2017 MLB Preview: NL West

nl-west

The National League West is a division that has been defined by one of the best rivalries in the sport and every other team falls below that.

A rivalry between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants has defined this division for a very long time and it continues to do so.

It all began in New York when both of these teams ruled the baseball world and kept the focus on the biggest city in the country.

Both eventually moved to the west coast and their rivalry continued to blossom into one of the best in the league.

It wasn’t always that way though as both teams have had their moments where they have barely competed against each other.

The Giants went decades without a World Series and a big part of that was the fact that they couldn’t play consistently as the Dodgers generally took more than their fair share of titles in that time.

The Dodgers have had their own periods of struggle though as they have seen times where they weren’t as competitive.

It wasn’t until 2010 when the rivalry truly took a much bigger role in the league as the Giants were back.

They took a World Series title that year and began a run that made them the best team of the decade, so far.

The Giants have won three World Series since 2010 and every year they are in a constant battle with the Dodgers for the division.

That battle has been a little one-sided lately as the Dodgers have won four straight division titles.

Then again in that time, the Dodgers have never won a league title in those four years yet the Giants have taken one in 2014 from the wild card spot.

That is the battle that continues to move on as the Giants may struggle to beat the Dodgers for the division but they have had more success in the overall league.

The Dodgers have consistently taken the division battle but every time they get to the postseason they can’t seem to do much.

It is a battle that has made things much more entertaining in the west for the past few seasons but it is also one that has forced the other three teams to the back burner.baseball-sidebar

That hasn’t been for lack of trying though as a few teams have attempted to get back into the hunt.

The Diamondbacks looked to sign big free agents and put together a team that might be able to actually get into the battle for the division.

The San Diego Padres made their own push looking like they could compete with a team less filled with stars.

Both attempts failed though as the D-Backs and the Padres continued to fall back into the bottom of the division.

Neither were able to consistently challenge the top two teams and the West fell once again to the rivalry to determine a winner.

As they all looked to compete the Colorado Rockies got older and couldn’t keep up with everyone else in the division.

As a new season approaches the AL West looks once again to the rivalry in order to determine a champion.

The Giants and the Dodgers will remain the favourites as they head into a new season but that doesn’t mean teams won’t try to launch a surprise.

The Rockies are no longer the old team as they are one of the more promising teams in the league and will hope to arrive early this year.

Meanwhile, the Padres are just beginning their own rebuild phase while the Diamondbacks might be headed there.

There could be a lot of changes coming to this division but the bigger question will be whether or not those changes can make a difference.

Can anyone make this division more than a two-horse race or is it destined to be a division that is defined by a rivalry once again?

That is the challenge as the three teams that constantly sit at the bottom of the division hope to change the fate of the division.

If none of them can one of the best rivalries in baseball will take hold once again and will determine the winner of the NL West.

ari_diamondbacks.fw

The Diamondbacks made some big moves a year ago when they signed one of the most desirable free agents on the market. Zack Greinke was one of the best pitchers in the game and he chose to head to Arizona for a big paycheck. They tried to make that addition a worthwhile one and everyone thought that he was the piece they needed to compete with an offence that was already on the rise. That didn’t work out and the big plans from the team fell apart as they went from an early favourite to challenge for the division to a fourth place team. Arizona heads into a new season looking to change things up as their disappointing season led to a new regime in the desert. The Diamondbacks begin this season with a taste of Boston as Mike Hazen takes over as GM and Terry Lovullo as manager straight from the Red Sox. The new pair didn’t necessarily make big moves in the off-season but they did look to add a few key pieces in hopes that they can compete this time around. One of their biggest moves was a trade of Jean Segura which took away one of their top hitters. It also added some young prospects, one of which will hope to steady their rocky rotation. Greinke remains in the top spot but Taijuan Walker hopes to meet his potential and become a steady number two. If Greinke and Shelby Miller can bounce back and Walker can have a breakout season this rotation will be a good one but it is a big question. In the bullpen, the D-Backs will hope that a 40-year-old Fernando Rodney was worth going out to get him while they hope that their younger pitchers can breakout as well. The D-Backs offence is a good one as they were among the top teams in the National League last year and a lot of that has to do with Paul Goldschmidt. He is one of the best in the league and he is the big bat that runs this team. He isn’t alone though as A.J. Pollock can provide offence along with David Peralta and Jake Lamb. The loss of Segura hurts but they are still a team that can put up runs as long as their pitching can stand up. That was the issue last year as their big additions did nothing while their homegrown talent led the way. If those big additions can do something this year the D-Backs might be able to throw their hats in the ring for the division but that is a big if after the season a year ago.

