NL West Predictions

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Strengths - Getting Corey Seager back and keeping Justin Turner healthy will give the Dodgers excellent offensive production from the left side of the infield. The starting rotation is always deep and the Dodgers large park keeps the ERA down. Health remains a factor. Clayton Kershaw appears to be on the down side of his career, but when he is healthy he dominates. Walker Buehler has shown he can pitch. If they can get full seasons from Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill the Dodgers will again lead the National League in ERA.

Weakness - They did not stay healthy last year and they still won the division. Some of those players are a year older now. Kenley Jansen showed some cracks last year as the closer and the crew behind him looks a bit shallow. Joe Kelly throws hard but he has trouble finding the plate resulting in ERAs above 4. Perhaps Dodger stadium and the National League will change that. Time will tell whether the season Max Muncy had was a mirage.

Prospects to Make an Impact - An outfield spot is blocked for Alex Verdugo but if Max Muncy struggles early Cody Bellinger could return to first opening up an opportunity for Verdugo. Alex is more a gap hitter than a homerun hitter so they could lose a bit in power. Dustin May could be the Walker Buehler of 2018. The Dodgers rotation has been injury prone. Dustin lacks the ace stuff of Buehler but he could fit well at the back end of the rotation.

Expected Finish - It will be seven division titles in a row for the Dodgers, who are riding the road to eclipse the Braves and Phillies for most division titles in a row. Philadelphia had five but Atlanta is still well ahead of them with 11.

2. Colorado Rockies

Strengths - The left side of the infield in Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado combined for 75 homeruns. Only Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez were greater with 77. The park and the high altitude is noted for inflating the offensive production. The fact that Kyle Freeland finished the season with a 2.85 ERA is truly amazing. He also won 17 games and gave the Rockies 202 innings. Can he repeat that performance? If so, the Rockies have an ace.

Weakness - It was time to add some new blood to the outfield. Gone is Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra. Arriving will be David Dahl and Raimel Tapia. How long they stick with Ian Desmond in centerfield and his below par defense and offensive production will be critical to their playoff chances. It will be a scrum at second base to see who replaces D.J. LeMahieu. Ryan McMahon lacks the defensive chops but could provide the offensive production. Garrett Hampson lacks the experience but could provide a better all around game.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Garrett Hampson could win the second base job. He provides better defense than McMahon and has a bat similar to LeMahieu, not a lot of power but will hit for a good average. If both of them fail watch for Brendan Rodgers. He is blocked at short by Story and second base is his secondary position. He provides the power of McMahon with good defense.

Expected Finish - Far from the Dodgers and just missing a wild card spot.

3. San Diego Padres

Strengths - Manny Machado and his $300 million contract gave the team some buzz. He is a superstar who could lead the young bucks once they get promoted. One thing he will learn is Petco Park is more like Dodger Stadium than Camden Yards. Manny slugged .487 at Dodger stadium last year compared to .575 at Camden. Lots of depth and potential sluggers in the outfield with Will Myers, Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes and Franchy Cordero all competing for playing time. When will youth be served? By May Fernando Tatis Jr will be at shortstop and the bat of Francisco Mejia will win over the catching job from Austin Hedges.

Weakness - The pitching staff is young. Last year they were near the bottom in ERA. And they play their games in a pitcher’s park. That will not change in 2019 with young arms learning the ropes in the major leagues. There is no ace veteran they can learn from who would shield them from opponent’s aces by biting the bullet and taking the start.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Fernando Tatis Jr. should join the roster in May. He is an impact player who will surpass the numbers his father put up in the major leagues. Francisco Mejia has a better bat than Austin Hedges. Other than his arm his defense is not as strong. If he is on the roster the Padres will want to play him. Luis Urias will start at shortstop until Tatis arrives, then move to second. He will not hit for a lot of power but his bat will spray the gaps. There will be a learning curve, but eventually he will be a .300 hitter. Chris Paddack, Logan Allen, Cal Qauntrill and Michel Baez all could see the rotation by mid-season. Who gets in will depend on how well they pitch in AA or AAA.

Expected Finish - If they finish over .500 that will be an accomplishment.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

Strengths - If you look at the Braves roster a lot of their strengths were traded away. It doesn’t appear that they got anything in return. Their starting rotation was strong last year but losing Patrick Corbin was a big blow. Luke Weaver is the replacement in the rotation and he did not put up the numbers of Corbin. Other than that the strengths are limited. If Steven Sousa finds his power he would pair up with David Peralta to give the team two corner outfielders with 30 plus homerun pop.

Weaknesses - Hard to see the infield providing any kind of offense. Jake Lamb cannot replace the production of Paul Goldschmidt at first base. Ketel Marte will move to centerfield and he will not replace the production of A.J. Pollock. This team will struggle to score runs.

Prospects to Make an Impact - They traded most of their good ones to the Braves and must start from scratch. Carson Kelly is a great defensive catcher but he has never hit in his major league callups. He was acquired from the Cardinals in the Goldschmidt trade and could be their starting catcher if his bat cooperates. Jon Duplantier could be in the rotation by mid-season if his arm can stay healthy. Injuries limited him to a half season last year. Yoan Lopez and his high 90s fastball could make a contribution to the bullpen. If Archie Bradley struggles at the closer Lopez could be given an opportunity.

Expected Finish - They don’t use the word “tank” but trading Paul Goldschmidt after allowing Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock to leave for free agency subtracted about 12 games from their win total. This is another team in tank mode.

5. San Francisco Giants

Strengths - Their strengths are getting long in the tooth. Buster Posey is solid behind the plate but his better days are behind him. The same can be said of Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria and on the pitching front Madison Bumgarner.

Weaknesses - The departure of Barry Bonds has put a curse on Giant outfielders. Hunter Pence was decent, but this group, whoever they end up being would be hard pressed to make the Yankees AAA team. The back end of the rotation looks weak and the bullpen appears to lack a closer if Mark Melancon does not bounce back.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Ray Black and Melvin Adon have fastballs that would be good for the bullpen. Both have trouble throwing strikes. Chris Shaw is a first baseman by trade but Belt and Posey hold that position. His defense in the outfield is subpar but if the Giants are looking for offense he can supply it.

Expected Finish - Bruce Bochy has said this will be his last year as manager and a last place finish is not a good send off. This is another team in tank mode.

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