NL West Preview (cont.)

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Barry Bonds makes for a pretty good lineup by himself. With Moises Alou (39 homers, 106 RBIs with the Cubs in '04), the Giants look better than they have since Jeff Kent left. They're old, but if J.T. Snow hits close to what he did in '04 (.327), the Giants will be tough to handle.

A lot depends on Brad Penny's health, but the Dodgers have the look of a solid, deep staff. Jeff Weaver bounced back with 26 quality starts in '04, lefty Odalis Perez (3.25 ERA) is underrated, Chavez Ravine was made for newcomer Derek Lowe and if Penny's arm is sound, he can be dominant.

Eric Gagne's streak is gone, and the best setup man he ever had (Guillermo Mota) was traded away, but the Dodgers' bullpen is still scary good. New setup ace Yhency Brazoban was unhittable toward the end of '04, and Duaner Sanchez and Giovanni Carrara are shut-down types.

Well, until he isn't, it'd be foolish to count anyone but Bonds as the MVP. With a record 232 walks in '04, he got on base more than six of every 10 times he stepped to the plate (.609 OBP). He had 45 homers in just 373 at-bats. His swing is as quick as ever. Controversy? He eats it up and spits it out.

A groin injury cost him the NL Cy Young last season, but everyone knows Giants' righty Jason Schmidt has the stuff. With an upper-90s fastball, a devastating slider and a killer change, he has the pitches. And he's fiercely competitive, too. He easily could best his numbers from '04 (18-7, 3.20 ERA).

The Rockies are tossing the whole minor-league system into the fire. As many as four rookies could be starters Opening Day. The one who could make an immediate impact: Outfielder Brad Hawpe (31 homers and 86 RBIs in just 92 games at Class AAA Colorado Springs). Watch out, Coors Field.

Penny quieted the caterwauling surrounding the big trade that brought him to L.A. last season when he two-hit Pittsburgh in his first start. But he hurt his biceps his next time out and made only one more start. If the big righty is OK, he'll be awesome. If not, that deadline trade will look even worse.

When they lost homegrown slugger Adrian Beltre to free agency, the Dodgers seemed destined to revert to their offensively inept '03 form. But L.A. offered big money to outfielder J.D. Drew, banking that he outdoes his career year in Atlanta in '04 (31 HRs, 1.006 OPS, career-high 145 games).