stalwarts Casilla, Romo and Lopez, who played key roles during the runs to World Series titles in 2010, ‘12 and ‘14. The new closer will be Melancon, whose 98 saves the past two seasons lead the majors.
Outlook: The Giants’ run of even-year championships ended last season with the bullpen meltdown against Chicago. But this squad has all the ingredients to contend again. Bumgarner and Cueto provide one of the best 1-2 punches at the top of any rotation in the majors, and a full season from Moore after he was acquired at the trade deadline last year from Tampa Bay only makes San Francisco tougher. The lineup is deep, led by All-Stars Posey and Crawford and key contributors like Pence and Belt. The Giants are also very strong defensively, especially up the middle. With Melancon on board to handle the ninth inning, the only glaring question is whether Cain can regain his previous form and lock down a spot at the back of the rotation, or if the Giants must look elsewhere for a fifth starter.
2016: 75-87, third place.
Manager: Bud Black (first season).
He’s Here: 1B Ian Desmond, LHP Mike Dunn, RHP Greg Holland, INF Alexi Amarista.
He’s Outta Here: Manager Walt Weiss, LHP Jorge De La Rosa, C Nick Hundley, LHP Boone Logan, 1B-OF Ben Paulsen, OF Ryan Raburn, INF Daniel Descalso, RHP Eddie Butler.
Projected Lineup: CF Charlie Blackmon (.324, 29 HRs, 82 RBIs, 17 SBs), 2B DJ LeMahieu (MLB-best .348, 11, 66), 3B Nolan Arenado (.294, 41, MLB-high 133, .932 OBP), RF Carlos Gonzalez (.298, 25, 100), SS Trevor Story (.272, 27, 72 in 97 games), LF Gerardo Parra (.253, 7, 39), 1B Mark Reynolds (.282, 14, 53) until return of Ian Desmond (.285, 22, 86 with Rangers), C Tony Wolters (.259, 3, 30).
Rotation: RH Jon Gray (10-10, 4.16, 185 Ks), RH Tyler Chatwood (12-9, 3.87), LH Tyler Anderson (5-6, 3.53), RH Jeff Hoffman (0-4, 4.88 in 8 games, 6 starts), RH German Marquez (1-1, 5.23).
Key Relievers: RH Greg Holland (3-2, 3.83, 32 saves with Royals in 2015; missed last season recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery), RH Adam Ottavino (1-3, 2.67, 7 saves), LH Chris Rusin (3-5, 3.74), LH Jake McGee (2-3, 4.73, 15 saves), RH Carlos Estevez (2-5, 5.24, 11 saves), LH Mike Dunn (6-1, 3.40 in 42 1/3 IP with Miami).
Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. The Rockies are going to miss Chad Bettis, who stepped away from baseball to undergo chemotherapy after discovering that his testicular cancer had spread. There is no timetable for his return. He was going to be counted on heavily after going 14-8 with a 4.79 ERA in 32 starts last season. The last two spots could be up for grabs, with Hoffman, Marquez, lefty Kyle Freeland and righty Antonio Senzatela all trying to stake a claim.
Outlook: Heading into spring training, the Rockies were a trendy pick to make a run at their first playoff berth since 2009. They signed Black to a three-year deal to take over for Weiss. They brought in former shortstop and outfielder Desmond to learn first base, and bulked up their shaky bullpen with Holland and Dunn. They already had one of the most formidable lineups in the league with Arenado, Gonzalez, Story, Blackmon and LeMahieu. But this spring they’ve been hit hard by injuries. Desmond had surgery on his broken left hand and will miss several weeks. Rusin has an oblique injury, outfielder David Dahl is dealing with injured ribs and catcher Tom Murphy could miss a month with a hairline fracture in his right forearm. Weather the early injuries and it could be a fruitful season for Colorado, especially if Holland can return to the form that made him a lights-out closer in Kansas City before he got hurt.
2016: 69-93, fourth place.
Manager: Torey Lovullo (first season).
He’s Here: RHP Taijuan Walker, RHP Fernando Rodney, C Chris Iannetta, C Jeff Mathis, SS Ketel Marte, INF Daniel Descalso, OF Jeremy Hazelbaker, OF Gregor Blanco.
He’s Outta Here: Manager Chip Hale, 2B-SS Jean Segura, C Welington Castillo, RHP Daniel Hudson, OF Rickie Weeks, OF Mitch Haniger, OF Peter O'Brien.
Projected Lineup: CF A.J. Pollock (.244, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs in 12 games; missed rest of season with fractured elbow), RF David Peralta (.251, 4, 15 in 48 games; missed rest of season with wrist injury), 1B Paul Goldschmidt (.297, 24, 95, 32 SBs), 3B Jake Lamb (.249, 29, 91), LF Yasmany Tomas (.272, 31, 83; sidelined this spring with oblique strain), 2B Brandon Drury (.282, 16, 53), SS Chris Owings (.277, 5, 45, 21 SBs), C Jeff Mathis (.238, 2, 15 with Marlins) or Chris Herrmann (.284, 6, 28) or Chris Iannetta (.210, 7, 24 with Mariners).
