2018 MLB preview: NL West
ABS-CBN Sports on Mar 29, 2018 01:04 PM
FILE- In this June 13, 2017, file photo, Los Angeles Dodgers' Cody Bellinger, right, is congratulated by Justin Turner, left, as Corey Seager, back, watches, after hitting a three-run home run off in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland. Bellinger and Seager, the last two NL Rookies of the Year, provide a young spark for the team. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, file)
By The Associated Press
Capsules of National League West teams, listed in order of finish last year:
Los Angeles Dodgers
2017: 104-58, first place, lost to Houston in World Series.
Manager: Dave Roberts (third season).
He's Here: OF Matt Kemp, RHP Tom Koehler, LHP Scott Alexander, LHP Henry Owens.
He's Outta Here: 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RHP Yu Darvish, RHP Brandon Morrow, RHP Brandon McCarthy, LHP Tony Watson, LHP Luis Avilan, LHP Scott Kazmir, LHP Adam Liberatore, OF Andre Ethier, INF Charlie Culberson, OF Curtis Granderson, LHP Grant Dayton, OF Franklin Gutierrez, RHP Josh Ravin.
Projected Lineup: CF Chris Taylor (.288, 21 HRs, 72 RBIs, 17 SBs), SS Corey Seager (.295, 22, 77), 3B Justin Turner (.322, 21, 71, will start season on DL with broken left wrist), 1B Cody Bellinger (.267, 39, 97, 10 SBs), RF Yasiel Puig (.263, 28, 74), LF Matt Kemp (.276, 19, 64 in 115 games with Braves) or Joc Pederson (.212, 11, 35 in 102 games), C Austin Barnes (.289, 8, 38) or Yasmani Grandal (.247, 22, 58), 2B Logan Forsythe (.224, 6, 36) or Enrique Hernandez (.215, 11, 37) or Chase Utley (.236, 8, 34).
Rotation: LH Clayton Kershaw (18-4, 2.31 ERA, 202 Ks), LH Alex Wood (16-3, 2.72), RH Kenta Maeda (13-6, 4.22), LH Rich Hill (12-8, 3.32), LH Hyun-Jin Ryu (5-9, 3.77).
Key Relievers: RH Kenley Jansen (5-0, 1.32, 41/42 saves, 109 Ks), RH Josh Fields (5-0, 2.84), LH Tony Cingrani (0-0, 4.22 with Reds and Dodgers), RH Pedro Baez (3-6, 2.95).
Hot Spot: Disabled List. The Dodgers were dealt a blow when Turner, their leading hitter last season, was struck by a pitch in a spring training game March 19. Although he will begin the season on the DL, he won't need surgery and the team hopes it's only a matter of weeks before he returns. Koehler, signed in December, is sidelined indefinitely with a shoulder strain. Young lefty Julio Urias, who arrived as a teenager two years ago and made a splash in limited innings, is out until at least May following shoulder surgery.
Outlook: The Dodgers are favorites to win a sixth straight NL West title with a roster that returns mostly intact. They lost the World Series to Houston in seven games, extending the franchise's drought to 30 years without a championship. Los Angeles had a quiet offseason, other than shedding the contracts of Gonzalez, Kazmir and McCarthy in an effort to lower payroll. The move brings the team under the luxury tax for the first time since 2012, which figures to pay off next winter when a highly anticipated group of big-name free agents becomes available. Kemp has been a surprise in his return to the club. He was acquired from Atlanta as part of the Dodgers' salary dump and figured to be traded. However, he has been a solid performer in spring training. Kershaw anchors the rotation, and Jansen is one of the best closers in the game. A multitude of veterans will be vying for playing time as a result of the team's heavy use of platoons and matchup-driven lineups.
2017: 93-69, second place, wild card, lost to Dodgers in NLDS.
Manager: Torey Lovullo (second season).
He's Here: OF Steven Souza Jr., OF Jarrod Dyson, C Alex Avila, RHP Yoshihisa Hirano, RHP Brad Boxberger.
He's Outta Here: OF J.D. Martinez, 2B Brandon Drury, C Chris Iannetta, RHP Fernando Rodney.
Projected Lineup: LF David Peralta (.293, 14 HRs, 57 RBIs, 31 2Bs), CF A.J. Pollock (.266, 14, 49, 33 2Bs, 20 SBs), 1B Paul Goldschmidt (.297, 36, 120, 94 BBs, 34 2Bs, 18 SBs), 3B Jake Lamb (.248, 30, 105), RF Steven Souza Jr. (.239, 30, 78 with Rays), 2B Ketel Marte (.260, 5, 18 in 73 games), SS Nick Ahmed (.261, 6, 21 in 63 games), C Jeff Mathis (.215, 2, 11).
Projected Rotation: LH Robbie Ray (15-5, 2.89 ERA, 218 Ks), RH Taijuan Walker (9-9, 3.49), RH Zack Greinke (17-7, 3.20, 215 Ks), LH Patrick Corbin (14-13, 4.03, 178 Ks), RH Zack Godley (8-9, 3.37, 165 Ks).
