National League West forecast 2014

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw prepares to

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw prepares to pitch during the opening game of the MLB season between the Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Sydney Cricket Ground on March 22, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Credit: Getty Images / Cameron Spencer)

1. LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Manager: Don Mattingly, fourth season, 260-225, .536

GM: Ned Colletti, ninth season

2013: First (92-70); won NLDS over Atlanta, 3-1; lost NLCS to St. Louis, 4-2

Nothing like a season-opening journey to Australia to test a team's resolve. But the Dodgers didn't look any worse for wear in sweeping the Diamondbacks in the two-game series Down Under -- and it's going to take more than 32 hours of round-trip flying time to slow down the defending NL West champs. With $216 million invested in this year's payroll, it's again World Series or bust, and the biggest concern is preventing any of the most important pieces from breaking along the way.

The rotation is ridiculously talented with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu at the front. For the game's end, closer Kenley Jansen is about as good as it gets. As for the lineup, it's about staying healthy, and Yasiel Puig already was complaining about a number of supposed ailments -- real or imagined -- after the two games in Sydney. Reining in the skilled but volatile Puig has seemed like a full-time job for manager Don Mattingly, who has plenty of other stuff to do for a team with sky-high expectations. A year ago, Mattingly's days appeared to be numbered after a 16-22 start that had them in last place in mid-May. But after the stunning turnaround, and a failed trip to the NLCS, Mattingly secured a three-year contract extension, adding stability to a franchise that has the money to buy everything else it needs.

Speaking of cash, the Dodgers have to decide how much Hanley Ramirez is worth. The shortstop was limited to 86 games last season because of a shoulder injury, but during that abbreviated stretch, Ramirez batted .345 with 20 home runs and a 1.040 OPS. Still, the Dodgers have moved slowly on a possible extension with Ramirez entering his walk year. It's possible LA is using that as motivating factor to squeeze another MVP-caliber season from Ramirez.

2. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Manager: Kirk Gibson, fifth season, 290-279, .510

GM: Kevin Towers, fourth season

2013: Second (81-81)

Outlook: Losing Patrick Corbin to Tommy John surgery was a tough blow to absorb in spring training, and especially for a club lacking in rotation depth. Trading for Mark Trumbo adds another nice offensive piece to perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt.

3. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Manager: Bruce Bochy, eighth season with Giants, 579-555, .511

GM: Brian Sabean, 18th season

2013: Fourth (76-86)

Outlook: New season, but mostly the same faces for the Giants, who will try to make a playoff run with a very similar core from the 2012 title team. Tim Hudson is back in the Bay Area -- except on the other side -- and should be a nice complement to a familiar rotation of Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum and Vogelsong.

4. COLORADO ROCKIES

Manager: Walt Weiss, second season, 74-88, .457

GM: Dan O'Dowd, 14th season

2013: Fifth (74-88)

Outlook: The Rockies' big offseason move was to sign LaTroy Hawkins, at age 41, to be the closer for a team coming off two consecutive last-place finishes. If this begins to look like a third, that could put Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez on the trading block.

5. SAN DIEGO PADRES

Manager: Bud Black, eighth season, 540-595, .476

GM: Josh Byrnes, third season

2013: Tie-third (76-86)

Outlook: A sluggish start by the Padres could put Chase Headley back in play before the trade deadline. But if they do show promise, Ian Kennedy and the newly-acquired Josh Johnson should be two of the bigger reasons for it.

LENNON'S BEST OF THE NL WEST

Best everday lineup: Dodgers

Best player: Paul Goldschmidt

Best power hitter: Paul Goldschmidt

Best overall Hitter: Hanley Ramirez

Best in the clutch: Paul Goldschmidt

Best baserunner: Hunter Pence

Best infielder: Nolan Arenado

Best outfielder: Gerardo Parra

Best catcher: Buster Posey

Best starting pitcher: Clayton Kershaw

Best reliever: Rex Brothers

Best closer: Kenley Jansen

Best pitch: Clayton Kershaw's curve ball

Manager: Bruce Bochy

General manager: Kevin Towers

Stadium: Dodger Stadium

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