Here it is folks. The final piece of my six-part series breaking down all the divisions across Major League Baseball.
This isn’t how I imagined submitting this last piece, however.
Tomorrow was supposed to be MLB’s Opening Day, however the coronavirus has put the season hold, like much of the entire world.
While the league spitballs ideas on how to get a full, 162-game schedule in – including rolling out numerous seven-inning double-headers – the fact of the matter is we truly don’t know if or when the season will be played.
The COVID-19 virus is spreading rapidly in the United States and it seems it will be quite some time before we see any type of sporting event played.
Nonetheless, we still have some MLB futures on the board, so let’s finish what I started and take a look inside the NL West division with odds, breakdowns and predictions for all five clubs!
*Odds courtesy of Bovada
**Breakdowns done in order of last season’s final regular season standings
NL West Odds, Breakdowns and Predictions
Los Angeles Dodgers
- 2019 Record: 106-56
- Playoff Result: Lost NLDS vs. Nationals
- NL West Odds: -900
- NL Pennant Odds: +155
- World Series Odds: +350
After back-to-back World Series losses followed by a disappointing NLDS lost to the eventual World Champion Nationals, the Dodgers went big-game hunting this offseason.
The rumor mill was swirling around superstar names such as Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant and Francisco Lindor, however those three names all remained with their current clubs.
However, the Dodgers landed another superstar on the trade block in the form of former Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, perhaps the best superstar available in trade talks this winter.
If you thought the Dodgers’ offense was deadly last year when they finished fourth with a .338 wOBA and .215 ISO, you can add a 2018 AL MVP to the mix now.
I’ve been looking at the depth chart and wondering what a Dodgers lineup will look like, but there’s just too many ways to stack that group and it’s literally an embarrassment of riches for manager Dave Roberts.
The Dodgers also made some moves in the rotation, the first of which ended up being acquiring David Price alongside Betts in the Red Sox deal.
🚨 BLOCKBUSTER 🚨
— MLB (@MLB) February 5, 2020
Originally scheduled to be a three-team trade with the Twins involved, the Dodgers and Red Sox ended up making a straight-up deal that most notably sent young outfielder Alex Verdugo to Boston.
Afterwards, the Dodgers made a separate deal with the Twins, sending pitcher Kenta Maeda to Minnesota in exchange for hard-throwing prospect Brusdar Graterol, the prospect who was originally supposed to go to Boston in the three-team swap only to have his physical scare off the Red Sox.
Apparently, the Dodgers did not share that fear.
Price enters the Dodgers rotation smack-dab in the middle as the No.3 starter coming off a 2019 season in which he worked to a 4.28 ERA, but also a 3.62 FIP and 3.73 xFIP to go along with a career-high 10.73 K/9 rate.
He made just 22 starts and threw only 107.1 innings, and at 34 we’ll see what he has left in the tank, but the Dodgers look wonderful in the rotation nonetheless.
At the top is Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, both of whom submitted All-Star caliber seasons in 2019, and despite Kershaw’s decline from the game’s best pitcher, he shrugged off injuries to make 28 starts and posted a 3.05 ERA in the process.
Buehler was worth a team-high 5.0 WAR in hurling a 3.26 ERA/3.01 FIP with a 10.61 K/9 as he takes over as the Dodgers’ new ace.
It appears the Dodgers are willing to give former top prospect Julio Urias a shot in the rotation after he posted a 2.49 ERA coming off a suspension across eight starts, 29 relief appearances and 79.2 innings.
After Urias will be Alex Wood who came back to the Dodgers after an injury-filled, one-year stint with the Reds as he was included in the Yasiel Puig/Matt Kemp trade to Cincinnati last winter.
The top five looks sharp, but the Dodgers have depth in one of baseball’s top prospects in Dustin May who turned in a 3.63 ERA/2.90 FIP in 34.2 big league frames in 2019 after posting a 2.30 ERA/3.58 FIP in Triple-A.
The Dodgers’ bullpen tied for fourth with a 3.85 ERA a season ago and will feature veteran closer Kenley Jansen and high-leverage reliever Joe Kelly at the back end with former All-Star closer Blake Treinen now a part of the group.
Treinen endured a tough 2019 year in which he posted a 4.91 ERA/5.14 FIP, but his 2018 season was one of the best of all-time as he worked to a 0.78 ERA/1.82 FIP. For his career, Treinen has posted a 2.97 ERA/3.36 FIP and despite control issues at times, it’s a worthy bet the Dodgers made here.
