Category Archives: Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers sign Kelly to a 3-year deal

The Los Angeles Dodgers don’t have many weaknesses on their roster, but the bullpen was the one area that likely cost the team a World Series title last season. However, the Dodgers took a big step in addressing the issue as they signed veteran relief pitcher Joe Kelly to a 3-year/$25 million contract. Kelly had a terrific 2017 season with Boston when he had a 2.79 ERA and established himself as a really good setup man. However, last season he struggled as he only had a 4.39 ERA. The Dodgers are hoping that he can become an reliable setup man like he was in 2017. Kelly does fill a need in the Dodgers bullpen and he adds some much needed depth, but I just think the Dodgers could have found a better option for the price in free agency. Kelly had three straight years with at least a 4.20 ERA from 2014-2016, so that seems to indicate that his success in 2017 was likely just a fluke. He is probably an upgrade for the Dodgers bullpen heading into 2019, but it just seems like too much money for a guy that hasn’t proven to be reliable consistently throughout his career.

Grade: C-

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Dodgers trade Kemp and Puig to the Reds

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds pulled off a major blockbuster offseason trade as the Dodgers sent outfielder Matt Kemp, outfielder Yasiel Puig, starting pitcher Alex Wood, and catcher Kyle Farmer in exchange for starting pitcher Homer Bailey, right-handed pitcher Josiah Gray, and shortstop Jeter Downs.

 

Dodgers analysis/grade:

This move sort of makes sense for the Dodgers because it clears a lot of much-needed salary which is important because it will allow the team to be more active in free agency. Also, the Dodgers had a logjam in the outfield for 2019 and they didn’t really have regular roles to offer Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig. The Dodgers also didn’t have much of a role for Alex Wood considering the amazing depth that they have in their starting rotation. Those 3 players certainly would have helped the team win in the short-term, but it was probably best to trade them away and allow them to have a better opportunity for playing time in Cincinnati. Meanwhile, the Dodgers also received a few players in this deal. Homer Bailey is the most notable name in this deal considering that he was a good starting pitcher at one point. However, Bailey won’t see any action for the Dodgers as he will be released by the team. The Dodgers though did add a couple of intriguing prospects in this trade. Jeter Downs is a decent prospect as he was a high draft pick in the 2017 draft and he could be a decent major league player some day. Downs has terrific speed as he stole 37 bases last season, although he’ll need to improve offensively if he wants to be an above average starting middle infielder at the MLB level. The Dodgers also added minor league right-handed pitcher Josiah Gray in this deal. Gray was a high draft pick in the 2018 draft by the Reds and he was impressive in his first minor league season as he had a 2.58 ERA in 12 starts. It is a short sample size, but Gray is a good prospect that could add some depth to the Dodgers starting rotation in a few years. Overall, this trade makes sense for the Dodgers as they dump some salary and get a couple of decent prospects in return as well. That being said, this trade doesn’t help the Dodgers much in the short-term as they are getting rid of three very good veteran players.

Grade: C+

 

Reds analysis/grade:

This trade really shows that the Reds are ending their rebuild and ready to try to compete for a playoff spot in 2019. Matt Kemp was an all-star just last season when he hit .290 with 21 home runs for the Dodgers. Kemp is still an above average player, although it will be interesting to see if Kemp can keep up that level of consistency considering that he is 34 years old. Yasiel Puig is another piece that has the potential of making a big impact for the Reds in 2019. Puig struggled with consistency last season when he hit .267 with 23 home runs for the Dodgers. However, he has proven that he can be a really good player when he gets on a hot streak offensively. Kemp and Puig will be big upgrades in the outfield for the Reds and they will make the Reds lineup even more dangerous heading into 2019. Cincinnati also added starting pitcher Alex Wood in this deal which should help to improve their rotation which has been terrible in recent years. Wood didn’t have much of a role for 2019 in the Dodgers rotation, but Wood is still a very good starting pitcher. Wood has a career 3.29 ERA which is obviously outstanding and he’ll immediately slot into the top of the rotation for a Reds pitching staff that obviously needs to get better. Kyle Farmer was also received in this deal and he’ll provide some quality depth and versatility for the Reds as a bench player. Farmer is technically a catcher, but he is valuable since he can play different positions in the infield as well. The Reds did give up a couple of decent prospects in this trade, but that is a risk that they need to take in order to finally be a competitive team. This trade should make the Reds a much better team in 2019 because they added three impact players in this deal and it is a really good deal since it shows the Reds are finally trying to be competitive in the NL once again.

Grade: B+

Biggest need for every MLB team this offseason

Arizona Diamondbacks – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Diamondbacks had a decent starting rotation in 2018 as Zack Greinke was very good as he usually is. Patrick Corbin was terrific in 2018 as well as he had a 3.15 ERA for the Diamondbacks. However, the Diamondbacks head into the offseason with major questions with their starting rotation. The biggest question mark is whether Patrick Corbin will re-sign with the team and it seems increasingly unlikely that he will return in 2019. That would leave with the Diamondbacks rotation with a major void that will be really difficult to fill. It is also very possible that the Diamondbacks could decide to move Zack Greinke since he has a big contract and he is getting older. Clay Buchholz was a pleasant surprise with a 2.01 ERA in 16 starts, but the Diamondbacks can’t expect him to have that type of production again even if they decide to re-sign him. Robbie Ray provides some hope for the pitching staff, but he struggled at times this past season. Taijuan Walker could be back from Tommy John surgery at some point in 2019, but the Diamondbacks shouldn’t count on any contributions from him. Arizona’s rotation will look a lot different next season and they need to do something in free agency to address it in order to remain competitive.

