The experts at ESPN - 46 of them, actually - made their picks for the winners of each baseball division, playoff round including the World Series, and just three of them picked the champion San Francisco Giants to make the World Series again, and just one (Buster Olney) picked them to repeat.
|The NL West's best pitcher has his own logo.|
But ... so few of these folks even picked the Giants to win the NL West that I find it stunning. First, to be clear, the Giants have the best pitching staff - starters and bullpen - in the NL West. That's indisputable - in the NL, only the Phillies have a better rotation (presumably) and a far, far worse bullpen.
But even on offense, this team is poised to win. Check this out:
|Pos||Arizona D-Backs||Colorado Rockies||Los Angeles Dodgers||SD Padres||SF Giants||Comments|
|C||Miguel Montero||Chris Ianetta||Rod Barajas||Nick Hundley||Buster Posey||A no-brainer win for the Giants. One of the best young hitters in baseball, regardless of position.|
|1B||Russell Branyan||Todd Helton||James Loney||Brad Hawpe||Brandon Belt or Aubrey Huff||I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, but ... seriously, who would you want? I'll take the hotshot rookie or last year's MVP candidate.|
|2B||Kelly Johnson||Jose Lopez||Ivan DeJesus||Orlando Hudson||Freddy Sanchez||Let's give this one to Kelly Johnson in a contest of some overall mediocre talent.|
|SS||Stephen Drew||Troy Tulowitzki||Rafael Furcal||Jason Bartlett||Miguel Tejada||A solid position across the division, but an easy win for Tulo here.|
|3B||Melvin Mora||Ian Stewart||Juan Uribe.||Chase Headley||Pablo Sandoval||I'm calling this a push - good young hitters in Stewart, Headley and Sandoval, two decent vets in Uribe and Mora. A toss-up.|
|RF||Justin Upton||Seth Smith||Andre Ethier||Ryan Ludwick||Aubrey Huff / Cody Ross||Dodger fans might vote for Ethier, but I'll go with Upton, a potential five-tool player.|
|CF||Chris Young||Dexter Fowler||Matt Kemp||Cameron Maybin||Andres Torres||Even with an off-year in 2010, Kemp is the class of this position, with apologies to Torres and Young.|
|LF||Xavier Nady||Carlos Gonzalez||Tony Gwynn, Jr.||Will Venable||Pat Burrell / Aubrey Huff||Much like Posey at catcher, one of the best young hitters in baseball, regardless of position.|
|SP1||Ian Kennedy||Ubaldo Jiminez||Clayton Kershaw||Mat Latos||Tim Lincecum||Great aces, all. But two Cy Youngs and a World Series win? It's TIMMY TIME.|
|SP2||Daniel Hudson||Jorge De La Rosa||Chad Billingsley||Tim Stauffer||Matt Cain||You can talk about Billingsley, but this isn't close.|
|SP3||Joe Saunders||Jhoulys Chacin||Ted Lilly||Aaron Harang||Jonathan Sanchez||You want to give this to Ted Lilly or Jhoulys Chacin? Tell me why.|
|SP4||Barry Enright||Jason Hammel||Hiroki Kuroda||Dustin Mosely||Madison Bumgarner||A lot of questions, but I'll once again take Mad Bum.|
|SP5||Armando Galarraga||Esmil Rogers||Jon Garland||Clayton Richard||Barry Zito||Zito has the best record but I'd rather have Garland, Galaragga or maybe even Richard. Sorry, Zeets.|
|RP||Juan Guiterrez||Matt Belisle||Hong-Chih Kuo||Luke Gregerson||Sergio Romo||Gregerson could be closing for half the teams in the league. I love Romo but Gregerson is lethal.|
|CL||J.J. Putz||Huston Street||Jonathan Broxton||Heath Bell||Brian Wilson||A lot of talent across the board, but I - like most batters - still fear the beard.|
Naturally, I'm not accounting for injuries (Latos, Wilson and perhaps a few others are already on the DL, for example) but here's the thing...if there's a team with the most talent across the board in the division, it's the Giants. If you want to argue that the Rockies or even the Dodgers have the ability to compete, I'll listen - but this is the Giants division to lose. And any "expert" shouldn't find that too difficult of a conclusion to arrive at.
In related news, tomorrow is Opening Day. Baseball ... is back.