2024 NL West Preview: Dodgers chase history in division predictions

Mark W. Sanchez of The Washington Post looks ahead to the NFC West:

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

O/U wins: 103.5

Key players: Shohei Ohtani. Must be someone worth $700 million, right? Last year, hitting in a terrible Angels lineup, the best show in baseball on the planet won an MVP, narrowly missed the AL home run record (before a UCL tear ended the season prematurely) and was on the mound. Made 23 outstanding starts. What can a great slugger do when Freddie Freeman suddenly hits the ball behind him? What can a two-way superstar do when he suddenly no longer has to worry about pitching?The only thing that might stop Otani is a gambling scandal His former translator Mizuhara Ippei.

Players who need strengthening: Mookie Betts. Improvement is difficult for one of the best players in the sport, but he will be asked to do more defensively.A right fielder turned second baseman, now shortstop following Gavin Lux He got out of position in his own way this spring. Bates, who could also become a bowling star, clearly wants to prove he can do anything.

Shohei Ohtani signed the richest contract in Major League Baseball history. USA TODAY sports reporting via Reuters

Names you’ll know: Gavin Stone. The right-hander debuted in a forgettable first season, allowing 31 earned runs in 31 innings. Stone told reporters this spring that he had been pitching all last year and had addressed the issue. Because of injuries to the rotation, the organization’s No. 6 pick will start the season as the No. 5 starter.

The biggest question mark: What will the rotation look like at the end of the year?There is huge room for growth, but there are also some problems Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow, Bobby Miller, James Paxton and Stone. If the Dodgers don’t like the answers to those questions, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Emmitt Sheehan and Dustin May are potentially great players who are expected to be released from the lineup at some point this year. Recovering from injury. season.

How it will go down: The Dodgers will win because they almost always win, winning the division in 10 of 11 years. Too many things could go wrong and the Dodgers could still easily clinch the NL West title.If too many problems arise, they can Threaten the 116-win record Set by the 2001 Mariners.

2. San Francisco Giants

O/U wins: 83.5

key player:Kyle Harrison.Last season, Logan Webb and the top two NL Cy Young players Signed Blake Snell in late spring In the rotation, the Giants’ pitching staff has the potential to be overwhelming. Can Harrison, the club’s top prospect who excelled in major league life last season, emerge to form a devastating trio? If so, the Giants would have a way to shut down a division filled with potent offenses. Failure to do so will put more pressure on Alex Cobb and Robbie Ray, both of whom will return from injury at some point this year.

Players who need strengthening: Jorge Soler. The last Giants player to hit 30 home runs in a season was Barry Bonds in 2004. Can Soller break the curse? After hitting 36 home runs with the Marlins, he was the Giants’ best bet — a season in which he never pitched and hit base. .695 OPS. There are questions as to which Soler the Giants will get, but at his best, he’s one of the most powerful bats in the game.

The Giants just signed two-time Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. Associated Press

Names you’ll know: Li Zhenghou. The former Japan star was the Giants’ favorite leadoff hitter and center fielder who could hit a ball. Six-year, $113 million dealLee idolized Ichiro Suzuki as a kid and was considered a contact pest who annoyed pitchers, and he was crucial to starting a deep, if not star-studded, offense.

The biggest question mark: Do the Giants have enough offense?After another offseason of recruiting big-name players, the Giants instead added Lee, Soler and Matt Chapman — are all interesting, but all have a certain degree of volatility. The same goes for Michael Conforto and Mike Yastrzemski, useful bats who have yet to prove more consistent than that.

How it will go down: The Giants will have enough pitching to make it to the wild-card round, if not the division round. If they make it into October, their rotation will be a formidable opponent.

3. San Diego Padres

O/U wins: 83.5

Key players: Fernando Tatis Jr. In his first season back from labrum surgery and a PED layoff, the young star has been solid (.770 OPS, Gold Glove in right field), But not spectacular. Can he get back to the near-MVP level (.975 OPS) he achieved in 2021? Tatis is only 25 years old, and after a disappointing and chaotic 2023, Tatis now carries more weight without Juan Soto and faces makeup issues . Can he recall his own greatness?

Players who need strengthening: Dylan Cease.Their rotation — which also includes Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and McCulkin -Have great stuff, but there are no guarantees. Stop is also a microcosm, a lights-out right-hander, was expected to finish second in 2022 AL Cy Young voting, but he took a big step back last season, pitching to a 4.58 ERA in 33 starts. If the Padres want to turn things around, Seth is going to have to, as well.

The Padres acquired Dylan Seth during the offseason. Getty Images

Names you’ll know: Jackson Merrill. The Padres’ latest promising talent who broke into the majors at a young age, Merrill is only 20 and a natural shortstop, but he’s an Opening Day center fielder. Merrill, a 2021 first-round pick, had a strong roster and earned a job this spring at a position he had never held before.

The biggest question mark: Can Mike Shildt control the clubhouse that Bob Melvin clearly cannot? The Padres hired the former Cardinals manager after a disastrous 2023 that included reports of disharmony and a lack of accountability at the club. Even without Soto, there are plenty of stars — Tatis, Xander Bogaerts and Manny Machado — who failed to create a positive culture last season. Can Shildt solve this problem?

How it will go down: Maybe the quiet Padres would be better than the loud Padres. The Southern California media’s eyes are on Los Angeles, but the Padres should have enough offense and pitching to at least be a wild-card contender.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

O/U wins: 83.5

Key players: Corbin Carroll. Somehow, the 2023 Diamondbacks, who made it to the World Series, were a below-average offensive team during the regular season. Their bats aren’t going to overwhelm the team, which means Carroll’s play has to be consistent and it has to be great. Already a star at 23, the Rookie of the Year has the potential to grow into an MVP candidate.

Players who need strengthening: Brandon Pfaadt. Arizona signed Eduardo Rodriguez to back up Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly’s stellar 1-2 punch, but Rodriguez Out indefinitely with a lat strain. The rotation will focus on Pfaadt, who had a rookie season that saw both highs (in the playoffs) and lows (much of the regular season). Pfaadt posted an 8.20 ERA in late July, dropped to 5.72 by season’s end, and emerged as an unlikely rotation savior in the postseason (3.27 ERA). Can he do it? Again?

Names you’ll know: Jordan Lawlar. The top infield prospect made a brief appearance last season despite playing just 16 games in Triple-A. The 21-year-old has been promoted as a potential No. 5 shortstop who has destroyed minor league pitching and swarmed the bases. There is currently no open space in Arizona’s infield, but if Geraldo Perdomo is in Having struggled at shortstop, Laural’s time may come.

Corbin Carroll is the reigning NFC Rookie of the Year. Associated Press

The biggest question mark: The Diamondbacks are talented, young and suddenly have World Series experience. But do they have what it takes to hang around in a lineup that includes a team as strong as Los Angeles? Arizona lost almost no one this offseason and added Rodriguez, Eugenio Suarez, Joc Pederson and Randal Grichuk.

How it will go down: A year after shocking the world, the Diamondbacks will have to do it again. Arizona improved this winter, but not as dramatically as its division rivals, who were overshadowed. The wild-card race is expected to continue into the final days of the season, with a similar level of talent among the non-Dodgers contenders.

5. Colorado Rockies

O/U wins: 60.5

Key players: Nolan Jones. Jones was a rare bright spot for the Rockies in 2023, posting a .931 OPS and 20 home runs in 106 games as a slick defender and a breakout hitter to be named the NL Rookie of the Year. . This is a chance for the Rockies to find their All-Star representative for years to come.

Players who need strengthening: Kris Bryant. Two seasons after signing a $182 million contract, the former Cubs star has yet to play more than 80 games in a season with the Rockies. Now 32 years old and coming off another horrific injury-riddled season (.680 OPS), his chances of returning to MVP are increasingly slim. Can Bryant surprise the Rockies and help them overcome their pitching woes?

Names you’ll know: Zac Veen. The 2020 first-round pick was steadily rising through the Rockies’ system until wrist surgery cut his Double-A season short last year after playing just 46 games. The top outfield prospect has pop and speed – with 12 home runs and 55 in 2022 he’ll be the steals leader, and the 22-year-old could break into the majors with one healthy season.

The Rockies haven’t gotten much production from Kris Bryant since signing him to a long-term deal. Associated Press

The biggest question mark: Pitch. The Rockies, as always, score runs and almost always try to stop opposing offenses. Can Kyle Freeland lower his 5.03 ERA from last season? Can Carl Cantrill rediscover his form after leaving the Guardians? Is Austin Gomber better compared to the 5.50 ERA he posted last year? Dakota Hudson and Ryan Feltner could pair up The worst rotation in baseball.

How it will go down: The Rockies lost 103 games last season and did little in free agency to try to get better. It’s hard to see a path to mediocrity, and another 100-loss season could be on the horizon.

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