2016 MLB Preview: NL West

nl-west.fw

Every division in the league is made up of teams that continue to play each other every year and form, at least, some sort of rivalry.

Not all are great rivalries though with certain teams usually taking the advantage and crushing any sort of competition.

There are those select few that have formed their rivalry over years of competition and usually end up playing each other in important games every year.

That has been the case in the National League West for decades and in the National League for more than a century.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants have had a history that has carried over to the division and made the West much more interesting every year.

It all started on the other side of the country when both teams were based in New York as two of the original MLB teams.

They eventually moved out west and the old rivalry continued up until this day.

Both teams have put in plenty of time in the rivalry with them first fighting for supremacy in New York and now fighting for supremacy in the West.

It has only become more interesting in the last decade though with both teams getting better and changing the way they are doing things.

The Giants did their work first in building a franchise rather than just a team as they waited for great players to come through their system.baseball-sidebar

In 2010 that strategy worked out as the Giants took the World Series and since then have continued to compete winning another two championships since then.

The Dodgers, not to be outdone, solved their financial issues and began spending more than the Yankees spend to get the best players.

They have received some payback taking the division title for the last three years although they have yet to translate it to a championship.

Both the Giants and the Dodgers head into a new season with everyone watching their long-standing rivalry and believing that it will determine the NL West title and potentially the World Series.

It is plenty of motivation for both teams who continue to compete at a high level and show what a rivalry can be.

It can also provide plenty of motivation for the other teams in the division though as they have been forgotten over the last few years.

The Arizona Diamondbacks tried to make sure they received some of the focus when they went on a spending spree in the off-season.

They will try to upset the old balance of the division with a new-look, both with new players and new jerseys and a pitching staff that hopes to make them competitive.

The San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies are trying to do more with less this year. Neither really made a big effort to rebuild but stranger things have happened in the world of sports.

All it takes is for everything to click at the right time and the Rockies and Padres seem to be hinging on that hope.

All three of these teams have been looking up at the dodgers and the Giants for years and all three are hoping to end their time at the top of the division and the league.

If any team can do that it will be a big surprise as both the Dodgers and the Giants are back to compete for the division.

They are the two best teams right now in the West but that doesn’t mean they will walk away with the division title as there could be at least one more challenger to push them in what could be one of the better division races in the MLB.

ari_diamondbacks.fw

The Arizona Diamondbacks have been a team that has sailed under the radar for a long time while continuing to get better. For many it wasn’t fast enough though and that included management who went out to kick-start their rise. They signed the top free agent this off-season in Zack Greinke and traded for Shelby Miller. Those two moves immediately brought the spotlight to the desert as the pitching staff gained a huge upgrade. Greinke was a Cy Young Nominee last year with a sub-2.00 ERA and had plenty of teams looking to sign him. He might take a step back with a less friendly ballpark but even a small step back makes him one of the best in the league. The addition of Miller solidifies the rotation added a good #2 pitcher despite his deceiving win-loss record from a year ago. They will need to carry the load though as the pitchers returning to the rotation did not do too well last year. Both Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray had ERA’s approaching 4.00 while Rubby De La Rosa was closer to 5.00. At least one of them needs to step up if they hope to win but they are a better staff than a year ago. The bullpen was not very good this year but the addition of Tyler Clippard should help them, at least, a little as he competes for the closer role. On the offensive side of the ball, the D-Backs will once again lean on Paul Goldschmidt who continues to be the big bat that every team needs in the middle of the lineup. Along with Goldschmidt though some more hitters are beginning to emerge like A.J. Pollock and David Peralta to make up a good top of the lineup. The big question might be behind Goldschmidt where Yasmany Tomas was supposed to provide a great secondary heavy hitter. He did well but not what was expected of him after being signed from Cuba a year ago and will need to find the power that made him a highly sought after prospect if he wants to stay in the middle of the line-up. Beyond these four though there isn’t a lot of power or hitting with the secondary hitting suffering. The D-Backs are an improved team, there is no question, but the danger in quick rebuilds is that those added take big steps back and the investment doesn’t pay off. Whether that happens is the question as they will likely compete for a wild card but might not have everything they need to beat the Dodgers and the Giants.

ari-diamondbacks.fw

 

col_rockies.fw

The story of the Rockies has long been where they play as it is a park that can be a batter’s paradise and a pitcher’s nightmare. The thin air in the city makes it tough for pitchers to keep the ball inside the ballpark while batters have an easier time hitting it out. Unfortunately, the Rockies have not had the bats in their line-up to take advantage and their pitching has fallen prey to the stadium. It is the main reason they stay at the bottom of the league but last year they took another big step to coming back. When the Rockies traded away Troy Tulowitzki they essentially gave up on the season but they also added three pitching prospects, one of which is ranked among the top 100 prospects in baseball. The Rockies are a team full of veterans with a number of prospects waiting for their chance to play. The problem for them is that the prospects aren’t ready yet and the veterans will need to carry the team again. Chief among them will be Carlos Gonzalez who finally had a healthy year and it paid off but there is no guarantee with the 30-year-old. Nolan Arenado is the most promising in the batting order with a great two years leading the Rockies but beyond those two there isn’t much else. If the Rockies struggle the appearance of Brendan Rodgers or David Dahl could give a peek into the bright future of the Rockies. In the pitching staff, there is truly not much to get excited about with good but not great pitchers lining the rotation. Pitchers have to be better than good in Colorado and none is despite the ability of Jorge de la Rosa to strike batters out and the decent stuff of Chad Bettis and Tyler Chatwood. Jon Gray is a positive as he could take a rotation spot this year after being promoted late in 2015 and he will try to solidify his spot this year and beyond. The Bullpen is not much better with good but not great pitchers like closer Jason Motte and Jake McGee. Again for the Rockies, the hope is still in the minors where Jeff Hoffman, acquired in the Tulowitzki trade, will, at least, star the year among other promising prospects. The Rockies simply don’t have the team right now in the majors to compete in the west and although they have a promising minor league system they aren’t ready yet. The Rockies might be good in a few years but for now another finish near the bottom of the division seems to be a sure thing.

col-rockies.fw

la_dodgers.fw

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been the team to beat in the division for the last three years thanks largely to the new strategy from their ownership group. After years of belt-tightening under Frank McCourt, Guggenheim Baseball Management has turned on the tap in a big way.  Despite that spending and the regular season success, the Dodgers have yet to make it to a World Series and in the last two years were eliminated in the first round. This year there is one clear goal and that is to get over that hump and find their way to the championship. As it usually does that goal will rely on the ability of their pitching staff to put together a consistently good season. There is no question that they will get that from Clayton Kershaw who has been the most consistently great pitcher in the league over the last three years. They will find it tough to replace Zack Greinke this year after he left for Arizona but the signing of veteran Scott Kazmir and Japanese star Kenta Meada should soften the blow. It could still be a solid rotation if everything works out and there is plenty of help in the minors that could move up if help is needed. The bullpen will provide help as well much like they usually do with a group of good relievers led by closer Kenley Jansen who has quietly become one of the better relievers in the game. On the offensive side, the Dodgers are a strange mix of older players potentially reaching the end of their careers and young stars that might not have reached their stride yet while adding in one of the most frustrating players in the league. Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier have yet to really fall off as hitters but they are not getting any better at this point in their careers. Joc Pederson and Corey Seager could turn out to be the future leaders of this team but they have yet to prove they can hit consistently. Then there is Yasiel Puig who at times seems like he’d like to be doing anything but playing baseball and yet has the most natural talent on the team. When Puig is on this entire offence looks different when he’s not they aren’t the powerhouse they could be. That is the problem for the Dodgers and it might only increase without that second great pitcher as inconsistency might haunt them. They will still fight for the division title but might just fall short making the postseason in the wild card but once again failing to get to the World Series.

la-dodgers.fw

sd_padres.fw

Last year at this time the Padres were a team to watch in the West after they went on a spending spree to add some of the top free agents to the roster. They had added power hitters in Matt Kemp and Justin Upton while also picking up James Shields and Craig Kimbrel to solidify the pitching staff. Those players all did less than expected and led the Padres to another year outside of the postseason. This year the Padres did a lot less in the off-season and seem to be focused on the long-game rather than the quick solution. The pitching staff is led once again by Shields who had a good season but not as good as the Padres had hoped as most of his numbers went up from the year before. It was actually Tyson Ross who led the way for the Padres and who they hope can do the same this year. If Shields can return to his old ways and Ross can continue his great play they might have a good one-two punch but beyond that there is not much bite in the rotation. In the bullpen, two of their better relievers are gone with Kimbrel, who was not as good as the year before, and Joaquin Benoit have left. They will look to an aging and less consistent Fernando Rodney along with a number of other relievers who sat above 3.00 ERA last year for a less than impressive group. On offence, the power could still be there despite the loss of Upton with a few potentially great hitters. Kemp, Yangervis Solarte, and Wil Myers are all capable of putting up big numbers in the middle of the line-up but none have really reached that potential in San Diego. Kemp was once one of the most feared hitters in the game but is still trying to get back to his 2011 totals when he came second in the MVP voting. Solarte and Myers are still trying to find their footing in their young careers where both could be great MLB hitters. Again though beyond the potential of those hitters, there isn’t a lot more to get excited about. The Padres quickly went from a win-now attitude to looking to the future and that has them in a strange spot for 2016. They have the talent on the team to be good but that talent needs to show up which is never a good thing when the division is as tough as the West. The Padres won’t be making a playoff appearance this year while their final result will all depend on the ability of players to meet expectations.

sd-padres.fw

sf_giants.fw

For the Giants fans, 2016 is a good year, at least for now, as it is an even number year and even numbers seem to be good luck for the Giants. In every even number year since 2010, the Giants have taken home the World Series title and 2016 seems to be headed in that direction. At least, it seems that way by the off-season plans have worked out. Every year that they won the World Series the Giants leaned on a strong pitching staff and this off-season they went about trying to repeat that formula. They went out and signed Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto as they hope to boost a solid rotation. The only issue is that both new additions cane be inconsistent and they can be more of a liability than a bonus. Then again when they do perform up to their potential they can be two very good pitchers. Adding them to the rotation is a bit of a risk but one that might work out to give them a very good group. Led by Madison Bumgarner this rotation could be one of the toughest as every pitcher in the rotation could give other teams very little in the way of breaks. In the bullpen, the Giants are following the league pattern with hard throwing young arms like Hunter Strickland, Josh Osich, and Ray Black. Generally, they haven’t needed to rely on the bullpen with durable starters, most of all Bumgarner, but they might have a little more confidence unless some of those live arms fall off quickly. If the new additions play the way that they can the Giants will once again have one of the best top-to-bottom rotations in the league. On offence, the Giants did not do as much work but will hope that they will see greater growth in their homegrown talent. Buster Posey, as always, leads the way while Brandon Belt and Joe Panik hope to continue their development into great hitters. The biggest addition was Denard Span who should provide some extra speed up front and make life slightly more difficult for opposing pitchers. The offence is more improved but it is not going to rival any of the best in the league as once again they are looking to the pitching staff to lead the way to another World Series. It has been successful in the past and the biggest new additions should be better in a park suited for pitchers as the Giants might be headed for another World Series appearance after they take the division title.

sf-giants.fw

Prediction:
The San Francisco Giants struggled to start last year but they figured things out and fought with the Dodgers down the stretch. That slow start hurt them but that start won’t happen again and their new additions are going to make them a much more dangerous group. They will take the division title this time around while an aging but still good Dodgers team finishes second and inside the wild card for the National League. As for the D-Backs quick rebuild, it will work to make them a better team but not enough to get them into the postseason as they will finish third and just outside of the wild card. The Padres and the Rockies both didn’t do enough and don’t have the talent to compete with the best in the division or in the NL. They will finish at the bottom continuing to try to rebuild their teams as the future might look bright but it won’t help right now.

nl-west-prediction.fw

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 163 other followers

%d bloggers like this: