The 2018 Major League Baseball season is upon us. The sun has risen on the Arizona desert and Florida coast and cities. Soon, your favorite baseball players will ascend on their home stadiums.
With the above in mind, what will the standings look like by the beginning of October 2018? Of the five teams in the division, three made the playoffs in 2017 (the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Colorado Rockies and the Los Angeles Dodgers). The Diamondbacks beat the Rockies in a one-game playoff. The Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks in three games. The Dodgers proceeded to the World Series for the first time since 1988 and lost to the Houston Astros in seven games.
Can the baseball world expect anything different in 2018? Let us start with the two teams who did not see playoff action in 2017 and work our way towards the top of the West Division.
- San Diego Padres
The Padres’ biggest addition this offseason was first baseman Eric Hosmer. Hosmer will push Wil Myers to the outfield and begin a formidable core of power hitters with Hunter Renfroe. No significant additions to the pitching staff were made. In a game about scoring runs, this means the Padres may save a few runs with Hosmer’s multiple Gold Glove awards and score a few more runs with his Silver Slugger award in tow. Meaning, the Padres will fight for fourth or fifth place in the West, but have an extreme amount of talent in their farm system with MacKenzie Gore. LHP, Cal Quantrill; RHP, Luis Urias; SS/2B, Fernando Tatis Jr.; SS, and Anderson Espinoza, RHP, ready to move up soon.
- San Francisco Giants
In contrast to the Padres, the Giants have given away a significant amount of prospects in exchange for Major League-ready talent. Specifically, the Giants landed outfielder Andrew McCutchen and third baseman Evan Longoria. The Giants also signed free agent left-handed reliever Tony Watson, who was with the Dodgers in 2017. The Giants’ lone remaining top prospect is first baseman/outfielder Chris Shaw. With some health, the Giants suffered a lot of injuries last year, they have a good core and could compete for the next two years with Longoria and McCutchen. However, age will be an issue on this year’s team. They will likely land in fourth or fifth place.
- Colorado Rockies
The Rockies return with the same team in 2018, replacing former closer Greg Holland with former Chicago Cubs closer Wade Davis. The Rockies have a solid core of offense and pitching, but like every other Rockies team in Coors Field, they will struggle to keep the ball in the park and/or in an outfielder’s glove. The Rockies will fight for second or third place in the division, possibly overtaking the Diamondbacks.
- Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks lost J.D. Martinez to free agency and that is a huge offensive loss. The team added Japanese reliever/closer Yoshihisa Hirano; outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Steven Souza, Jr., and catcher Alex Avila. The Diamondbacks will have one of the deepest benches in the West and they return all of their major pitching contributors, healthy, plus a healthy star-outfielder in A.J. Pollock. The Diamondbacks and the Rockies are the biggest threats to challenge the Dodgers, however, the Diamondbacks lack of farm depth may come back to hurt them as the season plays on into the long days of summer.
- Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have one of the the highest payrolls in baseball, but also one of the best farm systems, deepest benches, pitching staffs, outfield depth and experience in the recent playoffs, having claimed five straight division titles. Subject to some major injuries and player losses, the Dodgers will repeat as National League West and League Champions and should challenge one of the top American League teams for the World Series title. Consider this: the Dodgers sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth starting pitchers include Ross Stripling, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias (when he returns), Brock Stewart and Wilmer Font. Their outfielder bench consists of Joc Pederson with Matt Kemp, likely starting in left field. The core of Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig, Austin Barnes/Yasmani Grandal and Chris Taylor, are All-Star-caliber players young, or in their prime. The 2018 Los Angeles Dodgers have an embarrassment of riches and will look to repeat as National West Champions in 2018.