The NL West has been the talk of Major League baseball this offseason. Not only are the San Francisco Giants the defending World Series champs, but thanks to hyperactive GMs, both the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres will field overhauled rosters. The Rockies scored the third most runs in the majors last year and the Diamondbacks have grit.
This is a very good division. Each team is actively trying to compete (wisely or not) and each has a legitimate chance to be
good above average terrible. Here’s my prognosis:
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- San Diego Padres
- San Francisco Giants
- Colorado Rockies
- Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Dodgers, 1st place, 93-69
The Dodgers sport the game’s highest payroll and the talent to match. Last year’s squad finished in first out West and made it to the NLDS. When Clayton Kershaw inexplicably stopped being Clayton Kershaw for a minute, the Giants made their way to the World Series. Kershaw is back, leading a rotation that is talented, but shallow. Hyun-Jin Ryu’s recent shoulder woes–he was recently shut down, and was twice shut down with shoulder problems last year–have revealed the Dodgers lack of depth in their 5-man.
In this good piece for the LA Times, Steve Dilbeck outlines how after Kershaw and Greinke, the Dodgers have real rotation concerns. Brandon McCarthy is a great Tweeter, but not so great at staying healthy. After that, the Dodgers, are apparently relying on Brett Anderson and a host of other guys whose names are tough to remember.
Even with the perceived weakness here, the Dodgers are in a position with both payroll and front office acumen to make the moves to shore up this type of issue. Moreover, the moves that the Dodgers made this year were made to improve the defense. Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick rate well with gloves on their hands and Joc Pederson will be added to the outfield defense.
The bottom line here is that this team will score runs, field a solid defense, and they have Clayton Kershaw. They also have a front office capable of handling obstacles that pop up over 162 games and the silky voice of Vin Scully to make everything better. It’s tough to pick against these guys.
San Diego Padres, 2nd place, 87- 75
New GM AJ Preller apparently only read the first two bullets of our proposed Padres gameplan heading into the offseason, but hey. He accomplished the ‘Find an Organizational Philosophy’ and the “Get a ‘Face’ bullets, and is fielding a competitive team. He’s overhauled the outfield by adding Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, and Justin Upton; he’s added Derek Norris to squeeze some offense from behind the plate; and he’s managed to keep the rotation intact.
Sure, it’ll be fun to see how the new pieces fit together on offense, but it’s this team’s rotation that makes team legitimately exciting. James Shields and Ian Kennedy will offer the stability, but Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Brandon Morrow, and Odrisamer Despaigne add the excitement. Cashner and Morrow have been dominant when healthy and both sport great stuff. In 2014, Tyson Ross made the leap hat I’ve been touting since 2011, and Odrisamer Despaigne is Inspector Gadget in a baseball uniform.
The team that wins the offseason rarely wins the regular season, and fans have reasons to be uncertain about the Padres this year–primarily defensive positioning–but I’m excited about this team.
San Francisco Giants, 3rd place, 82-80
A large part of me thinks that the Giants could be really bad this year. Madison Bumgarner pitched an insane number of innings last year; Tim Hudson is turning 40; Tim Lincecum isn’t good anymore; and Matt Cain has had an ERA over 4 in each of the last two years. Their Opening Day outfield is going to be Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco, and Nori Aoki. Their bullpen is the same that it’s always been, but I keep thinking it’s going to break down.
But this is the San Francisco Giants and they seem to be incapable of fading as the season goes on. The infield is sneaky good with Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford both ready for big seasons. Joe Panik looked like the real deal in the second half last year, and Casey McGehee shouldn’t be terrible.
Much of me wants to predict that they’ll be bad, but I know better. The team has depth. Over the course of 162 games, I’m convinced that depth is the most important aspect of a roster.
Colorado Rockies, 4th place, 69-93
The Rockies scored the third most runs in baseball in 2014 and look to have an even more potent offense this year with a healthy Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo may want to play in New York, but he’s going to continue to be a freak while playing his home games in Coors Field. Flanked by the talented Nolan Arenado, the Rocks have a scary left side of the infield. The outfield, with the aforementioned Car-Go, Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon, and Drew Stubbs is excellent.
But that pitching. Man, the pitching is bad. Colorado has had two decades to figure out a pitching strategy for Coors Field, but this newest plan of promoting promising young pitchers before their ready is destined for failure. Jordan Lyles, promoted by the Astros too early, still has promise entering his age 23 season. Lyles reminds me a bit of Rick Porcello of three years ago in that he’s so young and so average. Jorge de La Rosa is a very good back end starter masquerading as an Ace, and the rest of the rotation is similarly miscast. The bullpen is bad, too. And it’s Coors Field.
The team is going to score runs and give up runs. Nothing new in Colorado and I expect them to be slightly better with the possible addition of young starters Eddie Butler and Jonathan Gray from the minors. Plus the optimism of a full season of Carlos Gonzalez makes for the Rockies to be optimistic about 70+ wins.
Arizona Diamondbacks, 5th place, 68-94
The Diamondbacks are very bad. I wanted to put them in 4th in the division since I thought they were halfway decent in the rotation and could put together a surprisingly solid offense with Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo, and Yasmani Thomas doing big things in the middle of the order. Sure, the Diamondbacks still have those three, but Thomas isn’t a third baseman and he may not even be a great hitter. Thomas has an OBP under .300 in 39 spring at bats so far, and the D’backs recently hinted that he may begin the season in AAA.
The rotation is even more of a mess. Josh Collmenter is the Opening Day starter and that’s an immediate red flag. Jeremy Hellickson, Ruby De La Rosa, Trevor Cahill, and Robbie Ray are my outside picks to begin the season in the rotation behind Collmenter, but there’s no guarantee that any of them are any good at all.
The team has no bullpen piece that gives me confidence. Closer Addison Reed is the worst “closer” out there right now, and Oliver Perez, though capable out of the bullpen, is still Oliver Perez.
Max thinks they’re awful, both in organizational philosophy and organizational talent. I agree, but am a bit more optimistic about their talent, for better or worse.
The Off The Bench tradition lives on!
- Josh Collmenter gets a win on Opening Day.
- Oliver Perez pitches right handed this season in the 18th inning of a game.
- Joc Pederson hits more homers through July than Yasiel Puig.
- Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke each finish with a better ERA than anyone else in the NL West.
- Wil Myers hits .275 with 28 homers this year.
- Matt Kemp plays some first base in August after an ankle injury slows him down through July.
- Matt Cain wins 15 games with a 3.20 ERA.
- In the same vein as this offseason’s trade for all the right handed, power hitting outfielders, AJ Preller trades for all the AJ’s: AJ Burnett, AJ Ellis, AJ Pierzynski, AJ Achter, AJ Griffen, and AJ Ramos are all Padres by midseason.
- Jake Lamb plays more games at third base this year than Yasmani Thomas does in his entire career.
- Brandon Beachy pitches out of the bullpen in the postseason.
- Troy Tulowitzki is traded next offseason to the Mets.
- Jon Gray gets rookie of the year votes.
Stat of the day: Erick Almonte hit .413 with 3 homers in the 2011 Spring Training. He then hit .103 in the regular season.