Division Preview Series – NL West

Colorado Rockies

In his second year as GM of the Rockies, Eddie Buccholz took the team to the world series, and pushed Anaheim to 6 games. What can they do in season #3?

ArrivalsDepartures
Steve Winter, RFWill Myers, RF
Phillip Aumont, RP

Pretty Quiet offseason for the NL champs so far. Losing Myers certainly stings, but the prevailing thought around the league seems to be that his numbers were padded by Coors Field. There is quite a bit of evidence to support this, as his power numbers exploded from a career-high of 12 HR in a year prior to joining Colorado in 2018, to 30+ the last few years. He is being supplanted by Steve winter, who is 2 years younger, and comes into Colorado with a higher pedigree than Myers had upon his entry.

Winter is actually coming off of a career year in Tampa in 2019, with career highs in; Batting average, walks, WAR, home runs, OPS, Slugging and a career-low in K’s. Couple that with the thin air, and it is reasonable to see Winter posting a 30 HR year for the Rockies. Winter does represent a small step backwards in terms of his glove and arm from RF, but he should more than make up the delta at the dish. Aumont is a nice addition to a pen to that needs help keeping the ball on the ground, and he specializes in that.

Projected Lineups and Bullpen

LineupRotation
Jed McKinley, CMiguel Pineda
Ramon Zaragoza, 1BCraig Cooper
Felicio Roxa, 2BManuel Reyes
Carlos Correa, SSRonald Dunham
Trevor Story, 3BOrlando Garcia
Joc Pederson, LF
Hideki Abe, CF
Steve Winter, RF

Not a ton of changes here obviously, outside of Winters addition. What will be interesting to watch is whether or not Felicio Roxa can finally stay put. The talented young 2B has not spent an entire season on the same team since 2016, and there are many around the league that point to this constant upheaval as the reason behind his struggles. If he can stick in Colorado, I think this team has a good chance to repeat as NL champs. The rotation is sneaky talented, as their numbers get driven up by the park, but they are solid 1-5.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a quick moment to mention that Winter and McKinley are your two reigning batting champions from 2019. Has this happened before in MLB Pro? I am not really sure, but I do know that is going to be a wild ride here in 2020.

What to watch for in Colorado in 2020?

  1. Who has the better year in 2020, McKinley or Winter?
    • Can Winter claim a title in the NL as well as the AL? Does McKinley maintain his stranglehold on the title of best catcher in the league?
  2. Can Colorado hold off the Dodgers?
    • Rockies replaced lost performance with a similar piece, but the Dodgers added some nice players as well. Can Eddie outpace Sam?
  3. Will Orlando Garcia bounce back, or will Colorado have to go find another arm?

Projection

Colorado remains the class of the NL, wins the West and returns to the World Series.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants have made the playoffs in back to back years, can they hold on one more day and do it again before Arizona makes their push in 2021?

ArrivalsDepartures
Albert Saurez, SPTim Lincecum, SP
Ivan Chavez, CFCameron Maybin, RF
Gabriel Gonzales, OF
Travis Shaw, 3B

Losing Lincecun and Maybin hurts. There is no way around that fact. Lincecum has been consistent over his years on the bay and is coming off of his best regular season ever in 2019. This rotation is old, and expensive, but it has been the backbone of the club since day one. So while I understand letting him walk, it was always going to be tough to replace him. Luckily enough, Albert Saurez might just be up to the task. After splitting his career between Cincinnati and Colorado to date, Saurez will try and find a permanent home in San Fran. He is also coming off of a spectacular 2019 season, but lacks something you would think would be important to the Giants. Postseason experience. Part of the reason Lincecum wasn’t pursued aggressively by the Giants brass is rumored to be his struggles in October over the last 2 seasons. Adding Suarez, who has never pitched in the playoffs, is fun, but does leave a few questions lingering.

