2018 MLB National League West Forecast
Photo by Ben Shafer / freeimages.com
1. It’s Time For Dawwwwwwdgers Baseball!
Or is it?
2018 was mighty kind to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yasiel Puig kissed Turner Ward until he was blue in the face and became a conscious ballplayer on the field, Chris Taylor appeared out of nowhere to be a full-time five tool threat to give the team depth at almost every position, and Justin Turner hit like Ted Williams for the first half of the year.
But, the Dodgers have lost older players who provided leadership and stability. Adrian Gonzalez is gonne. Clayton Kershaw has lost a couple of mph of his fastball, likely due to a back thing and back things are never good. All-star shortstop Corey Seager did something to his elbow. Someone finally made the shocking discovery that curveballs are the antidote to the giant uppercut swing of Cody Bellinger. Turner hit like Williams’ shaggy garden gnome in the second half of the year and he’s out for six-to-eight weeks thanks to a Kendall Graveman fastball that broke his hand in spring training.
But, what the Dodgers have is depth, and the ability to hit power arms that every team is now trying to load their bullpens with. Matt Kemp is back and provides excellent numbers for a platoon player. Kike Hernandez had a heroic post-season which can only help his confidence at the plate and if Joc Pederson can turn significantly-improved at-bats from last year into hits this year, the Dodgers could be monsters offensively. With Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood, if he can be anywhere near what he was on the mound last year, L.A. has one of the best pitching staffs on the planet and Kenley Jansen to close games.
The one team-wide question I have is a World Series season hangover. Playing an extra month takes it out of people. We’ll see how they look in August.
Projection: 93 wins
2. Rock Me Arenado
Everyone seems to be sleeping on the Rockies, which could be painful, because the Rockies are a long line of very sharp pointy objects that can kill you if you’re not paying attention. This is a playoff-caliber team.
Offensively, what’s not to like, scratch that, what’s not to love about having four potential MVP candidates, Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez, DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado in your lineup? Hell, there’s something to be said for having one of those guys in your lineup. Add solid players in solid leftfielder Ian Desmond, new catcher Chris Iannetta and rookie Ryan McMahon to the mix and you’ve got a battle of the bands with the Dodgers.
The prawwwwwwblem of course is pitching. Everyone else can hit home runs at Coors Field too, no matter how long you keep the baseballs in a humidifier. Shouldn’t that be illegal? Anyway, you have the starting lineup of Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, German Marquez and Chad Bettis leading the way. Wait, what? Who, who, who and who? This bunch put up some ugly numbers in Arizona in spring training. I’m never one to give to much credence to cactus ball but ERA’s of 13 alarm me no matter when they appear.
The regular season is made for offense. The postseason is made for defense. They’ll get there, but they won’t get far.
Projection: 89 wins
3. Arizona Tango Whiskey Delta, We Have A Problem
What do you do when you lose JD Martinez and 45 home runs of potential production. Uhhhhhhhh.
That’s a big hole to fill and forgive me if David Peralta, Jake Lamb, and Alex Avila don’t leave me quaking in my boots with fear of the Diamondbacks. Yes, I know they have Paul Goldschmidt who is an MVP candidate. Man, I love watching that guy play. Their strength is up the middle with AJ Pollack in center and Ketel Marte, who just got a fat contract to stick around at second base.
Zack Greinke looks like he’s starting to slide a little. His B+ game is still better than many team’s top two starters. But after Robbie Ray, I don’t really like their starters and their bullpen is shored up by a guy named Brad Boxberger,who’s thrown 53 innings in the last two years…combined. At least he’s fresh.
Projection: 80 wins
4. Los Gigantes Heridas…Yikes!
The last few years, the question going into the season was, ‘”Can the San Francisco Giants hit enough to support the pitching?”
Now, it’s “Can the Giants stay healthy enough to put the same guys on the field more than a dozen times.”
The answer is, “Probably not.”
First the positives. They went out and got a whole truckload of new players: third baseman Evan Longoria, centerfielder Austin Jackson and right fielder Andrew McCutcheon. Longoria and McCutcheon may not be what they were a few years ago, but they are certainly better than what the Giants have had the last few years and they have power, which is not available often at spacious, sea-level AT&T Park. As for Jackson, he has decent numbers offensively, but his range has diminished as he’s aged. The home-grown guys are back: Buster Posey behind the plate, Brandon Belt at first, Joe Panik at second and Brandon Crawford at shortstop.
Now the negatives and they are mostly health-related. Belt has a real problem and it’s dangerous. He guesses curve ball, gets fastball, gets hit, and goes on the disabled list with a concussion. I worry the next one is the one that ends his career. He should really platoon with Buster Posey at first. Joe Panik has a back thing. Back things are bad things. Crawford has great hair and glove, but his slumps are hideous. Hunter Pence is awesome when he’s choking up and using bat speed to line shots all over the diamond, but he hasn’t been healthy in years. Once again, Madison Bumgarner is on the disabled list, though it’s not a shoulder issue. He got dinged by a batted ball in spring training. With Johnny Cueto coming off a shaky 2017 and Jeff Samardzija looking lost at times, and closer Mark Melancon cratering before having surgery…I am betting San Francisco has more trips to the local clinic than to the winners circle. Ty Blach may have to drive the van in between starts. Keep pressure on the wound and elevate.
Projection: 75 wins
5. Pray For A Win, Padre, And a Hosmer Three-Run Shot
I like Eric Hosmer. I think he’s a smart kid and a good first baseman. Not sure why he signed with San Diego, but with Wil Myers in right field, at least that side of the lineup is set. The team is thinking this is the year the kids breakout and maybe look like the Astro’s. There’s hope but there are a lot of questions. Jordan Lyles and Bryan Mitchell had ERA’s over 8.25 in spring training. Is Manuel Margot going to get on base enough to be effective and steal bases? He sure looks good in center though. Bottom line: There are a bunch of guys nobody has ever heard of. If a couple of them follow the lead of their first baseman and grind the living bejesus out of the game, they could be okay, and for a team fans expect to be in the bottom of the division, okay looks a lot like a tie for fourth.
Projection: 73 wins