2016 National League West Predictions
It was an odd-numbered year last year, so we knew that the Giants wouldn’t be in the race. The Dodgers finally gave up on skipper Don Mattingly and initial reports on new manager Dave Roberts are very positive. Arizona made the biggest splashes during the offseason and appear ready to contend, while the Padres and Rockies appear to be floundering yet again.
San Francisco Giants
San Francisco was doomed before the season began, as it wasn’t an even-numbered year. They made some smart, albeit costly, costly moves to improve the brittle rotation behind Madison Bumgarner by adding Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Cueto struggled going to the AL last year, as most career-NL starters do, but his elbow checks out and he should see a nice return to form. The same can be said for Samardzija, who was simply putrid for the White Sox last year. We think he’ll cut a good 1.5 runs off of his ERA in a much better pitcher’s stadium. The combination of the resilient Jake Peavy, Matt Cain, and Chris Heston will round it out. The bullpen is deep and has a nice back-end duo in Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla.
The only change in the everyday lineup was signing CF Denard Span. While injury concerns are real, he brings speed an great on-base skills to the top of the lineup. Full seasons from Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt will be key; they are both so vital to how opposing pitchers handle Buster Posey. We see a nice return to form for Pence (.275/25/85) and a breakout for Belt (finally). The rest of the cast does everything well but doesn’t stand out in any one facet of the game, which is exactly how manager Bruce Bochy likes it.
Take the Giants over 88.5 wins (-115)
The Dodgers disappointed yet again, failing to escape the NLDS despite a ridiculous payroll. Along with new manager Roberts, the supporting arms behind Clayton Kershaw were switched up as well. Scott Kazmir’s career renaissance continues in the NL for the first time. He fared quite well in Oakland, a comparable stadium, though he faltered in September (in Houston) last year. Hyun-jin Ryu isn’t expected back until May at the earliest, so import Kenta Maeda looks to be the #3. He’ll pound the strike zone and keep free passes to a minimum, but he’s not a strikeout artist like many Asian imports before him. Alex Wood and either Brian Bolsinger or Brandon Beachy will complete the average remainder of the rotation. Kenley Jansen returns as a top closer in a solid bullpen.
The lineup, surprisingly, remains 100% intact, despite efforts to rid themselves of enigma Yasiel Puig over the winter. Puig did lost a bunch of weight, however, and appears to finally ‘get it.’ We expect his line to be closer to his 2013 & 2014 averages; .300/20/85 with 15 steals or so. A bump needs to be seen from CF Joc Pederson as well. His OBP was .346 despite a paltry .210 average. If he could stop trying to hit HRs every at bat and rely on his above-average speed occasionally, he could be a star. Watch rookie SS Corey Seager as well; he could be the latest in a string of outstanding players from the Dodgers farm system.
Take the Dodgers over 89.5 wins (-110)
The Diamondbacks shocked the baseball world by nabbing SP Zack Greinke from the free agent pool, and trading prime prospects for SP Shelby Miller. It’s almost certain that the dry desert air will have a negative effect on their counting stats, but that’s not necessarily a horrible prospect when you consider the talent they bring with them. A half-run jump in ERA puts them at 2.16 and 3.56, respectively; the D-Backs can accept that. Patrick Corbin looked good after his TJ surgery return and should be a rock solid #3. Rubby De La Rosa, Robbie Ray, and youngsters Zack Godley and Archie Bradley will battle for the 4/5, with the formers having the edge for now. The bullpen looks really good, with former starters Daniel Hudson and Randall Delgado setting the table nicely for incumbent closer Brad Ziegler.
The solid lineup will see only one change as SS Jean Segura looks to resurrect his career. If he can remember that his speed is his best weapon, he’ll set the offense up nicely for Paul Goldschmidt, AJ Pollock, and David Peralta. It’s also time for 2B Chris Owings to show up or shove off; he’s looking more and more like an AAAA player.
Take the Diamondbacks over 82.5 wins
San Diego Padres
San Diego tried to spend like the big boys last year and it failed miserably; almost none of their monster acquisitions panned out and they now have minimal talent and a thin farm system. First-year manager Andy Green has a proven track record in the minors and is great with raw, young talent. He’ll have his work cut out for him. They aren’t completely void of talent, especially in the rotation where James Shields, Tyson Ross, and Andrew Cashner will, more often than not, keep the opposition in check. The ‘pen isn’t as fortunate, relying on 39 year-old Fernando Rodney as their closer; he imploded to the tune of a 4.74 ERA last season, though he was much improved as a Cub over his final days in Seattle.
The lineup leaves much to be desired as well as only Matt Kemp and C Derek Norris lasted through both the 2015 season and the off-season purge. 1B Wil Myers is back as well, but he has yet to prove an ability to stay on the field. Perhaps the move to first will help; he’s got a good stick and would complement the former duo nicely if he can get a handle on his wrist issues. New CF Melvin Upton gets yet another chance to start; hardly inspiring. Bench players like OF John Jay and 2B Cory Spangenberg, have no business starting – but will be in San Diego.
This is a no play for us as we have the Padres winning 72 games and the o/u is set at 72.
Colorado (68.5) continues to wallow in misery. The front office, once again, made mystifying moves (young OF slugger Corey Dickerson for RP Jake McGee???) and really did nothing to improve the roster. The rotation remains the biggest issue, and the staff ‘ace’ – Jorge De La Rosa – actually has a lower ERA at Coors than he does on the road. That doesn’t bode well. Former #3 overall pick Jon Gray has a great fastball, but his secondary pitches are far behind. He’s the likely #2. Tyler Chatwood is another young arm who has enjoyed barely moderate success at the big league level. Jordan Lyles is nothing more than an innings eater who gets hit hard and often. McGee will battle Jason Motte for save chances, with former closer Adam Ottavino in the mix once he’s recovered from TJ surgery. Expect one or two of them to be trade bait at some point.
They downgraded a bit in the lineup, trading Dickerson’s bat for Gerardo Parra’s. Parra will be a top-of-the-order type, but isn’t nearly the hitter that Dickerson is. Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez return, with CarGo on permanent trade watch. He was able to post monster power numbers after a couple of down years. The Rockies hope for the same so they can pilfer someone’s farm system at the deadline. SS Jose Reyes is certain to miss considerable time after off field issues. 3B Nolan Arenado will continue to put up inflated, yet stellar, power and run production stats.
Take the Rockies under 71 (-115)
2016 National League West Predictions
- San Francisco 94-68
- Los Angeles 90-72
- Arizona 84-78
- San Diego 72-90
- Colorado 64-98