Friday, March 31, 2017

2017 NL West Predictions

When you think about the National League West; you tend to think about the San Francisco Giants and their three World Series titles in the last seven years, or maybe even the Los Angeles Dodgers and their cavalcade of stars both on and off the field. But what you might not realize is that this division has a ton of talent in it and might not be as predictable as you think. Arizona and Colorado have made several improvements to both their clubs and their respective chances of making some noise in the division. But, have they done enough to unseat the champs? Let's go.

5. San Diego Padres
Though there are not many certainties in the NL West this season, one certainty is that the San Diego Padres simply stink. The last two seasons under GM A.J. Preller's watch have seen trades to acquire Wil Myers, the Upton brothers, Matt Kemp and the signing of then staff ace James Shields, only to see everyone of those players except Myers traded away shortly thereafter. And now; outside of Myers, who is a legitimate superstar with 40/40 potential, the Padres batting order looks like something out of a spring training program. There are a few youngsters, however, to keep an eye on as the season progresses: Travis Jankovski in centerfield. Ryan Schimpf at second base. and Ben Zobrist-like utilityman Christian Bethancourt. They did sign Eric Aybar to play shortstop, hoping to drain him of what little baseball life he has left. And speaking of hoping to get the most out of an aging player, San Diego brought in left-hander Clayton Richard and right handers Jared Weaver, Jholys Chacin and Trevor Cahill to go along with Collin Rea and Jared Cozart to fill out their rotation. Brandon Maurer and Carter Capps are the only two bright spots out in the San Diego bullpen, and if nothing else, could bring in sizable returns if moved by the trade deadline. All in all, it's going to be a very long year in San Diego in 2017.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks
Although I am picking them to finish fourth, there are some phenomenal pieces to this Arizona Diamondbacks ball club. For starters, they have one of the best players in baseball that no one talks about in Paul Goldschmidt. "Goldie" is an absolute model of consistency; with his ability to get on base, hit 30+ homeruns/drive in 100+ runs perennially and has even added a speed element to his game by recording double-digit steals in the last three seasons. Two other players that no one(outside of us fantasy nerds) really talks about are: centerfielder A.J. Pollock - a dynamic two-way player with a top third of the lineup bat and sweet-swinging third baseman Jake Lamb. These two, along with Goldie, would be monster-salary earning superstars if they played for a big market organization. The biggest strength of this club lies within the depth of their starting pitching. Former Cy Young Award winner Zack Grinke leads the staff, followed by 2016 disappointment Shelby Miller, Archie Bradley and Patrick Corbin. With Rubby De La Rosa having to be shut down to avoid Tommy John surgery, the D-backs added free-agent lefty Jorge De La Rosa(no relation) and then traded their second baseman Jean Segura to Seattle for the highly touted right-handed Taijuan Walker. And just as much as the starters are a strength, so too is the bullpen very much the weakness. With no real impressive ninth inning candidates, Arizona was forced to sign seasoned journeyman Fernando Rodney to play the role of closer in 2017... yikes. I believe the Diamondbacks will definitely take a step or two in the right direction this season, but not enough to put them in the playoff picture.

3. Colorado Rockies
This is absolutely going to be one of my favorite teams to watch during the 2017 season. Although little known, Colorado has a starting rotation full of youth and potential. Right handers John Gray, Chad Bettis and Eddie Butler pitched well enough in 2016 to convince Rockies management to release long time ace of the staff Jorge De La Rosa. Combine those three with the brothers Tyler (Anderson and Chatwood) and you have a starting staff ready to turn some heads the season. Though they lost Boone Logan to free agency this off-season, Colorado did acquire former Kansas City closer Greg Holland this off-season to go along with Jake McGee, forming a truly solid back end of the bullpen. As for the offense, which now includes the recent addition of the right-handed slugging utility stud Ian Desmond, may be the deepest lineup in the National League, and maybe even in all of baseball. At the top of the order, Gerardo Parra and D.J. LeMahieu are both on-base machines and the latter may just win a batting title someday.  Behind those two are four absolute bashers of the baseball, including Charlie Blackman, Nolan Aranado(my '17 NL MVP), Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez. And even with Desmond on the shelf to begin the season, the Rockies have the powerful Mark Reynolds to man first base in Desmond's absence, which is an absolutely perfect fit for a ballpark like Coors Field. They are called predictions for a reason, and I am predicting that the Colorado Rockies will be one of the two National League Wild Card teams in 2017.

