SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. — The Los Angeles Dodgers have a big, blue bull's-eye on their collective back.

It was, after all, the Dodgers who cavorted in the swimming pool at Chase Field last season when they clinched the National League West crown, angering many Arizona Diamondbacks players.

It is the Dodgers who start the immensely talented but at times immature Yasiel Puig in right field. His volatile personality has led to a love-or-hate sideshow around the team. (Puig didn't help himself by showing up 25 pounds overweight to spring training.)

It is the Dodgers who have baseball's best trio of starters in Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

And it's the Dodgers who have a projected 2014 payroll of $235.3 million, nearly 2½ times larger than the Rockies' $95.8 million payroll, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press. The wiseguys in Las Vegas have made the Dodgers prohibitive favorites to defend their NL West title. Only two things appear capable of derailing them: a rash of injuries and the crushing weight of expectations.

Manager Don Mattingly is not worried about the latter.

"We are kind of used to it," he said. "Last year, we knew there were a lot of expectations and we were putting together a new club. Last year, we showed that our nucleus can come together to form a real team."

Mattingly's belief was forged during a dramatic turnaround. On the morning of June 22, the Dodgers were 30-42 and 9½ games out of first. Mattingly appeared a loss or two away from getting fired. Then — as if by magic, and with a huge boost from Puig — the Dodgers became nearly invincible. During one blistering stretch, they went 42-8. They won 62 of their final 90 games and cruised to the National League West title, winning the division by 11 games. Their loss in six games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series only served as motivation for 2014.

So why not just ship the division trophy to L.A.?

"Contrary to what many are saying, I think the division is going to be wide-open. I think it's going to be a dogfight," said Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson, who already is 0-2 against the Dodgers with losses last weekend in Sydney.

In their 21 years of existence, the Rockies have never won the NL West. Few figure they'll do so this year after a second consecutive last-place finish. Vegas has them 25-1 longshots to win the West.

Asked if the Rockies could contend, manager Walt Weiss said: "Well, it'd probably surprise a lot of people, but not me. It's tough. It can be done. We're going to have to go worst to first."

Don Mattingly
Don Mattingly (Cameron Spencer, Getty Images)

The Rockies held their own within their division last season, going 38-38.

"I think this division is getting tougher and tougher, and I think it's going to get bloodier and bloodier because everybody is going to kind of beat each other up," Mattingly said. "So it might be tough to pull a wild card out of this division. You're going to have to win (the division)."

The Dodgers are primed to do just that. They gave Clayton Kershaw, last year's Cy Young Award winner, a seven-year, $215 million contract, the richest deal for a pitcher in major-league history. They are paying $10 million for Dan Haren — and he's their No. 4 or 5 starter. Their lineup is so loaded that Andre Ethier might have to battle for playing time.

Their bullpen should be a beast. Consider this: Chris Perez, the former Cleveland Indian who has 123 saves over the past four seasons, is slotted to pitch in the seventh inning, in front of Brian Wilson and closer Kenley Jansen, who had a 1.88 ERA last season with 111 strikeouts and 18 walks while allowing a mere 48 hits.

Look hard and you'll find a few chinks in the Dodgers' armor. Center fielder Matt Kemp continues to struggle with injuries, and second baseman Dee Gordon and shortstop Hanley Ramirez give Los Angeles a pedestrian middle infield defense. And the tense relationship between Puig and Mattingly bears watching.

Still, the NL West looks like it's the Dodgers ... and everybody else in the pool for second place.

"Every year it seems like a second team jumps out in the National League West that nobody expects," said Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers. "After the Dodgers, it could be any of the other teams. It's very evenly matched."

Patrick Saunders: or

Big spenders

Los Angeles is pulling away from its NL West neighbors with an onslaught of spending. A look at the projected team payrolls this year, in millions, and rank overall in Major League Baseball, as compiled by The Associated Press:

Dodgers $235,295 (1st)

Giants $154,185 (7th)

D-backs $112,688 (11th)

Rockies $95,832 (17th)

Padres $90,094 (21st)

The National League West

Denver Post baseball writer Patrick Saunders offers his capsule view of the National League West

Los Angeles Dodgers

2013 season: 92-70. Lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in six games in NLCS.

Outlook: Huge favorites to win the division, the Dodgers have the best starting pitching, led by Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu and a dynamite bullpen. With a more mature Yasiel Puig mashing, the Dodgers' offense is formidable, especially if Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez stay healthy.

Spring training story line: The mercurial Puig reported to camp 25 pounds overweight and his diva act has tested the patience and sanity of manager Don Mattingly.

Arizona Diamondbacks

2013 season: 81-81

Outlook: The loss of ace left-hander Patrick Corbin to a season-ending elbow injury was a big blow to the rotation. Veterans Trevor Ca- hill and Bronson Arroyo need to step up. The lineup is talented, led by first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. New left fielder Mark Trumbo adds pop to the batting order, and with Gold Glove winner Gerardo Parra in right field, Arizona's defense should be solid.

Spring training story line: Losing Corbin colors everything else about Arizona's camp. As manager Kirk Gibson admitted, "It was a big kick into the gut."

San Francisco Giants

2013 season: 76-86

Outlook: The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, but they appear on a downhill slide. Their once formidable rotation has more questions than answers. Matt Cain was terrible in the first half last year, and Tim Lincecum has regressed from Cy Young winner to fourth starter. The addition of Tim Hudson will help, but he's 38 and coming off a major ankle injury. Offensively, they need a bounce-back season from third baseman Pablo Sandoval and a big season from Buster Posey.

Spring training story line: Depth is an issue, with second baseman Marco Scutaro possibly going on the DL (back) and No. 5 starter Ryan Vogelsong getting rocked this spring.

San Diego Padres

2013 season: 76-86

Outlook: Hope for the offense rests on Chase Headley rediscovering his power stroke (31 homers in 2012) and second baseman Jedd Gyorko becoming more disciplined at the plate. Right-hander Josh Johnson was acquired to bolster the rotation, but he's hurt, leaving Andrew Cashner (2.14 ERA in 11 starts), Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy as the rotation mainstays.

Spring training story lines: Johnson, who signed a one-year, $8 million deal, has a forearm strain and is out four to five weeks. Center fielder Cameron Maybin will miss the first two months after rupturing his left biceps tendon.

Colorado Rockies

2013 season: 74-88

Outlook: The Rockies might flirt with a .500 record. The key, as always, is keeping all-stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez healthy. The addition of lefty Brett Anderson to the rotation and lefty Boone Logan to the bullpen should bolster Colorado's always suspect pitching.

Spring training story line: No. 1 right-handed starter Jhoulys Chacin (strained shoulder) will be on the disabled list until May. For the Rockies to be true contenders, they need him to return healthy.