Predictions - NL West

Hard to believe the major league season will begin this week. Myworld will try to finish our predictions by the end of this week. Today the NL West.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Overall - Despite their riches the Dodgers have worked hard to stay under the salary cap. They failed to sign any big name free agents and are going with the team that brought them to the World Series last year. That does not always spell success.

Strengths - 1) 1B. Cody Bellinger made an impact last year, winning rookie of the year after finishing second in the National League in homeruns. He also has the flexibility to move to the outfield. The problem with that is with Adrian Gonzalez gone the depth at first base is minimal.
2) Ace. Clayton Kershaw may not be overpowering but he has a bender that gets hitters out. Last year he was second in the Cy Young voting with an 18-4 record. The major concern is this was his second season in a row he missed some starts because of back injuries. This could become an issue.
3) Shortstop. After winning the rookie of the year award in 2016 Corey Seager avoided the sophomore slump with a solid 2017. He is one of the best shortstops in the NL combining both offense and a consistent defense to his game.
4) Third Base. A broken wrist will keep Justin Turner out for a couple months. When he returns midseason it will be as if the Dodgers accomplished a big trade to acquire a power hitter.
5) Closer. Few are better in the bullpen than Kenley Jensen, who a few years ago was a catcher with the Netherlands team in the WBC. Last year righthanders hit a miniscule .120 against him.

Weaknesses - 1) Third Base. Losing Justin Turner for two months will create a hole here, especially against righthanded pitching where Logan Forsythe, his possible replacement hit .190 against righthanded pitching. They may need to follow the waiver wire to acquire a left handed bat that can play here.
2) Second Base. No clear alternative here. Chase Utley saw his best days with the Phillies and is better suited as a role player. Enrique Hernandez lacks an offensive game and also struggles against right handed pitching (.159). With a loaded outfield they may have to return Chris Taylor from center field to play here.
3) Rotation Injuries. The rotation has depth, but every member of it has had some significant injury that has left them incapable of pitching for significant time.

Top Rookie. Walker Buehler. The Dodgers may be deep in their rotation but because they are susceptible to injuries Buehler may get the call here. He did pitch eight games in relief with the Dodgers last year.

Top Prospect - Buehler, but after him myworld likes the tools of outfielder Jeren Kendall. He is still a couple years away, but he has game breaking speed and his power could come to shine if he improves his ability to make contact.

Expected Finish - First place and an appearance in the World Series where they will create a retro scene playing the New York Yankees. It has been awhile since the two have faced each other in the final championship series.

2. Colorado Rockies

Overall - They hope to cash in on their playoff appearance from last year. They went out and got a closer to replace one that had given them 41 saves but left for free agency. They also went out to find a new catcher after losing Jonathan Lucroy.

Strengths - 1) 3B. Nolan Arenado is one of the best in the game at his position both offensively and defensively. Last year he was second to Giancarlo Stanton in RBIs in the National League, resulting him in being fourth in the MVP voting.
2) Outfield. Lots of depth. Charlie Blackmon can bat either first or third in the lineup. No player in baseball scored more runs or accumulated more total bases than Blackmon. The Rockies hope they will see the 2016 version of Carlos Gonzalez than the 2017. After a slow start Carlos began to resurrect his hitting after the All Star break. If Ryan McMahon wins the first base job Ian Desmond, Gerado Parra and Raimel Tapia will contribute on offense or defense when called upon at the other outfield spot.
3) Closer. Wade Davis replaces Greg Holland. Holland won the save war last year but Davis may have better stuff. The Rocky mountain air has destroyed many a pitcher with good stuff.

Weaknesses - 1) High Altitude. The Rockies have tried many methods to lower the ERAs of pitchers having to deal with the altitude in Colorado, with little success. Now they hope to just ignore it and let the pitchers handle the environment.
2) Ace. It is a lot to ask for Jon Gray to become the ace of the staff. He will clearly be their number one pitcher. After him it is a rotation filled with mid to back end rotation arms, not what you would expect from a playoff team.

Top Rookie - Tom Murphy was supposed to be the catcher last year but an injury spoiled that and he hit just .042 in a 12 game trial. The Rockies went out and signed Chris Ianetta to start but Murphy should see a major role by mid season. Ian Desmond was slated to play first base, but Ryan McMahon is showing too good a bat to keep him down. Both will fight for major roles in the Rockies season this year.

Top Prospect - Brendan Rodgers. It is unclear whether he will play shortstop or second base. Trevor Story currently occupies short. The Rockies still have a couple years to sort it out. Wherever Rodgers plays he will be an offensive force.

