2017 outlook for the National League West
Major League Baseball: I’ve missed you, my dear friend. When spring training rolls around, we baseball fans begin to feel rejuvenated. It serves as a useful reminder that spring is coming, and these dark winter days just may be behind us. Living in Giants territory here in Davis, let’s remind ourselves of what happened this offseason and take a peek at the outlook for every team in the National League West coming into the new season.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers enter as the favorite to win the division for the 2017 season. The Dodgers had many question marks after the 2016 season due to the unrestricted free agencies of Rich Hill, Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen, but the club decided to bring all three players back on multi-year contracts. In addition to re-signing their core guys, the Dodgers filled a huge void at second base by trading one of their top pitching prospects, José De León, for the Tampa Bay Rays’ underrated second baseman Logan Forsythe. The first four seasons of Forsythe’s career were nothing to write home about, but, in the last two, he has really developed into a stellar player for the Rays, and he will bat leadoff for the Dodgers in 2017. In the 2016 season, the second baseman from Memphis, Tennessee hit 20 homers with 52 RBIs with a .264/.333/.444 slash line, which is a significant improvement over Chase Utley, the Dodgers’ primary second baseman last season. Additionally, the Dodgers signed Sergio Romo, the career-long San Francisco Giant, to a one-year deal to shore up the back end of the bullpen following the departure of Joe Blanton.
San Francisco Giants
The achilles heal of the San Francisco Giants in 2016 was the team’s inability to win close games as the result of a weak bullpen. The Giants blew an astounding 30 saves during the regular season in 2016, a number unmatched by any playoff team since saves become an official stat back in 1969. It was obvious the Giants were in the market for a closer coming into the offseason, and they signed one of the best ones in the league in Mark Melancon. Melancon, a three-time All-Star, put up another fantastic season in 2016, playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Nationals. In 71.1 innings, Melancon recorded a 1.64 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 47 saves. It’s safe to say the Giants found their guy to hold down the fort in crunch time. With limited financial flexibility this time around, San Francisco made a bunch of smaller signings of lesser-known guys over the past few months. This will add significant depth to the roster, although last year’s lineup and starting rotation should remain mostly intact.
The Colorado Rockies are currently considered one of the biggest sleeper teams in baseball. The offense always seems to be there, but the ongoing question marks for this club involve the consistently mediocre pitching staff. Fortunately, for the Rockies, some of their young arms seem ready to emerge. The pitching staff will be headed by Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, Tyler Anderson and Tyler Chatwood, but it remains to be seen if this will be enough to limit opposing offenses in 2017.
Additionally, Colorado sported the worst bullpen in the majors last year, one that compiled a grotesque 5.13 ERA, but the team hopes that the signings of lefty Mike Dunn and former all-star Greg Holland will help mitigate these woes. The club also made an intriguing decision to sign outfielder Ian Desmond to play first base, a position in which he has no professional experience, with a five-year, $70 million contract. Regardless, a full season of rookie standout Trevor Story, along with the acquisition of Desmond, will make the Rockies offense lethal in 2017.
Just a year ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks seemed poised to compete in the NL West after adding Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller, but they fell flat on their faces and had an abysmal 2016 season, finishing with a 69-93 record. The loss of A.J. Pollock, their 2015 breakout star, to an elbow injury in spring, was a huge blow. Additionally, Zack Greinke’s disappointing season was overshadowed by the one of Shelby Miller, who had a downright disastrous season, finishing with a 6.15 ERA in 101 innings — yikes. The Diamondbacks are hoping that a full season of Pollock and outfielder David Peralta will make 2017 a bit brighter. Starter Robbie Ray is projected to breakout this season, and, if Greinke can bounce back and Miller can find his 2015 form again to put last season’s struggles behind him, the D-backs may be able to find themselves in the hunt for a wild card spot as a post-hype sleeper, but I still have my doubts.
San Diego Padres
I’ll keep this one short. The Padres are probably the worst team in baseball, and they are also the most uninteresting team in baseball. Sorry, Padres fans, but you guys are going to finish last in the division this year. The Padres are in full rebuild mode this year, hoping to get some reps for their young outfield prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot. The Padres are extremely young, so their focus this season will be solely on development and not their win total. The biggest piece of news this offseason for the Padres was the extension of first baseman Wil Myers. In 2016, Myers had a fantastic first half of the season, during which he hit 19 home runs, drove in 60 runs and stole 15 bases with a .286 batting average, but he significantly faded off during the second half of the season. The San Diego front office is obviously hoping that his first half is a better indicator of things to come, so it signed Myers to a contract that guarantees him $83 million over the next six years.
Written by: Michael Wexler — firstname.lastname@example.org