The NL West was provided a bit of a shake up this offseason with Manny Machado heading to the San Diego Padres in free agency. This was a clear signal the Padres are serious about winning and will be a team on the rise starting now, but will it be enough to make the playoffs, or will the Dodgers and Rockies once again reign supreme out west?
2018 Record: 82-80; 3rd NL West
Postseason: Did not qualify
Hello to: Caleb Joseph, C; Adam Jones, CF; Greg Holland, P; Wilmer Flores, 2B
So long to: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B; Patrick Corbin, P; AJ Pollock, CF; Chris Owings, 2B; Shelby Miller, P; John Jay, CF; Jake Diekman, P; Daniel Descalso, 3B; Clay Buchholz, P
2019 Forecast: When the roster subtractions greatly outnumber the roster additions you can formulate a pretty good idea where the Diamondbacks are headed this season. Coming off a season where they qualified for the playoffs and even won their Wild Card game, 2018 was quite the letdown for the Diamondbacks. Instead of reloading and taking another run at a playoff spot this season, the front office decided to take a step back and start a rebuilding process. They shipped All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt off to St. Louis for a pretty solid return, but had to watch free agents Patrick Corbin and AJ Pollock leave the desert for nothing in return. To make things even worse for the Diamondbacks, they play in an already difficult NL West that only got better this offseason with the emergence of San Diego and the staying powers of Los Angeles and Colorado. A lot of things will have to fall their way if they hope to compete with the big dogs of the division, but right now it seems their focus is solely on rebuilding.
Look out for: It will not be easy to fill the hole left by Goldschmidt at first base but Jake Lamb will do his best after making the move over from third base this offseason. Lamb missed a significant portion of 2018 with injury but he was an All-Star in 2018 and the Diamondbacks will hope he can stay healthy and recapture that form in 2019.
Los Angeles Dodgers
2018 Record: 92-71; 1st NL West
Postseason: Lost World Series
Hello to: Joe Kelley, P; AJ Pollock, CF
So long to: Manny Machado, SS; Brian Dozier, 2B; Yasmani Grandal, C
2019 Forecast: Coming off their second consecutive National League pennant, the Dodgers are ready to take another run at a World Series appearance in 2019. A slow start to the 2018 campaign saw them on the outside of the playoff picture for a majority of the season but they turned it on down the stretch to win the NL West in Game 163 over the Colorado Rockies. They brought it free agent outfielder AJ Pollock in the offseason which is an immediate upgrade to their roster and Joe Kelley helps reinforce their already strong pitching staff. They missed out on resignined shortstop Manny Machado who came over at the trade deadline and they were the last team out of the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. Those are two very big fish to miss out on but the Dodgers and well equipped to still win a lot of baseball games this season. One of the biggest additions or their roster will be the return of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager who missed most of last reason recovering from Tommy John surgery. If Seager can return to his 2017 form, missing out on Machado and Harper will be even less significant. There are some concerns about the health of Clayton Kershaw that will be worth keeping an eye on. Entering the new campaign, the NL West is getting stronger and the Dodgers window may be closing ever so slightly, but they are still the favorites.
Look out for: Max Muncy was the breakout star for the Dodgers in 2018 and one of the best stories in baseball. He was an All-Star and left an indelible mark on World Series history with his walk-off home run in the bottom of the 18th inning of Game 3. Muncy will be counted on once again to help boost the Dodgers lineup as their starting first baseman.
