- Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles wasn’t very active this offseason, but that is because they really don’t have any weaknesses to fill. The Dodgers have a terrific lineup led by Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, and Yasiel Puig. However, the other players in their lineup like Matt Kemp, Logan Forsythe, and Austin Barnes are all solid contributors as well. The Dodgers are also very deep as they have Yasmani Grandal, Joc Pederson, and Chase Utley as proven players that are currently scheduled to be bench players in 2018. Los Angeles also has arguably the best starting rotation in the MLB led by Clayton Kershaw who is probably the best pitcher in the entire MLB. However, the team has 4 above average starting pitchers behind him with Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers also have a very good bullpen led by elite closer Kenley Jansen. Josh Fields and Pedro Baez also had very good years last season as late-inning options in the Dodgers bullpen. Los Angeles could use some more depth in their bullpen, although they are certainly set in the late innings with Jansen, Fields, and Baez. There really isn’t a weakness on this Dodgers roster and they are not only the favorites to win the NL west, but they also are probably the favorites in the NL to make the world series.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona surprisingly was one of the best teams in the national league last season, but they are out to prove that last year wasn’t just a fluke. In fact, the Diamondbacks are a team that should be able to once again compete for a playoff spot in 2018. The Diamondbacks did lose J.D. Martinez this offseason which will hurt Arizona a little bit. However, they did replace him somewhat by trading for right fielder Steven Souza Jr. from the Rays. Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb, and A.J. Pollock are the ones that will likely carry the offense for Arizona and their lineup is good overall. However, the middle infield appears to be the area of weakness for the Diamondbacks as Ketel Marte, Nick Ahmed, and Chris Owings will compete for starting jobs at 2nd base and shortstop. None of those guys provide much offensive capability and the Diamondbacks should have found better replacements at those positions. Meanwhile, the starting pitching appears to be a strength for Arizona heading into the 2018 season. They have Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray as all-star caliber pitchers that will lead the top of the starting rotation. However, they are also really deep with starting pitching as Taijuan Walker and Patrick Corbin are above average pitchers as well. Pitching in Arizona isn’t easy, but those 4 guys are certainly proven MLB pitchers that are up to the task. The bullpen could be decent for Arizona in 2018, but it will be a lot different than it was last season. Archie Bradley had a terrific 2017 season and now he is expected to be the new closer for the Diamondbacks in 2018. Brad Boxberger is a reliable late-inning option for the Diamondbacks and he has closer experience if Bradley struggles in that role. Yoshihisa Hirano was acquired to be another late-inning option for Arizona, but he has never pitched in the MLB and it is unknown what he will provide. Arizona needs more depth in their bullpen and they need someone besides Boxberger and Bradley to step up. The Diamondbacks have a few weaknesses on this roster, so they probably won’t be able to compete with the Dodgers for the division title. However, Arizona still is a very good team that should be able to make the playoffs in 2018.
3. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies were a playoff team in 2017 as they had improved pitching and a lineup that continues to dominate. Colorado still has Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu, Ian Desmond, Trevory Story, and Gerardo Parra. That is quite the lineup especially if Arenado and Blackmon continue to play at an MVP-caliber level. We all know that the Rockies will score a ton of runs as they always seemingly do. However, pitching is the one thing that really continues to hold them back. Jon Gray is the clear ace of the Rockies pitching staff and he performed well last season especially considering that he was pitching at Coors Field most of the time. The rest of the rotation is filled mostly with really young starting pitchers that were very inconsistent last season. Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, and Tyler Anderson all pitched well at times last season, but they all need to improve if the Rockies starting pitching is going to be good. However, it will help that Freeland and Marquez have a year of experience now and hopefully they can continue to try and reach their full potential. Meanwhile, the Rockies bullpen should be better this year especially with the signing of elite closer Wade Davis and quality setup man Bryan Shaw. However, the Rockies have plenty of bullpen depth as they have Mike Dunn, Adam Ottavino, and Jake McGee that are all quality relief pitchers. If the bullpen can be good then it would be a huge step towards being a playoff team once again in 2018. Colorado is playing in a really tough division and they also have a few tough teams in the NL to compete with, but if their pitching can continue to improve then they should be a playoff contender for sure.
4. San Francisco Giants
San Francisco is another team that made offseason upgrades in order to try and make the playoffs in 2018 as they added all-star caliber players Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. The Giants already had a decent lineup with Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford. However, adding Longoria and McCutchen to the mix will only make the Giants a much better offensive team. The Giants starting rotation also has the potential to be decent especially if star pitcher Madison Bumgarner can stay healthy. They also have Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija who are proven MLB pitchers, but they both need to pitch much better than they did last season if the Giants want to have a good rotation. Also, the Giants don’t have much behind those guys in the rotation, so they need to at least find decent 4th and 5th starters. Meanwhile, the Giants have a decent bullpen as they have Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon, Hunter Strickland, and Tony Watson. All of those guys are good late-inning options, but the main question for the Giants is which one of those relievers will be the closer in 2018. It seems the Giants have the lineup to compete in the highly competitive NL West. However, it is the lack of pitching especially with the starting rotation that could really hold this team back.
5. San Diego Padres
The Padres are clearly the worst team in the NL west heading into 2018 as the other 4 teams in the division are playoff contenders. However, the Padres are a team that is heading in the right direction especially with the major signing of Eric Hosmer this offseason. San Diego should have plenty of power in the middle of their lineup with Wil Myers and Hosmer carrying the offense. However, the Padres need support from the other position players if they want to improve. Specifically, the Padres need their young players like Manuel Margot, Austin Hedges, Hunter Renfroe, and Carlos Asuaje to continue to improve. The major concern for San Diego is that they have arguably the worst rotation in the entire MLB. Clayton Richard is the leading pitcher in their rotation, but he didn’t have a good year in 2017. The key for the Padres rotation will be young pitchers Luis Perdomo and Dinelson Lamet. Both of those pitchers weren’t very successful last season, but they will get plenty of opportunities to prove themselves this season. If they can live up to their potential, then the Padres rotation has a chance to at least be decent. Meanwhile, the Padres could be good especially with all-star closer Brad Hand leading the way. Craig Stammen is also a good late-inning option, but the Padres need more out of the rest of the bullpen if they want to be successful. The Padres will probably be a better team in 2018 especially with the addition of Hosmer. However, the Padres still have many holes on their roster and this year will be more about their young players improving rather than trying to be a playoff team.