NL West Preview and Prediction

LA Dodgers

Key Additions- AJ Pollock, Russell Martin, Joe Kelly

Key Subtractions- Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, Yasmani Grandal and Matt Kemp

Lineup

The Dodgers finally moved on from Yasiel Puig after a lengthy run of talking about it. His replacement former Diamondback AJ Pollock has a history of injuries but If healthy can be just as productive as the departed while not bringing the drama.  The Dodgers were also able to bring back catcher Russell Martin to replace the departed Yasmani Grandal.  The veteran Martin will help a pitching staff that will be without ace Clayton Kershaw to start the season. The flexibility for manager Dave Roberts will be a huge asset Max Muncy, Enrique Hernandez, David Freese, Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger all can play multiple positions which will allow for a lot of good matchups.  The lineup will miss Grandal’s power but a healthy Corey Seager could fill in the missing power.

Rotation

No Clayton Kershaw or Rich Hill means that Julio Urias will be in the rotation to start the season.  The top of the rotation will take a hit but in a whole it is still strong if Hyun-Jin Ryu stays healthy.  Walker Buehler has ascended into a premier role with the organization, he will be looked upon early to be the ace.  If his progression continues he will be the next great star in the organization.

Bullpen

The biggest addition in the bullpen was hard throwing Joe Kelly.  The worry about Kenley Jansen is understandable but he is still one of the best when healthy.  From the left side the Dodgers still have reliable Scott Alexander, but will need Tony Cingrani to return from the DL.

Colorado Rockies

Key Additions- Daniel Murphy

Key Subtractions- DJ LaMahieu

Lineup

David Dahl is finally healthy in 2019.  Put him in a lineup that features Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon and Daniel Murphy. Dahl has the potential to add 30 homers to the lineup while stealing at least 15 bases.  The loss of DJ Lamahieu takes a consistent hitter out of the lineup but Garret Hampson and Ryan McMahon can easily fill in the role.  The Rockies have the most depth of any team in the division.

Rotation

Kyle Freeland and German Marquez are two guys that have not become household names but they probably should be.  Marquez brings the ability to strikeout any batter at any time.  His ability to put batters away without allowing them to put it in play is always important in Coors Field.  The bottom of the rotation consists of Tyler Anderson and Jon Gray give the Rockies a solid four man rotation.  Gray had his terrible moments in 2018 but still has the ability to be a #1.  The final spot in the rotation is owned by Chad Bettis who has looked great during the spring and should be a serviceable #5.

Bullpen

Wade Davis had a lot of saves…but he still was not good.  Scott Oberg and Sen-wan Oh stepped up last season but the Rockies made a mistake by not adding anything depth to the pen. I don’t expect Davis to have another year like 2018 but still the bullpen could be the shakiest part of this Colorado team.

San Diego Padres

Key Additions- Manny Machado, Ian Kinsler, Adam Warren, Aaron Loup

Lineup

The Padres made the move of the offseason for the NL West adding high priced free agent Manny Machado.  They now have the player to build around while their youth movement.  The announcement that super prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. has made the team means that GM AJ Preller has high hopes for this season.  With a lineup that featuring  veterans Will Myers, Eric Hosmer Ian Kinsler around Machado, the Padres lineup has a lot of promise if the youth can make the strides in the right direction. 

Rotation

The rotation will get a lift from another big time prospect Chris Paddack joins Joey Lucchesi and  Eric Lauer to build a strong young core in a rotation that still has some holes to fill.  The Padres rotation will need some work if they are looking to contend anytime soon.

Bullpen

Kirby Yates is a premier level closer that can have a huge impact finishing off games for the Padres.  If they can get lead they have the guy to close it out.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Key Additions- Adam Jones, Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, Greg Holland, Wilmer Flores

Key Subtractions- Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin, Chris Owings, Dan Descalso, AJ Pollock

Lineup

The Arizona Diamondbacks are set for a full rebuild.  Moving on from Paul Goldschmidt means that they are looking for a new cornerstone for the lineup.  For now they are going to be looking for David Peralta to step up and be the middle of the order bat that can carry the team.  Re-signing versatile Eduardo Escobar allows them to move Jake Lamb over to first base.  If Lamb is able to stay healthy he can potential be a 30 homer player,  but that is a big if.  Adam Jones and Wilmer Flores are two great veteran additions that will provide stability to the lineup during the rebuild. The D-Backs are going to give Carson Kelly a chance that he never got with the Cardinals in hopes that he can live up to the long time hype.

