The Los Angeles Dodgers survived a late onslaught by their rival San Francisco Giants late in 2015, to win the National League West division title. A lot of things have changed since October, with teams gaining and losing players, and more than one team changing managers. Here’s a team-by-team preview of the NL West in 2016.
The Diamondbacks are probably the most different team in the division for the upcoming season. The Diamondbacks are making a huge push to get to the playoffs and win the division this year. They made one of the biggest splashes in free agency when they signed superstar SP Zack Greinke to a 6-year, $206M contract.
Following that huge signing, the Diamondbacks traded for Braves SP Shelby Miller, sending OF Ender Inciarte, SS Dansby Swanson, and a 2015 first overall draft pick to Atlanta. These pitching additions, along with the return of SP Patrick Corbin, give the Diamondbacks a formidable front three in the rotation.
Arizona also added IF Jean Segura from the Milwaukee Brewers. All-Star 1B Paul Goldschmidt will again be one of the most-feared hitters in the league after contending for the Triple Crown: batting .321 with 33 HRs and 121 RBIs, and finishing second in MVP voting in 2015.
CF A.J. Pollock continues to improve, and was an All Star last season, so the Diamondbacks have a very solid offensive core as well. Depth may be a problem for this team, especially if Goldschmidt or Pollock miss any extended time. The Diamondbacks are a solid contender in the division. Expect them to challenge for a playoff spot.
The Rockies only made a few small moves in the offseason, instead choosing to rely on an established core of young players. Their biggest trade netted them RP Jake McGee from the Tampa Bay Rays, sending OF Corey Dickerson to Tampa. They also signed OF Gerardo Parra, and RPs Jason Motte and Chad Qualls in free agency.
The Rockies have a few great players, namely 3B Nolan Arenado. Arenado, who was an All-Star and won the Gold Glove last season, hit a whopping 42 HRs, leading the league. OFs Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon are also players to watch, though Gonzalez is definitely an injury risk.
SS Jose Reyes, acquired at the 2015 trade deadline from Toronto for fellow SS Troy Tulowitzki, is a huge question mark. Among these questions are his age, and legal trouble stemming from a domestic violence arrest in the offseason.
Reyes is currently on leave from the Rockies, and it remains to be seen if he will be suspended by the league (or convicted and jailed by the judicial system). Unfortunately, the Rockies’ starting rotation does not look good, and the Rockies will probably be one of the worst teams in the NL.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are reloaded for the 2015 season after losing Greinke and SS Jimmy Rollins in free agency. After parting ways with manager Don Mattingly and hiring Dave Roberts to replace him, Los Angeles signed SPs Scott Kazmir and Japanese import Kenta Maeda.
They also re-signed Chase Utley and Howie Kendrick, both of whom will contend for the 2B job, to team-friendly deals. The Dodgers still have the best starting pitcher in the division in Clayton Kershaw, the 2014 NL Cy Young and MVP, as well as the best closer in the division with RP Kenley Jansen.
However, the Dodgers also have four big question marks going into the season. First, rookie Corey Seager has been handed the reins at shortstop; he is the #1 prospect on most lists, played amazingly in short work last September and October, and the Dodgers are counting on him in a big way. Also, sophomore CF Joc Pederson is being counted on for an improvement at the plate after a forgettable second half last year; as fellow JailHouse writer Kevaghn Hinckley writes, Pederson will try to improve his consistency at the plate this season.
A comeback from injury by Korean SP Hyun-Jin Ryu would also definitely go a long way in helping the Dodgers’ cause. Finally, the Dodgers are looking for one of the most polarizing players in the majors, OF Yasiel Puig, to have a bounce back year after a 2015 filled with injury and disappointment. The Dodgers have tremendous depth, especially in the pitching department, and should contend for the division title once again.
San Diego Padres
The Padres made a few big moves in the offseason, trying to correct some of the mistakes they made after 2014. They traded RP Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox, RP Joaquin Benoit to the Mariners, and 1B Yonder Alonso to Oakland, and added OF Jon Jay from the Cardinals in exchange for IF Jedd Gyorko.
Maybe more curious, however, are the moves they didn’t make – SPs Tyson Ross, James Shields, and Andrew Cashner were all expected to be moved but are still in San Diego. The Padres also return OFs Matt Kemp and Wil Myers, but lost OF Justin Upton in free agency.
San Diego did add RP Fernando Rodney in free agency. Shields, Ross and Cashner are a solid first three in the rotation, and Kemp and Myers should provide some offensive firepower, but there probably aren’t enough pieces here to make the Padres a contender.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants were also very active in free agency in the offseason after seeing a late-season surge turn into disappointment. The Giants finished second in the division, and missed the playoffs in 2015. The Giants had holes in the rotation, with the retirement of Tim Hudson and the free agency of Ryan Vogelsong, and didn’t disappoint in making a big splash.
After signing SPs Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, who will both look to have bounce back years after a disappointing 2015, the Giants have the makings of a solid rotation. Combined with staff ace Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ front three rival the rotation of best in the division, the Dodgers, as well as the rest of the league.
The offense is largely unchanged, with C Buster Posey leading the way, along with OF Hunter Pence. San Francisco did add OF Denard Span in free agency though, to fill a hole in center field. The Giants are counting on continued solid production from a young infield, including 2B Joe Panik, SS Brandon Crawford and 3B Matt Duffy. The Giants will be a force to be reckoned with, and have a chance to contend for the playoffs.
The NL West looks like a three-team race, and should be interesting to watch all season long. Some of the best pitchers in the game reside in the division: Kershaw, Greinke, Bumgarner, Cueto and Shields, which could keep scores low. Don’t sleep on the offenses though, especially when they play in Colorado.
While the Diamondbacks and Giants are improved and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see either win the division, the reloaded Dodgers have won the NL West three times in a row. You have to beat the best to be the best, and the Dodgers should be looked at as the favorites to win the division for the fourth straight time.
Statistics provided by: MLB.com, and baseball-reference.com
Images thanks to: MLB.com, Fox Sports, media.zenfs.com, Blouin News, beisbols.org, Game Day R, and the USA Today