This was the weakest division in baseball last year. San Diego won it with a record barely over .500. I'd like to say things have changed, but I don't think they have.
Teams listed in projected order of finish
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
How do you build an offense out of rubber bands and chewing gum? I don't know, but the Dodgers have. Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra, both on one-year deals, supply most of the power. The rest of the names you know are of the aging (Kenny Lofton, Bill Mueller) and the overrated (J.D. Drew).
Odalis Perez is at the front of the rotation. Eric Gagne and Danys Baez form an excellent back end for the bullpen. In-between is Derek Lowe and a bunch of question marks.
And this might be the best team in the division.
2. San Diego Padres
The pitching staff still has Jake Peavy. The offense got Brian Giles back. The bullpen got Trevor Hoffman back. The new additions Padre fans have to get excited about are Mike Cameron and Mike Piazza. Oh boy.
This team stood pat in it's mediocrity. 81-81 could get them to the division title, however.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
If this team is to have any success, it will be because of Brandon.
No team has a bigger Brandon factor than the D-backs. The pitching staff has three of them: Brandon Webb, Brandon Lyon and Brandon Medders.
If only the offense were so Brandoned. They have to settle for an aging Luis Gonzalez, along with Shawn Green and Eric Byrnes.
A piece of advice: everybody on the Arizona roster execpt Gonzalez should legally change their name to Brandon. Would it help them win more? No, but you might as well lose with a great attention-getting gimmick.
4. San Francisco Giants
I actually think this team would be better off if Bonds just called it quits. It would end the media circus and would take away the temptation for his teammates to sandbag and wait for Steroid Boy to take one into McCovey Cove.
The pitching staff isn't that bad, considering the rotation is fronted by Jason Schmidt and Matt Morris. But the offense is downright creaky, relying on aging wonders Bonds, Steve Finley, Moises Alou and Omar Vizquel. I don't know why the Giants have such a fascination with old players.
5. Colorado Rockies
If the Royals aren't the worst team in baseball, the Rockies sure as heck are. Beyond Todd Helton, they don't have much of anything, at least anything proven.
They do have Byun-Hyung Kim, and if you watched him in Boston, you wonder just how far some of those hanging sliders he throws could be hit at Coors Field.