(This is one post in a series of posts where I will be predicting the outcome of each MLB division. The final post will include full 2016 MLB postseason predictions.)
2015 was supposed to be a 3 team race in the NL West. The Dodgers, Giants, and Padres were supposed to be in a dogfight until the end for the division crown. The Giants won the 2014 World Series. So you can understand why there were high expectations for the Giants in 2015. The Dodgers had Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw at the top of their rotation. Arguably the two best pitchers in the league. And the Padres absolutely dominated the 2014/15 offseason. New GM A.J. Preller traded and signed every star he could get his hands on. The D-backs were still considered young and not on the same level as the top 3 teams from a talent perspective. The Rockies had no pitching. They still have no pitching. Mainly because it is impossible to pitch in Colorado. They never had a shot in 2015 and at the moment it feels like they may never have a shot again.
That being said, the Giants season was ultimately derailed by injuries and the Padres experiment exploded in Preller’s face. A failure of massive proportions. The Dodgers rotation did not disappoint with Greinke and Kershaw arguably both having Cy Young seasons despite ultimately finishing behind Jake Arrieta. But the Dodgers Big Two lost to the Mets. Then Greinke and manager Don Mattingly left, and the Dodgers front office was forced to pick up the pieces. Here’s what I see in 2016:
NL West: 1) San Francisco Giants (x) 2) LA Dodgers 3) Arizona Diamondbacks 4) San Diego Padres 5) Colorado Rockies
San Francisco does the on again, off again championship thing. They won in 2010, 2012, 2014. 2016 is an on year so they have to win right? Wrong. Unless you believe absurd magic patterns are the new way to predict baseball World Championships. That being said they filled all their holes from 2015. They needed outfield depth, particularly a CF, and they got Denard Span. They needed top of the rotation support and they added Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Their rotation is super deep now. Madison Bumgarner at the top with veterans Jake Peavy and Matt Cain eating up innings. And young Chris Heston in the mix as well. That depth will make the difference for them in the battle for the NL West. They struggled last season with injuries particularly in the outfield with Hunter Pence and Angel Pagan missing chunks of the season. Denard Span battled major injuries for all of 2015 with the Nationals. So they still have some injury risk in that area. They need Span and Pence in order to be competitive and make a run. Their bullpen was very effective again in 2015 but Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, and Santiago Casilla are getting older. They have the talent and experience to win the division this year.
The Dodgers lost Zack Greinke and replaced him with a whole bunch of number 3 starters. They still have Clayton Kershaw who may win another Cy Young. Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda should be effective although Kazmir has looked bad this spring. Like the Giants, the Dodgers also have a lot of rotation depth with Alex Wood, new Cuban Yaisel Sierra, and Hyun-jin Ryu. But I like the Giants rotation better. The Dodgers also tried to bolster their bullpen and failed. Justin Turnersbane had offseason microfracture knee surgery, so it’ll be interesting to see how healthy he is this season. The Dodgers will be very good and should battle the Giants and Diamondbacks all season. I think they will miss out on the division and wild card.
The Diamondbacks are going for it. They paid 300 million for Greinke. They traded the farm to Atlanta for starter Shelby Miller. They signed Tyler Clippard for the bullpen. And they already had the young big bats in Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. But I’m not as high on Shelby Miller as most people. Young Cuban Yasmany Tomas left a lot to be desired offensively in his first MLB season. Josh Collmenter is a nice starter. Archie Bradley is promising but unproven. Clearly the core players on this team are young, and they haven’t been tested in a pennant race during the dog days of summer. If they show they can handle that in 2016 and win the West, then obviously I’ll have a different view next season. But I’m taking the experienced Giants and Dodgers over the D-Backs.
I hate the GM of the Padres A.J. Preller. He gets hired, and immediately goes ahead and trades the entire Padres farm system during the 2014/15 offseason for Craig Kimbrel, Matt Kemp, Derek Norris, Wil Myers, and Justin Upton. They even signed James Shields for the rotation. They went for it in 2015. And…they were mediocre. It was a complete failure. And after the season he trades Kimbrel to re-stock the farm system and let’s Justin Upton walk in free agency. But he doesn’t really do anything to improve the club. He didn’t embrace a rebuild or try to go all in again. He’s doing the dance in the middle. I think he should be fired for his 2015 blunder. Presumably he came in for his GM job interview with a plan/strategy. I doubt the plan was “go for it in 2015 and if that fails then I’ll figure something else out”. He failed, and he should be fired.
And the stupid Rockies are doing the mediocre team thing also. They traded Tulo and Corey Dickerson but they kept Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon. I don’t get it at all. These two teams have no chance. Trade all these players and re-stock the farm and try to win down the road. Mediocrity in baseball is completely pointless. They should just move the Rockies to a city with normal air pressure where the balls don’t fly out of the stadium all day, so they have an actual chance to compete. Or move the other 29 teams to Colorado. Whichever is more practical.
Other Divisional Predictions: