While the San Diego Padres rocked the National League with their move for free agent Manny Machado, the NL West still feels like a two-horse race between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies. The Dodgers have won six straight division crowns but should be pushed all the way, just as they were in 2018 when they needed Game 183 to shrug off the Rockies.
Here’s a quick rundown of the five teams:
Los Angeles Dodgers
While the Dodgers are dealing with the pain of back-to-back World Series losses, they remain the team to beat in the National League. Shortstop Corey Seager returns to bolster a batting line-up that has lost Machado and Yasiel Puig. We may still see some platooning in the outfield but look for Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson to have big years.
The pitching is special and the real reason that Los Angeles have the upper hand. Clayton Kershaw is still elite (though injuries are lingering), Walker Buehler delivered in huge playoff moments and both Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu can be relied on. Nothing comes easy for opposition hitters, and Kenley Jansen is a formidable force out of the bullpen. Pencil them in for 90+ wins once again.
Nolan Arenado’s contract extension was a positive way to begin Spring Training for a team that is eyeing another postseason run. Losing DJ LeMahieu hurts but the Arenado-Charlie Blackmon-Trevor Story core is as good as it gets. Signing Daniel Murphy is a gamble that could well pay off.
Closer Wade Davis will be scrutinized after an up and down 2018. The starters, led by Kyle Freeland, perhaps outperformed expectations last year and may take a small step back, but the Rockies are still a good bet to make the postseason.
San Diego Padres
The Padres needed an injection of hope after losing 96 games in 2018. The arrival of Machado is precisely that. But climbing back towards .500 will depend on other factors too, starting with a better year for Eric Hosmer and the emergence of an ace within the starting rotation.
San Diego’s bullpen can certainly get them over the line in close games, with Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen likely to do the bulk of the vital work. It just remains to be seen how many leads the Padres will generate.
It is all change at the top of the Arizona line-up after trading away Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock. The hope is that Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray and company can still thrive with the ball despite limited run support. Meanwhile, the bullpen pecking order is still somewhat unclear.
Unless a few different hitters take the next step, the Diamondbacks are heading for a .500 season.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants still have talent in Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, but injuries are a continual concern and a rebuild feels just around the corner.
If San Francisco slide well below .500 early on, they could become a major seller before the trade deadline.