NL West Forecast: Dodgers Repeat But Can They Win The World Series?

LOS ANGELES: Sometimes you have the pay the man and pay Clayton Kershaw is just what the Dodgers did in the off-season.

Why $93 million for three years? Because he’s a winner, that’s why. But he’s an increasingly injured winner and that presents problems… and opportunities.

The Dodgers will lean on blister-prone lefty curveball specialist Rich hill, lefty Julio Urias –himself coming back from injury– as well as Ross Stripling, Kenta Maeda and Walker Buehler. This assumes that Stripling can continue improving (3.02 Earned Run Average in 2018) while increasing his innings above the 122 he threw last year. It also assumes that Maeda can continue to be solid, that Buehler rebounds from shoulder tightness and that Urias gives them quality innings as they bring him back slowly perhaps in a fifth-starter role.

The offense is virtually unchanged even with the loss of Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig. Kemp had some great postseason moments and a really good first half of 2018, but the second half was a lot of swings at sliders he couldn’t hit. Russell Martin returns many years after his first stint as a first-rate catcher to handle the staff and provides more consistent offense than Yasmani Grandal ever did.

Defensively, All-Star Corey Seager returns at shortstop and L.A. added A.J. Pollock to platoon with Joc Pederson in center with Cody Bellinger in right. Bellinger’s arm may not be as good as Puig, but it’s really strong.

Pitchers beware, both Pederson and Bellinger were hitting left-handed pitching and driving balls to left in spring training, beating the defensive shift that has worked so well against them in the past. Pollock has played more than 115 games twice in seven seasons. Pederson could see a lot more time.

Dodgers Projection: 97 WINS, 108 if you count the World Series. They have the pitching and the benefit of playing in a weak division. If Bellinger and Pederson can prove they can hit lefties, and Seager is three-quarters of what he was, this will be the year.

COLORADO: I was high on the Rockies before the 2018 season, no altitude puns intended and still am, kind of. Nolan Arenado is an MVP candidate every year and for good reason: Gold Glove defense, league-leader in home runs, .290 average. But after Charlie Blackmon (.300+ career batting average and 30 HRS/year) you have Trevor Story and he could just as easily hit .230 as he could .290. He really impresses with his power and his defense, but man, the strikeouts! Rockies fans have to hope he can increase his plate discipline and see better pitches to hit.

Mark Reynolds is now in at third and Daniel Murphy at first. Reynolds somehow keeps getting employed despite striking out a thousand times a season and Murphy looks thoroughly lost at the plate. I wonder why he moved to the back of the batter’s box when his best work as a Met and a National was when he was closer to the pitcher.

As for the pitching, Kyle Freeland emerged as the ace after a promising rookie campaign. German Marquez improved as well and looks to be a decent #2, and then you have several #4/5 guys.

All told, it’s kind of a meh.

Rockies Projection: 84 wins.

SAN DIEGO: The Padres spent some money and want to see a return on investment of $300 million for third baseman Manny Machado. Fans want to see if shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. can hit 20 dingers at Petco Park. Wil Myers is a nice player, but he’s kind of like the rest of the club: .250-ish average, but with more power.

On the mound Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi look like they might have real promise after an improved sophomore campaign for Lauer and good rookie campaigns for both. After that you have two guys no one has ever heard of, which means no scouting report, I guess: Nick Margevicius who made the club after having never pitched above A ball, and Chris Paddack, followed by Matt Strahm, who has been inconsistent.

Padres Projection: Machado does okay, some of the super young starters pan out, the others don’t, fans are grateful the club flirts with .500 before finishing with 78 wins.

SAN FRANCISCO: At least the Giants appear to be trying. They picked up Gerardo Parra to play right field and Kevin Pillar to play center. Parra has a good arm and Pillar is known for sensational flying catches. Both have good-to-decent offense the team could use. Relying on starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner to hit home runs for you isn’t an offense. It’s a cry for help. Catcher Buster Posey is back after hip surgery, but still looks to be finding his way. I’m not crazy about the offense from either Brandon Belt or Crawford at first base and shortstop. Both can carry the team for a week, and drag them down for a month.

On the mound, Bumgarner has lost some off his fastball, but he still can set up hitters and he’s a great competitor. Derek Holland is okay, but I don’t trust him. Dereck Rodriguez had a great rookie year (6-4, 2.81 ERA) and will be asked to carry the burden of keeping this team at .500. Johnny Cueto pitched in only nine games last year and Jeff Samardzija has struggled mightily.

Giants Projection: It’s Bruce Bochy’s last year. It will be a depressing one. 74 wins.

ARIZONA: You can’t get rid of an MVP candidate and hope to get better, can you? The Diamondbacks try to fill the void left by the exit of Paul Goldschmidt with CF Adam Jones and Wilmer Flores at second base? David Peralta in left is about the only real thumper you have.

On the mound, they have Robbie Ray, who has looked like a #1 or a #3 depending on the year and Zack Greinke who’s an okay #1 or a really good #2. After that, you have the inconsistent Zack Godley, former St. Louis Cardinal wunderkind Luke Weaver, and 30-year-old Merrill Kelly, who looks like comedian Chris Elliott, with better minor league numbers (emphasis on minor league.)

With any luck, they finish five games under .500. It’s more likely going to be 10.

Diamondbacks projection: 72 wins

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