March 2nd, 2017

NL West Division Preview: Giants and Dodgers Fight For First

Alex Dodd
NL West

Brandon Crawford (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Over the last few seasons, the NL West has produced some of the best teams in baseball, exhibited by its three World Series titles since 2010. And although it’s the Dodgers who have taken the division crown each of the last four years, the Giants have been the only team from the West to win a championship.

The inability of the Dodgers to even make it to one World Series, despite having the highest payroll in baseball, has been one of the most intriguing storylines in the MLB. However, the future looks bright in LA, as the Dodgers have one of the best farm systems in the league and a talented major league roster as well.

Looking past the first two teams, there isn’t much to see. The Rockies, Diamondbacks, and Padres have all been below average over the last decade or so, turning the NL West into an incredibly top-heavy division. The Rockies are the only team of those three with the potential to make a playoff push, and everything will have to break right for them if they want to have any shot of that happening.

First Place: San Francisco Giants

The 2016 season is one fans will hope to forget. The bullpen led the league in blown saves with 30 despite having a 3.54 ERA, good for fifth in the NL. The offseason addition of former Nationals closer Mark Melancon, who sported a 94.4 SV% in 2016, however, will help to shore up these problems.

It’s safe to assume that the Giants would have won over 90 games last year if they had a reliable closer, which would have propelled them to a Division Title and an avoidance of the world champion Cubs in the division series.
Furthermore, virtually every core piece was kept during the offseason.

Gold Glove winners Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, and Buster Posey will lead an elite defense, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija from one of the best rotations in baseball, and full seasons from Hunter Pence and Joe Panik will boost a slow but steady offense. Don’t be surprised if the Giants finish the regular season with one of the best records in baseball and go on to make a deep October run.

Second Place: Los Angeles Dodgers

NL West

Corey Seager (Photo via Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

The Dodgers have been one of the most consistent franchises in all of baseball over the past four years, never dipping below the 90-win mark.

This year, there’s no reason the train should stop moving. A farm system loaded with elite prospects will help to inject even more young talent into a team already led by ace Clayton Kershaw and slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Last season, that talent took the form of eventual Rookie of the Year winner Corey Seager. This year, it could be a top prospect, Julio Urias.

If Kershaw and fellow starters Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood stay relatively healthy, the Dodgers could make some serious noise come playoff time.

A solid lineup headlined by budding superstar Corey Seager and supplemented by Justin Turner and Adrian Gonzalez will most likely finish as one of the best five offenses in the NL, while a deep bench consisting of Andre Ethier, Trayce Thompson, and Scott Van Slyke can provide a punch in late inning games.

The battle for supremacy in the NL West between the Dodgers and Giants will be fun to watch over the next season, and could easily go either way.

Third Place: Colorado Rockies

NL West

Nolan Arenado (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Rockies, this year being no different than others, will have to hope their rotation holds up. It is nearly impossible to find success pitching at Coors field, as evidenced by the Rockies’ lack of front end hurlers over the years.

Young gun Jon Gray may be able to put together a formidable season and lead the Rockies to more wins, but a shaky middle of the rotation weakens the chances. It’s likely Colorado finishes with the most runs allowed in baseball and an ERA above 5.50.

But hey, look on the bright side, the Rockies do have one of the most destructive lineups in baseball.
Led by perennial MVP candidate Nolan Arenado, batting average champion DJ Lemahieu, 20/20 machine Charlie Blackmon, sweet-swinging Carlos Gonzalez, and breakout slugger Trevor Story, the Colorado offense maybe be able to eclipse 900 runs and once again be the top offense in the National League.

The offseason addition of Ian Desmond will only help. Look for the Rockies to be a streaky team in 2017, and if the rotation performs, look for them in the Wild Card Game.

Fourth Place: Arizona Diamondbacks

NL West

Paul Goldschmidt (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

After firing general manager Dave Stewart and manager Chip Hale, the D-Backs will look to turn the losing culture of the team into a winning one.

Injuries to A.J. Pollock and Jake Lamb last season halted offseason momentum created by the signing of ace Zack Greinke, turning the season sour.

Aside from injuries, Greinke himself had an uncharacteristically bad season, highlighted by a 4.37 ERA and the 23 home runs he allowed. If the D-Backs want to find any success this year Greinke will need to return to his 2015 form.

The team’s second starter, southpaw Robbie Ray, suffered through some awful luck last season, as he posted an ugly 4.90 ERA despite striking out 218 in 174 innings. He should have a bounce back year and be a solid second option behind Greinke.

The D-Backs should also have a lineup potent enough to do some real damage.
Led by the trio of A.J Pollock, Jake Lamb, and Paul Goldschmidt, the Arizona offense possesses a nice combination of speed and power.
The offseason addition of Fernando Rodney should help to stabilize the bullpen as well.
If the team suffers no injuries and every player performs at their highest level, a winning record is not out of the question.

Fifth Place: San Diego Padres

Wil Myers

Wil Myers (Source: Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

It’s safe to say the Padres will be one of the worst teams in baseball. They’re in year one of a complete rebuild after their win-now strategy failed miserably. Although they have a few nice prospects in their farm system, their major league roster paints a bleak picture.

Wil Myers is the only player who remotely resembles a star, and even he has had his fair share of struggles. In the second half of last season, Myers hit .223 and struck out nearly three times as much as he walked.
Yangervis Solarte is only another reliable player in the Padres lineup, as he hit .286 with 15 home runs.
Pacific Coast League MVP Hunter Renfroe may be able to make an impact on the major league level, but he’s the only prospect that realistically has that chance.

San Diego’s rotation will be no better than their offense.No starters from Opening Day last year remain, and the team will have to rely heavily on young prospects to have any chance of winning. The Padres will be lucky to win 70 games and are most likely looking towards the future for winning baseball.

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