Spring is slowly sweeping its way across the country, which can only mean one thing: baseball season. The boys of summer are back and, with Opening Day right around the corner, it’s time to dust off your glove and maybe catch up on some of the expectations for the 30 MLB teams this year. That’s where CBS Local Sports’ division preview series comes in. We’ll take you around the league giving you an overview of each team and their expectations heading into the year.
Now, we head out west where the Dodgers and Giants renew their battle for the top of the division with a potentially dangerous Diamondbacks team looking to get into contention.
**Win totals courtesy of Bovada Sportsbook
Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Year: 91-71, lost NLCS to Chicago Cubs 4-3
Vegas Win Total: 93.5
The Dodgers seemingly ran about 50 pitchers out to the mound over the course of last season due to injuries in their rotation. In reality, 13 guys got three or more starts and 11 started 5 games or more. The rotation, as you can probably tell, was ravaged by injuries and yet, the Dodgers found their way into the playoffs, winning the NL West and falling to the Cubs in the NLCS after holding a 2-1 lead in the series. This year, they look to finally get over the hump and make it back to their first World Series since 1988. To do so, they’ll need better health from the rotation and continued development from some of their young stars.
There’s a logjam in the outfield for the Dodgers as all of the following players are options at one of the three spots: Andrew Toles, Franklin Gutierrez, Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson, Trayce Thompson, Enrique Hernandez and Yasiel Puig. Ethier has a herniated disc and is out indefinitely, which makes this easier. Pederson and Puig have seemingly locked up starting spots while Andrew Toles also looks to be a starter, at least as of now.
As for the infield, there’s some concern about second-year shortstop Corey Seager who’s been out since March 3rd with an oblique injury. Seager was dominant last year as a rookie and the Dodgers will likely have to turn to Hernandez at short while he’s out. Justin Turner returns at third, Logan Forsythe comes over from the Rays to play second, Adrian Gonzalez handles first base while Yasmani Grandal remains behind the plate.
One prospect to watch who may crack the lineup this year is young first baseman Cody Bellinger. The 20 year old mashed in the Arizona Fall League (.314/.424/.557 with 3 HR and 17 RBI) but has struggled in ample opportunities this spring (.196/.277/.321 in 27 games). Still, Bellinger could factor in after some time in the minors to begin the year.
The rotation, like the outfield, has plenty of options available, which is good considering the injuries suffered last year. All-world pitcher Clayton Kershaw returns from his first season of under 190 innings pitched since his second season in 2009 after battling through a back injury much of last year. He’s looked sharp this spring (24 IP, 2.63 ERA, .143 BAA, 0.79 WHIP and a 4/1 K/BB ratio) and looks to be back to form. Behind him? The questions begin.
The team signed Rich Hill to a contract in free agency after his resurgent season last year, but he’s struggled in spring. Kenta Maeda, Hyun Jin Ryu, and top prospect Julio Urias have looked good, while Brandon McCarthy has struggled and Scott Kazmir is hurt (hip, indefinite timetable). How the rotation shakes out will be interesting, but at the very least, the Dodgers have the depth needed to survive a few injuries if they happen.
The bullpen kept closer Kenley Jansen and added former Giants reliever Sergio Romo to a group that had some issues last season. All in all, the depth of this team is pretty amazing to see and they should have the talent to surpass the 93.5 wins. Over 93.5
Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Hyun Jin Ryu, Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy
(C) Yasmani Grandal, (1B) Adrian Gonzalez, (2B) Logan Forsythe, (SS) Corey Seager**, (3B) Jacob Turner, (LF) Andrew Toles, (CF) Joc Pederson, (RF) Yasiel Puig
San Francisco Giants
Last Year: 87-75, 2nd place NL West lost to Cubs in NLDS 3-1
Vegas Win Total: 87.5
The Giants roared out of the gate in the first half of last season with a 57-33 record before the All-Star break. The second half? Not so great. The team went 30-42 over the course of the final two and a half months of the year and were dispatched easily in the NLDS (3-1) by the Cubs following a 1-0 win over the Mets in the Wild Card playoff. This year, they’ll get a full year of Matt Moore and they solidified their closer spot by adding Mark Melancon. Outside of that, the team largely remains the same.
The only differences in the lineup this year are Jarrett Parker likely getting the start in left field and Eduardo Nunez opening the year at third. Nunez replaces Matt Duffy who was part of the trade to get Moore, while Parker is replacing the departed Angel Pagan.
