The National League West is set up to be one of the most exciting divisions in baseball this year. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if this turns out to be the closest division race in the major leagues. With all the offseason moves that were made, there isn’t a whole lot separating the teams at the top, at least from each other that is. There is plenty separating the good teams from the bad one in the West. (Sorry Colorado, but the Broncos are the only championship you’ll be seeing this year. And San Diego, at least the Chargers didn’t leave.) The Dodgers, Giants, and Diamondbacks all have legitimate shots of at the very least winning a Wild Card spot this year. These are the things to watch for this season. Will the Giants continue their pattern of winning championships every even year? Can the Dodgers cope with losing an ace to a division rival? Will the built-to-win-now D’backs actually win now? Here’s how I can see the division playing out, knowing very well that I could be way off.
Division Winner Giants (84-78 last season)
The Giants made big splashes in free agency that could propel them to the top of the division. They are set to have one of the best rotations in baseball, adding Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. That alone is pretty solid one-two punch, but those guys will be two-three behind Madison Bumgarner. Add Jake Peavy and a healthy Matt Cain, this rotation has potential to not only be the best in baseball this year, but one of the best in history. When it comes to hitting and fielding, no one will jump out at you after Buster Posey, but they have a balanced squad that can get the job done. They also gave one of the best managers in the game in Bruce Bochy. He knows how to run his team and get the most out of his players. They have the pitching, an MVP caliber player, and the manager. It’ll be very close, but the Giants should be able to squeak out the division title.
The Diamondbacks had one of the busiest winters in baseball. They’ve set themselves up to finally get over the .500 mark. (They finished with 79 or 81 wins in 3 of the past 4 seasons.) Offensively, this team is set. Led by All-Stars Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, the D’backs scored the 2nd most runs in the NL last year. Their bats kept them in games last year. It was their pitching that hurt them the most, mainly the starters. They addressed that in a big way. Bringing in Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller gives the D’backs a one-two punch of their own. Patrick Corbin and Rubby De La Rosa provide great depth and the fifth slot will probably be filled by promising young arms throughout the season. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the D’backs win the division. Whether they do or not, they will make the playoffs this season as at least a wild card team. This could also be the year that Goldschmidt finally wins the MVP award he deserves.
The Dodgers are in a tough spot losing Greinke. They tried their best to fill the void by getting Scott Kazmir. He’s a solid starter but Greinke left a hole in the rotation that can’t be immediately filled. Clayton Kershaw could pitch his best season yet (which is saying something since he’s already had amazing seasons) and that still might not be enough. It could be a make or break season for the Dodgers. They were supposed to win a World Series by now but they couldn’t even get there. There’s plenty of pressure on new manager Dave Roberts. Yasiel Puig should also be feeling the pressure this season. It could very well be his last season in Los Angeles and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded at the trade deadline. If not Puig, one of the other outfielders will have to get moved. There’s just not enough room for Puig, Carl Crawford, Joc Pederson, and Andre Ethier. Crawford is likely to stay since no one else will want to east his contract. Ethier has already proven himself and Pederson is one of the best young players in the game. They all need regular playing time. Someone has to get the short end of the stick and that will probably be Puig. The Dodgers have been kings of the division for the past few years, but that is set to change now.
Here’s where the strength of the teams in the West drops. No offense to the Padres or Rockies, but they just won’t be able to keep up with the other three teams. The Padres however still do have a decent squad but there’s no one really to feared like a Kershaw or a Goldschmidt. They are a rebuilding team. Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel, their best players from a year ago, are gone. They have a new manager in Andy Greene. After they set their expectations way too high last season, not much is expected this season.
The Rockies are an interesting team. They can hit and score runs with the best of them. They actually led the NL in runs last year. However, they can’t pitch for their lives. So unless the lineup can score 6-7 runs a game, they won’t win that many games. That’s the reason why I see them finishing below the Padres. If they had some pitching, they wouldn’t finish last. But Jorge De La Rosa and Chad Bettis leading the rotation just isn’t good enough. They’ll be fun to watch though. Nolan Arenado will put up good numbers and he and newcomer Gerardo Parra can win Gold Gloves. Carlos Gonzalez can put up solid numbers if he can stay healthy for a full season. Their high scoring games could be fun to watch, but that’s about it.