Ivan Chavez is left with the unenviable task of replacing Cameron Maybin in the outfield. He is the epitome of a vagabond, as 2019 was the first year Chavez had stayed in one city for a whole season since 2016. His stability paid off as he slugged 29 home runs, and produced almost 5 WAR, certainly enough to excite any casual fan. Beyond those statistics is something fairly phenomenal. Though Chavez is not widely renowned as a defensive wizard, it has been 4 years since he committed an error. At a minimum, it has been over 1,237 total chances since his last error occurred. During that span he has also posted ZR+ ratings in CF of 8.8, 11.9 and 18.7. This man is a monster in the field. However, his attitude is suspect as ever and he strikes out about 25% of the time he steps up to the plate (to be fair, Maybin struck out more often). Does the good outweigh the bad?

Projected Lineup and Rotation

LineupRotation
Braluio Pardo, CZack Grienke
Buster Posey, 1BBryce Bandilla
Joe Panik, 2BAlbert Saurez
Sarlin Castro, SSJordan Zimmerman
Travis Shaw, 3B?
Eloy Jimenez, LF
Ivan Chavez, CF
Bob Carlisle, RF

After playing a high number of games in the infield in 2019, Jimenez is moving back into the outfield. He joins the previously discussed Chavez and Bob Carlisle in an interesting outfield. Chavez more than makes up for the two corner outfielders deficiencies in the field. Prado and Posey make for a very talented backstop rotation, and middle of the lineup combo. Castro and Panik are solid up the middle, if unspectacular with the bats. Shaw should be a sneaky good pick up here, but we thought the same thing when San Fran dealt away Panda and brought in Trey Ford a few years back.

That fifth rotation spot is up for grabs, and that doesn’t worry me as much as it maybe should. This is not the AL West, so you won’t need 5 Cy Young candidates in order to compete, but you will still need talent. Looking deeper at their options, it doesn’t seem like there is a viable 5th starter to keep them in contention with the Rockies long term. It would be great to see them go out and acquire another arm, because their bullpen is still rock solid.

What to watch in San Francisco in 2020?

  1. What happens if the team doesn’t perform to Buccholz expectations?
    • Ryan has publically stated that he expects this team to make the World Series, so what happens if they start slow? This is likely the end of their window. Do we see players like Posey and Grienke sold for parts?
  2. Can Chavez continue his excellence in the outfield?
    • Did you know? He has won 2 gold gloves in his career(seems low), including the 2019 Gold Glove for Left Field, even though the stat sheet claims he played 0 games in LF in 2019.i
  3. Does Juan Ibbara get another look as a starter?
    • He is a lights out bullpen arm, but San Fran experimented with him in the rotation a bit last year, perhaps leading to his injury. Do they risk it again?

Projection

Third place in the NL West. Vets sold.

Los Angeles Dodgers

2019 was a huge step back for Sam Schopmeyer and his Dodgers, finishing outside of 1st place in the West for the first time in his tenure. How do they bounce back in 2020?

ArrivalsDepartures
Matt Clark, OF Juan Hidalgo, 2B
Desmond Henry, OFHuston Street, RP
Enrico DeLeon, 3BLuigi Rodriguez, CF
Jon Lester, SPJake Jefferies, C
Jordan Norberto, RPTony Mueller, OF
Konnor Pilkington, SPKyle Roller, 1B
Shawn Tolleson, RP
Sergio Romo, RP
Abraham Jones, RP
Logan Moore, C

The Dodgers went through quite the overhaul this offseason, specifically in the bullpen. 4 new arms enter the mix, not including Melancon who was just stopping through on his way out. Norberto, Tolleson, Romo and Jones all look to fix the pen issues that plagued LA last year, and with Street being the only departure, I see this being a net positive overhaul. Adding a lefthanded arm like Lester to the rotation is also a good move, and I like Pilkington as a young prospective starter.

Hidalgo is a big loss on offense, as he has been a mainstay for the Dodgers over the last few seasons, and his replacement, Enrico DeLeon, is serviceable, but by no means a superstar. The rest of the changes on offense are basically one for one swaps, or players who are being replaced by internal prospect promotions.

