A Quick Look At The National League West
Thursday, March 25 2021 @ 06:36 AM EDT
Contributed by: Eephus
Been a while since I've done one of these...
...but what the hey. Besides, we (hopefully) get a 162 game season this year!
Unlike previous years where I'd take deep dives into each team, or use some kind of narrative structural gimmick (the year with two dudes chatting in a bar or something... don't ask), I'm going to keep it simple and semi-concise (for your benefit and mine) and stick with one major question for each team and attempt to answer it. Hey, maybe this way I can actually finish every division for once! (always seem to run out of steam around the NL East).
Anyhow lets begin.
Los Angeles Dodgers (2020: 43-17, 1st, NL Pennant, World Series champions)
Q: Will these guys actually lose a game this season?
(Okay okay, fine. Here's a better one: can they do it again?)
Answer: it's baseball so you never know, but they've sure given themselves as good a chance as you possibly can. I mean, David Price might be their number six starter. Their amount of depth at every position is completely crazy, even after losing glue pieces like Joc Pederson and Enrique Hernandez this off season.
They've been getting some headlines this spring due to the antics of their big free agent addition, Trevor Bauer, who seems to like thinking he's Turanga Leela playing blurnsball sometimes (at least as a cyclops she has an excuse for hitting people). This is the Bauer Experience: he's a good pitcher who makes your team better, but yeeeeeah... good luck Dodgers fans.
There's only so much I can really say about how good and deep this team is without repeating myself, so I guess what I'm curious about is whether this is the last hurrah in Dodger blue for integral players like Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, Kenley Jansen or even Clayton Kershaw (seeing him as anything other than a Dodger would be super weird). Seems unlikely they bring all those guys back, but they've survived free agent departures before just fine so I doubt they're worried about it. They're a juggernaut, full stop.
San Diego Padres (2020: 37-23, 2nd) - lost NLDS
Q: Have they really arrived and can they challenge the Dodgers for the division crown?
Answer: I was about to write "yes but no", until I remembered all the moves they made in the offseason (Yu Darvish, Blake Snell to name a few) and now I think I could see it happening.
Or at least, imagine a situation where it does. This fantasy isn't off to a promising start, however, with multiple injuries to key players. Pitcher Mike Clevenger is already out for the season, another key rotation arm in Dinelson Lamet is on the shelf without a timetable for return, while outfielder Trent Grisham, probable closer Drew Pomeranz and starting catcher Austin Nola are all questionable for opening day. They've got enough depth to be just fine, but the margin for error is already mighty thin when you're chasing the Dodgers behemoth.
Those concerns aside, this is a very interesting and fun team. Fernando Tatis Jr. is already one of MLB's brightest young superstars, and his supporting cast beat opposing pitchers silly in the small-ish sample size of 2020. I do wonder about some of those guys though. Wil Myers has been more of a 105-110 OPS+ guy than the 159 he posted in 2020, this was the first time since 2017 Eric Hosmer had been a well above average MLB hitter while Tommy Pham is 33 and wasn't particularly good in 2020 anyway. You also need to see if Rookie of the Year runner up Jake Cronenworth or Gold Glove winner Grisham can replicate what they did over a longer season. Tatis Jr. and Machado are good enough to at least make this an average offense, but to be elite again they'll have need those supporting guys to be in the lineup and productive.
They also have one of (maybe the) top pitching prospect in the game, lefty Mackenzie Gore, another potential young star that could help them in the second half of the season. I dunno. On paper, even with the injuries, they still look pretty good. Hard to see them overtaking the Dodgers, though. Not impossible, but hard.
San Francisco Giants (2020: 29-31, 3rd)
Q: Will anyone notice that we're here too?
I kid. I do like the Giants as a franchise quite a lot. Even got to be in San Francisco during the 2012 World Series, wandering the streets with my girlfriend from bar to bar peeking over crowds gathered around televisions for Game Two. A super cool experience.
Answer: The 2021 Giants are in a tough spot. Not just because of the two powerhouses above them, but that even their 2020 team (which might be the most average team that ever averaged) relied heavily on a bunch of random veterans or older players having great years in that shortened season. Remember Wilmer Flores? Alex Dickerson? Trevor Cahill? Darin Ruf? Donovan Solano? He won a silver slugger!