Prediction: Win NL West, Win NLDS, Lose ALCS vs. Braves
The Dodgers are certainly built to win the World Series as per their +350 odds as co-favorites alongside the Yankees, but I really like the Braves as a better value play.
I mean, the Braves would absolutely be a notable underdog in any series against the Dodgers and there’s even a scenario where we could see the Dodgers break the 2001 Mariners’ record for 113 regular season wins.
It would be shocking to see them not win the west, but my personal choice is to roll with the Braves to represent the senior circuit in the 2020 World Series.
- 2019 Record: 85-77
- Playoff Result: Did not qualify
- NL West Odds: +800
- NL Pennant Odds: +2200
- World Series Odds: +5000
Not many gave the D-backs a chance last season after they traded away Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals, but only did the team net a nice return for their former slugger but they also exceeded expectations in the win/loss column.
Arizona made a late push for a Wild Card spot, but made some significant moves in the offseason in hopes of earning a postseason berth this time around.
Their biggest splash of the winter came when they signed former Giants ace Madison Bumgarner to a five-year deal to front a rotation that needed some star talent after trading Zach Greinke to the Astros at the 2019 trade deadline.
The second major wave of the offseason came via trade with the Pirates as the D-backs acquired outfielder Starling Marte while they also added outfielder Kole Calhoun in free agency to fill the void in right field.
The Marte trade pushed another Marte – 2019 MVP candidate Ketel Marte – back to second base, giving the D-backs a solid lineup throughout.
There wasn’t a ton wrong with the 2019 version of Arizona’s offense as they finished 14th with a .319 wOBA with the MVP-caliber season from Marte along with notable contributions from names such as Eduardo Escobar, Christian Walker and Carson Kelly and David Peralta.
It figures the newest Marte – Starling – is a plus to that offense given his combination of power and speed on the bases, so there’s reason to believe the D-backs can at least maintain that production if not improve upon it in 2020.
Arizona’s rotation held in quite nicely in 2019, pitching to a 13th-ranked 4.20 ERA, however Greinke’s 2.90 ERA in 23 starts certainly helped that number.
The problem they now face is that Bumgarner isn’t likely to submit a sub-3.00 ERA in 2019 as the team’s new ace as his ERA has trended north in each of the last three seasons, topping out at a career-worst 3.90 mark a season ago.
Therefore, the D-backs will need Robbie Ray to improve upon his 4.34 mark from last season while Mike Leak’s 4.35 ERA/6.26 FIP with a minuscule 4.05 K/9 in 10 starts from a season ago is flat-out unacceptable.
The team will need their youthful arms in Luke Weaver and Zac Gallen to do some heavy lifting, and both turned in sub-3.00 ERAs in 20 combined starts, so the rotation could still be in good hands if these future rotation anchors can come close to that production.
The bullpen was also in the top half of the league, posting a 4.26 ERA that checked in at 12th.
That group saw Yoshihisa Hirano depart, but the team will rely heavily on 27-year-old closer Archie Bradley to have a big year, perhaps one closer to the 1.73 ERA/2.61 FIP he posted in 2017 after posting an ERA around 3.55 in each of the last two seasons.
Prediction: Misses Playoffs
Are they good enough to give the Dodgers a run for their money atop the NL West? No.
They exceeded expectations and still finished 21 games back of L.A. in 2019.
Are they good enough to compete for a Wild Card spot? Sure.
The offense should hit, the rotation looks solid enough and if the bullpen can rank somewhere close to the top 10 again, they’ll be right there.
However, to me, those are best-case scenarios. I do like the offense, but there’s too many rotation question marks for me, especially when we look at the high-end starting pitching in the NL East as well as a trio of teams in the Central, before we even get to the Dodgers.
The rotation is a bottom-half NL rotation in my opinion, and the bullpen is a wild card, as are most teams around the league.
At the end of the day, I just see too many superior clubs in the NL Wild Card chase for the D-backs to clinch a postseason berth.
San Francisco Giants
- <2019 Record: 77-85
- Postseason Result: Did not qualify
- NL West Odds: +5000
- NL Central Odds: +7000
- World Series Odds: +20000
For a little while there, the Giants crept into the Wild Card chase, but there was never a serious threat of them getting in as they wound up 12 games back of the race after a tough September.
It would seemingly take a miracle for the Giants to even get close to a playoff berth again this season.
The offense id a combination of past-their-prime veterans in name such as Evan Longoria, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval and youngsters looking to make a name for themselves in Mike Yastrzemski and Mauricio Dubon.
