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Division Series: NL West

The National League West is a division of winners and losers; two of the five teams seem to win and the remaining three seem to lose.  The Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco probably have one of the most heated rivals in the MLB next to the Yankees and Red Sox, but the San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Colorado Rockies have been lackluster at best.  How will this division play out in 2016? Let’s take a look at each team and see what they are doing in order to take the crown.

Los Angeles Dodgers:  Currently the most expensive team not only in baseball, but in all professional sports is the Dodgers.  Despite the high payroll and winning the division the last three seasons a championship has been elusive.  Do the Dodgers have what it takes to win in 2016?

This biggest news from the Dodger offseason is not re-signing starter Zack Greinke.  The void left by losing Greinke is looking to be filled by the pick up of Scott Kazmir.  Kazmir has never a starter in the National League in his 11 season in the league so his transition should be interesting.  Another starter worth keeping an eye on is Corey Seager (SS, 3B), Kyle Seager’s (of the Mariners) brother.  Seager only played 27 major league games in 2015, but his batting average was .337.  I’d love to tell you more interesting things about the Dodger, but let’s be honest, the best thing about them is Vin Scully (the in game announcer for mainly home games).  It’s his last season, do yourself a favor and watch a game if you can.  He is awesome!

San Francisco Giants:  The Giants have been a force to be reckoned with in the NL West for a while.  Consistent pitching and a strong offense have been a winning combo.  The Dodgers have been the only competition for the Giants in the past few seasons; how will the battle in 2016 play out?

An offense headed up by Buster Posey and Hunter Pence is supported by an all-star starting rotation the blows opponents out of the water.  Even if the offense is lackluster in 2016 a starting rotation that includes Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzjia is borderline unstoppable.  2016 could be a duel to the playoff death between the Dodger and Giants; I can’t wait!

San Diego Padres:  The Padres have not finished above .500 in the last 5 years, trading last place back and forth with the Colorado Rockies.  In 2015 the Padres added slugger Matt Kemp, (2013 AL Rookie of the Year) former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Wil Myers, and All-Star catcher Derek Norris to bolster the lineup, but still finished 18 games back from the division leading Dodgers.  

The Padres are definitely looking to make changes in 2016 and it began with hiring a new manager; Andy Green.  Green was the 3rd base coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks and knows the sense of urgency that the Padres have to win.  Another add to the team was closer Fernando Rodney after the trade of Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox.  Rodney has been in the league since 2002 and his performance has waxed and waned.  The Padres are hoping the catch him on a waxing cycle so he can help close out some desperately needed wins.  

Arizona Diamondbacks:  The Diamondbacks have been consistently inconsistent for a while.  Their last appearance in the playoffs was 2011 and that was also Paul Goldschmidt’s rookie year.  Goldschmidt has been a the one positive constant for the Diamondbacks and this season a few offseason moves the team made may give him some company.  

The single biggest thing the that happened to the Diamondbacks this offseason was the signing of All-Star starting pitcher Zack Greinke to a 6 year deal.  Greinke has been dominant for the past few when he played for the division rival Dodgers, keeping he his ERA under 3 (in 2015 it was an impressive 1.66).  He will no doubt be a game changer this season.  

Colorado Rockies:  I left the Rockies for last because that is where they have been in the division for the past few seasons.  Since 2009 they have struggled to be a competitor in the NL West.  Of all the teams listed, they have the Rockies have the greatest need to improve;  Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado can’t do it alone.  

The bullpen saw a few additions including Jake McGee and closer Jason Motte.  Having a solid 8th and 9th inning combo in the bullpen will no doubt benefit the Rockies in 2016. Mark Reynolds was also added to the infield as a possible 1st or 3rd baseman.  Reynolds has been in the league for years and may not be an everyday starter but has done historically well in a pinch hit situation or as a DH in an American league matchup.   The real elephant in the room with the Rockies is the arrest of shortstop Jose Reyes on domestic abuse charges.  Currently he is on leave from the team and his trial is scheduled for April 4, 2016.  Reyes’s future with the Rockies and the MLB is still unknown, but it is definitely something worth watching.

The NL West is as wild as ever.  This season I see much of the same pattern but with less distance between the winners and losers.  I can’t see the Giants not winning the division with the starting lineup they have in place.  Battling for 2nd place will be the Dodgers and the Padres.  Next the Diamondbacks pulling into 4th place less than 12 games back of the Giants.  Sadly for the Rockies they will be in last place, but only 18 games back from first not over 20. What’s the one major take aways from this? Watch a Dodgers home game this season and listen to Vin Scully commentate; you won’t regret it!

 

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