NL WEST PREVIEW

With the season just a few days away, the guys focus on the five teams in the NL West. In case you missed any of our prior division previews, here’s everything you need to know about the AL EastAL CentralAL WestNL East, and NL Central heading into this season.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Key Off-Season Moves:

Re-signed Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, Rich Hill and Chase Utley

Traded Jose De Leon for 2B Logan Forsythe

Signed RHP Sergio Romo

Signed OF Franklin Gutierrez

Season Outlook:

1 win. That’s all that stood between the Dodgers and their first World Series appearance since 1988. Destiny proved painful for L.A. last season after the Cubs overcame a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS on their way to making history. The Dodgers are out for redemption, however, making several key moves in the offseason to maximize their chances of competing for a World Series title both now and in the future. Team president Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi took no chances with the team’s core, re-signing Kenley Jansen for five years and the third baseman Justin Turner for four. Last season’s NLCS matchup proved that L.A. needed to improve its depth if it wished to compete with the Cubs. In response, the front office parted with top prospect Jose De Leon to acquire Logan Forsythe, who fills a need at second base. The Forsythe acquisition was as much an offensive-minded deal as a defensive one, however. The second baseman slashed .270/.315/.461 against lefties last year in Tampa Bay, while the Dodgers posted a historically low .213/.290/.332 line against southpaws in 2016. L.A.’s new middle infielder is expected to be the piece that ties the Dodgers’ lineup together at the top of the order.

The offense will be led once again by the trio of Corey SeagerJustin Turner, and Adrian Gonzalez. The superstar shortstop Seager looks to avoid a sophomore slump in his second full year in the majors after dealing with an oblique injury for most of Spring Training. Manager Dave Roberts has mentioned that Seager didn’t believe he had his best swing last year, which is scary for opposing pitchers considering that the shortstop won NL Rookie of the Year and finished third in NL MVP voting. If the Dodgers win 95 games and enter the postseason as the team to beat, don’t be surprised if the hardware goes to Seager in 2017.

Turner looks to have a big year after playing his way into a 4-year, $64 million deal. He’ll be followed by Adrian Gonzalez, who is a strong candidate for Comeback Player of the Year after his reduced power produced only 18 home runs last season. If A-Gon’s home run swing returns, L.A. will have one of the most dynamic offenses in baseball.

The Dodgers don’t steal many bases, but expect Dave Roberts to let Andrew Toles run more in 2017 to facilitate some offense in front of Seager and Turner. Yasmani Grandal and Joc Pederson provide good power behind Gonzalez but a fair number of strikeouts to match. If one or both can improve their contact rate, Gonzalez should see some better pitches, resulting in more production from the top of the order. The uber-talented Yasiel Puig remains an enigma as someone who is just as likely to have a career year as he is to be traded by August 1. If Puig produces at the level of which he’s capable, L.A.’s offense may just be the best in the NL.

The staff is once again led by the best pitcher of this generation. Clayton Kershaw looks to carry the Dodgers to their first World Series title in 29 years and cement his Cooperstown-worthy legacy. 2016 ROY candidate Kenta Maeda serves as the number 2 starter, with last year’s deadline acquisition Rich Hill slotting in as the number 3. L.A. will show off its depth at the back end of the rotation with Hyun-Jin RyuBrandon McCarthyAlex WoodScott KazmirRoss Stripling, and Brock Stewart all likely to make starts in the 4 and 5 spots. Star prospect Julio Urias will be called up to the big league roster in May in order to save a year of service time. The Dodgers don’t appear to need any additional depth among their starters, but last season’s record-setting injury count proves that anything is possible. Don’t be surprised if Los Angeles makes a significant move at the deadline to acquire a second ace (Chris Archer, anyone?) to solidify its position as a World Series frontrunner.

The bullpen didn’t do itself any favors in the NLCS but looks to return as a stronger and healthier unit in 2017. If free agent addition Sergio Romo regains the form that made him one of the best relievers in baseball from 2010 to 2013, the Dodgers will be lights-out at the end of games. All-time franchise saves leader Kenley Jansen returns to L.A. on a five-year deal after last season’s postseason heroics proved that he’s worth every penny of his $85 million contract. With a steady slate of reliable relievers and solid innings-eaters at his disposal, Dave Roberts has plenty of options to call upon in any situation.

While I may be slightly biased, the Dodgers are undeniably one of the best teams in baseball. Will the offseason tinkering be enough to bring the ticker tape parade to Chavez Ravine in 2017?

Projected Opening Day Lineup:

  1. Logan Forsythe, 2B
  2. Corey Seager, SS
  3. Justin Turner, 3B
  4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
  5. Yasmani Grandal, C
  6. Yasiel Puig, RF
  7. Joc Pederson, CF
  8. Andrew Toles, LF
  9. Clayton Kershaw, P

Projected Starting Rotation

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Kenta Maeda
  3. Rich Hill
  4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
  5. Brandon McCarthy

John Hayes

San Francisco Giants

Key Offseason Moves:

Signed Mark Melancon to a four-year deal with $15.5 MM AAV and $20 MM bonus,

Signed Jae-gyun Hwang, Signed Nick Hundley to one-year deal

Traded Chris Heston to the Mariners

Elected not to re-sign Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco, Jake Peavy, and Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo

Season Outlook:

When comparing this year’s Giants to the dominant Giants teams of the 2010-2014 and even last year’s wild-card winning Giants, two things just absolutely jump off the page: New bullpen, still no left fielder.

It is no mystery or debate that the Giants have one of the best starting rotations in baseball.  Madison Bumgarner looks like he could be the most dominant playoff pitcher in his generation, though the Cubs certainly showed he is hardly invincible.  I was never a big Johnny Cueto believer before, but I’m all-in on him being a top 15 starter in the game after seeing him seamlessly move from the NL Central to AL Central to NL West seamlessly.

With regard to the lineup, when healthy: Buster Posey is still undoubtedly one of the best catchers in the game and infamous Hunter Pence can do some serious damage, even in an NL West division loaded with top pitchers.  I also think that Brandon Belt is due for an absolutely monstrous year. If Denard Span can get on-base at a near 35-36% clip like he did in early years with Minnesota and Washington, watch out.  This will only drive up the production of Posey and Pence, while also putting Brandon Crawford in position for a potential 90+ RBI season.

As for the new faces in the bullpen, I am very bullish on Mark Melancon this year and think he could easily land 40 saves.  Also, I think one of the most overlooked topics of discussion with last year’s Giants was how horribly Bochy utilized his bullpen.  I absolutely loved how the Giants GUTTED their bullpen that let them down so terribly all year.  Why even tempt Bochy to make the same mistakes again?  Give Hunter Strickland and Derek Law the chance to be big impact set-up men, and let a seasoned veteran in Melancon close the door.  This bullpen will only get stronger and more experienced as the season progresses, and I think the back-end could be very dangerous in the postseason.

As for the question marks that remain: The Giants simply refuse to pay for or develop a left fielder.  Why?  I personally will never know.  Was Angel Pagan an elite corner outfielder?  No.  But the guy hit for a .280 average in five years for the Giants, and his sluggish 2015 performance is starting to look like more of an outlier after a solid showing at the WBC.  Yes, he will be 36 by July but why not just talk him down to a one-year deal and platoon him?  Yeah, I’m sure Jarrett Parker will be the next big thing… watch him turn into a 2014 Ishikawa like hero….

….Haha, it’s not going to happen this year Giants fans. Your even-year strokes of luck were ended just like the Billy Goat curse.  Superstitions are over. Bumgarner’s postseason dominance is tainted.  Your lineup is getting old and beat up.  It’s time to get real and invest in player development instead of jumping at aged free-agents.  You have two top 100 prospects, both in the high 80s and both at positions that you are already solid at (pitcher and infield).  WAKE UP!!! This division will soon become property of the Dodgers, absolutely no later than 2020.  Here’s to hoping a powerful rotation and a few years of health and good luck will make this division fun to watch for a couple more years.