Key Relievers: RH Archie Bradley (3-3, 1.73, 1 save, 79 Ks in 73 innings), RH Brad Boxberger (4-4, 3.38 with Rays), RH Yoshihisa Hirano (3-7, 2.67 with Orix Buffaloes in Japan), LH Andrew Chafin (1-0, 3.51), LH T.J. McFarland (4-5, 5.33).
Hot Spot: Bullpen. The Diamondbacks did not re-sign their closer in Rodney and held a three-man competition for the job in spring training. Bradley, whose full, flowing beard and big personality make him a fan favorite, was among the best in the game last year as a setup man but could move into the closer's role. Boxberger led the AL in saves two years ago but has struggled with injuries, and Hirano has yet to experience pro baseball outside Japan. In some order, they figure to make up the back end of the bullpen, with other roles yet to be determined. The starting rotation appears to be solid and that will be important because the 'pen looks thin on experienced middle relief.
Outlook: With all five starters back and nearly every position player returning, the Diamondbacks expect to be in the thick of things in the NL West after their big turnaround season under Lovullo, the NL Manager of the Year. The loss of Martinez hurts the offense but the acquisition of Souza and signing of Dyson should help. In addition, several players who missed much or most of last season with injuries are back, including Ahmed and utility man Chris Owings. Greinke's initial start was pushed back a few days after he experienced tightness in his groin during a spring training outing, but it's not expected to be serious. Ray hopes to improve on his breakout season, giving the team a solid 1-2 pitching punch. The lineup could use a return to form at the plate for Pollock, who struggled a bit after missing nearly all of 2016 due to injury. Marte figures to get plenty of time at second base and some at shortstop. Owings and Daniel Descalso can play pretty much every infield spot as well as the outfield.
2017: 87-75, third place, lost to Arizona in wild-card game.
Manager: Bud Black (second season).
He's Here: RHP Wade Davis, RHP Bryan Shaw, C Chris Iannetta.
He's Outta Here: RHP Greg Holland, RHP Tyler Chatwood, C Jonathan Lucroy, 1B Mark Reynolds, RHP Pat Neshek, INF Alexi Amarista, C Ryan Hanigan.
Projected Lineup: CF Charlie Blackmon (NL-leading .331, 37 HRs, 104 RBIs, 137 runs, 213 hits, 14 triples, 1.000 OPS), 2B DJ LeMahieu (.310, 8, 64), RF Carlos Gonzalez (.262, 14, 57, .377 in September), 3B Nolan Arenado (.309, 37, 130, 43 doubles, .959 OPS), LF Gerardo Parra (.309, 10, 71 in 115 games), SS Trevor Story (.239, 24, 82, 191 Ks), 1B Ian Desmond (.274, 7, 40 in 95 games), C Chris Iannetta (.254, 17, 43 with Diamondbacks).
Rotation: RH Jon Gray (10-4, 3.67 ERA, 112 Ks, 110 1/3 innings in 20 starts), LH Tyler Anderson (6-6, 4.81), RH German Marquez (11-7, 4.39), RH Chad Bettis (2-4, 5.05 in 9 starts), LH Kyle Freeland (11-11, 4.10).
Key Relievers: RH Wade Davis (4-2, 2.30, 32/33 saves with Cubs), LH Mike Dunn (5-1, 4.47, .212 vs. righties), RH Adam Ottavino (2-3, 5.06, 21 holds), LH Jake McGee (0-2, 3.61, 3 saves, 20 holds), LH Chris Rusin (5-1, 2.65, 2 saves, 13 holds, 85 innings), RH Scott Oberg (0-1, 4.94), RH Bryan Shaw (4-6, 3.52, 73 Ks in 79 games with Indians), RH Antonio Senzatela (10-5, 4.68 in 36 games, 20 starts).
Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. The biggest question marks surround Marquez and Freeland. Coming off solid rookie seasons, they will be counted on for big encore performances. Bettis showed signs of returning to form last year after going through treatments for testicular cancer. Gray remains the undisputed ace of the staff.
Outlook: The Rockies enhanced their bullpen in an effort to earn back-to-back postseason berths for the first time in franchise history. They signed Davis ($52 million for three years) and Shaw ($27 million for three years) and brought back McGee ($27 million for three years). The lineup benefits from hitter-friendly Coors Field and features plenty of firepower, especially with the return of Gonzalez on a one-year deal. Arenado is one of the best hitters and fielders in the game, and Blackmon led the league in several offensive categories. They ran 4-5 in NL MVP voting. Colorado is hoping for bounce-back years from Story and Desmond.
San Diego Padres
2017: 71-91, fourth place.
Manager: Andy Green (third season).
He's Here: 1B Eric Hosmer, 3B Chase Headley, SS Freddy Galvis, RHP Chris Young, RHP Tyson Ross, RHP Bryan Mitchell, RHP Kazuhisa Makita.
He's Outta Here: RHP Jhoulys Chacin, INF Yangervis Solarte, LHP Travis Wood, SS Erick Aybar, SS Jose Rondon.