2. San Francisco Giants
From the top of their rotation to the back end of their bullpen, the San Francisco Giants have one of, if not the best assembled pitching staffs in our great game. 2015 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner is not only the ace of the staff, but might be the best hitter on the team as well. And it's only because of MadBum that Johnny Cueto is a number two starter, because he would definitely be the ace of 90% of all other teams in the National League. Once you're done dealing with those two, all you have to do is face the nasty repertoires of Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore. In the bullpen to go along with George Kontos and Will Smith, San Fran added the services of All-Star closer Mark Melancon to shut the door in the ninth inning. Offensively, it's pretty much the case of "same team, different year". After acquiring former Yankee Eduardo Nunez from the Minnesota Twins at last year's trade deadline to play third, the Giants have as good a hitting infield as they have ever had: including Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford. San Francisco can even do a little lefty/righty mix and matching when need be, thanks to adding sluggers Mike Morse and Nick Hunley to their bench. And though they have Denard Span and Hunter Pence in the outfield, I believe the one move the Giants could make to improve their roster is to add a power-hitting outfielder. Though it is not an even year, look for San Francisco to be around in October this season.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers
When you have the best pitcher on the planet, a top three closer and a lineup that goes on for days, you make it pretty easy for me to pick you to take first. Even if you can somehow best Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill proved in last year's playoffs that he is a more than capable number two and doesn't need 95+mph on his fastball to do so. Rotation spots 3–5 will be filled from a deep pool of starting pitchers: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Julio Urias, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kasmier and Kenta Maeda. And, not only did LA re-sign they're phenomenal All-Star closer Kenley Jansen, but they also added the wipeout slider of long time foe Sergio Romo to deepen the pen. As for the other side of the ball, the addition of second baseman Logan Forsythe by way of trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, has given the Dodgers the slick hitting leadoff second baseman they have long been searching for. Add Forsyth to a top of the order that already includes 2016 rookie of the year Corey Seager, and the proverbial table will be set more often than not for the rest of that incredible lineup: including Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzales, Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal.  Could we see another National League championship series involving the Dodgers and the Cubs? Could be, and if so, round one was pretty damn good.

Ready... FIGHT

1 comment:

  1. Julio Urias won't open the season with the Dodgers but he'll be up later in the year to be a difference-maker. I am excited to see that Hyun-Jin Ryu made the starting rotation in his comeback from injury. I will see him in person when he pitches Opening Day in Denver next week. I am leery of Sergio Romo. Brian Sabean of the Giants is a premier talent evaluator and he doesn't let guys walk unless there is a reason. You say Kenley Jansen is a top three closer. I'd say top two as Chapman and Jansen are in a league of their own, and then the next group is headed by former Yankee Mark Melancon and Zach Britton. Many put Britton in the elite group but he'll have to show me more than one season before I am ready to anoint him one of the Closer Kings. I like the Dodgers this year but I am worried about the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw. Kazmer begins the year on the DL so that means the fragile Brandon McCarthy is in the rotation. I guess we'll see Urias sooner than later. I am hopeful that this is a breakout year for Joc Pederson. Of the vets, Adrian Gonzales and Yasiel Puig scare me the most although Puig at least has some upside. Gonzales is on the downward descent of his career. Forsythe was a good pickup, and I really like that they brought Chase Utley back in a utility role as he is a coach on the field. I hopeful that this will be a great year for the Dodgers.

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