The Baseball Notebook

March 31, 2010 11:00 AM

NL West Picks

The NL West promises one of the most interesting races in baseball. Sitting here less than a week from the opener, a reasonable case can be built around four teams to win it. Even the only non-contender, the fire-sale prone San Diego Padres, has the West's best player in Adrian Gonzalez. Los Angeles and Colorado both made the playoffs a year ago, and San Francisco was in contention until the bitter end. Arizona might have done the same if not for injuries, especially to former Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb. He's healthy this spring, so is the rest of his team and the D-Backs are ready to return to contention.

Not only is Arizona ready, but they are the Notebook's pick to win the West. You can start with a 1-2 punch of Webb and Dan Haren at the top of the rotation. The Diamondbacks then went out and acquired Edwin Jackson, off a strong year in Detroit. Not having to deal with a DH and with AL lineups in general should be an even bigger boon for Jackson, and Arizona will have a lights-out trio to keep them in games night-in and night-out. The offense is not great, but there's certainly enough to score when you have this kind of pitching. Miguel Montero behind the plate, Justin Upton in right and Mark Reynolds at third are the bats upon which hope in the desert is built and I believe it will be enough.

I think Colorado will do the same thing they did after their pennant run in 2007 and that's go belly-up the following year. Not enough pitching in a division where you need it to compete, especially in places like LA & San Diego, parks that don't lend themselves to slugging your way out of trouble. I gave serious thought to Frisco to win the division, but I think they need to swing a trade for an extra bat before I'd take that leap. I give both them and the Dodgers the best shot at second place and each to be in the wild-card race to the end. But in a pinch, I'll take Torre to find a way to shepherd his club to at least second. If Clayton Kershaw or Chad Billingsley steps it up to become a Cy Young-caliber starter, LAD will win this division for a third straight year.

Tomorrow we'll jump over to the American League and start with the East. At The College Basketball Notebook, Michigan State's road to Indianapolis was reviewed yesterday and is currently online. Butler will be up later today.

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