Projected Lineup: CF Manuel Margot (.263, 13 HRs, 39 RBIs), 1B Eric Hosmer (.318, 25, 94 with Royals), RF Wil Myers (.243, 30, 74, 20 SBs), LF Jose Pirela (.288, 10, 40 in 83 games) or Hunter Renfroe (.231, 26, 58 in 122 games), 3B Chase Headley (.273, 12, 61 with Yankees), 2B Carlos Asuaje (.270, 4, 21), SS Freddy Galvis (.255, 12, 61 with Phillies), C Austin Hedges (.214, 18, 55).
Rotation: LH Clayton Richard (8-15, 4.79 ERA), RH Bryan Mitchell (1-1, 5.79 in 20 games, 1 start with Yankees), RH Dinelson Lamet (7-8, 4.57), RH Luis Perdomo (8-11, 4.67), RH Tyson Ross (3-3, 7.71 with Rangers).
Key Relievers: LH Brad Hand (3-4, 2.16, 21/26 saves), RH Kirby Yates (4-5, 3.97, 1 save with Angels and Padres), RH Craig Stammen (2-3, 3.14), RH Kazuhisa Makita (3-3, 2.30 with Seibu Lions in Japan), RH Chris Young (0-0, 7.50 in 14 games, 2 starts with Royals).
Hot Spot: Shortstop. If 19-year-old prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. has another strong season in the minors, this probably will be the final year of the revolving door at short. Galvis will be the fifth different starter there in as many opening days. As solid as he is, especially on defense, Galvis has only one year left on his contract after coming over in a trade with Philadelphia and could very well just be a placeholder for Tatis. Fans would love to see Tatis, the son of the former major league infielder, come up this season, even as a September call-up. Tatis and Luis Urias, a 20-year-old second baseman, played well in their first spring training with the big league club. The Padres don't want to rush them, but they're the type of players who could force the issue if they keep playing well.
Outlook: The Padres should be more fun to watch this season with the additions of Hosmer and Galvis, but they're still not expected to contend for another year or two. There are some other interesting players on the team as well, including Pirela, who can play left field or second base, and Christian Villanueva, a versatile infielder who has pop in his bat. Myers moves back to the outfield to make room for Hosmer at first base, and Renfroe is expected to platoon with Pirela in left. Renfroe set a Padres rookie record with 26 homers last year despite being sent down to Triple-A for a month.
San Francisco Giants
2017: 64-98, fifth place.
Manager: Bruce Bochy (12th season).
He's Here: 3B Evan Longoria, OF Andrew McCutchen, OF Austin Jackson, LHP Tony Watson, OF Steven Duggar, OF Gregor Blanco, LHP Derek Holland.
He's Outta Here: OF Denard Span, LHP Matt Moore, RHP Matt Cain, SS Christian Arroyo, OF Michael Morse.
Projected Lineup: 2B Joe Panik (.288, 10 HRs, 53 RBIs), 1B Brandon Belt (.241, 18, 51), RF Andrew McCutchen (.279, 28, 88 with Pirates), C Buster Posey (.320, 12, 67, 34 2Bs), 3B Evan Longoria (.261, 20, 86, 36 2Bs, Gold Glove with Rays), SS Brandon Crawford (.253, 14, 77, 34 2Bs, Gold Glove), LF Hunter Pence (.260, 13, 67), CF Austin Jackson (.318, 7, 35 with Indians).
Rotation: LH Madison Bumgarner (4-9, 3.32 ERA in 17 starts), RH Johnny Cueto (8-8, 4.52), RH Jeff Samardzija (9-15, 4.42, NL-high 207 2/3 IP), RH Chris Stratton (4-4, 3.68), LH Ty Blach (8-12, 4.78).
Key Relievers: RH Mark Melancon (1-2, 4.50, 11/16 saves), RH Sam Dyson (4-10, 6.09, 14 saves with Rangers and Giants), LH Tony Watson (7-4, 3.38 with Pirates and Dodgers), RH Hunter Strickland (4-3, 2.64, 1 save).
Hot Spot: Bullpen. Melancon struggled during his first season in San Francisco after signing a $62 million, four-year contract. He blew five of his 16 save chances and made just 32 appearances before being sidelined by a forearm injury. The Giants brought in Dyson as another closing option last year and need one of those two relievers to solidify the ninth inning so Bochy can map out the rest of his late-inning plan.
Outlook: The Giants are coming off their first last-place finish in a decade and their worst season overall since 1985. The talent level was upgraded significantly with trades for Longoria and McCutchen. Those two former All-Stars might be on the downside of their careers — both are in their 30s — but they should still add some pop to a lineup that finished last in the majors in homers, 29th in runs and 29th in on-base percentage. They should also improve a defense that was spotty at best last season, when nothing went right. Duggar could get a shot to split time with Jackson or supplant him in center field, adding needed youth to an aging team. Getting a healthy season out of Bumgarner is crucial after he was injured in a dirt bike accident last April. Cueto is a quality No. 2 starter if he can avoid the blisters that plagued him last year. Samardzija is very durable, but the rest of the rotation isn't nearly as strong. The Giants will also need to adjust to a new coaching staff, with Curt Young replacing longtime pitching coach Dave Righetti, and Alonzo Powell taking over as hitting coach after Hensley Meulens moved to bench coach.