San Francisco Giants
2018 Record: 73-89; 4th NL West
Postseason: Did not qualify
Hello to: Drew Pomeranz, P
So long to: Hunter Pence, RF; Hunter Strickland, P
2019 Forecast: It’s hard to find a team that did less in the offseason than the San Francisco Giants. Outside of a slew of minor league deals, the only significant name they brought on board was free agent pitcher Drew Pomeranz. I guess you don’t need to sign too many players when most of your roster from last season remains in place. Longtime right fielder Hunter Pence left town but he’s 35 and at the tail end of his career. Bullpen arm Hunter Strickland also said his goodbyes and headed to Seattle. Generally, low roster turnover is a good sign but when you struggle like the Giants have the last few seasons maybe it’s better to bring in more fresh faces to help your team. Manager Bruce Bochy has already announced that 2019 will be his final season leading the Giants so maybe that will give his players a little extra motivation. Playing in the already difficult NL West that just seems to be getting better will do no favors for the Giants who look to be tracking towards another season without playoff baseball.
Look out for: Brandon Belt has emerged as one of the best first basemen in baseball over the past few seasons. He’s the cornerstone of a pretty solid Giants’ infield and will be relied upon to provide offense in the middle of an otherwise lackluster lineup.
San Diego Padres
2018 Record: 66-96; 5th NL West
Postseason: Did not qualify
Hello to: Manny Machado, SS; Ian Kinsler, 2B; Garrett Richards*, P; Adam Warren, P
*will miss 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery
So long to: Freddy Galvis, SS
2019 Forecast: The days of being the NL West doormat may soon be coming to an end for the San Diego Padres. Already boasting one of the best farm systems in baseball, the Padres went out and signed shortstop Manny Machado this offseason. Reeling in one of the biggest free agents on the market was just another sign that the Padres are getting serious about winning and doing so in the very near future. Last season they brought in Eric Hosmer in free agency then double-down this year by bringing in Machado. Phenom prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. is expected to start the season in the minor leagues, but he could make his MLB debut as early as May. Tatis Jr. is one of the most exciting prospects in baseball and will pair well with Machado and the rest of that infield. They also agreed to a free agent deal with pitcher Garrett Richards but his debut will have to wait until 2020 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Without Richards available, the starting rotation could be what holds the Padres back from being a contender this season. Regardless, given the current state of the franchise and where they look to be headed, it’s not hard to envision 2019 being a huge step forward in San Diego.
Look out for: You won’t see him on the field right away in 2019, but once the Padres call-up prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. you will want to keep an eye on his development in the majors. Tatis Jr. is regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball and when he arrives in San Diego he will be working alongside Manny Machado on the infield.
2018 Record: 91-72; 2nd NL West
Postseason: Lost in NLDS
Hello to: Daniel Murphy, 2B; Mark Reynolds, 1B
So long to: Carlos Gonzalez, OF; DJ LeMahieu, 2B; Adam Ottavino, P;
2019 Forecast: Consecutive playoff appearances have the Rockies hungry for more as they prepare to challenge the Dodgers for NL West supremacy in 2019. They did not do much in the way of free agency this offseason but they did not really need to given the talent already under contract. Their biggest move of the offseason was extending All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado, preventing him from hitting the free agent market. Along with Arenado, the Rockies boast a lineup that includes fellow All-Stars Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon. Daniel Murphy comes over from the Cubs and will likely be the regular starter at first base while Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson platoon at second base, replacing DJ LeMahieu. From a pitching standpoint, the Rockies’ rotation boasts a strong veteran presence that finds a way to do well even at hitter friendly Coors Field. The biggest pitching question for the Rockies will be how they replace bullpen ace Adam Ottavino. Last season, the Rockies fumbled away the NL West in the dying weeks of the season and ended up losing out to the Dodgers in Game 163. They bounced back to win the Wild Card game over the Cubs before falling in the NLDS to the Brewers. After getting a taste of the postseason the last two years, the Rockies are hungry for more and will be a serious threat to not only the Dodgers in the West, but the National League as a whole.
Look out for: Coors Field is not your best friend if you happen to be a pitcher but someone has to do the job. The Rockies have a host of arms that can shut you down either at home or on the road and the emergence of German Márquez adds another weapon to their rotation. In the second half of 2018, Márquez ranked among the best pitchers in baseball and if that form carries over, the Rockies could have a dark horse Cy Young candidate on their hands.