The National League West was probably the busiest division this offseason. Everybody got in the act with some pretty significant transactions. The Los Angeles Dodgers were looking to hit a home run this winter, but some unforeseen developments kept them from doing that. A key player in this division changed uniforms and the other teams spent in free agency or acquired some important assets via trade. The NL West certainly didn’t lack excitement over the cold months of the year.
You have to go back to 2011 to a time when neither the Dodgers nor the San Francisco Giants won the NL West. That team was the Arizona Diamondbacks and that season was an anomaly. The Diamondbacks have been .500 or worse in six of the last seven seasons, but everything came together for them that season. They still lost in the NLDS, but that was their outlier. The Giants are looking for their fourth straight World Series title in an even-numbered year. The Dodgers are looking for their first World Series appearance since 1988. The San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies are simply looking to be relevant. In what projects to be a two-horse race, the NL West presents some interesting storylines.
In terms of division winner odds, here are the prices from BetDSI Sportsbook (click the team name for Adam Burke’s MLB season win total analysis):
Los Angeles Dodgers -123
San Francisco Giants +143
Arizona Diamondbacks +530
San Diego Padres +3010
Colorado Rockies +8000
The Los Angeles Dodgers backed out of transactions to sign Hisashi Iwakuma and trade for Aroldis Chapman, but it’s hard to say that any team in the National League has as much starting pitching depth as the boys from Chavez Ravine. Even with Brett Anderson’s back surgery, the Dodgers have six bona fide starters and some that will return from injury during the season. Most expect a breakout from young shortstop Corey Seager, who dominated MLB pitching in his brief debut stint late in the year. With a different culture under new manager Dave Roberts, expectations are extremely high for the guys wearing Dodger blue this season.
It’s hard to argue against the San Francisco Giants as the winners of the offseason. The Giants picked up Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, as well as Denard Span, and were able to build on impressive seasons from Matt Duffy, Joe Panik, and Brandon Crawford. With an all-world catcher in Buster Posey and a legitimate ace in Madison Bumgarner, the Giants are a force once again this season. The bullpen could be a little bit shaky, which is likely why the Dodgers are viewed in a more positive light than the Giants, but San Francisco is definitely a team to watch throughout the season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks opened some eyes this winter by signing Zack Greinke after he opted out of his Dodgers contract and by trading for Shelby Miller. The Diamondbacks had two building blocks in the lineup in Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock, so they were in the market for some starting pitching. Patrick Corbin was impressive in his return from Tommy John surgery, so this has the makings of a really quality team out west. They will be overshadowed by two teams with a lot more success in recent seasons, but the Diamondbacks are an excellent defensive ballclub and really improved the overall talent of the big league team. With bullpen questions and not much offense outside of Goldy and Pollock, the Diamondbacks are still in that second, maybe even third, tier.
Rookie MLB skipper Andy Green has his work cut out for him with a San Diego Padres team that simply isn’t up to par. The Padres are deficient in several different areas, particularly in the everyday lineup. James Shields, Tyson Ross, and Andrew Cashner are the makings of a pretty good rotation, but the Padres project to be below average offensively at several positions and will likely be a poor defensive team once again as well. There isn’t a lot of hope for San Diego this season and top prospect Austin Hedges is more of a defensive catcher at this point in his development, so don’t expect a lot of impact from his bat this season.
The Colorado Rockies traded Corey Dickerson for relief ace Jake McGee, but it’s going to take more than a few drops to fill the empty bucket in Denver. The Rockies have a few players worth monitoring, with Jon Gray and Chad Bettis looking to take the next steps in their pitching careers. Nolan Arenado is an elite third baseman at the plate and in the field. Ultimately, the Rockies cannot compete because no free agent starter wants to go to Colorado, where ERAs go to suffer and pitchers and players deal with the hardships that come along with playing in the altitude.
Pick: San Francisco Giants
The Giants lack starting rotation depth, but they have the chance to be above average offensively and defensively at seven of the eight regular positions on the field. The rotation is top heavy enough that guys like Chris Heston and Jake Peavy can be serviceable at the back of the rotation and provide just enough value. The Giants are really going for it and Brian Sabean always spends in a smart way.
Best Value Pick: Arizona Diamondbacks
If everything goes 100 percent right, Goldschmidt and Pollock stay in tact, and Greinke maintains his dominant form, Arizona can sneak up on some people. There’s not a lot of value in the Dodgers because of their injury concerns in the starting rotation outside of Clayton Kershaw and the Giants are already the top pick for this division. Arizona almost gets this spot by default, but there is some upside on this roster.