Dodgers on track for 6th NL title
Last year the Dodgers won their 5th straight NL title and while the teams below them got better the margin was a still double digits. It is hard for a team to dominate a division as long as the Dodgers have but it is also hard not to see them doing it again.
The Giants made the biggest splashes this winter but that didn’t impress me or evidently Tom Bowden who picked them last.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Arizona Diamondbacks (wild card)
3. Colorado Rockies
4. San Diego Padres
5. San Francisco Giants
It is time for my annual foray into the prediction world. Last year I unleashed my 50 year old method of picking the division using nothing but simple positional comparisons between teams. It is not scientific but it was good enough last year to pick the Dodgers to win, and the Rockies to take 3rd. It did not pick the Giants to be the worst team in the Division nor for the Diamondbacks to come in second but who knew the Diamondbacks would pick up JD Martinez and watch him have the greatest Aug/Sept in Diamondback history.
Let us see how we fare this year. For this exercise, I’m using the MLB projected starting lineups and rotation spots. The teams will start without Bumgarner, Lanet, Turner, Souza, but I’m using the player expected to get the most time so for the Giants Bumgarner is still their number one option but he loses some value because he’s missing significant time.
So my NL West predictions are not earth shattering.
The Padres have some great young talent but until they start making it into the rotation I can’t see that pitching staff being able to keep them from last place. If they start moving in during the season that could help but most of the arms are still a year away. The youth movement starting with Margot and will accelerate at some point this year when their top positional prospects start replacing the worst players on their team but probably not enough for this year to make a difference. In the future, an infield of Hosmer, Luis Urias, Fernando Tatis Junior could be fun to watch but given how they need to manage the clocks we won’t see them until they are ready. For now, Padre fans will just have to take solace that the farm is loaded and more help will be on the way when the Padres pick up another top draft pick over the next two summers. One quick note, their best young pitcher in the majors is Danilson Lamet who suffered some kind of elbow injury last week. If he is down for any significant time it is a horrible blow as he was one of the best young pitchers to watch last year.
The Giants are teetering on the edge of a precipice. The early injuries to Bumgarner, Shark, and Melancon show the danger of relying on a team where every player has already seen their better days. The only player on the roster who could have a career season is Brandon Belt and we have been saying that for five years now. This team is full of solid veterans, but it is a no-growth stock. They might climb out of the cellar for one season while the Padres consolidate their young talent, but it will only take some injuries to Cueto/Cutch/Pence/Crawford/Posey/Longoria to push them back into oblivion.
Until the Rockie young pitching proves to me it can pitch a full season and not crumble as all other young Rockie pitchers have done, I can’t make the pitch they are ready to rumble for the NL West division. Signing Cargo also didn’t help the team any. They have the best 3rd baseman and Centerfielder in the National League. They have a solid 2nd baseman. They appear to have upgraded at catcher. If Trevor Story is more 2016 instead of 2017 they offense is even scarier. It would be scarier if they let McMahon,Dahl, and possibly Tapia get more playing time than Desmond, Parra, and Cargo. What they do have is a solid bench in case those three go down. It is all about the pitching. If those kids are real and can keep the team in every game, the offense and bullpen could easily turn this team from a 3rd place group into a legit contender.
The Diamondback rotation is real. It is solid from top to bottom but they don’t have any wriggle room. Any significant injuries will impact the rotation. I think Robbie Ray has supplanted Grienke as the number one for the Diamondbacks giving them an excellent 1/2 punch. If Kershaw wasn’t anchoring the Dodgers one/two it would be the best in the Division. Walker/Godley/Corbin round out the above average rotation. They have the best 1st baseman in the NL not named Joey Votto. For now. Lamb is a solid power 3rd baseman, while Nick Ahmed is back to help with the defense. Ketal Martel is now the starting 2nd baseman and if anyone gets hurts Chris Owings can play SS/2nd without the team missing a beat. A.J. Pollock is a good CF who needs to stay healthy. Peralta took a step back last year and should be on his way out. The Dbacks replaced JD Martinez with Stephen Souza who is already hurt and out until May. That is a big hurt as he will be replaced by perennial fourth outfielder Jarrod Dyson who gives you speed and some on-base skills along with top-notch defense. This is a good team, for them to have a crack at the Dodgers, the Dodgers will need to come to them as I can’t see them winning more than 92 games.
I’ll be going into the Dodger preview in depth before opening day, but for this exercise here are some thoughts.The Dodgers are blessed with the best pitcher, the best closer, and the best shortstop in the division. They have the 2nd best first baseman, 2nd best 3rd baseman. I have them behind the Diamondbacks for the best rotation but that could change if Walker Buehler replaces Ryu during the summer. The Dodgers don’t really have a weak link which is one of their biggest advantages. The worst player on the team might be the left fielder and I don’t mean that as a knock on Matt Kemp, but when comparing positions, at the moment until he proves otherwise he is no better than any other left fielder in the division. It is a weak group with Kemp/Pence/Parra/Peralta/Pirela where each team except for the Dbacks might have better alternatives in Toles-Hernandez/Duggar/Dahl/Renfroe. Pirela might be what he was last year but I doubt it, but I’m sure others said that about Chris Taylor so I’m open to Pirela being the real deal. The Dodger after Jansen is suspect until it proves it isn’t. This has happened every year but you can’t simply count on finding the next Brandon Morrow season after season. They might have. done it already with Chargois.
Until proven otherwise the Dodgers are still the class in the Division. They have won handily both years that Kershaw has spent significant time on the DL. He looks primed to win another CYA. His competition might be his own closer. The Dodgers are probably on their to winning their 6th straight NL West division title in what might end up being a ten-year run.