Baseball is Back! – Season Preview: National League West

In the final part of his divisional previews of the upcoming baseball season, Andy Turner wraps things up by providing the lowdown on the National League Western Division…

If the Eastern Division is the American League’s glamour division then in the National League it is probably the Western Division.  This reputation is based around two of MLB’s most legendary teams; the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants.

The Dodgers seem to have had everything in place over the last few seasons but one of baseball’s best players, pitcher Clayton Kershaw, is still waiting his first world series appearance.  There are more question marks this season, mainly with the pitching because after Kershaw at the top of the rotation there is uncertainty. Kenta Maeda was a solid mid rotation guy and Julio Urias is young and promising, but Rich Hill and Brandon McCarthy need to stay healthy. 

The Dodgers are one of MLB’s big spenders and shelled out huge money to ensure closer Kenley Jansen and his 180 saves over five seasons stayed in LA.  When it comes to offence the Dodgers have the enigma that is Yasiel Puig in the outfield. He looked like the best thing ever when bursting into the league a couple of seasons ago, but the bright lights big city seem to have had an adverse effect on him.

The team has plenty of other talent, such as NL rookie of the year, SS Corey Seager, 3B Justin Turner and 1B Adrian Gonzalez to name three.  It seems bizarre that a team with Kershaw would have the biggest doubt over its pitching, but that’s the truth.

The Dodgers biggest rivals are the Giants. It’s a rare thing in US sport; a genuinely nasty rivalry that has involved unsavoury fan violence over the last few years.  Last season saw the Giants break a streak of World Series victories in even numbered years, winning in 2010, 2012 and 2014. 

If Joe Maddon and Terry Francona are the two best managers in baseball then the Giants Bruce Bochy is at least be in the conversation and this year he should have a team capable of competing for a another world series. The pitching is the strength of this team, with Madison Bumgarner at the top of a rotation packed full of veteran quality. Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore and Jeff Samardjzia are all capable of eating innings.

There is also the promising Ty Blach, who may be 5th pitcher, which gives the Giants as good a rotation as there is in baseball.  They also paid big money to bring in Mark Melancon as the closer. 

Offence is less spectacular. Yes, they still have Buster Posey who is as good a catcher as there is, but the Giants are not a spectacular big hitting team. They will have to scratch out runs for the ace pitching staff to protect.  There are savvy veterans Hunter Pence and Denard Span in the outfield but nothing spectacular and nobody in the line up hit 20 HRs. The Giants are all about the pitching.

The Colorado Rockies are being talked about as a dark horse team, and while they surely can’t challenge for a division title they do hope to be in the NL wild card picture.  They have a big hurdle to overcome; their home stadium Coors Field, is a pitchers nightmare because of the altitude. Deep outs in most parks are homers in Denver. 

So the Rockies pay particular attention to their relief pitchers because they simply can’t plan for their starters going deep into a game, the likes of Adam Ottavino, Jake McGee and Mike Dunn will be vital in taking over. The starting rotation is young and has potential. Jon Gray, Chad Bettis and Tyler Chatwood all looked good and give the Rockies further cause to be optimistic. 

Knowing the value of offence they spent big in the close season on Ian Desmond to play 1B. SS Trevor Story was one of the stories of last season and if you add in Carlos Gonzalez and DJ Mahieu there is talent there.  The Rockies know the value of runs, both scoring and preventing, and have a team packed full of gold glove defenders.  They will be an interesting team to follow but the playoffs may be a step too far.

One team that is an unknown quantity are the Arizona Diamondbacks.  They keep changing GM’s and trying different tactics in order to recreate the success of their early years. Last season they crashed and burned despite a spending spree that brought in P Zack Greinke as well as trading away two of the hottest young players in baseball to acquire Shelby Miller from Atlanta.  It failed spectacularly, with a 69 win season. 

Greinke started okay but got injured, as did the rest of the starting rotation.  The D’backs has tried to address this problem by bringing in Taijuan Walker from Seattle to add a bit more quality and depth.  They also acquired Fernando Rodney, who was having a great season last year until he was traded to Miami and it fell apart for him.  He has a chance to be closer in Arizona as the bullpen was as poor as the starting pitching.

Arizona’s offence was pretty good as it features 1B Paul Goldschmidt, who is as consistent and productive as any in the league. Add in OF Yasmany Tomas, 3B Jake Lamb plus injury returnees David Peralta and AJ Pollock and this should give Arizona the potential to score runs. However, as the opening section detailed the pitching has to get better.

The only thing going for the San Diego Padres maybe that they are now the only game in town, what with the Chargers up and flitting to LA.

It’s hard to find much else to cheer up what looks like another dreadful season as they are allegedly rebuilding again. I say again because they seem to have been rebuilding every other year for at least the past decade and have not won 80 games since 2010. Looking at this year’s team it’s impossible to see them winning 80 this year. 

The pitching rotation looks like five blokes thrown together. It’s inexperienced and the only saving grace is that Petco Park is seen as pitcher friendly, so that might give the likes of Christian Friedrich, Luis Perdomo a sliver of a chance to develop.  The bullpen is equally inexperienced, with Brandon Maurer the projected closer. 

It won’t help that the offence is young and inexperienced too, with most players just wanting to prove they should be big leaguers. The only quote unquote big name is Wil Myers who is okay, but unless he has a stellar season wouldn’t be a star in most teams.  It must be depressing to be a sports fan in San Diego in 2017.

Andy Turner



Andy Turner
College Football Anorak from Britains Steel City. Boomer, GO Jets
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