Atlanta Braves – Biggest Need: Catcher

The Atlanta Braves received decent production from Kurt Suzuki at the catcher position last season as he hit .271 with 12 home runs. However, Suzuki is 35 years old and he is a free agent this offseason. The Braves would ideally like an upgrade over Suzuki anyways and it is extremely likely that they try to find a new starter at the catcher position this offseason. The catcher market in free agency provides the Braves with some good options like Wilson Ramos and Yasmani Grandal if they are willing to spend that kind of money on a catcher. However, it seems more likely that the Braves will tap into the trade market to find their new catcher. J.T. Realmuto is certainly the best option available, but it would likely take at least a couple of top prospects in order to get the deal done. The Braves have some options to find a new catcher, but it will be interesting to see how they address that position.

Baltimore Orioles – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Orioles have big needs at just about every position, but the glaring weakness continues to be their starting pitching. They tried to address the problem last offseason by signing veteran pitchers Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner in free agency, but those players just ended up making the rotation worse. Baltimore could see if those guys improve in 2019 or they could just decide to cut their losses and replace them. Dylan Bundy was supposed to be the ace of the Orioles rotation, but it appears that he isn’t the answer either as he had a disastrous 5.45 ERA last season. It is highly unlikely that the Orioles get a top-tier starting pitcher this offseason, but they need to sign several starting pitchers to try and at least make their starting rotation acceptable.

Boston Red Sox – Biggest Need: 2nd Base

Boston’s main weakness was at 2nd base this season mainly because starter Dustin Pedroia couldn’t stay healthy as he only played in 3 games. The Red Sox tried to fix the problem by trading for Ian Kinsler, but that didn’t really work out very well. Kinsler is a free agent after this season and the Red Sox certainly have no intention of bringing him back. That leaves Pedroia as the starter heading into 2019, but he has struggled to stay healthy over the past couple of seasons. That being said, Pedroia is 35 years old and he likely is just an average starter at best at this point in his career. Pedroia might still have some solid production left in his career, but it might be time for the Red Sox to move on from Pedroia and find an upgrade at 2nd base.

Chicago Cubs – Biggest Need: Shortstop

Addison Russell was once a hyped prospect, but he has failed to live up to the hype as he is just an average starting shortstop. Russell is a terrific defensive player, but he just hasn’t provided the Cubs with much of anything on offense. Russell was already in danger of losing his job in 2019 due to his lack of offensive production, but it seems even more likely now due to his character concerns. Russell will miss the start of the season because of a domestic violence issue and there is a chance that the Cubs could just decide to get rid of him altogether. Either way, the Cubs need to do something to address the shortstop position and it is somewhat likely that they could do so by going after a top player like Manny Machado. There is a good chance that the Cubs could land Machado and it would be a major upgrade at the shortstop position even when Russell returns.

Chicago White Sox – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon look like good young starting pitchers as they led the White Sox rotation last season. The White Sox also remain hopeful that talented prospects Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito can live up to the hype and help make the White Sox rotation stronger. Either way, the White Sox need to find at least one veteran starting pitcher to help improve the rotation and make the White Sox a contender in 2019. The White Sox could be big spenders this offseason and they have many areas to improve, but the continued growth of their young starting pitchers should be the number one priority.

Cincinnati Reds – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Reds have one of the best offenses in the MLB and they have a decent bullpen as well. However, the starting pitching remains the main issue that keeps the Reds from being playoff contenders. They were counting on veterans Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani to lead the rotation last season, but both had an absolutely disastrous 2018 season. Cincinnati has some talented young starting pitchers led by Luis Castillo, but they all suffered some growing pains as expected. The Reds are hoping that their young starters like Castillo can continue to improve in 2019. However, the Reds need to either sign a solid veteran pitcher in free agency or make a trade to improve their rotation. If the Reds can find a couple of good starting pitchers then it is possible that they could be playoff contenders in 2019.

Cleveland Indians – Biggest Need: Center Field

Cleveland had hopes that Bradley Zimmer could finally live up to the hype and take over the everyday role in center field, but that unfortunately never happened. They struggled to find anybody to take over that role and they ended up shifting Jason Kipnis to center field. Kipnis has been an infielder for basically his entire career and he was never meant to be anything more than a temporary solution at the position. The good news is that Cleveland could address the free agency with solid veterans like Adam Jones or A.J. Pollock. However, Cleveland just needs to do something in order to upgrade that position because it is really holding the team back.

Colorado Rockies – Biggest Need: Relief Pitching

The Rockies spent tons of money last offseason to try and improve their bullpen, but they didn’t see any results at all. Bryan Shaw, Chris Rusin, and Jake McGee all had big bullpen roles last season, but they all had an absolutely horrible season. Even closer Wade Davis who was known as one of the top closers in the game struggled with consistency. Adam Ottavino and Scott Oberg pitched very well for the Rockies, but they didn’t get much help from the rest of the bullpen. It is possible that the bullpen gets even worse next season especially if Adam Ottavino departs in free agency. Either way, the Rockies need to upgrade their bullpen in a major way this offseason. It is unlikely that they spend tons of money to upgrade the bullpen like they did last year, but they need to add a couple of reliable bullpen pieces in order to get better in that area.

Detroit Tigers – Biggest Need: Shortstop

Detroit has already made it known that last year’s starting shortstop Jose Iglesias won’t be retained for the 2019 season. However, that leaves a major void for the Tigers at shortstop that they must fill this offseason. The Tigers likely won’t spend much in free agency on a shortstop and they’ll likely just add a veteran shortstop on a short-term deal. That being said, the market for shortstops is once again slim this offseason. However, there are some decent temporary options at shortstop for the Tigers as Freddy Galvis, Alcides Escobar, and Adeiny Hechavarria are all free agents. Those guys are good defenders, but they don’t provide much on offense. Detroit needs a shortstop that can fill that role temporarily and it is very likely that they sign a player like Galvis for that role.

Houston Astros – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Astros head into a very interesting offseason mostly because they have a few key free agents that they need to decide whether to re-sign or not. However, starting pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton might be the most important players for them to re-sign. Houston has Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander as two terrific options at the top of their rotation. However, if they fail to re-sign Morton and Keuchel this offseason then they would have 3 rotation spots to fill especially with Lance McCullers out for the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. It is very possible that the Astros won’t be able to re-sign Morton or Keuchel, so it needs to be a priority to try and find a top level starting pitcher like Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, or Nathan Eovaldi. Either way, the Astros will be searching to find at least a couple of new starting pitchers this offseason.

Kansas City Royals – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

Kansas City is in the midst of a full-scale rebuild so they have needs at several positions, but the biggest problem that they had last season was their starting pitching. Danny Duffy was supposed to be the ace of the rotation, yet he had an awful 2018 season as he had a 4.88 ERA. The Royals need him to bounce back in 2019 and they need their younger pitchers like Jakob Junis to continue to improve. Brad Keller was a pleasant surprise for the Royals last season as he became the Royals best starter, but we’ll see if he can continue his success in 2019. Either way, the Royals rotation needs to add a couple of quality veteran pitchers to try and solidify their starting rotation this offseason. They certainly won’t sign a top-level starting pitcher in free agency, but they need to findĀ  at least someone on a short-term deal that can help their rotation out in 2019.

Los Angeles Angels – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Angels have an offense that can compete at a high level, but the consistency of the team’s pitching continues to hold them back. They once again struggled mightily with injuries to their starting rotation as players like Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs once again couldn’t stay healthy. Richards is a free agent this offseason and it is unlikely that the Angels retain him due to his lengthy injury history. Shohei Ohtani also won’t pitch in 2019 after he just had Tommy John surgery. That leaves the Angels with a couple of major voids to fill in a starting rotation that already was just average at best. The Angels need to find a couple of starting pitchers in free agency to try and give some more stability to their rotation.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Biggest Need: Relief Pitching

The Dodgers used Pedro Baez and Kenley Jansen extensively in the postseason because those were about the only two relief pitchers that they could rely on. However, that ended up being their downfall because the teams that they faced in the playoffs had much more depth in their bullpen. If the Dodgers want to make a deep playoff run again then they’ll need to at least find a good 7th inning option that will take some of the pressure off of Baez and Jansen. If the Dodgers can add some more depth to their bullpen then it will allow them to be more competitive if they reach the playoffs once again in 2019.

Miami Marlins – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Marlins have a couple of good starting pitchers with Jose Urena and Dan Straily. Neither are elite starting pitchers, but they at least provide some stability to the Marlins starting rotation. However, the rest of the starting rotation needs some help for sure. Wei-Yin Chen was completely unreliable in 2018 and they also couldn’t rely on consistency from younger starters like Caleb Smith and Trevor Richards. Miami likely won’t spend big to get a starting pitcher in free agency, but they need to find a veteran that can help provide some depth to their rotation.

Milwaukee Brewers – Biggest Need: Catcher

The combination of Erik Kratz and Manny Pina didn’t do much during the regular season, but they did contribute to the Brewers success in the 2018 playoffs. However, Kratz is 38 years old and the Brewers need to find an upgrade over him either way. Meanwhile, Pina is a good backup catcher for the Brewers, but he isn’t the long-term starter at catcher. The good news is that the catcher market in free agency gives the Brewers several good options. It is unlikely that they spend big money on a catcher like Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos. However, they could go after a lower-cost starter like Kurt Suzuki, Jonathan Lucroy, Brian McCann, or Matt Wieters. There are plenty of options at catcher for Milwaukee, but they need to do something to improve that position.

Minnesota Twins – Biggest Need: 1st Baseman

Minnesota has had the privilege of having Joe Mauer be their everyday 1st baseman for the past few years. However, the Twins now must find a replacement at 1st base after he decided to retire this offseason. The bad news though is that the Twins don’t really have a player on their roster that can fill that everyday role. They will likely use free agency to fill that major void, but the issue is that it is a a very weak group of 1st baseman. Steve Pearce, Matt Adams, Lucas Duda, and Mark Reynolds are about the only options for the Twins at that position and none of them are exactly inspiring options. The Twins could decide to trade for a 1st baseman and that is likely the better route to take, but they need to do something because they don’t have anybody that can fill the void at 1st base right now.

New York Mets – Biggest Need: Catcher

The good news for the Mets is that they have one of the best starting rotations in the MLB right now. However, the bad news is that they probably have the worst offense in the entire MLB as well. They have needs to fill at several positions and they need key players like Todd Frazier and Michael Conforto to produce more consistently. That being said, the biggest need for the Mets continues to be at the catcher position. They tried to address the issue by acquiring Devin Mesoraco from the Reds early in the 2018 season, but that trade didn’t work out. Now Mesoraco is set to become a free agent this offseason and the team has basically nothing left at the catcher position. Either way, the Mets need an upgrade over Mesoraco at catcher and it is likely that they will go all-in on finding a good starting catcher this offseason. It is very possible that they spend big to sign a catcher like Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos in free agency. However, they also have expressed tons of interest in trading for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. It will take a big risk either way to find a good starting catcher, but it is a risk that they must take in order to improve their team.

New York Yankees – Biggest Need: 1st Baseman

The New York Yankees are pretty much a complete team and they especially don’t need to improve their offense much. However, 1st base continues to be the position that holds their lineup back from reaching its full potential. The Yankees had hope that Greg Bird would live up to the hype and become their everyday 1st baseman. Sure, he has shown tremendous power with his bat, but he just hasn’t been able to produce consistently on offense. Luke Voit came in and did a very good job at 1st base, but he didn’t do much in the playoffs and he isn’t the long-term answer at 1st base. The Yankees don’t have any better options in free agency, but they could look to address their need at 1st base via a trade. The Yankees already are rumored to be intrerested in Paul Goldschmidt if the Diamondbacks decide to trade him and that would make the Yankees offense perhaps the best of any team in MLB history. Either way, they need to find a long-term solution at 1st base because Greg Bird and Luke Voit just aren’t the answer.

Oakland Athletics – Biggest Need: Catcher

Bruce Maxwell was supposed to take over the starting role at catcher for the Athletics, but it appears that will never happen. Jonathan Lucroy was the Athletics main catcher and he did a good job defensively, but he surprisingly struggled offensively as he only hit for a .241 average with 4 home runs. Lucroy is a free agent this offseason and the Athletics should definitely explore options to upgrade at the position. The Athletics could bring back Lucroy at a low cost or they could decide to spend more money and get a better catcher. It isn’t typical of Oakland to be aggressive spenders in free agency, but this might be the offseason that they need to do that in order to improve at the catcher position.

Philadelphia Phillies – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Philadelphia Phillies received a terrific performance from young starting pitcher Aaron Nola who became the Phillies undisputed ace last season with an impressive 2.37 ERA. Jake Arrieta also had a decent season with a 3.96 ERA, but beyond those two pitchers the Phillies starting rotation was really inconsistent. The return of Jerad Eickhoff next season should give the Phillies rotation some much needed depth. However, the other two spots in the rotation are completely up in the air. They could just have Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, and Vince Velasquez compete for the final two spots. That being said, it is probably just best if the Phillies add at least one veteran starting pitcher to help add some more depth in order to solidify the Phillies rotation. Philadelphia likely won’t be in the market for a top starting pitcher, although they must do something in order to improve the back end of their starting rotation.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Biggest Need: Shortstop

The Pirates middle infield is likely going to look a lot different next season with 2nd baseman Josh Harrison and shortstop Jordy Mercer both likely to depart in free agency. However, the biggest concern is the void that Pittsburgh currently has at shortstop especially if Mercer leaves in free agency. Mercer was just an average shortstop at best and it shouldn’t be too difficult to replace him, but the problem is that they don’t really have a plan to do so. The Pirates could dig into the rather weak shortstop market in free agency with players like Freddy Galvis and Alcides Escobar available likely at a low cost. However, none of the free agent options for the Pirates are necessarily upgrades over what the Pirates had with Mercer. Maybe the Pirates can address the need via a trade, but that seems highly unlikely at this point. The Pirates don’t have many good options to fill the shortstop void and it might be best if they just bring back Mercer on a short-term deal.

San Diego Padres – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Padres let go of a couple of good starting pitchers from the 2017 season as they traded away Trevor Cahill and let Jhoulys Chacin leave in free agency. Those turned out to be really bad decisions for the Padres as their starting rotation was an absolute disaster in 2018. Joey Lucchesi was clearly the team’s best starting pitcher last season and he struggled with consistency as he had a 4.08 ERA. The other pitchers including Eric Lauer, Tyson Ross, and Clayton Richard were even more inconsistent. The only real lock to make the starting rotation in 2019 is Lucchesi, but the rest of the starting rotation is completely up in the air. Either way, San Diego needs to sign a few veteran starting pitchers in free agency to finally help improve their starting rotation. If they fail to accomplish that this offseason then it will hold the Padres back from being a competitive team once again.

San Francisco Giants – Biggest Need: Right Fielder

The San Francisco Giants was absolutely terrible last season and the main issue was that their entire outfield wasn’t good at all. Andrew McCutchen was brought in to improve their lineup and he was arguably their best offensive player, but he still failed to live up to the hype before being traded during the season. However, after he was traded then it left the Giants with a major void at each of the outfield positions. Right Field is a particular area of need because they have absolutely nobody to fill that role right now. Hunter Pence had a terrible 2018 season and it is almost certain that the Giants will let him depart in free agency. Gorkys Hernandez could fill the void, but he will most likely start in left field for the Giants. Either way, the Giants desperately need to find a new starting right fielder this offseason. Maybe they make a push to sign a mid-range starter in right field like Carlos Gonzalez or Nick Markakis. However, it isn’t out of the question that they make a bigger splash at the position by trying to acquire an elite player like Bryce Harper. Adding him would not only fill the void in right field, but it would instantly make a huge difference in a rather weak Giants lineup. Either way, the Giants need some more power in their lineup and they certainly need to find a new everyday player in right field.

Seattle Mariners – Biggest Need: Catcher

The Mariners made the first big move of the MLB offseason by trading away starting catcher Mike Zunino. However, the problem is that the Mariners don’t have a catcher that is able to replace him. David Freitas is the best catcher that the Mariners have right now, but he isn’t even a very good backup. The Mariners desperately need to find a new starting catcher this offseason and the good news is that it is a strong market for catchers in free agency. It is unlikely that they try to sign a top catcher like Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos since the team is clearly trying to shed payroll this offseason. That being said, there should be some decent low-cost options like Jonathan Lucroy or Kurt Suzuki that the Mariners could sign on a short-term deal. Either way, the Mariners at least need to do something to fill the void left by Zunino’s departure.

St. Louis Cardinals – Biggest Need: Closer

The Cardinals bullpen started off the 2018 season well especially since Bud Norris performed well in the closer’s role. However, Norris’ performance faded later on in the season and the rest of the bullpen didn’t fare well either as pretty much every relief pitcher struggled with consistency. It is a problem that the Cardinals must address this offseason as they especially need to find a reliable closer that can shut down games and help them reach the playoffs once again. The good news for St. Louis is that there are plenty of good closers available in free agency. Craig Kimbrel is obviously the best closer on the market, but it would take tons of money to sign him. It is more likely that the Cardinals try to sign a mid-range closer like Cody Allen, Kelvin Herrera, Jeurys Familia, or Sergio Romo. Either way, Bud Norris proved that he wasn’t the right guy in the 9th inning and now the Cardinals badly need a closer to help solidify their bullpen that needs some serious improvement.

