NL West Preview and Predictions

Disaster almost struck the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Their huge offseason pickup of Mookie Betts was nearly wasted, luckily the season was salvaged along with the possibility of the two best offensive players in the National League being able to make an impact in the same lineup.  The Dodgers are the clear favorites if the normal season took place, but with the season being relegated to just 60 games, the possibility of a talented squad catching fire can make a huge difference in who wins the west.  

Colorado Rockies

It may shock you that the Rockies along with another team in the NL West actually had the best 60 game run during the season. The Rockies were 37-23 during the middle of the season in 2019.  Unfortunately they were so far behind the front running Dodgers their run came pretty much unnoticed. Colorado will enter 2020 without any major changes to the organization.  Can they rely on their players improving? 

Serious rotation questions. 

The Rockies have Kyle Freeland and Antonio Sentzatela penciled into the rotation to begin 2020. Both pitchers are coming off of seasons of 6+ ERA.  This could lead to serious issues down the line with no clear answers to who replaces them in-season.  Top pitching prospect Ryan Rolison has never pitched above high-A.  He will need at least two full seasons in the minors unless something drastic changes.  That leaves just Chi-Chi Gonzalez and Peter Lambert as the potential 6 and 7 options.  It’s going to be a tough season for the Rockies rotation.  Lots of pressure will be put on the bullpen. 

Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado and…. 

Charlie Blackmon had another stellar season in 2019 with an OPS+ of 123 but the Rockies will need even more from the veteran in 2020.  A few unfortunate dart throws over the last few offseasons have left their mark on the lineup.  Ian Desmond and Daniel Murphy have both performed at a less than expected level and it’s become time to call it a day in the hopes that they will perform.  The time is now to move on and give the youth a chance.  Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampsona and Sam Hilliard should be three names to keep an eye.  If all three can produce along with a finally healthy David Dahl the Rockies offensive may finally reach its potential. 

San Diego Padres

San Diego has amassed a large amount of young talent.  It’s getting close to put up or shut up time for the Padres and GM AJ Preller.  Accumulating talent is only as valuable as what that talent becomes.  Can they fit together to make a real run or are they a bunch of studs that will go down as historical pieces somewhere else?  2020 is time to see whether or not the Padres have a core worth moving forward.  Who will join Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado as the future of Padres baseball. 

The Rotation behind Chris Paddack.

San Diego made some interesting moves to bolster their rotation in the offseason. When you add veteran starting pitchers to a rotation you want guys that maybe once were considered potential aces but never panned out all the way.  That is not the case with Zach Davies.  Davies is a solid middle of the rotation starter that will be an innings eater and will pitch to contact.   The Padres stellar infield defense and large park should be a perfect fit for the former Brewer.   

San Diego also decided to take on a reclamation project in the often injured Garrett Richards.  Richards, a former 15 game winner, has not seen 16 starts in four years and only got into three total games last season.  He still brings to the table solid stuff that was a lost cost, potentially high reward signing.

The rest of the rotation behind Paddack will feature high upside starters Dinelson Lamet and Joey Lucchessi.  Both hurlers at certain points of last season found themselves taking the reins as the ace of the staff.  Top prospect MacKenzie Gore should make his debut in 2020 along with a host of other young arms including one of my favorite sleepers Ronald Bolanos in the bullpen.  The young arms that San Diego can throw at you will give them tons of depth that make them dangerous. 

What to do with Eric Hosmer? 

Hosmer is owed a lot of money. With a wRC+ of 95 which is his lowest since 2012.  He did still drive in 99 runs which was the only highlight of his entire season.  The most startling number is the 24% strikeout rate was also a career high.  San Diego will need Eric Hosmer who was a middle of the order producer with Kansas City or they will struggle behind Machado, Tatis and the newly acquired Tommy Pham. 

San Francisco Giants

The Giants got the most shocking news of the offseason.  Their franchise cornerstone Buster Posey decided to sit out the season.  San Francisco was not expected to make a run in 2020, but they did quietly tie the Rockies in the best record over a 60 game period going 37-23 in a 60 game stretch last season.  Can San Francisco’s veterans help them make an unlikely run in this shortened season?  

Can veteran staff lead the way?

Jeff Samardzija (35), Johnny Cueto (34), Drew Smyly (31), Kevin Gausman (29)

The front four of the Giants rotation reads like a list of potential trade chips by the end of August.  The contracts of Samardzija and Cueto may be tough to move but veteran’s Smyly and Guasman have shown the ability to handle the rotation and bullpen piece when needed. They could be valuable trade chips as the season goes on.  Top pitching prospect Logan Webb will round out the rotation, he reintroduced himself in spring training last year hitting 98mph on his fastball a year after recovering from Tommy John surgery.  With Webb the Giants should have a solid young arm to begin the rebuild of the starting staff but the rest of the arms in the system still need time to move up the board. 

Derek Rodriguez was disappointing last season off the heels of a stellar 2018, if he is able to rebound and discover what made him successful he could be another strong piece for the future.  The Giants rotation has the arms to keep them competitive but with the age and injury history of the top of the rotation they will need more depth to have any chance to compete.  