Projected Opening Day Lineup:

  1. Denard Span, CF
  2. Brandon Belt, 1B
  3. Buster Posey, C
  4. Hunter Pence, RF
  5. Brandon Crawford, SS
  6. Eduardo Nunez, 3B
  7. Joe Panik, 2B
  8. Jarrett Parker, LF
  9. Pitcher

Pitching Staff

  1. Madison Bumgarner
  2. Johnny Cueto
  3. Jeff Samardzija
  4. Matt Moore
  5. Matt Cain

Steve Campbell

Arizona Diamondbacks

Key Off-Season Moves:

Signed Fernando Rodney to a 1 year deal

Traded SS Jean Segura, CF Mitch Haniger and LHP Zac Curtis to the Seattle Mariners for SP Taijuan Walker and SS Ketel Marte

Season Outlook:

No team has a bigger Boom or Bust outlook than this Diamondbacks team here in 2017, as their roster is full of extremely volatile performers. First things first, lets address the elephant in the room. This team could have really benefited from Dansby Swanson at SS and Ender Inciarte in the OF. Man that trade was awful. Anyways, lets focus on the guys here.

The big move of the off-season was swapping breakout SS Jean Segura for the talented but inconsistent Taijuan Walker. The 24 year old hasn’t quite delivered on all his promise, but is certainly still a young and talented hurler. He flashed signs of dominance last year, but faded down the stretch and ultimately closed the year out with a pretty below average year. The stuff is still there, and he still misses bats, but 2017 needs to be a real step forward. Besides Walker, the D-Backs will most certainly be hoping for a bounce back campaign from $200 million dollar man Zack Grienke, as whatever playoff chance they have hinges on him being a true #1. 3rd starter Robbie Ray and his high-K profile seemed poised for a breakout, and Shelby Miller has looked worlds better in Spring Training. If 5th starter Patrick Corbin can regain some of his pre-Tommy John form, this could be the NL’s breakout rotation and carry a Diamondback team. If Corbin doesn’t grow, Walker’s control is the same, Ray doesn’t breakout, and Grienke and Miller are the 2016 versions then we could also be looking at one of the NL’s worst teams. Again, very boom or bust.

On the offensive end their is a bit more certainty, with All-Stars AJ Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt leading the way. In one of the more head-stratching managerial moves of all time, Goldy spent most the WBC on the bench, so we will see if he is ready to go as soon as the calendar hits April. My guess is he will. Jake Lamb keeping up his torrid 2016 pace would be a huge boost to this Diamondbacks team, as would a big year from Cuban Yasmany Tomas in LF. If those two can provide power and protection behind Goldy this lineup can be good enough for a surprise playoff push behind a strong rotation. If Lamb and Tomas revert to their worst selfs this offense could be bad enough to contend for a top 5 pick. Again, very boom or bust.

I didn’t mention anything with regards to prospect because the Diamondbacks don’t have anything worth mentioning. Carry on with your day.

Projected Opening Day Lineup:

  1. A.J Pollock, CF
  2. David Peralta, RF
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  4. Jake Lamb, 3B
  5. Yasmany Tomas, LF
  6. Brandon Dury, 2B
  7. Chris Owings, SS
  8. Chris Ianetta, C
  9. Zack Grienke, P

Projected Starting Rotation

  1. Zack Grienke
  2. Taijuan Walker
  3. Robbie Ray
  4. Shelby Miller
  5. Patrick Corbin

Charlie Wooding

Colorado Rockies

Key Off-Season Moves:

Signed Ian Desmond to a 5 year deal

Signed Greg Holland 

Signed Mike Dunn

Season Outlook:

The sad part about this write up is I specially chose the Rockies because I was so excited for a killer off-season from them and the chance to be the conductor on the #Rocktober2017 train. Instead they just shit their pants. This off-season was a total bust. Heading into November the Rockies path to contention seemed clear. Sign one of the big power bats, cash in on a solid farm system and bring in an impact arm, and maybe add a little bullpen depth. They totally failed the first two, and brought in Greg Holland who is a massive risk to shore up the bullpen. Oh and they swapped Boone Logan for Mike Dunn. Not moving the needle. They did however spend big, inking Ian Desmond to play 1st base for some completely unknown reason. And now he is hurt. Nice.

Honestly though, for the $80 million+ they spent on Desmond they could have plugged Edwin Encarnacion at 1B, who is approximately 50X the hitter Desmond is. They could have grabbed Mark Trumbo for half the price, and while Trumbo is probably looking at regression, getting him at 1B in Coors is a way better use of $45 million than Ian Desmond. I mean Ian Desmond’s entire worth is he is a league average hitter at the two most difficult positions. You sign him to that deal to play SS and CF can it’s fine, maybe a small overpay, but totally fair for a veteran. But 1b?! What a waste. I fundamentally do not understand how the Rockies GM remains employed.

Besides the 1B debacle they didn’t add anything to their rotation. Hugging prospects is nice, and trading away a potential star like Brendan Rodgers is never easy, but look at the rotation and tell me they are a playoff team. I just don’t see it. This team should have made a play for an arm.

Moving onto the actual Rockies roster, this lineup is still loaded despite the Desmond issue. A Blackmon-LeMahieu-Arenado-Gonzalez-Story top 5 is as good as it gets. For those scoring at home, they lead off with Charlie Blackmon, a very solid hitter (with some concerning splits) and then go NL Batting Champ-NL MVP candidate and back to back 30+ HR power guys. Not bad. Charlie Blackmon should score around a million runs in this offense, and the return of recent top prospect David Dahl to the lineup should only make this scary lineup even deeper. And I have attacked his signing this entire piece, but Ian Desmond is still a better major league hitter than Mark Reynolds, so have fun facing this lineup in coors with Desmond+Dahl back. When you factor in 81 games in Coors, theres little reason to think this isn’t the NL’s best lineup, as the Rockies should be your leader in runs scored in 2017. Which is good because…

The Rockies pitching is still the Rockies pitching. Is the 2017 version more interesting than years past? Absolutely. Do I trust this starting 5 and bullpen to overcome Coors and keep the Rockies in the NL West chase? No. Jon Gray is starting to shed the “guy picked after Kris Bryant” label and becoming a real front-line guy. If he can take that next step forward after an impressive 81 FIP- 2016, then you are looking at a real ace here. That is a good start, and I want to be on record as a believer. The rest of the rotation is where the questions begin. #2 Tyler Anderson was probably the best pitcher you didn’t know last year, as he too put up an 81 FIP- in 2016, mainly behind a tight 75% LOB percentage and 6% walk rate. These are good stats. His 20.7% K rate in Coors is not as great tough. His lack of pedigree is also somewhat concerning, as flash in the pan guys usually aren’t top prospects like Gray. I’m not saying Anderson can’t keep it up, he was a 27 year old in his first full MLB season last year. Maybe this is who he is. However, counting on him to be your #2 doesn’t seem like a great idea when facing the Giants #2 of Johnny Cueto or the Dodgers #2 of Rich Hill. As a biased man who wanted a great Rockies team, slotting in a Chris Archer would have been fun here. After the top 2 we get Tyler Chatwood, who had a fairly solid 2016 coming off Tommy John all things considered. He is also a contact based pitcher in Coors. Having him as your #3 is less than ideal. And then the Rockies look to be finishing out their rotation with two rookies in German Marquez and Kyle Freehand. Both have some pedigree and may be rotation regulars long term, but counting on them to rack up the wins at the back of the rotation at 2017 is murky at best. Marquez is a top 100 guy so I’m not trying to totally discount them, but this isn’t the 2019 Rockies calling up flamethrower Riley Pint or something. Simply put, the 2-5 of this rotation isn’t exactly playoff caliber.

In the bullpen the Rockies are going to rely on a big year from Greg Hollandwhich is cool in 2015, but questionable these days. If he returns to form the Rockies made one of the better signings of the off-season, but consider me a doubter in Holland’s return to form. And the Boone Logan-Mike Dunn thing was weird but whatever they didn’t get worse and its not my money.

Projected Lineup:

  1. Charlie Blackmon, CF
  2. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
  4. Carlos Gonzalez, RF
  5. Trevor Story, SS
  6. Gerrardo Parra*, LF
  7. Mark Reynolds*, 1B
  8. Tony Wolters, C
  9. Jon Gray, P

*David Dahl is the everyday LF but is currently hurt so for now the opening day lineup probably features Parra.

*Ian Desmond broke his hand this spring training. Will play 1B when he returns.

Pitching Staff

  1. Jon Gray
  2. Tyler Anderson
  3. Tyler Chatwood
  4. German Marquez
  5. Kyle Freeland

Charlie Wooding

San Diego Padres

Key Off-Season Moves:

Signed a bunch of players to 1 year deals who are not very good and will never again be very good

Season Outlook:

This is how you fucking tank. Look at that rotation!!!! Jered Weaver‘s fastball wouldn’t be notable at any level beyond the LLWS. Your average Freshman HS game in your local area will have a kid touching 82. And he is your #2 starter. Its cool though, he just has “Dead Arm”. I’m not wasting any more time talking about that collection of arms, A.J Preller isn’t trying and neither am I.

For the lineup, things are a little rosier. To be clear, this lineup still sucks, and its why I am a little pessimistic on the 2107 White Sox tank job. This is how you get Seth Beer, this is how you get the #1 pick. No player on this team is remotely interesting except those who factor into the Padres long term plans. Manny Margot will debut in CF and boy can he go get it. He and Anderson Espinoza (He isn’t pitching the MLB in 2017 so don’t get excited the rotation has a real arm) are going to make the Red Sox look back at really question if they want to trade with A.J Preller anymore. His bat isn’t quite as special, but this is one of the building blocks for the next great Padres team. As is 1B Wil Myers, who re-upped on a nice fat extension this off-season, and RF Hunter Renfroe, who got a taste of the MLB last season and is projected to Myers’ protection long term. I guess Austin Hedges is worth a mention too as he is a defensive wiz and will certainly be around in San Diego long-term if things go well. Besides those 4 though, really not a lot to talk about or watch here. Janikowski can get it in the OF, but his bat is trash. Yangervis Solarte is a solid MLB bat, but him in the 4 hole is pretty sad, and I’m not so sure he really factors into the Padres long term plans. So yeah thats our Padres 2017 Team!

The real fun with the Friars is their farm system, which will lose Margot and Renfroe this season, but still has a ton of interesting players including the previously mentioned Espinoza (#13 MLB.com Overall), 1B Josh Naylor (#89 overall) and 2016 1st round pick Cal Quantrill, who, if healthy, would have contended for the #1 overall pick. Oh and they have the #3 pick in the upcoming 2017 Draft and are hopeful they can land local 100 mph flamethrower Hunter Greene. Yes, the Padres are so boring this year I just mentioned a Senior in High School from a Local HS. That my friends is a 76ers level tank.

Projected Lineup:

  1. Travis Janikowski, LF
  2. Manny Margot, CF
  3. Wil Myers, 1B
  4. Yangervis Solarte, 2B
  5. Hunter Renfroe, RF
  6. Ryan Schimpf, 3B
  7. Austin Hedges, C
  8. Erick Aybar, SS
  9. Garbage, P

Starting Rotation

  1. Jhoulys Chacin
  2. Jered Weaver
  3. Clayton Richard
  4. Trevor Cahill
  5. Jared Cosart

Charlie Wooding

Predictions

Steve

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

 

Hayes

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

Wooding

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

Bold Prediction

Steve: The Colorado Rockies will win 85+ games to contend for a final wild card spot along with the Giants. The NL Wild Card race will come to a thrilling end.  Unfortunately for the Rockies, they will be hosting the Dodgers (battling for home-field advantage through the NLCS) while the Giants host a 100+ loss Padres team.  Better luck in 2018, Rockies.

Hayes: The Dodgers win their first World Series title since 1988. If they stay healthy, this team has the makeup to beat the Cubs and bring the City of Angels the championship it deserves.

Wooding: Jon Gray builds upon last year’s breakout and finishes top 5 in the NL Cy Young vote.