Tampa Bay Rays – Biggest Need: Relief Pitching

Jose Alvarado quietly became an elite setup man for the Rays as he had a 2.39 ERA in 70 appearances. Alvarado figures to play a major role in the Rays bullpen next season and it is very possible that he could take over the closer’s role as well. However, the rest of the bullpen needs some serious help. Closer Sergio Romo is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason and it seems somewhat unlikely that he’ll be retained. Ryne Stanek and Chaz Roe provide some solid bullpen depth, but the Rays need to find some better late-inning options. The Rays need to find a mid-range relief pitcher in free agency that can help solidify their bullpen in the late innings.

Texas Rangers – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Texas Rangers added some veteran starting pitchers last offseason in hopes that they could piece together a decent starting rotation. However, things didn’t work out quite as planned as veteran pitchers Mike Minor, Yovani Gallardo, Bartolo Colon, Doug Fister, Martin Perez, and Matt Moore all struggled tremendously. Another big problem is that all of those pitchers except for Mike Minor are scheduled to be free agents this offseason. Minor is a lock to make the Rangers rotation since he was their best starting pitcher last season, but there is a major void with the other 4 spots in the rotation. It will be tough for the Rangers to adequately fill all 4 spots, yet they need to do something to fix their starting rotation which was completely awful last season.

Toronto Blue Jays – Biggest Need: Relief Pitching

The Blue Jays weakened their bullpen considerably when they traded away Roberto Osuna and Seunghwan Oh during the 2018 season. However, the Blue Jays bullpen could get even worse this offseason with Tyler Clippard and Aaron Loup becoming free agents. They still have Ken Giles and Ryan Tepera in their bullpen, but that’s about all that they have. The Blue Jays badly need to find another late-inning option and they just need to add much more depth to their bullpen in general.

Washington Nationals – Biggest Need: 2nd Baseman

The Nationals have some huge decisions to make this offseason especially with star player Bryce Harper becoming a free agent. However, the biggest area of weakness for the Nationals is at 2nd base. Washington traded away Daniel Murphy during the season and that created a big void at 2nd base. Wilmer Difo isn’t a bad backup, but he has already proven that he shouldn’t be relied upon to be the starter at 2nd base. There are some intriguing options in free agency that the Nationals should consider. Jed Lowrie and DJ LeMahieu seem like the best options for the Nationals as they would provide an instant upgrade at 2nd base. However, there are also a couple of intriguing lower-cost options available like Josh Harrison and Brian Dozier. Washington has a chance to find a good starter at 2nd base this offseason and an upgrade over Wilmer Difo would be very beneficial.

 

Machado traded to the Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers made a huge trade just prior to the 2nd half of the season as they acquired star 3rd baseman Manny Machado from the Orioles in exchange for minor league prospects Yusniel Diaz, Rylan Bannon, Dean Kremer, Zach Pop, and Breyvic Valera.

 

Dodgers Grade/Analysis:

This trade just shows that the Dodgers are all-in for the 2018 season as they are paying a hefty price to acquire an elite player for what will likely be just a few months. Los Angeles had a big need at shortstop after they lost Corey Seager to injury early on in the season. Also, 3rd baseman Justin Turner has missed a big chunk of the season as he has dealt with injuries. The good news is that Machado can play either 3rd base or shortstop and he gives the Dodgers a huge threat in their lineup. Machado is having possibly the best year of his entire career as he batted .315 with 24 home runs and 65 RBI’s for the Orioles. There is no doubt that Machado makes the Dodgers a much more dangerous team in the short-term. However, this is an extremely risky trade since they are giving up 5 young prospects just to try and win a world series this season. The good news is that they didn’t give up their top prospect, but they still gave up several quality young prospects. It is unlikely that Machado re-signs with the Dodgers after this season since they should have Corey Seager back from injury in 2019, yet Machado is a player that can help the team a lot in 2018. Overall, the Dodgers are a much better team this season, although they might look back in the future and regret this trade especially if they don’t accomplish their lofty goals in 2018.

Grade: B

 

Orioles Grade/Analysis:

Manny Machado was basically the lone bright spot in what has been an absolutely miserable 2018 season for the Baltimore Orioles. However, this was a trade that had to be made since Machado is a free agent after the season and the Orioles had basically no chance to re-sign him. Machado would have cost the Orioles too much and the team wouldn’t be in much of a position to be a competitive team the next few years. The Orioles are now showing that they are focusing on the future by acquiring 5 young prospects for Machado. It is unfortunate that the Orioles didn’t get the Dodgers top prospect, but they are still getting some quality young players. The headliner of this deal from Baltimore’s perspective is clearly outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz. He now becomes the 2nd best prospect in the Orioles farm system according to MLB.com and he is ranked as the number 84 prospect in the entire MLB. Diaz is a terrific contact hitter as proven by his .314 batting average for the Dodgers Double-A team. He does have some good power as proven in the All-Star Futures Game when he hit 2 home runs. However, he hasn’t really shown much power in the minor leagues as he only has six home runs this year. Diaz is still likely a couple of years away from reaching the majors, yet he has the highest potential of any player that Baltimore received in this deal. The next best prospect that the Orioles received in this deal was right-handed pitcher Dean Kremer who now becomes the Orioles 13th best prospect according to MLB.com. Kremer is 22 years old, yet he still has quite a bit of time before reaching the majors. Kremer has been terrific in the minor leagues this year as he was 5-3 with a 3.30 ERA in High-A before recently being promoted to Double-A in the Dodgers system. Kremer has the potential to be a good 3rd or 4th starting pitcher in the Orioles rotation in a few years. Meanwhile, the Orioles acquired yet another promising player with 3rd baseman Rylan Bannon as he now becomes the Orioles 17th ranked prospect. Bannon is a rising prospect that really showcased his outstanding power this season. He has hit 20 home runs to go along with a .296 average at High-A in the Dodgers minor league system. Bannon also is a good defensive player, so if he can keep up this type of offensive production then he could be a starter at the MLB level one day. The other prospect that Baltimore received is right-handed pitcher Zach Pop who now ranks as the 29th prospect for the Orioles according to MLB.com. Pop has had a terrific season at the Single-A level for the Dodgers as he had a very impressive 1.04 ERA. He figures to be promoted to Double-A by the Orioles and it is possible we could see him in the majors in 2020 or even sooner if he continues at his current pace. Pop is a terrific strikeout pitcher and he has the potential to be a good late-inning relief pitcher at some point. Finally, the Orioles received infielder Breyvic Valera as another player in the Machado trade. Valera has the lowest potential of any player in this deal, but he is also the most MLB-ready player. Valera has already appeared in 20 games for the Dodgers this season, although he is only hitting .172 with 4 RBI’s. Valera figures to spend most of his time in Triple-A with the Orioles. However, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him at the MLB level this season especially with the Orioles needing some short-term infield depth after the trade of Machado. Valera is a good contact hitter and he has the ability to play almost every position. However, he is likely going to be nothing more than a bench player and utility option for the Orioles. Overall, it is unfortunate that the Orioles had to give up on Machado so soon considering he was their franchise cornerstone. However, the Orioles did receive a few quality prospects that can help the team as they rebuild for the future.

Grade: B+

Biggest weakness for every MLB team

Arizona Diamondbacks – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

The Diamondbacks were decent at the catcher position last season, but they let starter Chris Iannetta leave in free agency. However, the Diamondbacks are seriously struggling at the catcher position in 2018. Jeff Mathis is a good defensive catcher, yet he is only hitting .182 with no home runs this season. The Diamondbacks also have Alex Avila at the position and he has been even worse while batting .148 this season. It is hard to find good offensive catchers these days, but Arizona needs much better production than what they are getting right now.

Atlanta Braves – Biggest Weakness: Bullpen

The Braves have a really good starting rotation, but issues arise when they have had to call upon their bullpen this season. Arodys Vizcaino has been terrific as the team’s closer, but the rest of the bullpen has been very inconsistent. Shane Carle, A.J. Minter, and Dan Winkler have been good at times. However, none of those guys have been the reliable relief pitchers that Atlanta needs. If Atlanta is going to make the playoffs this year, then they need to find some better late-inning options in the bullpen.

Baltimore Orioles – Biggest Weakness: Starting Pitching

Baltimore has been terrible in many different aspects, but starting pitching stands out as being the worst of it all. Dylan Bundy has been the best starter for the Orioles, but even he only has an average 4.08 ERA this season. Kevin Gausman has been decent as well with a 4.11 ERA, but he has been inconsistent as well. The rest of the rotation though has been completely awful as the offseason free agent signings of Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb have just made the rotation worse. Also, Daniel Hess and Chris Tillman both have absolutely terrible ERA’s as well. Baltimore has had terrible starting pitching for years, yet it might actually be worse than ever this season.

Boston Red Sox – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

Sandy Leon performed well offensively in 2017, but he has regressed so far this season as he has become the weakness of the Red Sox lineup. Leon still hasn’t been terrible, yet he is only averaging .252 with 4 home runs in 2018. Meanwhile, Christian Vazquez has been even worse offensively for Boston. Vazquez is hitting .213 with 3 home runs in 2018 despite getting even more at-bats than Leon. Boston has enough in their lineup to make up for the lack of production at the catcher position, although they will need more if the Red Sox really want to reach their full potential.

Chicago Cubs – Biggest Weakness: Starting Pitching

Jon Lester has been outstanding for the Cubs this year as he has a 2.45 ERA. However, the rest of the starting rotation for Chicago hasn’t been nearly as good. Mike Montgomery has been decent as a 5th starter for the Cubs, but they need much more from the other pitchers. Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Tyler Chatwood, and Yu Darvish have all underachieved this season. The Cubs are still a probable playoff team, but if the Cubs want to make a deep playoff run then they’ll need much more from their starting pitching.

Chicago White Sox – Biggest Weakness: Starting Pitching

Reynaldo Lopez has been the lone bright spot in the White Sox starting rotation as leads the White Sox starters with a 3.77 ERA. However, the rest of the White Sox starting pitchers have been disastrous to say the least. James Shields, Dylan Covey, Lucas Giolito, and Carson Fulmer all have been really awful. Giolito and Fulmer are still big parts of the rotation for the future, yet Chicago needs much better starting pitching if they ever want to be relevant again.

Cincinnati Reds – Biggest Weakness: Starting Pitching

Tyler Mahle has been outstanding with a 3.66 ERA this season and Matt Harvey has been good for the Reds as well with a 3.79 ERA in 11 starts for the team. However, the rest of the rotation hasn’t been good at all. Sal Romano, Luis Castillo, and Homer Bailey all have an ERA 5.28 or less this season. The good news is that the Reds have a very good offense, but they will need much better starting pitching if they want to compete anytime soon.

Cleveland Indians – Biggest Weakness: Center Field

Bradley Zimmer and Greg Allen have both split time in center field for Cleveland this season, but the issue is that neither of them have been productive offensively. Zimmer is hitting only .226 with 2 home runs this season. However, Greg Allen has been even worse as he is a .208 hitter with just 1 home run. Cleveland might need to consider adding a center fielder at the trade deadline since they are getting terrible production from the position right now.

Colorado Rockies – Biggest Weakness: Bullpen

Colorado made some major changes to their bullpen this past offseason, but it has only seemingly made that unit even worse than last season. Adam Ottavino has been terrific and Scott Oberg has been good as well, but the rest of the bullpen has been terrible. Wade Davis was supposed to be an elite closer for the Rockies, but he instead has a mediocre 4.04 ERA this season. Also, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, Chris Rusin, and Mike Dunn have all been awful this season. The Rockies have some proven relief pitchers, yet for whatever reason they just haven’t been able to produce this season.