LineupRotation
Logan Moore, CLucio Cruzado
Chris Fletcher, 1BJon Lester
Enrico DeLeon, 2BJarred Cosart
Javier Garcia, 3BJeffery Macintosh
Jurickson Profar, SSParker Markel
Juan Soto, LF
Jeffery Moore, CF
Nick Plummer, RF

The rotation got a big bump from the Lester addition, which is not a great statement of confidence here. This rotation is full of guys that don’t really make you jump for joy if you are a Dodgers fan. They are all talented enough to be in a rotation, but there is no true ace here. Cruzado is you closest thing to it, but he is coming off a “good” year for him, and only posted a 1.8 WAR. His career has historically followed good seasons with bad ones, so don’t expect him to light the Los Angeles area on fire. Lester was great last year, and has been for years, but he is getting older and coming out to the West Coast for the first time in his career. What will that transition look like for him.

The lineup is more intriguing. Juan Soto is a stud. Jurickson Profar is a perennial all-star. Javier Garcia looks poised for a break out season. Nick Plummer is a really exciting prospect in left. Henry allows Moore to platoon and avoid embarrassing himself against lefties. Overall, its a lineup to be really excited about. I still don’t think there is enough here to overtake the Rockies, as they inferior both in the rotation and the lineup, but there should be some interesting matchups between the two teams.

What to watch for in Los Angeles in 2020?

  1. Juan Soto’s emergence.
    • He got 88 at-bats last year, and did not disappoint. This kid should be a monster, and will almost certainly be the favorite for NL rookie of the year.
  2. Can they hold off the Diamondbacks
    • 3rd place in the West is not an ideal place for the Dodgers to land again, but they aren’t even guaranteed to end up in 3rd. There is a real argument to be made that the D-backs could catch them. And don’t forget about the Padres.
  3. How long does Logan Moore keep his job?
    • Juan Carlos Estrada has looked good in small spurts. Does he challenge Moore for the starting role?

Projections

LA finishes in 4th place out West, missing the playoffs.

San Diego Padres

Sean Morgans Padres are coming off of a last-place finish in the West, losing 99 games in 2019. How will their offseason moves position them for 2020?

ArrivalsDepartures
Tink Jones, OFRyan Nash, OF
Jeremy Sullivan, OFWill Chambers, OF
Andres Yanez, 2BBroderick Wilson, SP
Kevin Nicholas, SPJake Odorizzi, SP
Don Lund, 1BEnosil Tejada, RP
Ryan Verdugo, RP
Christhian Adames, SS

San Diego had one of the more perplexing trades of the offseason when they send Nash and Wilson to Toronto. Sullivan and Nicholas are for sure behind the two players they lost in this deal, so the real story here will be whether or not Yanez and Lund can make something of themselves. Yanez has yet to truly produce on his immense talent, but if the Padres can figure him out, he will be a star in San Diego. Lund will be passable but doesn’t have the bat to hit 20+ HR from the first base spot for the friars. Sullivan slumped hard in Toronto, but perhaps a return to California will return him to his 2018 status. Tink Jones is an interesting addition here, as his low OBP numbers could be an issue in 2020. He has a solid stroke, so he could add some much-needed power to the lineup, but cant expect 30+ here.

I am told by Morgan that Nicholas isn’t even guaranteed a spot in the rotation, as he is slated to compete with Domingo Tapia for the 5th spot in Spring. Bill Higgins from AAA is also going to be given a shot to win that spot, which is perplexing considering Nicholas is a former top prospect, left handed (which the Padres need) and looked to be the direct replacement for Wilson in the Toronto deal. I still expect him to win that spot, but interesting to see how the Padres brass view him.

