New faces, places
The Dodgers already had one of the best rotations in baseball, and it got stronger with the addition of Dan Haren, who rebounded from a miserable first half last year to finish strongly for Washington. Arizona helped itself by getting power-hitting Mark Trumbo from the Los Angeles Angels, underrated starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo as a free agent, and trading for Addison Reed, who was the closer for the Chicago White Sox. The Giants signed former Braves starter Tim Hudson as a free agent, and he is still plenty effective at age 38. The Rockies traded for injury-prone starter Brett Anderson from Oakland, and if he can finally stay healthy that deal could be a steal. The Rockies will also be looking for a rebound from former Twins first baseman Justin Morneau. And believe it or not, former Mariner Chone Figgins found a landing spot, earning a job as a utility player with the Dodgers despite not hitting a lick in the spring.
The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012. Doesn’t that mean they’re due again in 2014? They are better than last year’s 76-86 record, and they figure to be in the thick of the battle with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks for the division title.
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The Rockies can’t go farther down than last place, where they finished last year, but they did win 74 games and it’s hard to see them winning that many with perhaps the weakest rotation in baseball.
Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki might drop out of the top 15 in some fantasy leagues as injuries have curtailed his numbers the past two years, but if he can put a whole season together he will be among the top few most valuable players in fantasy baseball.
Yasiel Puig created quite a buzz with an amazing start to his career, but the Dodgers outfielder is struggling with basic fundamentals and could easily take a big backslide.
There were a number of contenders, but you can’t go wrong with Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. There was nothing not to like last year when he hit .302 with 36 home runs, 125 runs batted in and a .402 on-base percentage.
The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw has two Cy Young awards the past three years and a contract that pays him nearly $31 million a year.
If Morneau can stay healthy, he could have a big season, going from a pitcher-friendly park in Minnesota to a hitter’s paradise at Coors Field.
Manager on the hot seat
The Dodgers’ Don Mattingly was seemingly gone last year until the Dodgers went on an amazing roll. If the Dodgers get off to another slow start, any goodwill he built up last year will evaporate.
The Dodgers need outfielder Matt Kemp to be ready soon (offseason ankle surgery). They could also use the return of starter Chad Billingsley, who could be back in midseason after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Rookies to watch
Arizona’s Chris Owings, 22, will share shortstop duties with Didi Gregorius, but Owings seems to have the offensive potential to eventually win the job. The Diamondbacks lost top starter Patrick Corbin for the year, and 21-year-old right-hander Archie Bradley is one of the top prospects in baseball. Even if he doesn’t make the team out of spring training, it shouldn’t be long before he is with the big club.
By the numbers
0 World Series won by San Diego and Colorado
$48.25 million The combined annual salary of Dodgers Matt Kemp, Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley, all of whom will start the season on the disabled list.
How they’ll finish