Rotation

The rotation lost Patrick Corbin to free agency but still has the its top two starters in place with Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray.  Luke Weaver showed promise in his first season with the Cardinals but has an issue with throwing his fastball for strikes which made him a movable piece.  Weaver was still a top level prospect that is worth the look as the fourth starter. 

Bullpen

The D-Backs surprised the baseball community by naming Greg Holland their closer over the favored Archie Bradley.  Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano will give them what they need in the middle innings. 

San Francisco Giants

Key Additions- Gerardo Parra, Yan Solarte

Key Subtractions- Hunter Pence? I guess.

Lineup

I am not going to spend much time on any on this.  The Giants are going to rely on mainstays Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria. Adding veteran Gerardo Parra will provide some punch in the dugout but not much on the scoreboard.  I have always be a fan of Yan Solarte but he will not see much time unless injuries happen, still not exactly and impact bat that is needed.

Rotation

Madbum is great, Holland and Samardzija are average.  The only excitement here is the development of Derek Rodriguez.  Can he take the next step to become a true #2 starter?

Bullpen

Will Smith quietly had a very solid second half for the Giants.  Multiple reclamation projects like Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson and Tony Watson will be relied upon in a major way during the season.

My Prediction

1.Dodgers

2.Rockies

3.Padres

4.Diamondbacks

5.Giants

The Rockies have a chance to take the division in 2019, but they still have some questions in the rotation and bullpen.  The Dodgers will get back Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, but their injuries will allow Julio Urias to develop and be weapon in spot starts or potentially the bullpen.  LA still has a great offense, so many players to fill in the gaps in case of injuries.  Dodgers will win the west but the Rockies will be on their tail all season. 

A “Rockie” bullpen

The Colorado Rockies found themselves in the National League Wild Card game in 2017, losing to the Diamondbacks.  The players looked at the season as a huge step forward for a young club.  With young starters like Jon Gray, Chad Bettis and Tyler Anderson carrying the load of the rotation as well as a offense packed with talent the Rockies had a clear hole to fill in the back end of the bullpen.  They needed depth and a new closer, enter Wade Davis.  Davis and Colorado agreed to a three-year, $52 million contract. The deal included a four-year vesting option that could take the total value up to $66 million if he finishes 30 or more games in the 2020 season.  The former Royal and Cub signed a historic contract pundits of the deal called it a classic “Coors overpay”.  Fans of the contract saw the final piece of a potential championship puzzle.

Davis joined free agent signee former Indian Bryan Shaw (3year, $27million) and the resigning of Jake McGee (3year, $27million). Along with the rebranded and dominating Adam Ottavino the Rockies thought they had shaped a bullpen that would be able to handle the pressures of Coors Field.  Unfortunately for Colorado their bullpen has been more rocky then the mountains they were named after.

If you exclude Ottavino the other top five Rockies bullpen arms based on usage:

Bryan Shaw 39 games, 7.08ERA, -1.5 WAR

Jake McGee 30 games, 5.40ERA, -0.1 WAR

Chris Rusin 23 games, 7.45ERA, -0.6 WAR

Mike Dunn  23 games, 9.00ERA, -0.5 WAR

Wade Davis 30 games, 4.55ERA, 0.3 WAR

Five players making a combined $130 million in contracted salary have combined to make the worst bullpen in the entire league with a combined ERA of 5.75.  Davis leads the league in blown saves followed directly behind him is Bryan Shaw, both have 4 blown saves for a team that is still looking to fight their way into a playoff spot.  Davis has also been uncharacteristically wild during the first two months of the season, sporting a 33.6 percent Zone% that is the second-lowest among qualified relievers.

The Rockies cannot blame the entirety of their troubles on their bullpen.  The starting rotation hasn’t been top level and the offense has been nearly non-existent at times during the season.  The Dodgers have had early season struggles and the Diamondbacks have been falling off from their red hot start.  The Rockies are still in the mix for the National League West despite being four games under .500. Colorado will need a drastic turn around from their bullpen to have a chance to make up ground with in the division.

The Nationals made the first move to improve themselves before the All-Star break acquiring Royals Closer Kelvin Herrara.  With some much money locked up in their current relievers its seems unlikely the Rockies will be able to go outside the organization for help.  They will have to rely on their players to overcome their problems.  There is hope despite recent struggles Wade Davis has had his moments including 18-20 saves before June as well as holding hitters to a .274 Xwoba at dreaded Coors field.  Adam Ottovino has established himself as a dominate reliever.  Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee are not young players, you would have to believe that they will find a way to figure out what is going wrong.

The NL West has done one of the worst things they can possibly do, allow a team that has underperforming talent stick around.  If the Rockies find a way to fix their bullpen they will leave their mark on the National League soon.