NL West Rundown: Who will push the Dodgers this year?

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Opening day is here. Considered by many as just another day on the calendar, it’s far from it around the baseball world.

All 30 MLB teams, 750 players and thousands of fans of their respective teams are never more optimistic than today, with the same goal of playing deep into October and winning the World Series.

The National League West division of course has more than a few storylines entering this season.

It’s a division headlined by the defending world champion San Francisco Giants and one of wealthiest teams in sports history, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Giants and Dodgers should be the two ball clubs battling it out at the top of the division for most of the 2013 season, while the other three teams try to stay competitive and in striking distance during the dog days of summer.

San Francisco Giants
The defending World Series champs are basically going to battle with the same team as last season. After an offseason that included resigning Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan and giving 2012 National League MVP Buster Posey a nine-year/$167 million contract extension.

The Giants success over the last few seasons has been because of their starting rotation, and that won’t be any different going into this season either.

Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong will hold down the front end of the rotation once again, with former Cy Young Award winners Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum at the back end.

For whatever reason this team will probably be overlooked entering the 2013 season, but after winning two World Series Championships in the last three years overlooking this team again would be a travesty.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): They won the 2012 World Series and nearly everyone from that team is returning in 2013. Do I really need to say anymore?

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): It’s tough to say if the Giants are improved going into the 2013 season, while the Dodgers offseason moves make them a lot better than last year on paper.

2012 Biggest contributor: Buster Posey, .336 BA, 24 HRs, 103 RBIs.

2012 Biggest disappointment: Tim Lincecum, 10-15, 5.18 ERA, 186.0 innings pitched.

2012 Biggest surprise: Marco Scutaro, .362 BA, 61 games, 44 RBIs.

Arizona Diamondbacks
The 2013 Diamondbacks look a lot different from last year’s team that finished exactly at .500 (81-81). They decided to trade away 2011 Silver Slugger Award winner Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves for Martin Prado and a couple of prospects. The trade was reportedly made to change the clubhouse mentality of the Diamondbacks, where manager Kirk Gibson wants to win with hard-nosed ball players that he can relate to.

They also traded away last years starting center fielder Chris Young to the Oakland A’s for new starting shortstop Cliff Pennington.

Arizona still made a few moves this offseason that could keep them in the division race this season. They signed veteran third baseman Eric Chavez, veteran right-hander Brandon McCarthy, outfielder Cody Ross and traded for veteran reliever Heath Bell.

Despite an injury that will keep him out for the first couple of weeks to start the season, Arizona fans should be excited about their new center fielder, Adam Eaton. Even after losing a player of Upton’s caliber, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the 2013 version of the Diamondbacks sneaks up on teams and makes some noise in the NL West.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The new-look Diamondbacks could be a lot better than people think, especially with this new group of hard-nosed ball players.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): The Dodgers can match up with this team from position-to-position on paper, but first need to put it all together on the diamond.

2012 Biggest contributor: Miguel Montero, .286 BA, 15 HRs, 88 RBIs.

2012 Biggest disappointment: Justin Upton, .280, 17 HRs, 67 RBIs.

2012 Biggest surprise: Wade Miley, 16-11, 3.33 ERA, 194-2/3 innings pitched.

Colorado Rockies
The Rockies were one of the most disappointing teams in baseball last season due to numerous injuries and one of the worst pitching rotations in baseball history. They ended last season with a four-man starting rotation and a league-worst 5.22 team ERA.

In 2012, Rockies starters went a combined 29-68 with an atrocious 5.81 ERA. That was only one of the problems, though. It didn’t help that one of the game’s top players, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, was injured for most of the season.

Colorado looks to completely turn the page on last season’s disaster, hiring first-year manager Walt Weiss to run the show.

It definitely doesn’t lack star power, with Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and a veteran Todd Helton featured in the middle of its lineup.

If the Rockies can fix up that pitching staff from last season, meaning fix up by leaps and bounds, then this Rockies team could be a threat in the NL West.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): A healthy Rockies lineup could give any team a headache.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): If the pitching staff is anything close to what it was last season then the 2013 Dodgers lineup will be feasting every time they take on Colorado, especially at Coors Field.

2012 Biggest contributor: Carlos Gonzalez, .303 BA, 22 HRs, 85 RBIs.

2012 Biggest disappointment: Todd Helton, .238 BA, seven HRs, 37 RBIs.
(It would have been an understatement to put the entire pitching staff right here.)

2012 Biggest surprise: Tyler Colvin, .290 BA, 18 HRs, 72 RBIs.

San Diego Padres
The Padres have new ownership entering this season. However, that’s probably not going to help them on the field right away. They finished in fourth place in the NL West with a 76-86 record last season, despite playing much better after the all-star break.

The one bright spot was Gold Glove winning third baseman Chase Headley, who hit .286 with 31 home runs and led the National League with 115 runs batted in.

Unfortunately, Headley will start the 2013 season on the disabled list after fracturing his thumb in a spring training game. The Padres will also be without starting catcher Yasmani Grandal to start the season because of a suspension for the first 50 games for testing positive for testosterone.

From the looks of it, it’s going to be an uphill climb for the Padres in the NL West in 2013.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): Injuries can happen to any team at any time, so the Dodgers just need to worry about staying healthy.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): Once again, the Dodgers could match up with almost every position with this team on paper, but you don’t win games on paper.

2012 Biggest contributor: Chase Headley, .286 BA, 31 HRs, 115 RBIs.

2012 Biggest disappointment: Cameron Maybin, .243 BA, eight HRs, 45 RBIs.

2012 Biggest surprise: Huston Street, 2-1, 1.85 ERA, 23 saves, 39.0 innings pitched.

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