Regardless of how I slice it, there just doesn’t seem to be much room for improvement for a group that ranked 28th with a .295 wOBA last season and the pitcher-friendly confines of Oracle Park doesn’t offer any help whatsoever.
Like much of the lineup, the rotation is chock-full of veterans who are certainly past their primes.
For starters, their best rotation member from last season now resides in Arizona.
Now the rotation is headlined by Johnny Cueto who posted a 5.06 ERA in his 16 innings coming back from Tommy John surgery and veteran Jeff Samardzija who posted a 3.52 ERA in 32 starts, but also a poor 4.59 FIP and 5.02 xFIP and was worth just 1.5 WAR at the end of the day.
The moral of the rotation story: it could be an unmitigated disaster, but the home ball park helps.
The Giants saw closer Will Smith sign with the Braves in free agency and also gone from their expensive bullpen from the last couple of seasons is Mark Melancon. Sam Dyson and his 2.47 ERA from 2019 is now with the Twins and
They’re left with Tony Watson at the back end, but after Watson it’s largely a group of little-know names that actually came up quite big last season.
That said, Reyes Moronta and his 2.86 ERA in 56.2 innings is on the 60-day IL after surgery to repair a torn labrum and Sam Coonrod’s 3.58 ERA from last season is misleading given his 5.24 FIP, 5.70 xFIP any tiny 6.51 K/9 rate.
This bullpen actually finished tied for fourth with a 3.85 ERA last season, but given the departures and injuries combined with some concerning peripherals from last season, it would be stunning to see them among the game’s best this time around.
Prediction: Misses Playoffs
It appears to be another rebuilding season in San Fran, as I don’t see any of the offense, rotation and bullpen enjoying any level of success this season.
The bullpen was wildly fortunate to finish tied for fourth in the league, and deserved a finish somewhere around the middle of the pack.
Unfortunately, the names that got them there are no longer with the clubs or injured.
They’ll have few leads to deal with in 2020, and the bullpen won’t be of much help at that point.
- 2019 Record: 71-91
- Playoff Result: Did not qualify
- NL West Odds: +2800
- NL Pennant Odds: +6600
- World Series Odds: +15000
The Rockies had some seriously talented teams in recent years but couldn’t quite get over the hump or close to postseason glory.
You could look at the Rockies’ offense – usually their strong point – in two different ways in 2019.
On one hand, their .328 wOBA ranked ninth, but when you factor in park factors – which the stat wRC+ does – the Rockies actually ranked 26th with an 86 wRC+ given their home park at Coors Field is easily the league’s most hitter-friendly environment. Remember, 100 is average, so this stat tells us the Rockies’ 2019 offense was 14% below league average.
It’s a hard concept to grasp with Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl forming nearly half of the everyday lineup, but the offense was the least of the team’s worries last season.
In short, the rotation absolutely fell apart.
It’s hard to entice big-name free agent pitchers to make their new home at Coors Field, so the Rockies are usually forced to develop homegrown talent to fill out the rotation. Despite the admiration of being put under such circumstances, the Rockies got next to nothing from their mostly homegrown talent in 2019.
The Rockies ranked dead last with a 5.87 ERA from their starters in 2019, and a 26th-ranked 7.49 K/9 doesn’t help. If your ball park surrenders more home runs than the rest, strikeouts are beneficial and the Rockies did not get many of them. Add in a 28th-ranked 3.45 BB/9 rate and you’re in trouble.
Two winters ago, the Rockies made some big moves on the free agent market to upgrade their bullpen. To this day, those moves have not worked out.
They brought in Wade Davis – famously known for his lights-out work with the Royals and a huge part of their 2015 World Series championship – but that hasn’t worked.
David has turned in an unfathomable 5.92 ERA across two seasons with the Rockies. He’s allowed 71 earned runs in two seasons with the Rockies. To compare, he allowed 24 earned runs in three seasons as a reliever with the Royals.
Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee – the other two big-name relief additions – also have not worked out in the least.
They haven’t done much to upgrade any of the above areas for 2020.
This roster is nearly identical to the one that finished fourth in the NL West a season ago, and Nolan Arenado’s name has floated in trade rumors for months.
It was an interesting decision on management’s part to stay put after what went down as a wildly disappointing 2019 season, and it’s tough to envision it getting much better in 2020.
Prediction: Misses Playoffs
I mean, a league-worst rotation didn’t get any help. German Marquez is the ace and he pitched well in 2019, but they’ll need both Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland to be at their best to even have a chance. Freeland posted a cool 6.73 ERA in 22 starts after turning in a 2.85 mark in 33 starts in 2018.
