MLB preview: Around the league at a glance

March 29, 2014 

The Oakland A's and first baseman Brandon Moss (center) appear to be a contender yet again for a much-improved American League West division.

MARK J. REBILAS — USA Today Sports

Get primed for the 2014 Major League Baseball season with capsule previews for all 30 teams.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

  • 2013 season: 96-66, first place
  • Manager: Bob Melvin (4th season)
  • New faces: LH Scott Kazmir, RH Jim Johnson, RH Luke Gregerson, LH Drew Pomeranz, OF Craig Gentry, INF Nick Punto
  • Better, worse or same? Same
  • Outlook: Despite a limited payroll in a division flush with cash, the A’s have been the best team in the division the past two seasons. They are in position for a three-peat behind a strong pitching staff and versatile offense. Rotation features young pitchers such as Sonny Gray and A.J. Griffin, and former Orioles closer Johnson fills the void left by Grant Balfour. They suffered a setback when they lost Jarrod Parker to Tommy John surgery and Griffin to a forearm injury, but they have pitching depth. The A’s should be able to withstand that loss.

PROJECTED LINEUP

CF Coco Crisp (.261, 22 HR, 21 SB)

  • He’s the spark plug for the offense.

3B Josh Donaldson (.301, 24, 93 RBI)

  • After breakout year, what’s next?

SS Jed Lowrie (.290, 15, 75)

  • Another find by GM Billy Beane.

LF Yoenis Cespedes (.240, 26, 80)

  • Working on cutting down big swing.

1B Brandon Moss (.256, 30, 87)

  • Slugged 51 homers last 2 seasons.

RF Josh Reddick (.226, 12, 56)

  • Wrist injury wrecked last season.

DH John Jaso (.271, 3, 21)

  • Ex-Mariner back after concussion.

C Derek Norris (.246, 9, 30)

  • Crushes lefties, will platoon.

2B Eric Sogard (.266, 2, 35)

  • Alberto Callaspo will also play 2B.

PROJECTED ROTATION

RH Sonny Gray (5-3, 2.67)

  • October revelation to top of rotation.

LH Scott Kazmir (10-9, 4.04)

  • Looks healthy after years of arm woes.

RH Jesse Chavez (2-4, 3.92)

  • Reliever keeping seat warm for Griffin.

RH Dan Straily (10-8. 3.96)

  • Coming off solid first year in rotation.

LH Tommy Milone (12-9, 4.14)

  • Has made 57 starts in last 2 seasons.

PROJECTED CLOSER

RH Jim Johnson (3-8, 2.94, 50 saves)

  • Led AL in saves with Orioles in 2013.

TEXAS RANGERS

Former Mariners prospect Shin-Soo Choo returns to the AL West with the Texas Rangers as an established MLB star. (AP photo)Former Mariners prospect Shin-Soo Choo returns to the AL West with the Texas Rangers as an established MLB star. (AP photo)

  • 2013 season: 91-72, second place
  • Manager: Ron Washinton (8th season)
  • New faces: 1B Prince Fielder, LF Shin-Soo Choo, C J.P. Arencibia, OF Michael Choice, LH Joe Saunders
  • Better, worse or same? Same
  • Outlook: A lot of turnover, new faces and injuries. The offense is improved, but the rotation is a question mark. So it seems like a wash at this point, maybe even slightly worse considering injuries to Jurickson Profar and Geovany Soto. The rotation took a major blow when Derek Holland tripped over his dog, which will cost him at least the first half. The Rangers are hoping starters Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and relievers-turned-starters Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross can keep them afloat with Holland being an added weapon midseason.

PROJECTED LINEUP

LF Shin-Soo Choo (.285, 21 HR, 20 SB)

  • On-base machine back in AL.

SS Elvis Andrus (.271, 4, 67, 42 SB)

  • Set career highs in steals, RBI in 2013.

1B Prince Fielder (.279, 25, 106)

  • Lowest HR total in career in 2013.

3B Adrian Beltre (.315, 30, 92)

  • Still raking since leaving Seattle.

RF Alex Rios (.278, 18, 81, 42 SB)

  • Consistent power-speed player.

DH Mitch Moreland (.232, 23, 60)

  • Potential? Check. Production? Not yet.

C J.P. Arencibia (.194, 21, 55)

  • Jack Cust clone: Will strikeout, homer.