What to do without Posey. 

The Giants veterans just sit in the rotation.  Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence and even Pablo Sandoval all will have prominent roles in the lineup for San Francisco.  Journeyman Alex Dickerson and Mike Yaztremski both burst onto the scene last year, proving their worth on the major league level.  If they both can contribute similarly the Giants may have the bats to compete with the top of the powerful NL West.  

The signing of Wilmer Flores and the emergence last season of Mauricio Dubon along with Crawford will make a nice stop gap for the eventual coming of top prospect Marco Luciano.  Luciano most likely won’t see any time this season but he has a bright future in San Francisco and will look to take on a role in the bigs sooner than later.  

With the loss of Buster Posey for 2020 many will speculate that the Joey Bart era behind the plate will soon be coming to the bay.  Posey most likely will then be seeing more time at first base when he returns.  Bart though still hasn’t seen much time at higher levels playing only 22 games in double-A.  In those games he produced with a .902 OPS which could push the front office to give him the first shot behind the plate.  

Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona was one of the teams I was looking at as a potential sleeper to come out of the NL West.  Multiple offseason additions solidified a young core of players that already began their ascent to potential stardom. The front office made moves to take the next step in an ongoing battle with the dominant Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Madbum, the leader they need.

Arizona shocked the rest of the league by signing long time Giant Madison Bumgarner to lead their rotation.  The longtime division rival now finds himself in a similar role that he entered the league to do.  He has to step up and lead a developing team to overtake the powerful Dodgers. Bumgarner is still in the midst of the prime of his career as he enters his age 30 season.  Coming off of a WAR of 3.2 for a Giants team that didn’t always give him the support necessary for success shows that he has not lost anything as the innings have piled up.  Bumgarner brings leadership to a staff that has desperately needed it.  With a young core staff they need a guy who has been down the stretch and knows how to win.  

The Diamondbacks also had a player decide to sit out the 2020 season.  Veteran starter Mike Leake has decided to invoke his right to forgo the season, leaving the Diamondbacks with an open slot in the rotation. The immediate replacements are between righty Merrill Kelly and young lefty Alex Young.  Both rode the roller coaster of success and failure in 2019 and both will be given the chance to win the job.  Kelly, the former KBO standout, likely will have the first shot to take the job but his run of getting blown up in the middle of the season leaves him with a quicker hook than what would have happened if the season was going from day one. With Young it is a similar story, bursting onto the scene he looked like a lefty of the future for Arizona.  His peripheral numbers are intriguing in just 15 starts last season Young had 7 wins and an ERA of 3.56.  The troubling numbers show in the advanced analytics that show his vulnerabilities. Young’s FIP sits at 4.86 and he gives up a hard hit percentage of 48%.  

Arizona’s top four are as good as any in the division with Bumgarner, Robbie Ray, Zac Gallen and Luke Weaver.  If they can find a number five that gives them a push this staff can be enough to sneak into the playoffs.  

Arizona’s offense is very nice. 

The easiest thing to say about the Arizona offense is that it is explosive.  The addition of Starling Marte allows everyone to move back and put themselves in an even better position to drive in runs.  Ketel Marte is a serious star in the making, Eduardo Escobar, Christain Walker, David Peralta, Kole Calhoun and Carson Kelly all have the chance to hit 20 homers and hit above .300.  Starling Marte brought his OBP up to .342 last season and his ISO up to .200.  This team is loaded and dangerous. 

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have been stacked for a number of years.  They have dominated not only the West but honestly the entire national league.  Despite being loaded with talent they have not been able to put it all together.  Their response to this is like what you would do on the video game MLB “The Show”, put the best possible player in your lineup in order to put yourselves over the top.  That player in this instance is Mookie Betts.  This team is good and I am not going to waste much time on breaking them down, but here we go. 

Rotation flaws?

Not really.  The re-acquiring of Alex Wood has put the Dodgers in a great spot.  Wood will slot into the #4 spot in the rotation behind Kershaw, Buehler and the rising phoenix Julio Urias.  That leaves one spot for either veteran Ross Stripling or young fireballer Dustin May, both would be top three on most rotations in baseball.  The Dodgers have as good of a full staff as anyone in baseball.  

Is Gavin Lux ready to make an impact?

When you have a top five prospect in baseball ready to take the reins it’s always exciting.  Lux will be given the chance to show what he is made of.  The Dodgers have plenty of bench depth to put Lux in a great spot day by day.  If they see a bad matchup then you can put guys like Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor in the lineup.  Lux doesn’t have to come in and carry the lineup,  he has maybe the least pressure of any top prospect in the entire league.  He can relax and play his game.  

Verdict:

The NL West is the Dodgers division.  They have the bats and the arms to take the entire league. The only team that can give them any trouble would likely be the Arizona Diamondbacks.  They have built a team that is ready to make a run at the playoffs right now. 

Standings:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks
  3. San Diego Padres
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. San Francisco Giants

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