The rest of the names you’ll remember from last season. Denard Span and Hunter Pence fill out the outfield while the rest of the infield is manned by Brandon Crawford (SS), Joe Panik (2B), Brandon Belt (1B) and Buster Posey (C). They’ll be hoping to get a bounce back year from Panik (.239/.315/.379) and for Parker to at least replicate his spring (.254/.357/.492) performance. Other than that, better health from Pence (106 games last year) would help.
The rotation is led by the indefatigable Madison Bumgarner who enters his age 27 season looking prepared for another strong campaign (25 IP, 2.52 ERA, .188 BAA, 0.88 WHIP this spring). Behind Bumgarner will be Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore, Jeff Samardzjia and Matt Cain. Cueto has also looked good in spring, but the other three? Yikes. Moore had the lowest ERA at 5.60 while Cain and Samardzjia have allowed opposing hitters to rake (.343 and .348 BAA respectively) so far. Those numbers are a little more concerning for Cain and Samardzjia considering they didn’t have the best of years last year either.
The bullpen gets a massive upgrade in closer Mark Melancon to combine with Hunter Strickland, Derek Law, George Kontos and Cody Gearrin in forming what should be a top-end group. The group took a hit with Will Smith’s torn UCL forcing Tommy John surgery, but they should still be pretty good. Overall, this group actually underperformed their Pythagorean expectation of 90 wins last year and they should once again be in the race for the division title, easily surpassing the Vegas prediction. Over 87.5
Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore, Jeff Samardzjia, Matt Cain
(C) Buster Posey, (1B) Brandon Belt, (2B) Joe Panik, (SS) Brandon Crawford, (3B) Eduardo Nunez, (LF) Jarrett Parker, (CF) Denard Span, (RF) Hunter Pence
Last Year: 75-87, 3rd NL West
Vegas win total: 80.5
The Rockies found a couple of young gems last season in the midst of their attempted quick rebuild. While they finished 12 games under .500, a breakout season from Trevor Story at short and a nice debut from prospect David Dahl gives the franchise hope that they’ve found a couple more lineup stalwarts to go along with Nolan Arenado. This season, the Rockies are hoping to improve on that 75-win total as they continue to groom some young players.
The lineup on Opening Day will be different from the one the Rockies were hoping for as both David Dahl (rib) and new acquisition Ian Desmond (hand) will open the season on the DL. That means Mark Reynolds will step in at first for Desmond and Gerardo Parra will hold down the left field spot. Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez hold down the other two outfield spots. Story returns from injury to form a good double play combination with D.J. Lemahieu, while Nolan Arenado remains an MVP candidate at third. 24 year old Tony Wolters takes over behind the plate after a nice debut (71 games, .259/.327/.359, 3 HR 30 RBI).
As for the rotation, the biggest news out of spring was the unfortunate bit that Chad Bettis has to undergo treatment for cancer. Best wishes to Bettis, who is by all accounts a great person. The rotation in Bettis’ absence will rely on Jon Gray (24), Tyler Chatwood (27), Tyler Anderson (27), Antonio Senzatela (22) and surprising spring breakout Kyle Freeland (23). It’s a young rotation, one that will take some lumps, but there’s plenty of talent there. Relying on two rookies (Senzatela and Freeland) isn’t ideal, but the Rockies will be hoping the youngsters live up to the challenge. Pitching in Coors’ Field is always rough.
The bullpen adds Greg Holland and Mike Dunn to a group that already includes Jake McGee to form a pretty formidable late game trio. If they can get six innings from the starters, that back end of the bullpen could shut a lot of games down. Overall, the youth of the rotation scares me, particularly in the batter’s park that is Coors’ Field. The offense should be pretty good, but I don’t think it overcomes the rotational shortcomings. Under 80.5
Jon Gray, Tyler Chatwood, Tyler Anderson, Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland
(C) Tony Wolters, (1B) Mark Reynolds/Ian Desmond, (2B) D.J. Lemahieu, (SS) Trevor Story, (3B) Nolan Arenado, (LF) Gerardo Parra, (CF) Charlie Blackmon, (RF) Carlos Gonzalez
Last Year: 68-93, 4th NL West
Vegas win total: 77.5
The Diamondbacks went all in before last season signing starter Zack Greinke to a massive deal and trading a package of prospects (including Dansby Swanson) to Atlanta for Shelby Miller. Neither of those moves worked out particularly well as Greinke had an off-year and Miller was dreadful (6.15 ERA 1.67 WHIP). That resulted in the Diamondbacks being nowhere close to contention. This offseason was a little quieter and the Diamondbacks are just hoping to get the Greinke and Miller they expected when they acquired them.
The lineup is rightfully built around Paul Goldschmidt, who was his usual dominant self last year (.297/.411/.489 with 24 HR 95 RBI). He’s helped out by big-swinging Yasmany Tomas (31 HR) and Jake Lamb (29 HR). Center fielder AJ Pollock returns from elbow and groin injuries that kept him out of the lineup for most of last season.
Other than those guys, the Diamondbacks are hoping Chris Owings can hold down the shortstop job, while hoping Brandon Drury smoothly transitions to second base after playing left field last year. David Peralta looks to be the right fielder of choice and 34 year old Jeff Mathis is set to start behind the plate. The team will need solid years from each of these players if their playoff hopes are going to be realized.
Greinke and Miller have both struggled in spring training (5.06 and 6.46 ERA respectively) which doesn’t bode well for the rotation. Taijuan Walker comes over from the Mariners hoping to regain the form that once made him one of baseball’s top prospects following two tough years in Seattle. Robbie Ray is still young and could develop further and Patrick Corbin looks to bounce back from a bad season. Corbin and Walker looked good this spring (3.44 and 3.29 ERA) and have reportedly earned the second and third spots in the rotation behind Greinke.
The bullpen added 40 year old Fernando Rodney to serve as closer, with most of last year’s unit (minus Daniel Hudson) back. Jake Barrett starts the season on the DL due to a shoulder injury, and the rest of the group is largely uninspiring.
Unless Greinke and Miller find their previous form, this season is unlikely to include the playoffs for this group. They should be better than last year’s 68 wins and approach the 77 Vegas predicts, but I think they fall just short. Under 77.5
Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin, Taijuan Walker, Shelby Miller, Robbie Ray
(C) Jeff Mathis, (1B) Paul Goldschmidt, (2B) Brandon Drury, (SS) Chris Owings, (3B) Jake Lamb, (LF) Yasmany Tomas, (CF) AJ Pollock, (RF) David Peralta
San Diego Padres
Last Year: 68-94
Vegas win total: 66.5
The Padres were aggressive in making big moves in 2015, failed to make the playoffs and proceeded to have a fire sale prior to 2016. Now, heading into 2017, the rebuild continues from the ground floor and it looks like another long year for the good folks of San Diego.
The good news for Padres fans is that they’ll get to see some young outfielders continue to develop. Hunter Renfroe (25), Travis Jankowski (26), and Manuel Margot (21) are likely to be the starting outfielders while the team waits for Alex Dickerson (27) to return from a bulging disk injury. Renfroe and Margot are both in the Top 50 of Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list coming into the year.
In the infield, Wil Myers (1B) and Austin Hedgers (C) are the cornerstones that the Padres are hoping to build around for the future along with the young outfielders. Ryan Schimpf (2B), Erick Aybar (SS) and Yangervis Solarte (3B) round out the group. Aybar is basically holding down the shortstop spot until top prospect Luis Sardinas
The rotation is, to put it nicely, uninspiring. Jhoulys Chacin is the Opening Day starter with Luis Perdomo, Clayton Richard, Trevor Cahill and Jarrod Cosart behind him. There’s little hope for young help on the horizon either as the team’s three best pitching prospects (Anderson Espinoza, Cal Quantrill and Adrian Morejon) have pitched exactly zero innings above A-ball. So, help is a long ways away.
The bullpen adds former catcher Christian Bethancourt, who’s reportedly been touching 98 with his fastball and is a fun story. The team also added Carter Capps, but he’ll start the season on the DL as he’s trying to come back from Tommy John surgery. The rest of the group is the same one that posted a 4.18 ERA last season, so, wouldn’t expect much here.
Beyond watching the young players develop, there’s not much to hope for with this Padres franchise this year. But, they are going the draft and develop route as opposed to signing big name free agents (which didn’t work in 2015) so this was to be expected. 100 losses is in range for this club and I believe that will likely be the case. Under 66.5
Jhoulys Chacin, Clayton Richard, Trevor Cahill, Jarrod Cosart, Luis Perdomo
(C) Austin Hedges, (1B) Wil Myers, (2B) Ryan Schimpf, (SS) Erick Aybar, (3B) Yangervis Solarte, (LF) Travis Jankowski, (CF) Manuel Margot, (RF) Hunter Renfroe