The National League West was definitely one of the best divisions in baseball last season. They graduated the eventual National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers, saw the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies make the Wild Card spots, and the team that won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014 not make the playoffs. Now those Giants are reloaded, the Padres signed the biggest free agent player in the off-season and have the division’s top farm system.
Welcome to the Wild Wild West.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw and the young talent the Dodgers have built up in Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger will be back at it in 2018. I am a little concerned about their rotation. Last year only Clayton Kershaw pitched the innings needed to qualify for the ERA title, and they gave up some of that depth in trades and to trim salary. Still – I think they have enough in the tank not to mention Walker Buehler and other prospects ready to step in where needed. Interested to see if Matt Kemp can accept his role and finally become the clubhouse leader the Dodgers wanted him to be years ago.
2. San Francisco Giants
The Giants are an interesting team with an interesting off-season strategy. They went out and signed top names: Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson…if they had signed them several years ago. Now questions abound what McCutchen has left if Jackson can play a full season(hasn’t played over 100 games since 2015) and if Hunter Pence can rebound from an all-around mediocre 2017. This team is built around Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner – and with their fanbase – they want to show them they want to win now. The core that won the World Series championships is fading fast, but they want to give it at least one more season.
3. Colorado Rockies
I love what the Rockies did to their bullpen, and they were able to keep Carlos Gonzalez after a slow free agent market dried up for his services. Fascinating article from last year about the Rockies “real” problem – hint that it is not the pitching. The Rockies were 9th in the National League in ERA last season – but I think they should be better this year and with Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon still around for at least one more year scoring runs will continue to not be a problem.
4. San Diego Padres
The Padres surprised everyone by signing Eric Hosmer – this Padres fan included – and were in the mix to sign Jake Arrieta (glad they didn’t). The core position players of this team are exciting, with Manny Margot, Carlos Asuaje, and Austin Hedges getting important seasoning again in 2018 while the pitching develops. They have the majors best farm system which will take time – but I would be surprised if I am NOT picking the Padres to make a push for the wild card next season and push for the division by 2020. Manager Andy Green doesn’t get enough credit for what he did with the Padres team of 2017 and here’s to hoping we can do even more with the more talented 2018 squad. Frenchy Cordero looks like he could be special and supplant Hunter Renfroe if he can’t get his average up.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks as the season ended actually looked better than the Dodgers to me but for some reason I don’t think they can do it again, though it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see some other mix of the Rockies/Padres/Dbacks at the end of it all or a tight race at least. Rumors of Zack Greinke velocity decline haunt his spring training, and Robbie Ray was amazing last season but how long can a curveball pitcher go without a trip to the disabled list? Without good pitching in this division, you end up here…
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers will be, well the Dodgers in 2018, and cruise to their sixth consecutive Division Title.
Los Angeles has a young core of players headed by Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, Austin Barnes, Cody Bellinger, and Joc Pederson along with a solid assortment of veterans including Justin Turner and Logan Forsythe (a bounceback from Forsythe could make the Dodgers’ lineup the deepest in baseball). The Dodgers have a solid pitching staff headed by Clayton Kershaw and Kenly Jansen, and will once again be the team to beat in the NL West.
Non Dodgers fans should not have to worry too much though if the Dodgers continue to imitate the Hindenburgh during the playoffs.
2. Colorado Rockies
The Colorado Rockies had a breakout season in 2017, and despite the fact that they lost the Wild Card Game to the Diamondbacks 11-8, I am predicting that they will be better than they were in 2017 in 2018.
The Rockies have built one of the best bullpens in baseball and will have a pitching staff that is good even in the high elevations. Their offense is completely stacked with the best third baseman in baseball in Nolan Arenado and star center fielder Charlie Blackmon to anchor the lineup. Car-Go is back, and if he can have a bounce-back in 2018, it will do wonders for Colorado. Trevor Story and DJ LeMahieu are coming into their own, and the Rockies will be a dangerous team in 2018 and will wreak havoc on any team not named the Dodgers.
3. San Francisco Giants
In 2010, 2012, and 2014, the San Francisco Giants seemed unbeatable. They even made it to the National League Division Series in 2016 before being knocked out by the Cubs. In 2017, everything that could possibly have gone wrong for the Giants did. In 2018, San Francisco will have a revamped lineup and will be much better than the year prior.
After tying the Detroit Tigers in 2017 for the worst record in baseball, I am predicting that the Giants will be back and even compete for a Wild Card spot. The Giants got busy this offseason and traded for Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria (the faces of their respective franchises). While these moves would have been more helpful in 2013, San Francisco also has the best catcher in baseball in Buster Posey and a CY Young Award candidate in Madison Bumgarner. The formerly meager Giants will drastically improve this year and they will end up surprising people.
Hey, it’s an even year, who knows?
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
While I can see where Daryll is coming from when he ranks the Diamondbacks dead last, but I’m still not buying into the Padres being good or even decent enough to overthrow Arizona.
The Diamondbacks will be in an arms race for second in the division (and the Wild Card) with the Giants and the Rockies and despite the fact that all three teams will be strong, I just have the Diamondbacks finishing last of the three. As Daryll pointed out, the D-Backs pitching staff is going to be in turmoil, and Paul Goldschmidt can only take the team so far. The Diamondbacks will be good in 2018, just not as good as the Rockies, Giants, or Dodgers.
5. San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres exceeded expectations in 2017, after going 71-91 with a .438 win-loss percentage. When that is exceeding expectations, you know that your franchise is not one of the best.
While the Padres do have the best farm system in baseball and did sign top free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, they will be trapped in the slums of Major League Baseball once again. As much as Daryll and I (even though I’m not a Padres fan) would like to see the Padres do well once again, the Padres will be doomed to the bottomless pit that is mediocrity for at least the next few years (especially with the stacked division that they reside within. The Padres caught a break last year with the Giants, but now that the Giants are revamped, the Padres will once again be stuck at the bottom. The Padres are a team of the future, just not of the present.
Make sure to tune in tomorrow for Daryll and Giuseppe’s predictions for the American League East.