Kapler knows Freeman, Bryant moves make Giants' road tougher


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Joc Pederson didn't waste any time getting to Giants camp. His locker was set up right near Wilmer Flores' with a No. 23 jersey inside. The Giants even set up a locker for Joc's older brother, Champ, who has Down syndrome and has been at Joc's side throughout his big league career.

Scottsdale Stadium wasn't the only place shuffling lockers around in the Phoenix area, though.

A few miles up the road, the Colorado Rockies prepared for Kris Bryant's arrival. Across town, the rival Los Angeles Dodgers were giddy over the addition of Freddie Freeman, the 2020 National League MVP.

"They had a monster lineup last year, they'll have a monster lineup this year," manager Gabe Kapler said of the Dodgers. "You lose Corey Seager, you add Freddie Freeman, you just kind of filled that role and that hole. Seager was a tremendous challenge to beat and so is Freddie.

"I saw a lot of him in Atlanta when I was with Philly and then obviously we've seen enough of him (here). He's tough, he's a really tough hitter, and there's no question that made their lineup stronger."

The Dodgers will move Max Muncy to second base, forming an infield of Freeman, Muncy, Trea Turner and Justin Turner. Those are four All-Star talents, and Muncy, Freeman and Trea Turner have been prominent in MVP discussions in recent years. Their outfield is led by Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger, two more former MVPs.

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The projection systems had the Dodgers well ahead of the pack in the NL West even before the Freeman addition. They also have the Rockies picked to finish last, although those trips to Coors Field will be a lot tougher with Bryant in the heart of the order.

"First, I'm happy for Kris," Kapler said. "I obviously got to know him well and want to see him go to a place that feels comfortable for him, where he can thrive, and it sounds like the Rockies are the right fit for him. With respect to how that impacts the division (the Rockies) have a bat in the middle of the lineup that's very productive and that they can move around in the same way that we did."

The Giants got better this week. So, too, did the rest of the division, particularly the team they held off by one game last year. They know it, but they also know something else, something that has been brought up a lot since camp opened.

Nobody had the Giants winning the NL West last year, either.

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