NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
In projected order of finish
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
To review: 2018 record (92-71); first in NL West; lost in World Series.
What’s new: Additions include OF A.J. Pollock, RHP Joe Kelly. Gone are OF Yasiel Puig, OF Matt Kemp, LHP Alex Wood, SS Manny Machado, C Yasmani Grandal.
Cause for concern: Kelly, an import from the World Series-champion Red Sox, should help a bullpen that had its issues in 2018, but questions still linger around closer Kenley Jansen, who had a heart procedure in the offseason. He tailed off badly, and understandably, when an irregular heartbeat surfaced and did not look like himself in either of the last two World Series.
Projecting 2019: This roster is still as deep as anybody’s and manager Dave Roberts is still expected to explore all areas of that depth. Clayton Kershaw does not figure to miss more than a month with shoulder inflammation, but this makes it four consecutive seasons that he has spent time on the disabled list/injured list. The motivation should be there, but the road to the World Series is a long one. OF Alex Verdugo has been on the cusp of an arrival for a few years now and with Puig and Kemp gone, his time has arrived.
To review: 2018 record (91-72); second in NL West; lost in division series.
What’s new: 2B Daniel Murphy is a new arrival. Gone are INF/OF D.J. LeMahieu, LHP Adam Ottavino.
Cause for concern: Ottavino could be a big hit to the back of the bullpen anchored by Wade Davis. Seung-Hwan Oh and Scott Oberg will have to cover for what Ottavino once brought to the back end of games.
Projecting 2019: Everybody talks about offense when it comes to Coors Field, but the key for the Rockies will be pitching. German Marquez and Kyle Freeland will have to continue to deliver what they gave the Rockies last season for this to work and Jon Gray’s continued emergence after his demotion last year is vital. The offense, with a Nolan Arenado locked into a long-term deal, should soar again. The infielders just keep coming for the Rockies with prospects Brendan Rodgers and Garrett Hampson expected to help in some fashion.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
To review: 2018 record (73-89); fourth in NL West.
What’s new: Additions include OF John Andreoli, OF Mike Gerber, OF Drew Ferguson, OF Henry Ramos. Gone are OF Hunte Pence, C Nick Hundley.
Cause for concern: While there were plenty of outfield additions, none are household names with a proven track record so they will need to deliver on potential for the Giants to get the offense they need.
Projecting 2019: Their interest in Bryce Harper seemed to give mixed signals, but the Giants appear to be trying something of a rebuild without a complete tear down. They seemed willing to discard that plan if Harper was interested in coming West. The Giants went from 98 losses in 2017 to 89 last year and a similar progression puts them at .500. Catcher Joey Bart, the team’s top prospect, is a few years away, but then he put up a .350 batting average and a .981 OPS in spring training games, showing that his arrival could come sooner than expected.
To review: 2018 record (82-80); Third in NL West.
What’s new: C Carson Kelly, RHP Luke Weaver. Gone are 1B Paul Goldschmidt, LHP Patrick Corbin, OF A.J. Pollock.
Cause for concern: The loss of Goldschmidt and Pollock is more than just a minor blow to the Diamondbacks’ offensive potential. But how much can be expected of David Peralta and Eduardo Escobar to carry the run production?
Projecting 2019: The first half should tell plenty about the direction of the Diamondbacks. The departures of Goldschmidt, Pollock and Corbin sure looks like a rebuild and the exit of Zack Greinke could be around the corner if the Diamondbacks get into sell mode this season. Odds of doing as well as last year are slim, so winning the division is going to be a tough ask. Counting the Arizona Fall League, top prospect Jazz Chisholm hit 28 home runs last year, but the shortstop still figures to be a few years away.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
To review: 2018 record (66-96); Fifth in NL West.
What’s new: Additions include SS Manny Machado, 2B Ian Kinsler. Gone are LHP Clayton Richard, OF Corey Spangenberg.
Cause for concern: The Padres figure to score runs with Machado in the middle of the order, but the issue might be the amount of scoring San Diego’s own pitching staff allows. The Padres will be asking a lot from starters Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer.
Projecting 2019: The Padres have lost at least 88 games over four consecutive seasons and at least 90 the past three years. That trend just might be reversed this year. Yes, things should be better in San Diego, but contending is still a few years away until one of the best farm systems in baseball starts to bear fruit. Expect top infield prospects Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias to get a chance to produce this year.
2019 SEASON PREVIEW SERIES
–Doug Padilla (@DougPadilla), Field Level Media