2B Josh Wilson (.200, 1, 4)

  • Holding fort until Profar returns.

CF Leonys Martin (.260, 8, 49, 36 SB)

  • Second-year starter with speed, pop.

PROJECTED ROTATION

RH Tanner Scheppers (6-2, 1.88)

  • Solid reliever now in rotation.

LH Martin Perez (10-6, 3.62)

  • Finished 6th in Rookie of Year voting.

LH Robbie Ross (4-2, 3.03)

  • Another reliever thrust in new role.

LH Joe Saunders (11-16, 5.26)

  • Will Safeco Joe be Texas terrible?

RH Nick Martinez (rookie)

  • Only here until Darvish is ready.

PROJECTED CLOSER

RH Joakim Soria (1-0, 3.80, 0 saves)

  • Ex-Royals closer coming off surgery.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

Angels star outfielder Mike Trout enters the season with a hefty new $144.5 million contract. (USA Today photo) Angels star outfielder Mike Trout enters the season with a hefty new $144.5 million contract. (USA Today photo)

  • 2013 season: 78-84, third place
  • Manager: Mike Scioscia (15th season)
  • New faces: 3B David Freese, LH Tyler Skaggs, LH Hector Santiago, DH Raul Ibanez, RH Joe Smith
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols can’t struggle in consecutive seasons, can they? The thought here is that Hamilton and Pujols will be better, and Mike Trout continues to be among the top players in the game. But Trout, the two-time MVP runner-up needs support which is why ex-Mariner Raul Ibanez and David Freese were added. The rotation, which is led by Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, has some question marks in the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 starters and in middle relief. Closer Ernesto Frieri is solid, should the Angels give him a lead to protect.

PROJECTED LINEUP

RF Kole Calhoun (.282, 8 HR, 32 RBI)

  • Gets full-time gig after solid 2013.

CF Mike Trout (.323, 27, 97)

  • So young yet so, so good.

1B Albert Pujols (.258, 17, 64)

  • No return on investment... yet.

LF Josh Hamilton (.250, 21, 79)

  • Bulked up in attempt to build stats.

3B David Freese (.262, 9, 60)

  • New league for 2011 World Series star.

DH Raul Ibanez (.242, 29, 65)

  • Keeps eluding Father Time.

2B Howie Kendrick (.297, 13, 54)

  • Lifetime .292 hitter steady as it comes.

C Chris Iannetta (.225, 11, 39)

  • Contacts helped him hit .324 in spring.

SS Erick Aybar (.271, 6, 54, 12 SBs)

  • Dependable if not flashy.

PROJECTED ROTATION

RH Jered Weaver (11-8, 3.27)

  • Hasn’t thrown 200 innings since 2011.

LH C.J. Wilson (17-7, 3.39)

  • Led AL in starts 2 of last 3 seasons.

RH Garrett Richards (7-8, 4.16)

  • Hard-thrower moves into rotation.

LH Hector Santiago (4-9, 3.67)

  • At times looked good for White Sox.

LH Tyler Skaggs (2-3, 5.12)

  • Former prospect in Arizona gets shot.

PROJECTED CLOSER

RH Ernesto Frieri (2-4, 3.80, 37 saves)

  • Strikes out 12.3 batters per 9 innings.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Robinson Cano spurned the New York Yankees for Seattle and the $240 million the Mariners will pay him over the next 10 seasons. (USA Today photo) Robinson Cano spurned the New York Yankees for Seattle and the $240 million the Mariners will pay him over the next 10 seasons. (USA Today photo)

  • 2013 season: 71-91, fourth place
  • Manager: Lloyd McClendon (1st season)
  • New faces: 2B Robinson Cano, 1B-OF Corey Hart, OF Logan Morrison, RH Fernando Rodney, INF Willie Bloomquist
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: Robinson Cano gives Seattle an offensive equivalent to what they have in Felix Hernandez: a superstar that’s among the best. Whether Cano can get Seattle into contention is another story. If Cano is going to have the same impact he did in New York, he needs Kyle Seager and Corey Hart to be good enough to provide protection. Hernandez is the only certainty in the rotation as the season begins, with Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker slowed by injuries.

PROJECTED LINEUP

CF Abraham Almonte (.264, 2 HR)

  • Showed promise in small sample.

3B Kyle Seager (.260, 22, 69 RBI)

  • New year, new spot in batting order.