Detroit Tigers – Biggest Weakness: Designated Hitter

Victor Martinez has had a terrific career, but at this point he is nothing more than a mentor for the young players on the Tigers team as he finishes out his likely final MLB season. Martinez certainly isn’t the player that he once was as he is currently 39 years old and he hasn’t been a good hitter at all. Martinez is hitting .240 with just 4 home runs for Detroit this season despite making $18 million in salary. Those aren’t great stats especially for a designated hitter that is supposed to help carry the Tigers offense.

Houston Astros – Biggest Weakness: Bullpen

The Astros are a world series contender once again this season, but they certainly don’t have a bullpen worthy of that distinction. Ken Giles was supposed to be the closer this season, but he has been awful with a 4.11 ERA. Will Harris is another late-inning option for the Astros that has really struggled this year as well. Joe Smith has been the worst of all with a 4.70 ERA in 2018 for Houston. Hector Rondon, Tony Sipp, and Chris Devenski have been the reliable relief pitchers for the Astros. However, that isn’t exactly an inspiring group of relievers especially for a team that could make a deep playoff run. Either way, Houston needs to make it their priority to find some much better late-inning bullpen options at the trade deadline.

Kansas City Royals – Biggest Weakness: Starting Pitcher

It’s never a good sign when a pitcher that has been in the bullpen for most of his career is the best starting pitcher that the team has. However, that is the case with the Royals as Brad Keller has basically been the ace of the Royals rotation with a 2.82 ERA in 7 starts this year. Veteran Pitchers Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, and Jason Hammel were supposed to carry the starting rotation for Kansas City this season. However, all three of those guys have an ERA of 4.89 or lower. Meanwhile, Jakob Junis had a terrific start to the season, but he has been absolutely recently. The Royals need to find some better young starting pitchers or else their rotation might be bad for awhile.

Los Angeles Angels – Biggest Weakness: 2nd Base

Ian Kinsler was acquired by the Angels in order to be a major upgrade at the 2nd base position, but he has performed probably even worse than what the team had before. Kinsler has dealt with some injuries this year and that might be a contributing factor to his poor performance, but there is no excusing his .213 batting average. Kinsler has been a major weakness in the Angels lineup and he is holding them back from reaching their full potential.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Biggest Weakness: 2nd Base

The 2nd base position has been somewhat of revolving door as they really haven’t had a clear starter at the position. Logan Forsythe has been the starter for most of the season at 2nd base, although he has been absolutely awful offensively. Forsythe is hitting only .199 this season with just 2 home runs for the Dodgers. Veteran 2nd baseman Chase Utley hasn’t been much better as he is only hitting .227 with 1 home run this year. Either way, the 2nd base position has been a major weakness for the Dodgers and it is something that needs to be fixed soon.

Miami Marlins – Biggest Weakness: Starting Pitching

Miami hasn’t really had a clear ace of their starting rotation since the death of Jose Fernandez and they still don’t have one. Jose Urena has been the best Marlins starter this season, although he only has an average 4.13 ERA. Caleb Smith has been decent as well, but the rest of the rotation hasn’t been good at all. Dan Straily has really underachieved this season as he was supposed to be the ace of the rotation. Also, Trevor Richards and Wei-Yin Chen have been absolutely awful this season. Miami has some decent players in their lineup, but they need to find some better starting pitchers soon.

Milwaukee Brewers – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

The Brewers have used four different catchers this season, but the problem is that none of them have been good. Manny Pina has seen the most action at catcher for the Brewers, yet he is hitting just .227 with 16 RBI’s in 2018. Also, backup catcher Erik Kratz has been even worse with a .210 batting average and 6 RBI’s. Milwaukee has a good lineup otherwise, but they need to find some help at the catcher position if they want to make a deep playoff run.

Minnesota Twins – Biggest Weakness: Designated Hitter

Minnesota added Logan Morrison this offseason as they were hoping to add some power to their lineup. Morrison has accomplished that to some extent as he has hit 10 home runs this year, but the issue is that he hasn’t hit much of anything else. Morrison is batting just .193 for Minnesota this season and that just isn’t good enough. The designated hitter position is supposed to have a player that is a good hitter, but Morrison hasn’t lived up to expectations for the Twins.

New York Mets – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

The New York Mets had a big void at the catcher position which is why they acquired Devin Mesoraco early in the year from the Cincinnati Reds. However, Mesoraco hasn’t exactly been the solution at catcher as he is hitting just .232 with 18 RBI’s this season. Also, his backup Kevin Plawecki has been even worse as he is hitting .217 with just one home run for the Mets this year. The Mets have struggled mightily offensively this season and the catcher position has been a major source of those issues.

New York Yankees – Biggest Weakness: 1st Base

1st Base has been a revolving door for the Yankees this season as they have started a few different players at the position. They started out with Tyler Austin at 1st base, although he hit just .223 before being demoted to Triple-A. Meanwhile, Greg Bird has provided some power with 6 home runs, but he is only hitting .207 this year. The Yankees have even put Neil Walker at 1st base a lot and that has been disastrous as he is only hitting .197 with 2 home runs this season. The rest of the Yankees lineup is really good, but they need to find somebody that can produce more at 1st base.

Oakland Athletics – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

Jonathan Lucroy was once an all-star caliber catcher in the MLB, but he hasn’t really been an average catcher for the Athletics this season. Lucroy is hitting just .245 with 1 home run for Oakland in 2018. His backup Josh Phegley has been worse as he is batting just .219 with 2 home runs for the Athletics this year. Oakland really needs to find a new starting catcher because the position has just not been good this season.

