2019 MLB predictions preview: NL West
At this point, you’ve seen enough division previews to know how this goes, so I’ll just dive right into it. Just so you’re aware, the teams are listed in alphabetical order at first. I will put predicted standings and postseason results at the bottom.
Offseason Acquisitions: SP Merrill Kelly, OF Adam Jones, IF Wilmer Flores, RP Greg Holland, C Caleb Joseph, RHP Luke Weaver, C Carson Kelly, IF Andy Young (Last three in Goldschmidt trade)
Offseason Departures: IF Paul Goldschmidt, SP Patrick Corbin OF A.J. Pollock, SP Clay Buckholz, RP Brad Boxberger, OF Jon Jay, RP Randall Delgado, RP Jake Diekman, IF Chris Owings, SP Shelby Miller, IF Daniel Descalso, C Chris Stewart, RP Brad Ziegler
2019 Preview/Big Question: Will they be able to move on and recover from the loss of Paul Goldschmidt?
No, but that’s not to be disrespectful to them at all. It’s really hard to replace someone who had 40.3 WAR in eight seasons. Jake Lamb is a good player, but there is no way he comes close to replacing the level of production—both offensively and defensively—Goldschmidt had. They signed Eduardo Escobar to an extension, which is who will cover the hot corner while Lamb moves to first.
Look at all the other names they lost. Adam Jones is a solid pick up, but it’s tough to say how much he really has left in him at the age of 33 coming off his worst year of WAR since his first full season. Even though Pollock only played 113 games last year, he still amassed a better WAR than Adam Jones, so even though that is the natural replacement for Pollock, the numbers, along with Jones’ age, suggest that, too, is a downgrade.
Is Greg Holland, who has been inconsistent since recovering from Tommy John surgery, going to be a good replacement for the departing Brad Boxberger and Jake Diekman or the retired Brad Ziegler? That’s going to be a lot. They lost Patrick Corbin and replaced him with Luke Weaver, who owns a career 4.79 ERA to go along with a career FIP of 4.10 and a career WAR of negative 1.1. Not good. I’m not going to beat a dead horse here by going over each position, because I think you all get my point—they got worse with every single move they made this offseason. I dare you to find a spot where they improved. And that’s saying a lot for a team that finished just two games above .500 last year.
Offseason Acquisitions: IF Daniel Murphy, IF Mark Reynolds
Offseason Departures: C Drew Butera, OF Carlos Gonzalez, OF Matt Holliday, IF DJ LeMahieu, RP Adam Ottavino, OF Gerardo Parra
2019 Preview/Big Question: Will they be able to make the playoffs again?
The Rockies, coming off making the postseason two years in a row for the first time in franchise history, look to build on those two years and make the playoffs again. They will have to do it without guys who have been foundational to them the last two years in LeMahieu, Ottavino, CarGo and Parra. They did, however, agree to an extension with Nolan Arenado (the BEST 3B in the game, don’t @ me), which will take some attention away from him.
They have an underperforming bullpen, which they have sunk $100 million into the last two offseasons before this one, and they have a good, young pitching staff anchored by Kyle Freeland and German Marquez, so there is reason for optimism. LeMahieu will be replaced by a platoon of two young infielders in Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson. Daniel Murphy will be taking over first base, while Ian Desmond takes over centerfield so Charlie Blackmon can move over to right field.
Parra and Gonzalez leaving will actually free up some space for younger talent that has been held back because of the influx of outfielders. Guys like David Dahl and Ramiel Tapia, who have had success in their limited time in the majors, will get more playing time. The loss that hurts the most is Ottavino, who was one of the best relievers in baseball last year, and that’s the big wildcard. As mentioned earlier, the bullpen has over $100 million sunk into it, so will they perform like they’re worth that much? Time will tell.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Offseason Acquisitions: RP Joe Kelly, C Russell Martin, OF A.J. Pollock
Offseason Departures: OF Yasiel Puig, SP Alex Wood, OF Matt Kemp, C Yasmani Grandal,
2019 Preview/Big Question: Will they make it to the World Series again?
You’ll have to wait to find out my thoughts on the World Series thing, but let’s dig into some preview action for now. So they have a healthy Corey Seager, which is a plus, but this team is riddled with old dudes and injury-prone players on offense. Russell Martin played for the Dodgers like two decades ago, I think Chase Utley was turning 6-4-3 double plays with Mike Schmidt when Utley first came into the league in Philadelphia. A.J. Pollock has missed more than 50 games in all, but two of his first seven years in the league, and we don’t know how healthy Corey Seager really is. Their best player, Clayton Kershaw, has been missing more and more games each year the last few years.
