A division that has been owned by the Dodgers for more than half a decade is finally starting to stand up to the big bad wolf of the division. With the Rockies coming within one game of winning the West in 2018, they will be back for blood while the Padres, fresh off the acquisition of Manny Machado are also looking to climb out of the cellar. The Giants and Diamondbacks don’t seem to be much of a threat to the Dodgers’ throne, but this will still be a fun division to watch going forward. Can the Dodgers keep their crown, or will there be a new heir to the throne?
1. Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers gain a player for 2019 just because Corey Seager should be healthy again. Most Dodgers fans will never remember that Manny Machado was ever a part of the 2018 version – or that the Dodgers had to play Game 163 just to win the NL West. Perhaps other than the Nationals, no team under-performed in the regular season besides the Dodgers who made up for it by getting to the World Series but losing again. If they lose the World Series again this year, they will be the first team to accomplish that feat since the John McGraw-led 1921-1924 NY Giants. All that to say – I love the addition of AJ Pollock in the outfield. He fits well with their mix and match philosophy and with Clayton Kershaw and emerging ace Walker Buehler in the rotation – they should win the NL West for the 7th straight year and 9th of the last 12 seasons.
2. Colorado Rockies: The Rockies have quietly made the Wild Card the last two seasons, and my favorite signing of the off-season was their extension of Nolan Arenado. I love seeing mid-market teams like the Rockies extend and invest in their homegrown talent, and believe Arenado is better than either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. He deserves the 8 year deal and the $32.5M/season, which is saying a lot. I would love to pick them over the Dodgers in the division, but I wish they had invested just a little more in their starting pitching. Ryan McMahon is a personal favorite of mine after seeing him hit home runs first at a AAA game in Las Vegas and then a month later at Coors Field. They invested heavily in the bullpen last year which mostly failed – but I am hoping those players can rebound and help the team moving forward in 2019. If so – they may just once again play the Dodgers for the title down to the final game of the season – and this time they might be able to come out on top.
3. San Diego Padres: Before you claim Machado bias on me, this is more a statement of what I see in San Francisco and Arizona than believing that Machado can carry this team on his back with Hosmer offering an assist. The pitching of course is the problem. Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi looked good in stretches of 2018, 2019 will be interesting to see how they handle a full season. Of course all eyes will also be on top rookie prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr and how things work out with him and Machado on what the Padres hope will be a dynastic left side of the infield. Hosmer and CF Manny Margot look to rebound after sub-par 2018 seasons, and someone needs to emerge full time between Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes, and Frenchy Cordero. Will Wil Myers last the season in San Diego? This season will be looking to improve the current squad, see which rookies are ready, then spend for pitching to make a run in 2020.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks: They jettisoned core offensive players Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock as well as pitcher Patrick Corbin. Talent still remains on the club for now – especially with Robbie Ray, Zack Greinke and Zack Godley in the rotation – but I wouldn’t be surprised to see other players leave Arizona as it heads into rebuild mode as well.
5. San Francisco Giants: The Giants were on the fringes of the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, but their biggest move was bringing in former Dodgers boss Farhan Zaidi as President of Baseball Operations. It is Bruce Bochy’s last season, and this season will be more about sentimentality than winning baseball games. The biggest questions is whether or not the Giants want to anchor their future with Madison Bumgarner or trade him now for future returns. Buster Posey has become the Joe Mauer of the National League – a good, franchise player on a losing team.
1. Colorado Rockies
Every offseason I make one prediction that at the end of the season either makes me look like a genius or an idiot and while it is the latter more often then not, the Rockies have a great club that could finally take down the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2018 these two, like the Brewers and Cubs, tied for the division and needed a one-game playoff to determine that the Dodgers were the division champions and the Rockies were the Wild Card team. Colorado has an impressive pitching staff that has done the impossible, learned how to pitch in Coors Field. Lead by ace Kyle Freeland and German Marquez, the Rockies have the strongest pitching staff in franchise history. Their offense is simply incredible. Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story, and Daniel Murphy will continue to mash and if everything goes their way in 2019, the Rockies, not the Dodgers, will reign supreme this year.
Feel free to let me hear it in the comments Dodgers fans…
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Speaking of the Dodgers, Los Angeles made a trade to free up payroll by sending Alex Wood, Yasiel Puig, and Matt Kemp to the Reds so that they could make a serious run at Bryce Harper this offseason. That completely backfired and with Harper in Philadelphia, the Dodgers picked up still solid option A.J. Pollock. He will join Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, and Joc Peterson in the lineup. There is a hole that Austin Barnes will fill at catcher with the loss of Yasmani Grandal, but the Dodgers will make up for it with their pitching staff which is lead by Claton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. The bullpen looks good, especially with the newly acquired Joe Kelly, and if Kenley Jansen can get out of the funk he has been in for some time now, the bullpen will be that much better. Expect the Dodgers to give Colorado a run for their money, but I still have the Rockies prevailing.
3. San Diego Padres
The Padres have a solid offense lead by $300 Million man Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Hunter Renfroe, and Wil Myers. Fernando Tatis Jr. is expected to play shortstop for San Diego this season and looks like a possible National League Rookie of the Year. The Padres are going to be a great team moving forward, just not this season. While they have a potent offense, their pitching staff is nothing to be proud of. With the acquisition of some new pitching latent, on top of prospects that will be coming up soon, the Padres will be contenders for years to come, again, just not in 2019.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks have gutted this offseason with the losses of A.J. Pollock, Patrick Corbin, and superstar Paul Goldschmidt, and without these three, it is that much harder to see this team finish anywhere higher than fourth. Zack Grenkie is still a solid starter with Robbie Ray and Zack Godley not far behind him, and Eduardo Escobar and David Peralta could take over as leaders of the offense, and if Greg Holland can bounce back from a horrid 2018, Arizona may still have some signs of line, but there are just too many ifs for me to consider them contenders by any means.
5. San Francisco Giants
Every single player in the Giants infield had a down year in 2018 with Buster Posey, Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, and Brando Belt all having mediocre years at best. Poesy had his worst season since 2011. The team is hoping that Madison Bumgarner can revert back to the Mad-Bum of old, but with an aging core, holes in the rotation, and big ifs surrounding every single player on the roster, the Giants are not looking good at all heading into 2019.
Make sure to tune in tomorrow for Doubleday Double Talk’s American League East Preview.