2B Robinson Cano (.314, 27, 107)

  • M’s would take a repeat of 2013 stats.

DH Corey Hart (.270, 30, 83 in 2012)

  • Can he be the hitter he once was?

1B Justin Smoak (.238, 20, 50)

  • At some point, must show more.

RF Logan Morrison (.242, 6, 36)

  • Michael Saunders will get time, too.

LF Dustin Ackley (.235, 4, 31)

  • Since demotion, looks like real deal.

SS Brad Miller (.265, 8, 36)

  • Excited everyone with huge spring.

C Mike Zunino (.214, 5, 14)

  • Got feet wet with 52 games last year.

PROJECTED ROTATION

RH Felix Hernandez (12-10, 3.04 ERA)

  • One thing left to do is win 20 games.

RH Erasmo Ramirez (5-3, 4.90)

  • Key: Quality strikes, not just strikes.

LH James Paxton (3-0, 1.50)

  • Future is now; has just 4 MLB starts.

LH Roenis Elias (rookie)

  • At Double-A, had 3.18 ERA, 8.4 Ks/9.

RH Chris Young (4-9, 4.15 in 2012)

  • Are shoulder woes over?

PROJECTED CLOSER

RH Fernando Rodney (5-4, 37 saves)

  • 37-year-old has 172 career saves.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Speedy Dexter Fowler should help improve the last-place Houston Astros lineup. (AP photo)Speedy Dexter Fowler should help improve the last-place Houston Astros lineup. (AP photo)

  • 2013 season: 51-111 , fifth place
  • Manager: Bo Porter (2nd season)
  • New faces: RH Scott Feldman, OF Dexter Fowler, RH Chad Qualls, RH Matt Albers, RH Jerome Williams, RH Jesse Crain
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: They upgraded the lineup by trading for center fielder and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler, and this could be the year that intriguing prospect George Springer arrives in Houston. The 24-year-old outfielder had 37 homers, 108 RBIs and 45 stolen bases combined in Double-A and Triple-A last season, but will start the season in Triple-A. Scott Feldman isn’t an ace, but he will help a weak rotation. They also boosted their dreadful bullpen by signing Jesse Crain, along with Chad Qualls and Matt Albers.

PROJECTED LINEUP

CF Dexter Fowler (.263, 12 HR, 19 SB)

  • Rockies refugee good with glove, too.

LF Robbie Grossman (.268, 4, 21)

  • Big spring (.362) earned full-time job.

C Jason Castro (.276, 18, 56)

  • All-Star will DH, too, to stay in lineup.

2B Jose Altuve (.283, 5, 52, 35 SB)

  • Could hit anywhere in this lineup.

DH Chris Carter (.223, 29, 82)

  • Led majors with 212 strikeouts.

RF L.J. Hoes (.282, 1, 10)

  • Showed (7 steals) speed in 46 games.

3B Matt Dominguez (.241, 21, 77)

  • Needs to get on base more (.286).

1B Marc Krauss (.209, 4, 13)

  • Carter, Jesus Guzman also to play 1B.

SS Jonathan Villar (.243, 1, 8, 18 SB)

  • Stole 193 bases in 6 years in minors.

PROJECTED ROTATION

RH Scott Feldman (12-12, 3.86 ERA)

  • Ex-Oriole got a 3-year, $30 million deal.

RH Jarred Cosart (1-1, 1.95)

  • Looked sharp in 10 starts in 2013.

LH Brett Oberholtzer (4-5, 2.76)

  • Only walked 13 in 13 games last year.

RH Lucas Harrell (6-17, 5.86)

  • Bad stats: AL leader in walks, losses.

LH Dallas Keuchel (6-10, 5.15)

  • Will have short leash.

PROJECTED CLOSER

RH Chad Qualls (5-2, 2.61, 0 saves)

  • One member of committee of closers.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

AL EAST

TAMPA BAY RAYS

  • 2013 season: 92-71 (second place)
  • Manager: Joe Maddon (9th season)
  • New faces: RH Grant Balfour, RH Heath Bell, C Ryan Hanigan
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: Most of the pieces from last year’s playoff team are back. The pitching staff remains strong with David Price, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Chris Archer in the rotation and newly signed Grant Balfour at the back of the bullpen. Offensively, the Rays will continue to rely on Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist in the middle of it as well as reigning rookie of the year Wil Myers.

