2014 NL West Preview And Predictions

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March 4, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) reacts after reaching second base on a double in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

1) Los Angeles Dodgers: 96-66

What can I say about the Dodgers? They have spent the most money than anyone in baseball this season. But does money buy you a championship? It does from time to time.

But let’s look at the facts: The Dodgers have arguably THE best pitcher in all of baseball (Clayton Kershaw). They have three of the best, young, five-tool players in the game, when healthy (Hanley Ramirez, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp). They have one of, if not THE most exciting player to watch in the game (Yasiel Puig). They have a dominating closer (Kenley Jansen) and another as the setup man (Brian Wilson).

Their 5th starter is a former 20-game winner who, if healthy, could win 20 this year (Josh Beckett). In fact, they have a chance to become the first National League team to have four starting pitchers with 20 wins apiece. It’s highly unlikely given the structure of today’s game, but it’s possible.

Regardless of how they get there, the Dodgers will make the playoffs and are primed for a deep run.

1- Why will this team exceed expectations?

Scott Andes from Lasorda’s Lair: Well talent for one. The Dodgers have an unbelievably talented roster. Every nook and cranny, well almost every nook and cranny of the roster is stuffed to the brim with talent, like a piping hot stuffed crust pizza from the oven, with extra cheese and bacon. You know the kind of pizza that you bite into and it makes your mouth water? That’s the 2014 Dodger roster. The pitching staff is top of the line led by two-time Cy Young winner, opposition dominator Clayton Kershaw, Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, Korean lefty Hyun-jin Ryu, and strikeout machine, closer Kenley Jansen. The lineup is loaded with sluggers like Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and rookie phenom Yasiel Puig.

The club also has the right clubhouse chemistry to go all the way. Leader and lovable portly third sacker Juan Uribe is an integral part of that culture, and will once again be one of the most vocal Dodgers, after the club resigned him on a two-year deal. It’s not just a question of if the Dodgers will win the NL west again, but by how much?

2- Why will this team fall short of expectations?

If the Dodgers do fall short of expectations despite their talented veteran laden roster, it will be because of injuries. Oh those nasty little injury bugs. That could be the only thing that can derail this Blue train barreling towards the National League.

3- Look for the team to make (this trade)

It’s hard to say what kinds of trades the Dodgers will make around the trade deadline. It’s too early to predict. Although if I had to guess it would be to fill whatever hole that is left vacant because of injury. I’ll go out on a limb and say the Dodgers make no major trades this season. If everyone stays healthy, they won’t need to.

4- Watch out for the emergence of (prospect)

If there is a prospect to watch for on the Dodgers, it’s outfielder Joc Pederson. He’s a toolsy prospect with a strong arm and potent bat that has a very good chance of making the opening day roster. With the health concerns of Matt Kemp, the rustiness of Carl Crawford, and Yasiel Puig’s issues, (Puig showed up to camp 20 pounds overweight and has been having minor back soreness), could open the door for Pederson to make the club as a fourth or fifth outfielder.