Rotation: RH Zack Greinke (13-7, 4.37 ERA), LH Patrick Corbin (5-13, 5.15), RH Taijuan Walker (8-11, 4.22, 119 Ks with Mariners), LH Robbie Ray (8-11, 4.90, 218 Ks), RH Shelby Miller (3-12, 6.15).
Key Relievers: RH Fernando Rodney (2-4, 3.44, 25/28 saves with Padres and Marlins), RH Jake Barrett (1-2, 3.49), LH Andrew Chafin (0-1, 6.75), RH Randall Delgado (5-2, 4.44), RH Tom Wilhelmsen (2-4, 6.80 with Rangers and Mariners).
Hot Spot: Pitching Staff. Arizona ranked last in the majors a year ago with a 5.09 ERA. Yet most of the rotation returns intact, and the team built a bullpen of uncertain makeup that will rely on the 41-year-old Rodney as its closer. Those are the big question marks for a club assembled by new GM Mike Hazen, who added Walker but stuck with the rest of the starters who opened the 2016 season. Overall, they’ve pitched well in spring training and Lovullo has praised them throughout. But even if the group gets better, the bullpen looks shaky and the likely setup man, the hard-throwing Barrett, could begin the season on the DL with shoulder inflammation.
Outlook: The Diamondbacks can score – they were fourth in the NL last season with 752 runs. The return of Pollock and Peralta from injuries should make the lineup even more formidable, and Drury could have a breakout year as an everyday player at second base. Goldschmidt remains one of the game’s most dangerous sluggers. But the pitching must improve for this team to have any hope of challenging the Dodgers and Giants in the NL West. Greinke battled injuries throughout his first season in Arizona after the Diamondbacks signed him to a six-year, $206.5 million contract. Miller was awful after Arizona gave up two top prospects to acquire him from Atlanta. Corbin struggled and was demoted to the bullpen. Walker, the team’s big offseason acquisition, was promising but inconsistent in Seattle. Lovullo, the bench coach in Boston before coming to the desert, says he’s ignoring what happened with the Diamondbacks a year ago, when he wasn’t around. He’d better hope he doesn’t witness a rerun.
San Diego Padres
2016: 68-94, fifth place.
Manager: Andy Green (second season).
He’s Here: RHP Jhoulys Chacin, RHP Trevor Cahill, RHP Jered Weaver, C Luis Torrens.
He’s Outta Here: CF Jon Jay, C Derek Norris, RHP Tyson Ross, INF-OF Alexi Amarista, RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Carlos Villanueva, 3B Adam Rosales, RHP Brandon Morrow.
Projected Lineup: LF Travis Jankowski (.245, 2 HRs, 12 RBIs), CF Manuel Margot (.243, 0, 3 in 37 ABs), 1B Wil Myers (.259, 28, 94), 3B Yangervis Solarte (.286, 15, 71), RF Hunter Renfroe (.371, 4, 14 in 35 ABs), 2B Ryan Schimpf (.217, 20, 51), C Austin Hedges (.125, 0, 1 in 24 ABs), SS Erick Aybar (.243, 3, 34 with Detroit and Atlanta).
Rotation: RH Jhoulys Chacin (6-8, 4.81 with Braves and Angels), LH Clayton Richard (3-4, 3.33 with Cubs and Padres), RH Jered Weaver (12-12, 5.06 with Angels), RH Trevor Cahill (4-4, 2.74 in 50 games, 1 start with Cubs), RH Luis Perdomo (9-10, 5.71).
Key Relievers: RH Carter Capps (1-0, 1.16 with Miami in 2015), RH Brandon Maurer (0-5, 4.52, 13 saves), RH Kevin Quackenbush (7-7, 3.92, 2 saves), LH Brad Hand (4-4, 2.92, 1 save, 111 Ks, 89 1/3 IP in 82 games), LH Ryan Buchter (3-0, 2.86, 1 save, 78 Ks, 63 IP), RH Jarred Cosart (0-4, 6.00 with Miami and San Diego).
Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. San Diego is in a deep rebuilding mode and a glaring example is the rotation, where all five starters on the 2016 opening day roster are gone. For now, the Padres have turned to journeymen like Chacin and Richard, and a fading former ace in Weaver, to help bridge the gap to the young arms in the farm system. The most promising starter returning is Perdomo, who made the jump from Class A to the majors as a Rule 5 pick last year and led the team’s starters in wins. Perdomo began the season in the bullpen before being moved to the rotation.
Outlook: Executive chairman Ron Fowler said last year he doesn’t expect the Padres to be competitive for at least two seasons. They have decided on a long-term plan to develop young players, a dramatic shift from GM A.J. Preller’s wild shopping spree two offseasons ago. Myers, the only holdover from that win-now attempt that failed, has become an All-Star and the current face of the franchise, although he could soon be challenged for that distinction by promising youngsters like Hedges and Renfroe. Power-hitting outfielder Jabari Blash probably won a spot on the 25-man roster with a strong spring. The Padres will experiment with using Christian Bethancourt as a catcher, pitcher and outfielder. San Diego hasn’t had a winning season since 2010 and hasn’t made the playoffs since claiming consecutive NL West titles from 2005-06. But now that the NFL’s Chargers have moved up the coast to Los Angeles, the Padres are the only big league game in town.