BOSTON RED SOX

  • 2013 season: 97-65 (first place)
  • Manager: John Farrell (2nd season)
  • New faces: C A.J. Pierzynski, OF Grady Sizemore, above, RH Edward Mujica
  • Better, worse or same? Same
  • Outlook: The defending champs made quite a turnaround last season, going from worst to first. They are looking to become the first team to win back-to-back titles in more than a decade. Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew are gone. To replace Drew at shortstop, Boston will look to top prospect Xander Bogaerts.

NEW YORK YANKEES

  • 2013 season: 85-77 (tied for 3rd place)
  • Manager: Joe Girardi (7th season)
  • New faces: C Brian McCann, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, OF Carlos Beltran, INF Kelly Johnson, 2B Brian Roberts, RH Masahiro Tanaka
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: They spent more than a half-billion dollars this offseason to improve. Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who received $155 million, has never pitched in the big leagues. Yes, the Yankees are back to being the Yankees.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

  • 2013 season: 85-77 (tied for 3rd place)
  • Manager: Buck Showalter (5th season)
  • New faces: OF Nelson Cruz, OF David Lough
  • Better, worse or same? Same
  • Outlook: Much of the pieces remain, and they bolstered their offense rather cheaply once Nelson Cruz’s market didn’t develop. Cruz will be a nice threat in the lineup along with Chris Davis, fresh off a monster 53-homer season. But the pitching staff is the greatest concern. Tommy Hunter is the front-runner to close. The rotation, meanwhile, lacks a clear-cut ace.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

  • 2013 season: 74-88 (5th place)
  • Manager: John Gibbons (2nd season)
  • New faces: C Dioner Navarro, INF Brent Morel
  • Better, worse or same? Same
  • Outlook: They made only marginal changes and are simply counting on rebound years by several players. Starters R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle disappointed in their first years, and shortstop Jose Reyes played in only 93 games. Toronto went into 2013 as a popular pick to reach the World Series. The talent is still there, but don’t expect anyone to be fooled into picking them again as contenders.

AL CENTRAL

DETROIT TIGERS

  • 2013 season: 93-69 (1st place)
  • Manager: Brad Ausmus (1st season)
  • New faces: 2B Ian Kinsler, RH Joe Nathan, OF Rajai Davis, RH Joba Chamberlain
  • Better, worse or same? Same
  • Outlook: They traded Prince Fielder so they could move Miguel Cabrera, above, back to first. In doing so, they opened up a spot at third for top prospect Nick Castellanos and brought back Ian Kinsler. Detroit’s biggest strength remains its rotation (Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez). The bullpen, a question mark, has been stabilized by veteran Joe Nathan.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

  • 2013 season: 86-76 (3rd place)
  • Manager: Ned Yost (5th season)
  • New faces: OF Norichika Aoki, 2B Omar Infante, LH Jason Vargas
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: Losing Ervin Santana hurts, but they still have James Shields and locked up Jason Vargas. They also have a top closer, Greg Holland, and an elite defense. The Royals acquired Norichika Aoki to bat leadoff and have a formidable 3-4-5 with Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. They should challenge for at least one of the two wild card spots and could end a postseason drought dating to 1985.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

  • 2013 season: 92-70 (2nd place)
  • Manager: Terry Francona (2nd season)
  • New faces: OF David Murphy, LHP Josh Outman, RH John Axford
  • Better, worse or same? Worse
  • Outlook: Most of last year’s team is back, but the rotation has question marks with the loss of LH Scott Kazmir. They spent this offseason making minor upgrades while the rest of the division got better. Jason Kipnis had a breakout season last year. They won’t be much worse, but it’s hard to see them sustaining a 92-win level.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

  • 2013 season: 63-99 (5th place)
  • Manager: Robin Ventura (2nd season)
  • New faces: 1B Jose Abreu (Cuba), OF Adam Eaton, RH Ronald Belisario
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: It’s not too difficult to improve a 99-loss team. The White Sox signed Cuban slugger Jose Abreu and also acquired Adam Eaton to bat leadoff. The rotation is fronted by Cy Young contender Chris Sale, and Nate Jones is expected to become the team’s closer with the departure of Addison Reed. They’re better but not significantly enough to be considered contenders.

MINNESOTA TWINS

  • 2013 season: 66-96 (4th place)
  • Manager: Ron Gardenhire (13th)
  • New faces: RH Ricky Nolasco, RH Phil Hughes, C Kurt Suzuki, DH Jason Kubel
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: They needed pitching and they spent big money to do it. Ricky Nolasco got a four-year, $49 million deal, and Phil Hughes received a generous three-year, $24 million deal. They brought in veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki. Offensively, the Twins hope for Joe Mauer’s move to first base full time helps him regain his MVP form as well as bounce-back years by Josh Willingham and Trevor Plouffe.

NL EAST

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

  • 2013 season: 86-76 (2nd place)
  • Manager: Matt Williams (1st season)
  • New faces: RH Doug Fister, above, OF Nate McLouth, LH Jerry Blevins
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: Matt Williams inherits arguably the best rotation after the Nats added Doug Fister to go along with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman. A solid bullpen completes the pitching staff. Bryce Harper is a dynamic player and Jayson Werth is coming off a 25-homer, 82-RBI season. Washington struggled at times in 2013, but it is positioned to shorten any potential droughts.

ATLANTA BRAVES

  • 2013 season: 96-66 (1st place)
  • Manager: Fredi Gonzalez (4th season)
  • New faces: RH Ervin Santana, RH Gavin Floyd, C/OF Ryan Doumit
  • Better, worse or same? Worse
  • Outlook: They lost their long-time catcher, Brian McCann, and long-time starter, Tim Hudson, to free agency. Spring injuries took away 40 percent of their projected starting rotation with Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, who each required reconstructive elbow surgery. They are banking on Freddie Freeman staying at an elite level but they also need more from the Upton brothers (especially B.J.).

NEW YORK METS

  • 2013 season: 74-88 (3rd place)
  • Manager: Terry Collins (4th season)
  • New faces: RH Bartolo Colon, OF Curtis Granderson, OF Chris Young, RH Kyle Farnsworth
  • Better, worse or same? Worse
  • Outlook: Don’t expect the Mets to become contenders until 2015 once Matt Harvey has recovered from reconstructive elbow surgery. An intriguing storyline is if Noah Syndergaard will make his debut. The hard-throwing righty could reach the majors before his 22nd birthday on Aug. 29.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

  • 2013 season: 73-89 (4th place)
  • Manager: Ryne Sandberg (1st season)
  • New faces: OF Marlon Byrd, RH Roberto Hernandez, RH Alfredo Gonzalez, RH A.J. Burnett
  • Better, worse or same? Same
  • Outlook: The Phillies, who haven’t been to the postseason since 2011, are counting on veterans such as Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins to rebound and carry the team back to the playoffs. The big question mark is what kind of impact Cuban pitcher Alfredo Gonzalez will have on the club. Philly has talent to compete, but it’s getting old.

MIAMI MARLINS

  • 2013 season: 62-100 (5th place)
  • Manager: Mike Redmond (2nd season)
  • New faces: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, SS Rafael Furcal, 1B Garrett Jones, 3B Casey McGehee (Japan), RH Carter Capps
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: They do have star power with reigning Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez and slugger Giancarlo Stanton. They also attempted to get back on track this offseason with veteran additions such as Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Rafael Furcal to help the worst offense. But it’s not enough to get them out of the cellar.

NL CENTRAL

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

  • 2013 season: 97-65 (1st place)
  • Manager: Mike Matheny (3rd season)
  • New faces: 2B Mark Ellis, SS Jhonny Peralta, OF Peter Bourjos
  • Better, worse or same? Worse
  • Outlook: The Cardinals didn’t do enough to say it’s likely they’ll win 97 again. But they are the favorites to win another division title. The pitching staff is backed by ace Adam Wainwright and other strong starters such as Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia. Losing Carlos Beltran will hurt, but Jhonny Peralta should soften the blow. And they still have Yadier Molina, and Matt Carpenter, now playing third base.

CINCINNATI REDS

  • 2013 season: 90-72 (3rd place)
  • Manager: Bryan Price (1st season)
  • New faces: OF Skip Schumacher, C Brayan Pena, INF Ramon Santiago
  • Better, worse or same? Worse
  • Outlook: They lost two key pieces from last year’s team in Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo. There is new life in the clubhouse with ex-Mariners pitching coach Bryan Price taking over for Dusty Baker. Price oversaw a strong staff and will do so again with returning starters Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey. Joey Votto is one of the game’s best. Speedy Billy Hamilton will bat leadoff.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

  • 2013 season: 94-68 (2nd place)
  • Manager: Clint Hurdle (4th season)
  • New faces: RH Edinson Volquez, C Chris Stewart
  • Better, worse or same? Worse
  • Outlook: Much like the Cardinals, they didn’t improve much. But they still have much of the same nucleus back. Reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen, above, is in his prime, and closer Jason Grilli is back as well as starters Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole. But there are questions about first base, right field and the void left by A.J. Burnett.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

  • 2013 season: 74-88 (4th place)
  • Manager: Ron Roenicke (4th season)
  • New faces: RH Matt Garza, LH Will Smith, 1B Mark Reynolds, RH Francisco Rodriguez
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: They addressed the rotation by signing Matt Garza, who joins Kyle Lohse and Yovani Gallardo as a formidable 1-2-3. Disgraced slugger Ryan Braun should play the full season after being a steroids suspension. A cause for concern is the bullpen, which is less experienced than it has been in the past. But expect the Brewers to rebound some after a forgettable 2013.

CHICAGO CUBS

  • 2013 season: 66-96 (5th place)
  • Manager: Rick Renteria (1st season)
  • New faces: RH Jason Hammel, RH Jose Veras, OF Justin Ruggiano
  • Better, worse or same? Same
  • Outlook: The future is bright for the Cubs, who have stockpiled their farm system the past few seasons. This year, though, is not. The projected Opening Day lineup does not feature a batter who hit .300 last season and only two — Anthony Rizzo and Nate Schierholtz — who drove in more than 50 runs. The pitching staff is shaky, too, including three starters with an ERA north of 4.00.

AL WEST

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

  • 2013 season: 92-70 (1st place)
  • Manager: Don Mattingly (4th season)
  • New faces: 2B Alex Guerrero (Cuba), RH Dan Haren, RH Chris Perez
  • Better, worse or same? Same
  • Outlook: They’re the favorites to repeat behind a strong rotation. Clayton Kershaw is the leader, receiving a $215 million deal, followed by Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. They added Dan Haren, and Josh Beckett is expected to round out the rotation. The bullpen is also solid with Kenley Jansen in the closer role and Brian Wilson as the setup man. The lineup is potent with Yasiel Puig, above, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez in the middle of it.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

  • 2013 season: 77-86 (tied 3rd place)
  • Manager: Bruce Bochy (8th season)
  • New faces: OF Michael Morse, RH Tim Hudson, LH David Huff
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: They won the World Series two of the past three seasons before struggling last year. They improved their rotation by signing Tim Hudson and are counting on Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain to find their form.Buster Posey remains an MVP-caliber player, and Hunter Pence had a strong season. They need more out of Pablo Sandoval, who hasn’t batted .300 or hit 20 homers the past two seasons.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

  • 2013 season: 81-81 (2nd place)
  • Manager: Kirk Gibson (4th season)
  • New faces: RH Bronson Arroyo, RH Addison Reed, OF Mark Trumbo, LH Oliver Perez
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: The rotation thought it upgraded with Bronson Arroyo, but now they hope he can help fill the void left by Patrick Corbin, lost for the season following reconstructive elbow surgery. Paul Goldschmidt had a breakout season and showed he is an MVP-caliber player. Big things are expected out of slugger Mark Trumbo.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

  • 2013 season: 77-86 (tied 3rd place)
  • Manager: Bud Black (8th season)
  • New faces: OF Seth Smith, LH Alex Torres, RH Josh Johnson, RH Joaquin Benoit
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: The Padres have a good enough pitching staff to put them in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Andrew Cashner had a breakout season as did Tyson Ross. And they’ll have a full season of Ian Kennedy, a 21-game winner three years ago. They are banking on Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso to stay healthy.

COLORADO ROCKIES

  • 2013 season: 74-88 (5th place)
  • Manager: Walt Weiss (2nd season)
  • New faces: OF Drew Stubbs, OF Brandon Barnes, LH Brett Anderson, RH LaTroy Hawkins, 1B Justin Morneau
  • Better, worse or same? Better
  • Outlook: If Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are healthy, they should be more competitive. They helped their outfield by adding Drew Stubbs and Brandon Barnes and signed Justin Morneau to replace Todd Helton. In the rotation, the Rockies have Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin at the top. Good luck counting on 41-year-old LaTroy Hawkins to close out games.

Staff writer Darrin Beene contributed to this report

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