Expected Finish - Second place, but just missing the playoffs.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

Overall - The Snakes went out and acquired Steven Sousa to give their lineup pop, but he will miss the first month of the year because of injury. That may slow the Diamondbacks charge.

Strengths - 1) 1B - Paul Goldschmidt is the heart and soul of these Diamondbacks. He provides the power to this offense with his 36 homeruns and 120 RBIs putting him third in the MVP voting last year. He could approach 100 walks with no intimidating bat hitting behind him.

Weaknesses - 1) Right Field. The injury to Steven Sousa puts a giant hole in the offense. They have no real alternatives unless they look to their farm system and call upon Socrates Brito. Yasmany Thomas is another option, but if he was good enough the Diamondbacks would have added him to the 40 man roster.
2) Bullpen. Lacks an established closer. Archie Bradley was at one time going to be an ace starter but failures have dropped him into the bullpen where he is more effective. He might be best used in shorter spurts. The Diamondbacks will test that theory early in the season.
3) The middle. Championship teams are usually strong up the middle. The D-backs carry very little power there. Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte may combine for double digit homeruns between them at short and second. Chris Ianetta has some pop behind the plate but was limited to less than 100 games last year. Centerfielder A.J. Pollock is better at spreading the gaps. Chris Owings will play a utility role but did show some surprising pop last year.

Top Rookie - Injuries have socked the opportunities Socrates Brito had for a starting spot. With a hole in right field it would appear Brito has an opportunity to fill it.

Top Prospect - Jon Duplantier had the best minor league season since a player named Justin Verlander dominated the competition a number of years ago.

Expected Finish - Third.

4. San Francisco Giants

Overall - They acquired some aging veterans in the hopes they will resurrect their careers. Age is not a pleasant issue to deal with when you’re playing in the dog days of August.

Strengths - 1) Catcher. Even though they keep talking about moving Buster Posey to first, they keep him behind the plate because he is one of the best at this position. Last year his .320 average was fifth in the National League.

Weaknesses - 1) Age. Except for Joe Panik all their starting eight will be at the northern end of 30 years of age. Experience can be good but without a lot of rest it can get tiring as July turns to August.
2) Losing their Ace. Last year they missed Madison Bumgarner for the first couple months of the season and they floundered in last place to start the season. This year a broken hand will sideline Bumgarner for the first couple months of the season. They will have to turn to the disappointing Johnny Cueto for their ace.
3) Bullpen. They signed Mark Melancon last year to be their closer. He failed and had some arm injuries at the end of the season. Can he bounce back? There is not a lot behind him that could take over the closer role.

Top Rookie - Chris Shaw lacks the speed to play the outfield. Brandon Belt plays his position at first base. His bat will force the Giants to try to give him an opportunity somewhere.

Top Prospect - Heliot Ramos could be the first power bat the Giants have drafted since Buster Posey. The outfielder from Puerto Rico has five tool potential.

Expected Finish - They will battle the Padres again for the last spot in this division.

5. San Diego Padres

Overall - Unlike the Giants the Padres have their youth to hope for a better future. When that youth will be ready is probably 2019, when they can load the pitching staff with some decent starters.

Strengths - 1) Youth. They have to hope second year outfielders Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe and catcher Austin Hedges get better. The loss of Dinelson Lamet could hurt their rotation if his injury proves serious.
2) First Base. Not one of the best first baseman in the league, but Eric Hosmer is noted for his solid leadership, important for a rebuilding team. With Kansas City he hit 25 homeruns and drove in 94.

Weaknesses - 1) Starting Pitching. It looks pretty ugly. If Lamet is gone for an extended period it could look even uglier. The young pitchers could use a veteran hurler for a mentor but he is not yet in the rotation. Clayton Richard and his .308 opposition average will be the ace of this rotation.
2) Third Base. Chase Headley returns to San Diego but his skills have been sharply reduced. He will fill a role Fernando Tatis Jr may eventually occupy in 2019.
3) Bullpen. Losing teams do not need a closer and the Padres lack one. Brad Hand will fill the role. Last year he had success with 21 saves and a .192 opposition average. Time will tell whether he can repeat that performance.

Top Rookie - Franchy Cordero should fill an outfield role in left field if Hunter Renfroe continues his struggles. He shows a combination of power and speed and could spell Margot in centerfield.

Top Prospect - MacKenzie Gore. The Padres hope he will be their version of Clayton Kershaw.

Expected Finish - The lack of pitching will drop the Padres down to last place, which will give them a high draft pick for next season.

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