Saturday, May 13, 2017

Season 38 Preview: NL West

Season 37 Recap
The Dodgers came out of nowhere (45 wins in a disastrous Season 36) to nip Colorado for the crown and even in a first-round playoff loss, distinguished themselves (they were the only team to win 2 games against the Mets in any of New York's 4 playoff rounds).  The Rockies dropped 7 wins but were still playoff contenders at Game 162.  The Giants posted a nice 12-win improvement, while San Diego continued to stock its farm system with strong #1's (Al Arguelles) and IFA's (Gustavo Javier, Al Tejada).

Season 38 Preview
Dodger SS's committed 26 errors and 5 bad plays (to 6 good plays) last year, which they addressed with the trade for Marcos Profar.  The offense is potentially top-5 (7th last year with 695 runs) behind Jemile Frazier (.268/46/107), Cy James (.305/18/76, 24 SB) and Dan Ross (.275/23/103).  Interesting note:  last year's top OPS'er - Vladimir Washington (.310/21/60 in 406 AB's) - remains unsigned.  The pitching was a vast improvement over Season 36's disaster (ERA dropped from 5.73 to 3.92), but remains a wild-card.  

The Rockies had perhaps the biggest hitting loss in free agency - longtime 1B and face-of-the-franchise Orval Miller (.276, 265 HR's over 9 seasons) bolted for Tampa Bay. Rookie Russell Heilman is the likely inheritor of the 1B job; the Stubby George and Norman Weston-led pitching staff will have to shoulder a little more of the burden for Colorado Springs to contend.

San Francisco badly needs a new direction, and will likely get one at some point under new GM ACEROTHSTEIN.  The prime pieces of the Season 33 Maicer Camacho trade - Douglas Lindor (.731 OPS over 3 seasons) and Yamil Pino (.298 OBP over 3 seasons, although he has played good defense), have been disappointing, and they've squandered too many 1st-round draft choices.  The Giants were quiet this off-season, so don't expect a big surge in the win column.  But do expect some wholesale changes as new ownership's plans unfold.

San Diego will be the West's most-changed squad heading into the season.  They added 2B Ugueth Gonzalez, a move we praised in our free agency reviews.  They tacked on 3 more Type A and B free agents (C Joel Dorsey, 1B/OF Darnell Bell, and OF Rodney Simmons) for peanuts, and added several more nice budget signings.  It looks like they've now got a much more contact-and-batting-eye-oriented lineup ( a nice fit for the ballpark), but can they improve on last year's NL-low 511 (gulp) runs?  And can the no-name staff deliver another 3.43 ERA (5th)?

Given that the top 2 in the division each won just 81 games last year, and the bottom 2 were only 12 and 13 back, this is probably the division most ripe for a surprise.  I think the Dodgers are the best on paper, but I'm going to pick the Padres in an upset.

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