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One of the things about the National League West that I don’t think gets enough credit is they are a dog-eat-dog division. It seems like year after year you have a fight among the teams from first through fifth. And how each team goes about their way is different. We know historically that the Dodgers, Giants, and Padres, thanks in part to their ballparks, are more oriented with pitching and it shows year in and year out while the Rockies and Diamondbacks, known for having two great offensive parks, are more inclined to rely heavy on the bats.
Last year we saw the Dodgers roll in the NL West though the Rockies and Diamondbacks both played out of their minds to snag both Wild Cards. The Padres were still in the midst of rebuilding and the Giants just had really bad luck all year round (or so Giants fans think and hope) and weren’t a factor in the division.
Even the off-season had a strange feel for all the teams. The Dodgers unusually stood pat for the most part. The Rockies added more bullpen help while their young arms in the rotation can get them over. Arizona stood pat (and probably lost ground by letting JD Martinez walk). But the Padres and Giants made key moves as San Diego was a player in the free agent market by getting one of the top prizes in Eric Hosmer and the Giants have gone all in for the 2018 season adding Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen in the mix to hopefully solidify a lineup that really fell apart in 2017.
My team previews are where I see them in the standings in 2018 so in other words, this where I think they will be.
1ST PLACE: LOS ANGELES DODGERS
2017: 104-58 (1st place; beat Arizona in NLDS, beat Chicago Cubs in NLCS, lost to Houston in World Series)
OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-Matt Kemp (trade-Atlanta), P-Scott Alexander (trade-Kansas City), P-Tom Koehler (FA-Toronto), SUBTRACTS: P-Yu Darvish (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Brandon Morrow (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Tony Watson (FA-San Francisco), OF-Curtis Granderson (FA-Toronto), OF-Franklin Gutierrez (FA), OF-Andre Ethier (FA), P-Grant Dayton (Waivers-Atlanta), 1B-Adrian Gonzalez (Trade-Atlanta), IF-Charlie Culberson (Trade-Atlanta), P-Brandon McCarthy (Trade-Atlanta), P-Scott Kazmir (Trade-Atlanta), P-Luis Avilan (Trade-Chicago White Sox)
Outlook: You do have to think that the Dodgers did a lot of addition by subtraction here by gutting some roster with sending away players who were high priced and not living up to the expectations (Kazmir, Gonzalez). Los Angeles still has one of the most all-around rosters in all of baseball and a great young group while having a farm system that is very good. So barring injuries, it is hard to think the Dodgers won’t be playing October baseball. However, some players do need to make an impact like many had hoped when they first arrived, notably Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig. If those two can get it going at the right time, oh boy. Are there questions in the rotation behind Kershaw as in can Rich Hill and Alex Wood show 2017 wasn’t a fluke? Perhaps, but right now I don’t see either one sliding off too much in 2018 (barring injury). If the Dodgers can keep healthy, a repeat to the World Series is a very strong chance.
OVERALL PROJECTION: 99-63 (Dodgers may not have a better record than 17, but may have a better team in 2018)
2ND PLACE: ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
2017: 93-69, 2nd place (defeated Colorado in Wild Card round; lost to Los Angeles Dodgers in NLDS)
OFF-SEASON: ADDS: P-Brad Boxberger (Trade-Tampa Bay), OF-Steven Souza Jr. (Trade-Tampa Bay) C-Alex Avila (FA-Chicago Cubs) SUBTRACTS: C-Chris Iannetta (FA-Colorado), IF-Adam Rosales (FA-Philadelphia), OF-Gregor Blanco (FA-San Francisco), OF-JD Martinez (FA-Boston), P-David Hernandez (FA-Cincinnati), P-Fernando Rodney (FA-Minnesota)
Outlook: Arizona may have lost a bit in the off-season, notably from JD Martinez, who played HUGE for them after coming from Detroit in a mid-season trade. But it’s hard to say they will take a huge step backwards. After all, they have Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb leading the way in the lineup. The rest of the lineup is solid if anything where the likes of AJ Pollock, David Peralta, and Steven Souza Jr. can really hurt you if you aren’t careful. The starting rotation is as good as any with Zack Greinke (though he has got to pitch better than what we’ve seen since he’s joined Arizona), Robbie Ray, and Patrick Corbin as well as Taijuan Walker. The big question will be the pen as can Archie Bradley close out games and Brad Boxberger help set up? That has to be somewhat of a question as well as keeping healthy.