ari-facts

col_rockies.fw

The Rockies were one of the many teams that fell into the habit of continuing to add veteran talent without looking to the future. They had a good thing going but they continued to age and couldn’t reach the heights they once did. The Rockies sunk the bottom of the league before finally realising that it was time to start their rebuild. That rebuild took hold in 2016 as young players were a key piece to a team that finished third a year ago. Now the Rockies look to take the next step and take their young lineup to the postseason earlier than most people expected. They took an early shot in free agency when they signed Ian Desmond to a massive contract that had some confused. He didn’t seem to fit into the team but the Rockies did get a professional hitter who can do just about everything when he is firing on all cylinders. It will be a good addition to established stars like Carlos Gomez and Nolen Arenado and the signing will add another veteran to a team full of young stars. Arenado is one of those stars but the biggest name coming up is Trevor Story who broke onto the MLB scene with one of the best rookie seasons ever. He is the leading edge of a farm system that features a lot of talent including five members for the MLB’s top 100 prospects. That leaves their future with plenty of promise but not many know when the new wave of talent will arrive to help. Their offence will be good and add a few of those young stars into the mix they could be a tough team. In the rotation, the Rockies are a bit of a mystery as they will look to a lot of young arms to help them. All have massive upsides and if they all meet their potential it could be a challenging group. Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson and Jeff Hoffman all showed promise last year but they will need to keep it going in 2017. If these three can make an impact this year, the Rockies stand a chance of competing for the postseason. The bullpen could be another strength but last year they were far from that. They hope to see a resurgence from Adam Ottavino and Jake McGee who looked terrible last season. If they play up to the contracts that they have been given it could be a sneaky good group. The Rockies are a favourite to be a darkhorse but there are too many questions to depend on them. Expect them to compete for a postseason spot longer than last year but end up falling just short.

col-facts

la_dodgers.fw

The Dodgers are one of the most dominant teams in the MLB right now after taking their fourth straight NL West title. The problem with “Dem Bums” is that they can’t seem to take that success into the postseason. They continue to show plenty of promise in the regular season only to falter in the postseason, failing to make the World Series in their last four appearances. There are plenty of reasons for their failure to translate their success but for the organisation, it seems like they would prefer to blame outside issues. Despite their challenges to make a bigger impact on the league the Dodgers kept much of the same team together re-signing their main core and hoping that they can finally push past their issues. There is no doubt that the team is full of talent but it will be about getting that talent to step up their game in the postseason. One of those very talented players is Clayton Kershaw who is a constant Cy Young Award favourite but struggles in the postseason when they need him the most. Kershaw needs to shake that off but as a new season begins he is ready to dominate the league once again. He leads a talented rotation that includes Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill. These three alone make a scary rotation that not many have had a lot of success against. That rotation is key to their success but they do have support as the bullpen is led by one of the best closers in the game, Kenley Jansen who decided to return to the Dodgers after testing free agency. The pitching group is a strong one and they will most likely dominate again throughout the regular season. The offence will get a little bit of a boost with the signing of Logan Forsythe who is a grittier player that the Dodgers are hoping adds some fight to the lineup. The talent he joins has big upside as Corey Seager was the rookie of the year in 2016 while Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal can launch the ball out of the park with the best of them. The big question mark for the offence is Yasiel Puig who is one of the most talented players in the league but lacks the discipline to be an all-time great. His time in Los Angeles is running out as the patience of the team has worn thin and unless he changes his ways and produces like everyone knows he can, the young Cuban could be leaving. The Dodgers are still the most talented team in the division and although their rivals will give them a challenge they will take the division but beyond that remains a big question.