Projected Lineups and Rotation

LineupRotation
Henry O’Day, CMichael Matuella
Don Lund, 1BJoseph Musgrove
Andres Yanez, 2BAbel de Los Santos
Dave Harrington, 3BAruto Maltos-Garcia
Andrelton Simmons, SSKevin Nicholas
Darby Jarrom, LF
Tink Jones, CF
Jeremy Sullivan, RF

Tink Jones better hit. If he struggles this year, the Padres have no shot at scoring runs. While the dealing of Nash helped them grab starters at multiple positions, non are the kind of impact that a team finishing bottom of a division needed to pick up. All across this lineup, there are solid players, but that isn’t enough, even in the weaker NL. While their rotation is still strong without Wilson, it is certainly shallower than last year. Couple that with the improvements at the top of the division, and from fellow former basement dweller Arizona, and it’s tough to be optimistic here.

What to Watch for in San Diego in 2020?

  1. Does the front office continue its history of being slow to react?
    • Not a criticism, as I loved what San Diego had built in 2017-2018. But Morgan has proven to be one of the least reactionary managers in the league. Can that continue into this season if they are sitting at the bottom of the league around the deadline?
  2. Can the Padres bring in an infield bat?
    • Morgan admittedly values defense at PetCo, but they have to hit. There are a precious few middle infielders out there that can defend the way he wants (think Andrelton Simmons) and actually hit the ball as to well. Is Sean willing to go find them?
  3. If Domingo Tapia is handed a starting role… how does that work out?
    1. Kid can hurl it, but does he have the stamina to start for a whole season?

Projections

Unfortunately, I have the Padres projected to finish last again.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Schlegel has led the Snakes to the postseason once since coming over from the Nippon League, but has committed wholeheartedly to this rebuild. It does feel like this is the year they break out, as the D-Backs have been quietly exploring the trade markets this offseason. How do they stack up for 2020?

ArrivalsDepartures
Carrol Curtis, CFPeter Bourjous, OF
Jarrod Parker, SPMatthew Summers, RP
Dawrin Frias, RP

I like the addition of Curtis here, as his ability to play all three positions in the outfield. He gives you a great option to shuffle around while Ohtani bounces back and forth between the rotation and the lineup. Parker I am less enthused about, but they really needed an arm. The Diamondbacks faithful would love to see a real #3 behind Clark and Hauck, but it doesn’t seem like anything is coming down prior to the season kicking off.

Always hate to see a team lose multiple pen options without bringing anything in, even if they didn’t figure prominently in the mix last year. Both Summer and Frias are serviceable, and a team trying to break through cant afford to lose a lot of games in the late innings.

Projected Lineups and Rotation

LineupRotation
Matt Hanson, CScott Clark
Joey Gallo, 1BBill Hauck
Levi Michael, 2BAndrew Morales
Chris Owings, 3BJarred Parker
Jeremy Scott, SSShoei Ohtani
Rich Dixon, LF
Daz Cameron, CF
Carrol Curtis, RF

Ohtani is likely to feature in the field as well, but for now, this is the lineup. Michael and Owings are on thin ice here, as Jaun Morin and Vad Jr are likely to make their MLB debuts this year before the break, especially if they show well in spring (Vlad Jr is hurt, so he won’t get the chance) and Arizona is in the hunt. Cole Brannen is also a viable option for a call up this year, putting some pressure on Cameron and Curtis. If you slot a few of those youngsters in here, this is fun lineup to watch.

The rotation is shallow, but If Bobby Stone can make the jump this year, that is suddenly not an issue anymore… funny how that works out. 2020 is going to be the year of Ohtani in MLB Pro, with the bat and the Arm. Watch for him to be an all-star, and one of the most important pieces in the NL West.

What to watch for in Arizona in 2020?

  1. Can the Diamondbacks compete?
    • The rebuild is nearing completion. Do they need one more year to mature, or is 2020 the year they make a run at the NL crown?
  2. Can Shoei Ohtani finally master the dual role?
    • He seems to be progressing more as a hitter than a starter. Can he figure out the mound in the states?
  3. What happens from inning 6 on?
    • The bullpen is a massive question mark…. how do they fix this issue?

Projections

Arizona finishes behind (well behind) Colorado, and makes the playoff as a wild card team. They get smoked in the playoffs.

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