Regular Articles
The NL West is one of the most balanced for this upcoming season. The Giants were the champions last season but not many people are predicting them to run away with the title. The other four teams all have glaring weaknesses with minor strengths about them. This divisional race should be a very interesting one, but it will not produce the Wild Card representative for the National League. (Order for winning the division is in the order of listing.)

San Francisco Giants

Who they lost: Joe Nathan, p (Traded to Twins), Boof Bonser, p (Traded to Twins), Francisco Liriano, p (Traded to Twins), Tim Worrell rhp (Signed by Phillies), Benito Santiago, c (Signed by Royals), Jose Cruz Jr., of (Signed by D'Rays), Rich Aurilia, ss (Signed by Mariners), Sidney Ponson, rhp (Signed by Orioles)

Who they gained: A.J. Pierzynski, c, (Traded from Twins), Michael Tucker, of (Signed from Royals)

What to expect: The Giants are a very well balanced team and have the best player in baseball in Barry Bonds. They can win upwards of 100 games this season, but a win total in the low to mid-90s is more reasonable.

Strengths: Left fielder Barry Bonds is the biggest strength, plus second baseman Ray Durham. The starting rotation features some strength, but not too much. A good fanbase will provide the Giants with some help.

Weaknesses: The biggest weakness for these San Francisco Giants will be the bullpen. There is no really established closer, except for Nen, and he is on the DL. The back end of the rotation is not a strength, and the offense remains iffy.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Who they lost: Curt Schilling, p (Traded to Red Sox), Junior Spivey, 2b (Traded to Brewers), Craig Counsell, if (Traded to Brewers), Lyle Overbay, 1b (Traded to Brewers), Chad Moeller, c (Traded to Brewers), Miguel Batista, rhp (Signed by Blue Jays), Quinton McCracken, of (Traded to Mariners), Mark Grace, 1B (Retired), Raul Mondesi, of (Signed with Pirates)

Who they gained: Casey Fossum, p (Traded from Red Sox), Brandon Lyon, p (Traded from Red Sox), Richie Sexson, 1b (Traded from Brewers), Roberto Alomar, 2b (Signed from White Sox)

What to expect: The Arizona Diamondbacks lost starting pitcher Curt Schilling, but have seen the emergence of starter Brandon Webb. Placed next to Randy Johnson, those two should be a good duo for dominating. The offense also received a boost in Richie Sexson.

Strengths: The biggest strength of this Diamondback team is the presence of Randy Johnson and Brandon Webb. The two need to put together seasons they are capable of to provide the D’backs with a chance. Richie Sexson will do some major hitting, alongside Luis Gonzalez, Shea Hillenbrand, and Denny Bautista. Also, Oscar Villerreal will be a good closer, along with Jose Valverde.

Weaknesses: Elmer Dessens, Shane Reynolds, and Steve Sparks. Hardly the best three pitchers ever assembled, and they will be the back part of the D’Backs rotation. This does not bode will for the future.

San Diego Padres

Who they lost: Mark Kotsay, of (Traded to Oakland), Wiki Gonzalez, c (Traded to Mariners), Dave Hanson, if (Traded to Mariners), Kevin Jarvis, rhp (Traded to Mariners)

Who they gained: Ramon Hernandez, c, (Traded from Oakland), Terrence Long, of (Traded from Oakland), Akinori Otsuka, rhp (FA - Japan), David Wells, lhp (Signed from Yankees), Jeff Cirillo, 3b (Traded from Mariners), Tom Wilson, C (Waived by Blue Jays), Jay Payton, of (Signed from Rockies)

What to expect: The San Diego Padres are moving into a new ballpark this season, and should be bringing a good team with them. They shall also rise to the near top of the standings in the NL West, and have the first pick of this year’s amateur draft (Jared Weaver). This should be a winning season in San Diego.

Strengths: The corners for the Padres are very good. Phil Nevin at first, Sean Burroughs (a good leadoff hitter) at third, Brian Giles in left, and Ryan Klesko in right make a strong base. Catcher Ramon Hernandez is very good and should be a solid contributor behind the plate. A new stadium should help the fanbase grow and be a strength for the Padres at the same time.

Weaknesses: The presence of plenty of youngsters in the rotation. This does not bode will for the Padres, even though Brian Lawrence and Adam Eaton are very good. Also, David Wells might not be up to former shape after back surgery in the offseason.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Who they lost: Kevin Brown, rhp (Traded to Yankees), Jeromy Burnitz, of (Signed by Rockies), Fred McGriff, 1b (Signed by D'Rays)

Who they gained: Juan Encarnacion, of (Traded from Marlins), Jeff Weaver, rhp (Traded from Yankees), Jose Hernandez, ss-3b (Signed from Pirates)

What to expect: The Los Angeles Dodgers have a worse pitching staff than last season, which might not be a bad thing because they were so good. They have not improved their offense, which is very bad news. This team will move toward the cellar, but will rebound in the 2005 season.

Strengths: The Dodgers still have starters Hideo Nomo and Odalis Perez. Also, they have a few minor league arms ready to stand up in the Major Leagues. The presence of Eric Gagne in the backend of the bullpen should not be underestimated.

Weaknesses: The main weakness of this team is the lack of anybody other than Shawn Green on offense. The lack of team speed and defense is another reason of concern.

Colorado Rockies

Who they lost: Justin Speier, rhp (Traded to Blue Jays), Jose Jimenez, rhp (Signed by Indians), Jay Payton, of (Signed by Padres)

Who they gained: Vinny Castilla 3b (Signed from Braves), Joe Kennedy, lhp (Traded from Blue Jays), Benji Gil, 2b (Signed from Angels), Jeromy Burnitz, of (Signed from Dodgers), Turk Wendell, rhp (Signed from Phillies)

What to expect: The Colorado Rockies will once again be at the bottom of the National League West, but will have a very good team. They will likely split even this year with 80, or so, wins.

Strengths: The biggest strength for this team is their offense. Todd Helton, Vinny Castilla, Preston Wilson, Jeremy Burnitz, and Larry Walker are all big time boppers. Shawn Chacon could be a strength in the back part of the Rockies bullpen.

Weaknesses: The pitching staff will once again be cobbled together. Jason Jennings will be counted on to reclaim his prior form, and the rest of the staff, those unlucky pitchers, will be expected to pitch decently and not let up more than 4.5 runs per 9 innings.