2016 MLB Preview: National League West

Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

2015:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers* 92-70
  2. San Francisco Giants 84-78
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks 79-83
  4. San Diego Padres 74-88
  5. Colorado Rockies 68-94

2016 Prediction:

  1. San Francisco Giants* 91-71
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks* 88-74
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers 86-76
  4. San Diego Padres 72-90
  5. Colorado Rockies 68-94

I am not a believer in the “even year magic” for the Giants. However, I do believe this is the best team in the division. Johnny Cueto will be the Johnny Cueto in Cincinnati now that he is back in the National League and is pitching in one of the top pitcher’s parks in baseball. Jeff Samardzija is a genius. He decided to play baseball over football after being successful at both at Notre Dame. He was the worst pitcher in the American League a season ago, posting a 4.96 ERA and leading the league in hits, earned runs and home runs allowed, and was rewarded with a five-year, $90 million deal. Play baseball, kids. But knowing how the Giants handle pitchers, he will have a season where he wins 15 games, throws 220 innings and has a 3.30 ERA. Would not surprise me one bit. Adding these guys to a rotation that is already topped by good friend Madison Bumgarner makes them a threat. There is not one hole on this roster as far as position players go. The infield is stellar with Matt Duffy, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt, and Buster Posey and an outfield with a healthy Hunter Pence and Denard Span to go with Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco will make this team a threat once again, ironically on another even year.

I am buying the what the Snakes are selling. I think adding an ace like Zack Greinke is what this rotation needed. I know Greinke from his days in Kansas City, and I think he is the best pitcher in the game when it comes to stuff, command and pitchability. He is a fascinating individual who is a true student of the game. He is always thinking one step ahead of the batter. There is no other pitcher like him. Nobody will be another Greg Maddux, but I do see some similarities here. People need to stop focusing on what they gave away in the Shelby Miller trade (is was an overpay) and focus in what they got – three years of a very good number two starter. Paul Goldschmidt is the most underrated player in baseball. A.J. Pollock is a superstar. This is a team that has a very good offense and defense. They needed pitching, and they went out and got pitching. I do not think they will overtake the Giants for the division title, but I expect this club to make its first postseason appearance since 2011.

I like Clayton Kershaw as much as anybody else, but I go back to team chemistry and it is just not here. Every year this team seems to win the division and lose in the Division Series. They will not be able to do that this year as they will not be in the postseason. They are dealing with a ton of injuries already in Spring Training and even though they have a lot of depth and an excellent farm system, this is just a team that I do not think is made to win in the postseason. I do not need to mention how overrated I think they are because every year, people pick them to win 95+ games and run away with this division, but they continue to get outclassed by a team that has won three World Championships in six years and have figured out how to win when it matters the most. Everybody loves free agency, but this team with an MLB leading $250 million payroll continues to disappoint. This fan base expects this team to win the World Series every year, they expect to be in the postseason. If what I think will happen happens, will be a long year for them.

One of the teams that “won the offseason” leading into 2015, the Padres fell short of lofty expectations and decided to retool and add to the farm system heading into 2016. They got back an excellent return from the Red Sox for Craig Kimbrel, led by outfielder Manuel Margot. They have a good starting rotation led by Tyson Ross and James Shields. The Wil Myers experiment in center field did not work out, and now they will try out the former top prospect at first base. Matt Kemp quietly drove in 100 runs last year, but he is not the same dynamic superstar that he was with the Dodgers. While the Padres are hosting the All-Star Game in 2016 and have that to look forward to, this team is in a rebuilding stage and it will be a few years until they are ready to compete again in this division.

Another team that is rebuilding is the Rockies. They have always had offense but have just been unable to develop any pitching. Playing in the high altitude in the mile high city makes it hard to do so because balls travel farther in the thin air. The spacious outfield makes this place a dream for doubles and triples hitters. It is really a shame because I remember the 2007 magical season that saw this team go to the World Series, and that was a lot of fun to watch. They traded Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays at the deadline last year and also shipped Corey Dickerson to the Rays over the offseason. Many people wonder when Carlos Gonzalez will be heading out as well. They can score all the runs they want. But until they can develop their own pitching (no free agent is going to want to pitch in Denver), then they will have a difficult time contending in the National League West.

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