2018 PROJECTION: 91-71 (look for Arizona to make a splash at the deadline to improve a need; catcher?)
3RD PLACE: SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
2017: 64-98, 5th Place
OFF-SEASON: ADDS: 3B-Evan Longoria (Trade-Tampa Bay), OF-Andrew McCutchen (Trade-Pittsburgh), OF-Austin Jackson (FA-Cleveland), P-Tony Watson (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers) SUBTRACTS: P-Matt Moore (Trade-Texas), 3B-Christian Arroyo (Trade-Tampa Bay), OF-Denard Span (Trade-Tampa Bay), P-Kyle Crick (Trade-Pittsburgh), P-Matt Cain (retired)
Outlook: The Giants SHOULD get better from their miserable 2017 season. They had down years from practically all the guys that didn’t need down years save Buster Posey. Brandon Belt was way down as was Brandon Crawford. Hunter Pence struggled tremendously while Madison Bumgarner was lost for a long period of time. The rotation struggled with Johnny Cueto being very off and Jeff Samardzija being a victim of bad luck at times. In case that the Brandon boys struggled again, the Giants added more depth by getting a former MVP in Andrew McCutchen and a former MVP candidate in Evan Longoria to really pick up the offense, that is if McCutchen can continue upward from a bad 2016 season (he had a good year in 2017 with Pittsburgh) and Longoria rebounds from a very down year (probably his worst season to date). So San Francisco is hoping with the year being even again that the high risk will mean a high reward again.
2018 PROJECTION: 85-77 (Too many what-ifs for me to give the Giants a 2nd place finish).
4TH PLACE: COLORADO ROCKIES
2017: 87-75 (3rd place, lost to Arizona in Wild Card)
OFF-SEASON: ADDS: C-Chris Iannetta (FA-Arizona), P-Wade Davis (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Bryan Shaw (FA-Cleveland); SUBTRACTS: C-Ryan Hanigan (FA-Cleveland), C-Jonathan Lucroy (FA-Oakland), IF-Alexi Amarista (FA-Detroit), P-Tyler Chatwood (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Pat Neshek (FA-Philadelphia) 1B/3B-Mark Reynolds (FA)
Outlook: Colorado’s torrid start in 2017 was enough to get the Rockies a Wild Card spot in October. The key reason why they got off to a great start was the Rockies bullpen started out great with the moves they made. However, the starters did not eat a lot of innings, any of them and the bullpen got overworked and underachieved. And really like every other year for the past 25 years in Denver, the Rockies pitching failed. They did sign closer Wade Davis away from Chicago which helps and added a quality reliever in Bryan Shaw, but again, if the Rockies starters fail to deliver, it will be a similar situation to 2017. Part of me thinks last year the Rockies sneaked up on some teams with their offense and how they crushed the ball at Coors, but when the Rockies slipped, they were human, especially on the road (similar to the last 25 years). The Rockies have to play better away from Coors and the rotation has to pitch better, and that has always been the dilemma in Colorado. I’m not sure if they will sneak up on anybody especially if San Francisco and San Diego get better.
2018 PROJECTION: 79-83 (Forgive me for not going in on the Rockies, they are the same group as we remembered in the old Blake Street Bombers days).
5TH PLACE: SAN DIEGO PADRES
OFF-SEASON: ADDS: 1B-Eric Hosmer (FA-Kansas City), 3B-Chase Headley (Trade-New York Yankees), SS-Freddy Galvis (Trade-Philadelphia), C-AJ Ellis (FA-Miami), P-Kazuhisa Makita (FA-Japan), P-Bryan Mitchell (Trade-New York Yankees); SUBTRACTS: P-Jabari Blash (Trade-New York Yankees), 2B-Ryan Schimpf (Trade-Tampa Bay), SS-Erick Aybar (FA-Minnesota), P-Jhoulys Chacin (FA-Milwaukee)
Outlook: San Diego always comes off as baseball’s red-headed stepchild to me. They don’t do anything that makes anybody impressed. They have historically played a stale style of baseball since the expansive Petco Park opened in 2004 and nobody is ever excited about them year in and year out. And they haven’t been a legit threat in the West for nearly 15 years. But they did try to make a splash in the off-season signing Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer to generate some offense to go alongside Wil Myers, who should have a better year in 2018. Adding on, San Diego has one of the best farm systems in all of baseball so it could be a new dawn for Padres fans real soon. Maybe not this year but soon enough.
2018 PROJECTION: 77-85 (San Diego may be a spoiler to the rest of the NL West down the stretch)
That’s it for now.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat