National League West
In predicted order of finish.
1. San Francisco Giants
Who’s new: 3B Edgardo Alfonzo, 2B Ray Durham, OF Jose Cruz Jr. and Marquis Grissom, P Damian Moss, INF Neifi Perez.
Who’s gone: 2B Jeff Kent, 3B David Bell and Bill Mueller, P Russ Ortiz and Livan Hernandez, OF Kenny Lofton, Reggie Sanders, Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Tom Goodwin.
Strengths: At 38, Bonds, who hit .370 with 46 homers and a major league-record 198 walks in 2002, is still baseball’s most prolific hitter. Durham should provide better on-base capability, and Alfonzo is a proven clutch hitter (.318 career with runners in scoring position) behind Bonds.
Weaknesses: The Giants say Robb Nen is fine, but the closer, who had shoulder surgery over the winter, could be restricted to one-inning appearances for the first month or so. The rotation took a hit with the loss of Ortiz, and Kent’s departure removed a bona-fide 110-RBI guy from the lineup.
Outlook: Few World Series teams get overhauled like the Giants, who have four new position players and a new manager in Felipe Alou. Their on-base percentage should improve, additional speed will enable them to be more aggressive on the basepaths, and they’re a little better defensively. But the losses of Ortiz and Kent will be difficult to absorb.
At Dodger Stadium: April 18-20, June 17-19, Sept. 19-21.
2B Ray Durham
RF Jose Cruz Jr.
SS Rich Aurilia
LF Barry Bonds
3B Edgardo Alfonzo
C Benito Santiago
1B J.T. Snow
CF Marquis Grissom
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Who’s new: 1B Fred McGriff, OF/1B Daryle Ward, C Todd Hundley.
Who’s gone: P Omar Daal and Jesse Orosco, 1B Eric Karros, 2B Mark Grudzielanek, OF Marquis Grissom, INF Dave Hansen, Tyler Houston and Jeff Reboulet, C Chad Kreuter.
Strengths: A healthy Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort could make a huge difference in a rotation that lacked the depth to withstand several injuries down the stretch in 2002. The bullpen, with Eric Gagne closing and veteran right-handers Paul Quantrill and Paul Shuey setting up, is deep and talented. Shawn Green is a 40-homer threat, Dave Roberts provides a spark in the leadoff spot, and McGriff is a power upgrade at first base.
Weaknesses: Gagne was baseball’s most dominant closer in 2002 but has been slowed by several minor injuries this spring and may not be in peak form to start the season. McGriff won’t save many runs with his glove.
Outlook: With a healthy Brown and Dreifort, many think the Dodgers can improve on a 92-win season, but that’s assuming Odalis Perez, Gagne and Roberts prove they weren’t one-year wonders, Lo Duca rebounds from a subpar year, Brian Jordan and Adrian Beltre are more consistent and Joe Thurston, a rookie, isn’t overmatched. The West will be tight, but the Dodgers should contend.
At Edison Field: June 27-29.
CF Dave Roberts
C Paul Lo Duca
RF Shawn Green
LF Brian Jordan
1B Fred McGriff
3B Adrian Beltre
2B Joe Thurston/
SS Cesar Izturis
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
Who’s new: P Elmer Dessens and Mike Jackson, INF Carlos Baerga.
Who’s gone: C Damian Miller, P Brian Anderson, Rick Helling, Todd Stottlemyre, Mike Morgan and Mike Fetters, INF Jay Bell, 1B Greg Colbrunn and Erubiel Durazo.
Strengths: Randy Johnson is 39 and Curt Schilling is 36, but the pair of aces, who combined for 47 wins and 650 strikeouts last season, has shown no signs of aging. The Diamondbacks addressed the canyon-like drop-off in the rotation after Johnson-Schilling, adding a solid No. 3 in Dessens, a sinker-ball specialist acquired from Cincinnati.
Weaknesses: Luis Gonzalez appears sound after shoulder surgery last fall, but at 35, can he continue to put up 35-homer, 110-RBI seasons? And can Steve Finley, at 38, match his 25-homer season of 2002? The bench isn’t as strong as last year.
Outlook: If Johnson and Schilling remain sound and the offense produces as it did last season, when Arizona led the NL with 819 runs, the Diamondbacks are a pennant contender. An injury to Johnson or Schilling and a power reduction -- Arizona could be extremely vulnerable at the infield corners with Craig Counsell and rookie Lyle Overbay -- and the Diamondbacks could fall to third place.
At Dodger Stadium: April 7-9, July 4-6, Sept. 16-18.
