Last year, the National League West had the best winning percentage in all of baseball at .517 and sent three teams (the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Rockies) to the playoffs.
Los Angeles made it all the way to the World Series and lost in the seventh game. The Padres avoided last place thanks to the Giants’ very uncharacteristic 64-98 record, but San Francisco has regrouped and added help from outside the organization. In 2018, the NLW may again prove to be the strongest division in the sport.
The Dodgers won a whopping 104 games last year and will probably fall back to earth a bit. However, LA has been picked by every prognosticator to win the division yet again. Those same prognosticators predict a recovery by the Giants and a fifth-place finish by the Padres.
According to Bleacher Report columnist Joel Reuter in “MLB Predictions 2018: Projecting Final Standings”, the Dodgers will win 99 games, the Rockies 91, the D-Backs 89, the Giants 80, and the Padres a measly 65. Gabe Lacques, sports editor for USA Today, predicts the same order in the standings but a higher win total for the Padres at 71. FanGraphs also has the Padres winning 71 games, but picks San Francisco to move up to a second-place tie with Arizona, and the Rockies to win only 80 games.
Yu Darvish, arguably the top free agent pitcher this offseason, chose to sign a six-year deal with the Chicago Cubs for $126 million, rather than return to the Dodgers. However, at the top of the rotation, LA has the incomparable Clayton Kershaw, and all the other starters from 2017 will return. The team also has top pitching prospect Walker Buehler waiting in the wings. The Dodgers can just stick with the lineup that brought home a pennant, which includes Corey Seager at shortstop, Justin Turner at third,and last year’s National League Rookie of the Year, Cody Bellinger, at first.
The Diamondbacks won 93 games last year. Topping the rotation again will be Zack Greinke (17-7 in 2017) and Robbie Ray (15-5). The team declined to ante up to keep J.D. Martinez (who had 29 home runs and a 1.107 OPS after being traded at the deadline). However, Martinez has expressed unhappiness with a five-year offer from the Red Sox and is back in touch with the D-Backs. Former Padres’ reliever Brad Boxberger will join Archie Bradley and his 1.73 ERA in 63 games in the bullpen.
The Colorado Rockies surprised just about everyone with the performance of their young pitchers, Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, and Antonio Senzatela, backing up ace Jon Gray (10-4, 3.67 ERA). The pitching staff as a whole seemed unfazed by the home venue of renowned hitters’ park Coors Field. Nolan Arenado, defensive and offensive marvel, will be back at third base with Charlie Blackmon (.331/.399/.601/1.000) in center.
In the meantime, the Giants will have a healthy Madison Bumgarner on the mound (as long as he stays away from dirt bikes), and have added third baseman Evan Longoria and outfielder Andrew McCutchen. Andrew Simon of MLB.com has chosen the Giants as one of the “Teams that could go from sub-.500 to the playoffs.” Of course, once the games begin, predictions can go out the window. However, the San Diego Padres have a veritable mountain to climb to compete in a what could again be the strongest division in all of baseball.