"Last year there was all this talk about the Padres being so good," Gonzalez said. "You're always going to have so-called experts saying this is the team to beat, they improved the most. At the end of the day, we will be right in the middle of the race come the end of September and in the best position to get into the playoffs."
But to win another division title, the Dodgers must make history. Since the NL West was formed in 1969, no franchise has finished first four consecutive seasons, and the Dodgers have a three-year streak going.
Dodgers pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Friday with a first-year manager, a slashed payroll as part of a stealth youth movement and without Greinke, the NL Cy Young Award runner-up. But odds makers favor the Dodgers, and so does their first-base fixture.
"I think we've got some good players and the team's going to be just as good as in the past, if not better," Gonzalez said.
"We have probably the deepest team in baseball. We'll be able to afford almost any injury, and a lot of teams can't say that. Every team goes through a lot of injuries. If you ever think you won't, you're not looking at baseball from a realistic standpoint. You prepare by adding depth, by having six or seven starters for the rotation instead of just five, by having extra bodies that can fill in to keep the same talent level on the field. If teams aren't prepared for that, they will fall off."
Dodgers management missed on a few high-profile acquisitions over the offseason and returns essentially the same lineup from last year's NL Division Series loss to the Mets. Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda were signed to help fill the void from Greinke's departure.
"Talent-wise, we're at the top of baseball," said Gonzalez. "As far as other teams improving, that's not for us to care about. We have the talent and depth to win the division again. We're in position to win a division like we did the last three years."
Two of the bigger changes from last year are the appointment of Dave Roberts as manager to replace Don Mattingly and the anointment of 21-year-old Corey Seager as starting shortstop, the job he took from Jimmy Rollins last September.
Gonzalez sounds sincerely excited about playing for Roberts. The two were teammates on the 2006 Padres.
"Dave will have different ways to lead the team, to move us forward," Gonzalez said. "He's got great ideas. He will be a great clubhouse leader, a great field manager, it's great that he's leading us. It's always fun to hear his ideas and thoughts on how to lead the team."
And Gonzalez sounds all-in on Seager, and not just because every preseason list, including MLBPipeline.com's, calls Seager the best prospect in the game.
"I could care less about who is No. 1, it's about how you perform in the big leagues," Gonzalez said. "But I told [Rockies first-base coach] Eric Young last year, we were talking about the prospects they had and we had, that this is a special kid. I could see him being a Hall of Famer. He's got the talent, the makeup, the potential. I think he'll be a great Major Leaguer for a long time."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.