lad-facts

sd_padres.fw

The San Diego Padres fell into a familiar decision-making process a few years ago when they thought they could compete with a few major additions. They went on a spending spree to turn things around but like most quick attempts at becoming contenders it didn’t work out. They were one of the worst teams in the league and the reality of needing to rebuild sunk in. The last few years have seen a lot of change but most of it has been to remove veterans and make way for their young stars to take over. The Padres are not the most promising team in the league but they do have young talent that they are hoping helps lead them to some kind of progress in 2017. As they wait for the arrival of young pitchers the Padres needed to fill some spots and so they went out and signed a number of journeymen to take over the rotation. Jered Weaver, Jhoulys Chacin and Trevor Cahill have all been great pitchers in the past but none are what they used to be. They are good enough but they aren’t going to help this team contend this year as they will likely just be an average rotation. They do get support in the bullpen as one of their young talents takes over the closer role in Brandon Maurer while Brad Hand and Ryan Buchter fill in nicely behind him. It makes for a strong bullpen that the Padres can build on going forward. The offence also has some promise as Wil Myers is finally meeting his expectations as a super rookie with the Tampa Bay Rays. He made his first all-star game last year and he is the foundation of this rebuild for the Padres. He leads a group that includes a number of very promising prospects that showed glimpses of their ability in 2016. Hunter Renfroe brought a lot of power bursting onto the scene while Manuel Margot and Austin Hedges solidified their spots among the major leaguers. The Padres enter 2017 in the midst of a rebuild although they seem to be allergic to that term. They have a lot of promise but while they wait for more development it could be another painful year especially with a rotation that is made up of journeymen. If that rotation can turn back the clock and return to their old ways it could be a fun team to watch but there isn’t enough there to warrant any postseason talk this season as there is still a lot of room to grow for this team as they are still at the start of their rebuild.

sd-facts

sf_giants.fw

There is really only one team that has ever been able to challenge the Dodgers on a consistent bases and that is the Giants. They have also been more successful in the last seven seasons taking three World Series in that time. They do often struggle with consistency season-to-season though as they have gone from World Series winners to missing the postseason. It is a tough thing for a good team to adjust as they need to add some pieces but not take away too many as they are already a good team but need that one thing to get them back into the World Series. For the Giants that one thing seemed to be a legitimate closer that could finish games consistently. Sergio Romo wasn’t that guy as they were the worst team in the league last year with 30 blown saves. They hoped to fix that as they let room walk to their rivals and picked up one of the top closers over the last year in Marc Melancon, 47 total saves last year, in what they hope will make the difference for them this year. Closers are notoriously fickle though and the Giants are just hoping that Melancon has a few more great seasons in him. He will get support though as the Giants still have one of the top rotations in the league. They are led by Madison Bumgarner who hasn’t pitched less than 200 innings since 2010. If he stays consistent he is one of the best in the league and that takes pressure off of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija leaving them to be great second and third string pitchers that can do plenty of damage. The rotation remains a strength of this team and if Melancon pitches well they may have solved their biggest weakness. On offence, the team is led by another consistent performer in Buster Posey who is always dependable in putting up numbers. With Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt the offence is good and adding Hunter Pence in it is even better but Pence has had trouble staying healthy over the last few years. The Giants are still a deep and talented team led by their pitching staff that loves to go toe-to-toe with the dodgers and their great pitching staff. With the biggest hole potentially closed, there is little stopping them from competing for the division again this year. They will once again push the Dodgers but might come up just short in one of the best division battles in the league. They could also make a run at the World Series but that will depend a lot on their injuries through the season and how big of a difference they will make.

sf-facts

Prediction:
The West division is showing promise for the future as a number of teams continue rebuilds that are making them interesting. Interesting teams don’t necessarily make the biggest difference though as most of the teams in the west are too unproven to expect them to make a serious run. So the division will once again come down to one of the best rivalries in the sport. The Dodgers and Giants will battle for the division for another year and the Dodgers look like the team to beat. They have the depth and the talent to come out on top for the fifth straight year and take the division title. The Giants won’t make it easy though and are sure to land in a wild-card spot despite losing their division. Among the rebuilding teams, the Rockies look like they are the most promising and so they will be in the hunt for a postseason spot but will falter down the stretch thanks to lack of experience. The D-Backs won’t be too far behind as they still have a lot of talent on that team and they could surprise some with how good they can be this year. The Padres bring up the rear thanks to their still young rebuild and rotation that doesn’t seem like it can hang with the rest of the division throughout the year.

nlwest-prediction

Advertisements

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 159 other followers

%d bloggers like this: