NL West: This is turning into not just the most competitive division in the National League, but the division with the most talent as teams are picking up a lot of AL talent and talent from other NL areas. Expect 4 teams to be in the race going into the final month, and like last year
Diamondbacks - The pick up of Dan Haren to replace Livan Hernandez will put these kids over the top in their division this year. This season will depend on their young guys continuing to progress throughout the year. They had a break out year by Chris Young last year, and have a lot of young prospects (like Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds) who look primed to repeat that this year.
Padres - They've still got the best pitching in the conference with Jake Peavy, Chris R. Young, and Maddux. The addition of Mark Prior could prove to be a huge move, or a giant bust. Time will tell. They've also amped up their batting with Jeff DaVanon and Jim Edmonds, but there are still holes throughout the rest of the batting order. While their batting leaves a lot to be desired it should still be enough as long as their pitching can continue to carry them through another year.
Dodgers - The Dodgers had a nice core last year, but didn't do anything with it. The addition of Andruw Jones into their line-up could prove to be just what they needed offensively. Jones had a down year last year, and it should be interesting to see how he bounces back with the Dodgers against better pitching. The Dodgers also bolstered up their pitching rotation with Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. For the most part this is an older team, and injuries will probably be their downfall.
Rockies - For the most part the Rockies stood pat with the young team they had. The additions of Marcus Giles and Scott Podsednik could provide some good veteran leadership. The loss of Kazuo Matsui could prove costly for this young team, but for the most part you're looking at the same team that made its way to the World Series through the back door last year. Before the Rockies fans jump on me, let me just reiterate that the #4 spot in this division is not an insult, the division is too tough for that.
Giants - The team that needed to do the most this off season has done the least. They have finally parted ways with the roid king himself, Barry Bonds, and replaced him with Aaron Rowand. Great move, but it only addresses the removal of one freak from the locker room. They've still got a long way to go, and chances are they won't be competitive for another year or so.
NL Central: This is certainly a top-heavy division and the top three will be really competitive with the remaining three dropping out of the race no later than late July.
Cubs - The NL Central Champs return most of their players with the execption of a few players who had down years last year and didn't have a huge impact. In addition to their returning roster they have added Kosuke Fukudome, a Japanese OF who puts up a huge .383 carreer BA, and averages 21 HR's a season. The Cubs have to be the frontrunner in the NL Central this year.
Cardinals - The return of Chris Carpenter, and other key players from injury are going to be huge for the Cardinals. But the losses of Scott Rolen, David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds, Troy Percival are hardly made up for by the additions of Troy Glaus Cesar Izturis. They'll be competitive, but likely fall short in the end.
Astros- These guys had a huge firesale as if they were going out of business. They've traded away Chris Burke, Brad Lidge, Chad Qualls, Mike Lamb, and the list goes on. But that firesale sThey've picked up some quality players, like Geoff Blum, Darin Erstad, Kazuo Matsui and Miguel Tejada. Should be interesting to see what these guys can do.
Brewers - A late season collapse last year kept them out of the playoffs. The only key losses this offseason were Johnny Estrada, Kevin Mench, and Scott Linebrink, and Francisco Cordero. They will be effectively replaced by Jason Kendall, Mike Cameron, and Eric Gagne. The Brewers organization appears to know what it is doing. They'll be right there until the end, and could pull off the Division Championship if they can avoid that late season slump.
Reds - Didn't do much outside of acquiring Francisco Cordero, Jeremy Affeldt and a bunch of minor leaguers. Since the Reds can't score runs, and their pitching is awful, Cordero won't get many save situations, etgo we'll see if those minor leaguers pay off. Otherwise, it will be another subpar season for the Reds.
Mets - All you need to know, and probably already do, is Johan Santana. They blew their 7 game lead to lose the division race in the final 17 games. Santana alone is enough to pick up those extra games to secure the division race.
Braves - The additions of Tom Glavine and Mark Kotsay are huge. But not nearly as big as having Mark Teixeira for a full season. They did lose Andruw Jones and Edgar Renteria, but they're certainly more loaded this year than last and have the deepest pitching rotation in the division. They'll be right on the heels of the Mets when all is said and done.
Phillies - The Phillies in the three spot can only mean one thing, this is going to be a tight division race. They lost out big with the loss of Aaron Rowand, the losses of Jon Lieber and Tadahito Iguchi don't help matters much either. The pick-ups of Pedro Feliz, Geoff Jenkins, and most importantly Brad Lidge will help. But bottom line is that Rowand is too great of a loss for them to overcome and still win the division this
Nationals - Although they've been suprisingly better since returning to D.C. a few years ago, this team typically consists of has-beens or never-will-bes. There are the few players inbetween. D.C. seems to be a pit stop for trades or on the way out the door. This year they'll feature guys like Johnny Estrada, Aaron Boone, and Wily Mo Pena so they'll pick up more games than Florida, but don't look for them to be able to keep up with the rest of the division.
Marlins - I think the ownership of these guys are suicidal, not only did they trade away their best player, Dontrelle Willis, after having an off year, but they picked up the marvellous Byung-Hyun Kim. That in and of itself should secure them the worst record in the entire MLB.