Now granted, some of those guys have put together consecutive above average seasons. What concerns me more is how dependent on older players this team is, and they have seemingly nothing in young MLB ready talent beyond catcher Joey Bart (who is blocked again by the return of Buster Posey). The average age of their team in 2020 was 29.9 (by comparison the Padres were 26.7, the Blue Jays 25.9) and they didn't exactly get younger by adding Jake McGee, Anthony DeScalfani, Scott Kazmir (!) or Tommy La Stella. Even Mike Yastrzemski, who has seemingly exploded on the league in his first two seasons, is less a year younger than George Springer. Man, with guys like Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman, Evan Longoria, Aaron Sanchez (there's a real lottery ticket), Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford... this would've been a killer team in MLB The Show 15.
I can see a path where they're respectable, maybe even good enough to sniff around for a wild card spot if Belt, Posey, Crawford, Cueto and Longoria have one more good year in them. That's a lot of 'if' though.
Arizona Diamondbacks (2020: 25-35, 5th)
Q: Can you name a single player on this team?
Answer: If you said Kole Calhoun or Madison Bumgarner, well you did better than I did. I actually completely forgot Bumgarner was on this team, though he was pretty awful last season.
There's really not a whole lot to talk about here. It's a rebuilding team, managed by old Blue Jays coach Torey Lovullo (this is his fifth season managing them? Coulda sworn it was his second or third). Pitching wise they've got a real front of the rotation starter in Zac Gallen, who was excellent in 2020 and '19, but not a whole lot else unless Luke Weaver and Bumgarner can bounce back. Ketel Marte meanwhile is the National League version of Marcus Semien: a 2019 top 5 MVP candidate trying to reestablish that level after a mediocre 2020 campaign (Marte is younger though and under a very team friendly contract through at least 2022).
In the "Help Is On The Way! " department, they've got some highly regarded young outfield prospects in Corbin Carroll, Kristian Robinson and Alek Thomas (Fangraphs especially likes Carroll, ranking him #21 on their 2021 Prospect List. Robinson and Thomas are at #43 and #45 respectively). Those guys are exciting sure, but best case scenario are at least two years away from helping the big league club.
Beyond that... what else can you say? They're not gonna be very good. A bunch of dudes they acquired this off-season will definitely be on the rental trade market watch, like Tyler Clippard, Joakim Soria, Asdrubal Cabrera, Eduardo Escobar and possibly Calhoun. I hope when they contend again, whenever that may be, by then they've changed their jerseys into something that doesn't look like an optical test at a doctor's office.
Colorado Rockies (2020: 26-34, 4th)
Q: What on Earth is wrong with these people?
Answer: ....I got nothing. This time I'm not talking about the Arenado trade (which in baseball terms is unbelievably lopsided)... or how owner Dick Monfort chose instead to invest 250+ million dollars into a real estate development next to the stadium instead of the ballclub itself... or the weird imposing of Christian values stuff... or the big free agent signings that a mile (high) away looked instantly terrible like Ian Desmond, Bryan Shaw, Daniel Murphy... no this time I'm talking about the recent report that front office staff were forced to moonlight as clubhouse attendants during the 2020 season, some working 17 hour days between the two jobs. Quaint.
In the "Help Is On The Way! " department, nothing. Their minor league system is widely regarded as one of the worst in MLB, with only one top 100 prospect according to Fangraphs or MLB.com (2020 first round pick Zac Veen, born three months after I started high school. I mean... Veen is several years away).
After the Arenado trade, is there anything left to care about? Aside from the Trevor Story trade watch, of course. Well... they've got a pair of interesting young starting pitchers in German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela. Um... Daniel Bard was a nice story in 2020 after not pitching in the majors for seven years. Hmmm... they signed Greg Bird? Ian Desmond is still there? Oh wait he opted out of the season again, at least temporarily. Can't blame him, I wouldn't wanna play for this team either.
It's bleak, probably the bleakest situation in MLB. Once they trade Story (they'd be nuts not to, so watch them not) there will be no interesting reason to follow this team.
That lightheartedness out of the way, how about some predictions! Assuming of course a 162 game season, here's my crystal ball:
LA -- 108-54
SD -- 96-66
SF -- 77-85
ARI -- 73-89
COL -- 64-98
Rolling along, next up we've got the NL Central. A division somewhat more wide open. Maybe this is the year my Reds put it together? We'll see. Until next time.