Even if those three perform at their peak, the remainder of the rotation looks shaky at best with Jeff Hoffman and Anthony Senzatela finishing out the group, and it’s almost a certainty the Rockies won’t see postseason ball in 2020 as a result.
San Diego Padres
- 2019 Record: 70-92
- Playoff Result: Did not qualify
- NL West Odds: +1100
- NL Pennant Odds: +2200
- World Series Odds: +3500
The Padres were one of the busiest clubs this offseason and it to be honest it would be quite surprising to see them not finish ahead of the Giants and Rockies in the west.
While they didn’t manage to bring in a notable starting pitcher into the mix, they did upgrade the offense and despite the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park in San Diego, that group could make noise in 2020.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is already one of the most dynamic players in baseball and add Manny Machado at the hot corner and the Padres have an elite left side of their infield.
Luis Urias was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers along with Eric Lauer in exchange for outfielder Trent Grisham and starter Zach Davies, but it left a hole at second base which was filled with the addition of Jurickson Profar via trade with the A’s.
Eric Hosmer remains the first baseman eating some questionable big bucks but the Padres’ infield group is well-rounded nonetheless.
The biggest addition of all was adding Tommy Pham to the outfield in exchange for Hunter Renfroe while the team also sent fellow outfielder Manuel Margot to Tampa Bay in a separate deal.
The Padres’ outfield mix now looks much different than it did a few short months ago, but Pham will join Grisham and holdover Wil Myers in that group.
The team is also set behind the plate with a tandem of Francisco Mejia and Austin Hedges.
The rotation needed some work, but it seems like the team couldn’t quite get that done.
Chris Paddack heads the group after a season which normally would have put him on the cusp of the NL Rookie of the Year award, however Pete Alonso’s 53 home runs for the Mets squashed any such hope.
Nonetheless, Paddack turned in a 3.33 ERA/3.95 FIP with a 9.79 K/9 and tiny 1.98 BB/9 across 26 starts and 140.2 innings. His innings were limited down the stretch after throwing just 90 innings between High-A and Double-A in 2018.
Dinelson Lamet looked sharp coming off Tommy John surgery with a 4.07 ERA but also a 3.91 FIP and 3.44 xFIP with a massive 12.95 K/9 across 14 starts and 73 innings.
After that duo, however, there’s major question marks.
Garrett Richards, one of the most injury-prone starting pitchers of his era will look to enjoy his first healthy season since 2015 with the Angels. He posted ugly numbers across three starts last season.
Davies posted a strong 3.55 ERA with the Brewers last season, but his peripherals were downright frightening with a 4.56 FIP, 5.20 xFIP and a minuscule 5.75 K/9. He also kept the ball on the ground for a small 40.1% ground-ball rate, which is why he makes a better fit at the pitcher-friendly Petco Park as opposed to the hitter-friendly Miller Park in Milwaukee.
The Padres could graduate one of the top prospects in all of baseball in Mackenzie Gore to the rotation this year while fellow youngster Cal Quantrill could crack the group as well, although Joey Lucchesi will certainly be given a spot with a 4.14 ERA across his first two seasons in the bigs, making 56 starts in that time.
The Padres did do some work on the bullpen, most notably inking former Padre Drew Pomeranz to a lucrative four-year deal after a successful second-half stretch with the Brewers in the bullpen after coming over from the Giants at the trade deadline.
Pomeranz posted a 2.39 ERA/2.68 FIP in 25 appearances with the Brewers down the stretch, but also posted a big-time 15.40 K/9 clip, leading the Padres to invest heavily – $34M – into their shiny new bullpen piece.
He’s added to a bullpen that also features all-world closer Kirby Yates coming off a lights-out season that saw him work to a 1.19 ERA/1.30 fIP and a 14.98 K/9 clip.
That duo should form an elite back end to a Padres bullpen that ranked 19th with a 4.59 ERA, but also fourth with a 4.00 FIP and sixth with a 5.5 WAR.
That bullpen could be a big deal in 2020.
Prediction: Misses Playoffs
I wanted these guys to get in, I really did.
I believe they could have the bats and bullpen help in doing so, but I really wanted to see them acquire a high-end arm to complement the young duo of Paddack and Lamet, especially since Lamet won’t be a 200-inning horse in his first full season off of the TJ surgery.
I think their rotation is high in quantity, but not quality. I don’t have much trust in anyone behind that duo to step up and become a full-season difference maker.
There’s some excellent starting pitching in the senior circuit, but the Padres are not among that group and I think it becomes their demise in missing the postseason.