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Sarah's Take: Predicting the NL West

MLB.com

Pitchers and catchers for all National League West teams have reported to camp, signaling the beginning of the 2016 baseball season.

Optimism runs rampant now for every baseball team at this time of year. A handful of clubs will likely be disappointed by the beginning of June, though the advent of the second Wild Card spot in each league has added intrigue to the postseason push. Many baseball writers enjoy trying to predict which team will win each division. They mostly look like fools at the end of the season since baseball is unpredictable. However, the NL West appears clear cut to me, so I will share my thoughts on where I think teams will finish.

Pitchers and catchers for all National League West teams have reported to camp, signaling the beginning of the 2016 baseball season.

Optimism runs rampant now for every baseball team at this time of year. A handful of clubs will likely be disappointed by the beginning of June, though the advent of the second Wild Card spot in each league has added intrigue to the postseason push. Many baseball writers enjoy trying to predict which team will win each division. They mostly look like fools at the end of the season since baseball is unpredictable. However, the NL West appears clear cut to me, so I will share my thoughts on where I think teams will finish.

Cactus League info

Since the beginning of 2012, the Colorado Rockies have resided much of the time in the cellar of the NL West, and this season could be the same, as they didn't obtain much pitching in the offseason. The Rockies will also have to wait on the status of Jose Reyes, who is the subject of an investigation into an alleged domestic violence incident.

In 2015, it appeared the San Diego Padres were ready to contend for an NL West title after loading up on big-name talent. However, their expensive offseason moves didn't work, and longtime manager Bud Black was dismissed.

Now the Padres have a rookie manager after hiring former D-backs coach Andy Green. San Diego hopes its pitching staff rebounds from a subpar 2015 season. The Padres signed Alexei Ramirez to play shortstop, and the team hopes the 34-year-old veteran will stabilize the infield. Acquiring Jon Jay should help the outfield defense. If San Diego's offense improves, it should be a factor in the West.

Although many knowledgeable baseball people think the Los Angeles Dodgers, with rookie manager Dave Roberts, will win a fourth NL West title, I think it's doubtful. They could have an all left-handed starting rotation, and most teams fare better with starters with different looks. The Dodgers didn't improve their bullpen, an area where they needed improvements. Their offense appears to be one-dimensional. Unless Yasiel Puig rebounds from an injury-plagued season and Joc Pederson learns how to decrease his strikeouts, the team won't score enough runs.

The San Francisco Giants met all of their offseason goals. To strengthen their starting rotation, they signed Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, who should benefit from pitching in spacious AT&T Park. The team upgraded its offense by signing outfielder Denard Span. After missing most of 2015 with various injuries, Hunter Pence is healthy and will add another dimension to the Giants' lineup. San Francisco won World Series championships in 2010, '12 and '14. Although the Giants look like a complete team on paper, their bullpen is aging and might be prone to injury.

The Arizona Diamondbacks had the best offseason in the division. They stole Zack Greinke from the Dodgers, and Greinke always pitches well in Arizona. They obtained Shelby Miller to further bolster a young starting rotation. Although their bullpen doesn't get much notice, it is decent. The D-backs have a dynamic offense led by Paul Goldschmidt. Their defense is excellent, helping the pitching staff to prevent scoring opportunities. Since the D-backs are a young team, most baseball people think they are a year from the playoffs, but their enthusiasm might carry them to the World Series.

The 2016 season should be wild in the NL West.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at sarahmorris27@gmail.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.