All that being said, they are still great with some amazing talent. Alex Verdugo, by all accounts, is going to be a stud once he gets consistent playing time, Justin Turner is a top-five third baseman in the league, and young sluggers Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, and Joc Pederson will continue to slug as long as they stay healthy. Their pitching staff is killer with Kershaw, Walker Buehler (we will see how hitters adjust to him his second year), Ryu, Hill, and Maeda. That is probably a top-five staff in the league, and pitching will win ball games. The Dodgers are probably overall worse this year than they were last year. But it’s hard to maintain the level of play for a team that reached the World Series the last two years in a row.
San Diego Padres
Offseason Departures: IF Cory Spangenberg, IF Christian Villanueva
Offseason Acquisitions: IF Manny Machado, IF Ian Kinsler, SP Garrett Richards
2019 Preview/Big Question: Will Manny Machado bring more fans to the stadium?
MANNY MACHADO. This was, by far, the biggest splash the Padres have ever made in free agency. They are in an interesting position right now, because signing a big-time free agent like that usually indicates that a team is “all in” right now. That is not the case, however, with the San Diego Padres. Machado is only 26 years old, they have had the best farm system in the league according to multiple sources the last few years, and that talent is starting to come up. They certainly have some holes, especially in their pitching staff and outfield, but all the young talent coming in will fill those gaps, some as soon as this year. Nothing but optimism for the faithful Friars. But not like playoff-spot type optimism. Just optimism for the future, ya know? I don’t expect them to do much this year, but they will be better.
San Francisco Giants
Offseason Departures: OF Gorkys Hernandez, RP Hunter Strickland
Offseason Acquisitions: SP Drew Pomeranz, SP Derek Holland, RP Will Smith, RP Pat Venditte
2019 Preview/Big Question: When will they start to rebuild?
I get it, it can be tough for a franchise to come off three World Series victories in six seasons and then just rebuild less than five years later, but it has to happen if they want to set themselves up for any success. They keep straddling this line between rebuild and contention, and all that’s going to do is get them to the baseball-equivalent of Jeff Fisher land. Bumgarner had one of the best World Series performances in history, but he has been declining the last couple of years. They need to get as much value for him as they can before he gets too old and falls off, and when pitchers go, they go fast.
All they need to do is look at their own franchise’s recent history with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. They can also look up the coast and see how King Felix is doing. It’s a steep hill and you’re not going to get much from him once he starts going. Outside of an aging MadBum and a young Dereck Rodriguez, they don’t have much of a pitching staff or bullpen. They need to start rebuilding sooner rather than later. It’ll pay off in the long run.
Predicted Division Standings/Postseason Results
- Colorado Rockies (92-70)
Call me a homer or whatever, but I really do believe this team has what it takes to (finally) dethrone the Dodgers and win their first-ever division title. The bullpen will bounce back, Arenado will win MVP, and this team will make it to the NLCS.
- Los Angeles Dodgers (89-73)
Again, they are worse than last year. Not by much, but they are. They had 91 wins last year (not including the tiebreaker), so it’s only a two-game dip. But it’s enough to put the Rockies ahead of them and for them to miss the playoffs (I think they finish behind whoever comes in second in the East and whoever comes in second AND third in the Central. Winning the division will be the only way an NL West team receives a postseason berth this year).
- Arizona Diamondbacks (75-87)
There is a LARGE gap between the first two teams and the last three in this division this year. Again, the Diamondbacks got worse with every move they made this offseason. Good (or bad) for seven more losses.
- San Diego Padres (74-88)
Again, nothing but optimism here. They will compete for third with the Diamondbacks. This is an eight-win jump. Not bad. Expect that climb to keep going after this year too.
- San Francisco Giants (72-90)
I mean, I don’t see much of a difference between this year and last. MadBum is a bit older and that will cause them to lose one more game than they did last year. Welcome to the basement, Giants. Nothing against you, you just need to embrace it, rebuild, and you’ll be back up in no time.