Philadelphia Phillies – Biggest Weakness: Shortstop

Scott Kingery was an elite prospect coming into this season for Philadelphia and there were high expectations for him as the starting shortstop. However, Kingery has failed to live up to expectations as he is hitting just .229 with 4 home runs this season. Pedro Florimon has been better in his limited time at shortstop as he is batting .263 with 2 home runs this year. The Phillies have been rumored to be interested in Manny Machado and they could really use him at this point because they are really struggling at shortstop.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Biggest Weakness: Shortstop

Jordy Mercer is just an average shortstop and he probably always will be, but he especially hasn’t provided much offense this season. Mercer is hitting just .242 with 5 home runs for Pittsburgh as he has basically been the everyday player at that position. The Pirates need to finally find an upgrade at the position because Mercer isn’t worthy of being their starting shortstop.

San Diego Padres – Biggest Weakness: Shortstop

Freddy Galvis is certainly known for his defense and that is probably the only reason that he remains a starting shortstop at the MLB level. However, he has been a liability offensively for the Padres this season as he is batting just .234 with 4 home runs. Galvis makes the Padres a better team defensively, although the team needs to find a shortstop that can provide much more on offense.

San Francisco Giants – Biggest Weakness: Left Field

Hunter Pence was once an all-star caliber player, but his performance has really dropped off this season. He is hitting just .208 with no home runs in 2018 for the Giants as he has been a major liability in their offense. Gregor Blanco has also seen some time in left field for the Giants, but he hasn’t been much better as he is hitting just .242 with 1 home run. The Giants need to find more production from that position especially if they want to remain in the playoff race.

Seattle Mariners – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

Mike Zunino has spent quite a bit of time on the disabled list this season, but he hasn’t even been productive when he has been healthy. Zunino has provided great power as proven by his 12 home runs, but the problem is that he doesn’t do much else on offense. Zunino strikes out way too much and he is only hitting .189 so far this year for the Mariners. David Freitas and Chris Herrmann are the other catchers on the roster right now, but they haven’t been any better. Freitas is hitting just .194 with no home runs while Herrmann is batting .222 with 1 home run this year. The Mariners have a good lineup otherwise, yet the catcher position could hold them back if they make the playoffs.

St. Louis Cardinals – Biggest Weakness: 2nd Base

Kolten Wong has basically been the everyday starter at 2nd base, but he hasn’t exactly proved that he is deserving of being the starter. Wong is hitting just .221 with 7 home runs for the Cardinals this season as he has been the weakest part of their lineup. The Cardinals need to find an upgrade at that position especially if they want to compete with the Brewers and Cubs in the NL central.

Tampa Bay Rays – Biggest Weakness: Right Field

Carlos Gomez was once a terrific starter at the MLB level and that is the main reason the Rays signed him to see if he can provide that type of play to the team. However, it hasn’t quite worked out that way so far as he is batting just .206 with 7 home runs this year. Gomez has been the everyday starter in right field, but the Rays need to find an upgrade at that position since it is holding the lineup back.

Texas Rangers – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

Robinson Chirinos has basically been the everyday catcher for the Rangers this season and he has provided some good power with 11 home runs. However, he has struggled to make contact as proven by his .204 batting average this year. The Rangers have been so bad at the position that they have utility infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa as the backup catcher. Texas needs to find an upgrade at the position because that duo just doesn’t provide the offense necessary to help out their lineup.

Toronto Blue Jays – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

Russell Martin was once an all-star catcher, but he has not been good the past couple of seasons for the Blue Jays. He still provides some power as he has 6 home runs this season, but he is only hitting .173 so far in 2018. Backup catcher Luke Maile has been better, although he is still only hitting .234 with 3 home runs. Russell Martin isn’t the player that he once was and it is about time for Toronto to find an upgrade at the position.

Washington Nationals – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

Matt Wieters wasn’t performing well as the starting catcher for the Nationals as he was hitting just .232 for the team before getting injured. His injury just weakened what was an already bad group of catchers. Pedro Severino has seen the most playing time since the injury, although he has been awful as he is batting just .171 with 2 home runs. Backup catcher Spencer Kieboom has been somewhat better, yet he is still only hitting .222 with no home runs. Washington is likely in the market for a catcher at the trade deadline and they really need to find at least an average catcher to help improve their lineup.

2017 playoff teams that are most likely to miss the playoffs in 2018

3. Minnesota Twins – Current Record: 17-20

The Twins play in the awful AL central division, which is probably a reason that they were able to make the playoffs last year. However, the Twins haven’t exactly gotten off to a good start in 2018. Star 3rd baseman Miguel Sano has already struggled with injuries and he has been very inconsistent even when he’s been healthy. Also, key players such as Byron Buxton and Brian Dozier have really struggled this year as well. The Twins pitching hasn’t been much better as they currently have a combined 4.49 ERA. Minnesota’s only real chance to make the playoffs is by winning the division and it is difficult to see them beating out Cleveland for that spot.

2. Chicago Cubs – Current Record: 21-17

Chicago still has a very talented team and it is basically the same core of players that helped the team win the world series a couple of years ago. However, the NL central isn’t the same division that it was a year ago. The Brewers and Cardinals are both really good teams as they got better this past offseason. Also, the Pirates have been a really competitive team so far in 2018. The Cubs need more out of their offense especially from players like Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, and Ian Happ. Also, Jose Quintana and Yu Darvish have not had a good start to the season in the starting rotation. Chicago still is likely to make the playoffs, although it is no guarantee since their division is much tougher this year.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers – Current Record: 16-24

The Dodgers are a very talented team on paper, but they have not lived up to the hype this year. In fact, the Dodgers are in 4th place in the NL West and if they don’t start playing better soon then they could be out of the playoff race early on. Injuries are a major reason that the Dodgers have fallen so far behind as starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, and Hyun-Jin Ryu have all been on the disabled list this year. Also, starting shortstop Corey Seager is out for the season and that is a huge blow for the Dodgers. Having star 3rd baseman Justin Turner back from injury helps the Dodgers offense a little bit, but they need players like Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig, and Chris Taylor to improve their game. The Dodgers need to stay healthy, but it might not matter since they have three very talented teams ahead of them in their division.

2018 NL West Predictions

  1. 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.