SS Tony Womack
3B Craig Counsell
2B Junior Spivey
LF Luis Gonzalez
RF Danny Bautista
CF Steve Finley
1B Lyle Overbay
C Rod Barajas/
4. Colorado Rockies
Who’s new: SS Jose Hernandez, 2B Ronnie Belliard, P Steve Reed and Vic Darensbourg, C Charles Johnson, OF Preston Wilson and Chris Richard, INF Chris Stynes.
Who’s gone: OF Juan Pierre, INF Todd Zeile and Jose Ortiz, P Mike Hampton.
Strengths: The Rockies have come full circle in philosophies, emphasizing power in their early days, then speed and defense, then pitching, and now power again. The lineup could be potent in the two through seven spots. Jose Jimenez went 2-10 with a 3.56 ERA but saved 41 games. Wilson and Jay Payton should run down potential doubles and triples in Coors Field’s huge gaps.
Weaknesses: Elbow problems could sideline Denny Neagle to start the season, but even with the veteran left-hander, the rotation is weak. For all their power, the Rockies, with Hernandez (188 strikeouts in 2002), Wilson (140) and Johnson (61 strikeouts in 244 at-bats), could lead the league in strikeouts.
Outlook: Todd Helton and Larry Walker, the only players from the 2002 opening-day lineup who are expected to open 2003 as regulars, provide an excellent foundation on offense. But there’s not enough power, especially away from Coors Field, for the offense to overcome the pitching.
At Dodger Stadium: May 20-22, July 21-24, Aug. 29-31.
2B Ronnie Belliard
LF Jay Payton
1B Todd Helton
RF Larry Walker
CF Preston Wilson
SS Jose Hernandez
C Charles Johnson
3B Chris Stynes
5. San Diego Padres
Who’s new: OF Rondell White, P Jesse Orosco, Jay Witasick and Luther Hackman, C Gary Bennett, 2B Mark Loretta, INF Dave Hansen and Lou Merloni.
Who’s gone: P Brett Tomko and Jeremy Fikac, OF Ray Lankford, Bubba Trammell and Ron Gant, C Tom Lampkin, SS Deivi Cruz.
Strengths: A young rotation -- Oliver Perez and Jake Peavy are both 21, Adam Eaton is 25 and Brian Lawrence is 26 -- has some potential but lacks the kind of experience to make the Padres competitive. Ryan Klesko is still very productive and Mark Kotsay is a solid all-around player.
Weaknesses: Cleanup batter Phil Nevin probably is sidelined for the season after undergoing surgery to repair a severely dislocated left shoulder this spring, and closer Trevor Hoffman, who had shoulder surgery, will miss at least the first two months. Kevin Jarvis, the 2002 opening-day starter, was shut down because of elbow problems this spring.
Outlook: Much like 2002, the Padres don’t have much power, speed or depth. They lost 96 games last season, and without Hoffman or Nevin, a 100-loss season isn’t out of the question. Not exactly the kind of momentum the Padres were hoping to build as they move into a new stadium in 2004.
At Dodger Stadium: April 15-17, July 1-3, Sept. 12-14.
SS Ramon Vazquez
2B Mark Loretta
CF Mark Kotsay
1B Ryan Klesko
RF Rondell White
LF Xavier Nady
3B Sean Burroughs
C Gary Bennett
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
FINAL 2002 NATIONAL LEAGUE STANDINGS
*--* WEST W L Pct G B L10 Stk Home Away Inter y-Arizona 98 64 605 -- 4-6 W-4 55-26 43-38 11-7 x-San Francisco 95 66 590 2 1/2 9-1 W-8 50-31 45-35 8-10 DODGERS 92 70 568 6 7-3 L-1 46-35 46-35 12-6 Colorado 73 89 451 25 4-6 L-5 47-34 26-55 7-11 San Diego 66 96 407 32 2-8 W-1 41-40 25-56 8-10
*--* CENTRAL W L Pct G B L10 Stk Home Away Inter y-St. Louis 97 65 599 -- 8-2 W-2 52-29 45-36 8-4 Houston 84 78 519 13 3-7 L-3 47-34 37-44 5-7 Cincinnati 78 84 481 19 4-6 L-3 38-43 40-41 2-10 Pittsburgh 72 89 447 24 1/2 6-4 L-2 38-42 34-47 3-9 Chicago 67 95 414 30 3-7 W-2 36-45 31-50 6-6 Milwaukee 56 106 346 41 2-8 L-2 31-50 25-56 2-10
*--* y-Atlanta 101 59 631 -- 6-4 L-1 52-28 49-31 15-3 Montreal 83 79 512 19 7-3 W-4 49-32 34-47 12-6 Philadelphia 80 81 497 21 1/2 6-4 L-1 40-40 40-41 10-8 Florida 79 83 488 23 6-4 W-1 46-35 33-48 10-8 New York 75 86 466 26 1/2 3-7 W-1 38-43 37-43 10-8
x-clinched playoff spot; y-clinched division