MLB Preview & Predictions: NL West

2017 National League West Projected Standings:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Colorado Rockies
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks
  5. San Diego Padres

Los Angeles Dodgers:

This division article for the NL West is probably the hardest of the six due to the extreme similarities of the Dodgers and Giants.  I had to think about this for a couple of days and figure out who was going to take the cake in this now very competitive division.  Under the helm of new manager Dave Roberts the Dodgers made it all the way to the NLCS last season, but ended up losing in six games to the winning Cubs.  As a first time coach, he pushed his team to a 91-71 record and put up great fights against the Nationals and Cubs.  Around late June last season, three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw went down with a herniated disc injury, sidelining him until about September.  Kershaw pitched in only twenty-one games last year, compared to his usually thirty-plus games and was still ranked at fifth overall in voting for Cy Young.

The Dodgers did a fantastic job re-signing two major keys of their team in Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen.  Jansen, produced a 1.83 ERA last year, along with forty-seven saves he was named as an All-Star for the first time in his career.  He signed a five year, $80 million deal with the team and will be signed through 2021.  In his third year in LA, Turner took a step back from the high average numbers and focused on the power numbers, hitting a career high twenty-seven homeruns last season with a .275 average.  He will be joined by the Rookie of the Year, Corey Seager, veteran Adrian Gonzalez and a mixture of Logan Forsythe and Chase Utley at second base.  With the loss of Howie Kendrick, the team now has a stable, three man outfield in Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, and Andrew Toles.  The one player to watch this season will be Kenta Maeda and whether or not he can continue to put up the same high volume numbers he did in his first season in the MLB.

San Francisco Giants: 

As mentioned above, this division was the hardest to determine a flat out winner.  The race for first place in this division is going to be long and hard.  Personally, the Dodgers just seemed to have more pieces to the puzzle than the Giants.  One of the reasons that the Giants will finish second is due to their pitching rotation.  The Boys from the Bay will have Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore, Jeff Samardzija, and Matt Cain on the bump this season, along with newly signed closer Mark Melancon to finish out games for them.  Bumgarner went 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA and a 5.9 WAR in his age twenty-six season.  As a hitter, he hit three homeruns, which is good for a pitcher in the NL.

The following pitchers will also be caught by former MVP, Rookie of the Year, and three time World Series winner Buster Posey.  Posey put a up a 4.7 WAR last year in 146 games and also only committed four errors in the process.  The infield for the team will also be comprised of Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, and Eduardo Nunez.  Nunez hit .288 last year between the Twins and Giants with sixteen homeruns, which is most likely his best season yet.  The outfield, right to left will be Hunter Pence, Denard Span, and Jarrett Parker.  Span who in his first year with the team hit .266, will look to raise that number as he will most likely stay at the top of the order with either Belt, Nunez, or Crawford hitting in the two spot behind them.  I’ll be looking out for Posey this year to see if he can raise his power numbers along with his average.

Colorado Rockies: 

The Rockies have had a rough couple of seasons, since 2011 finishing in either fourth or fifth except for last season where they finished third.  The team seems to be going for it, hiring a new manager who has coached in the NL West before in Bud Black.  He coached nine years for the Padres and will hopefully bring a winning record to the team that should stay in the same spot as it did last year.  The emergence last season of Trevor Story was one of reasons why they seemed alright in the beginning of the year.  Story slowed down due to injury, but hit a total of twenty-seven homeruns and also hit .272 in ninety-seven games.  The team is also hoping for a healthy Gerardo Parra, who in 102 games last year, hit .253 and produced a -2.8 WAR throughout the season.

Story, who plays shortstop, will be joined by Nolan Arenado, D.J. LeMahieu, and newly acquired Ian Desmond.  Desmond who has played his career with the Nationals and Rangers, will switch things up a bit and play first base for this team.  He hit .285 last year, playing alongside Adrian Beltre and Rougned Odor in Texas, but will look to continue the high volume numbers in the Mile High City.  Although trade rumors were circulating around Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon, the teams’ star outfielder’s, they were not traded and are staying for at least one more Opening Day for the Coors Crew.  Gonzalez hit .298 last year with twenty-five homeruns and 100 RBI’s in 150 games.  Blackmon was one of the key players for Colorado last season, hitting .324 with a .552 slugging percentage in 143 games.  Keep an eye out for the Rockies pitching staff this year as they have no real house-hold names, but will look to stay healthy and on the field, for a .500 season that is on the horizon.

Arizona Diamondbacks: 

2016’s biggest bust goes to the Diamondbacks.  They signed Shelby Miller, who although did not get much run support from his old team in Atlanta, would produce constant low ERA’s.  They also signed Zack Greinke who with the Dodgers in 2015, went 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA and 200 strikeouts.  If there is one thing that is always present in baseball, is that things do not always go as planned.  Greinke did produce a winning record, 13-7 but almost tripled his ERA from the year before, 4.37.  Miller, went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA in twenty games, which is god awful for someone they are paying $4.7 million a year.  The entire pitching staff accounted for ninety-three losses on the season, which equates to only sixty-nine wins.

They know that they are not good, which means rebuild.  But, they are not even in the rebuilding process which is also a huge problem.  They seem to be in the phase, where they lose to regain some ground by signing draft picks and maybe trading away some of the better talent to kick-start the rebuild process.  The one silver lining in this team is Paul Goldschmidt.  He is a four-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger, two-time Gold Glove winner, and has finished in the top three of MVP voting twice.  Hitting .297 last year, with twenty-four homeruns and ninety-five RBI’s, he is something special, being recognized as one of the top players in the MLB for the past four years or so.  This season he will make $8,875,000 and has produced more than two times that.  The player to watch this season will be Greinke and whether or not he can kick it back into high gear and have a similar career as he did with the LA Dodgers.

San Diego Padres: 

In the NL West, it is a race for last place between the Padres and Diamondbacks.  I chose the Padres to end up in last place because of the lack of pitching and hitting on this team.  They are god awful and they are definitely one of the worst teams in baseball.  They ended up going 68-94 last season and finished twenty-three games back from the first place Dodgers.  Even though the West is one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, the Dodgers and Giants are still the front runners every year.  When the time comes for the prospects to rise and take over this team, they will remain a bottom tier team in their division and in the league.

Similar to the Diamondbacks, the Padres’ silver lining is Wil Meyers.  In his second year with the Padres ended in an All-Star Game appearance and twenty-eight homeruns.  This team is in rebuild mode.  They started off by having a fire sale last year, trading away Melvin Upton Jr., Matt Kemp, and Drew Pomeranz and are now playing their rookies and top prospects in order to get them ready for the superstar team that they want to be in four or five years.  The teams’s starting rotation will be comprised of Clayton Richards, Jered Weaver, Jhoulys Chacin, Luis Perdomo, and Christian Friedrich.  The one player to watch this year will be Yangervis Solarte and if he can produce the high average and maintain fantastic defense, both of which he displayed perfectly last season.

 

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