Division Outlook: NL West
Another week, another division for our division outlook series. After covering each of the three American League divisions over the last three weeks, it's time to head over to the National League, home of our Washington Nationals. To kick things off in this league, let's head out west and look at what should be a top-heavy National League West.
San Francisco Giants
Coming off a shocking division title with a 107-55 record in 2021, the Giants regressed hard last season, finishing in third with a 81-81 record. They almost had a really good offseason, nearly signing Carlos Correa and "Arson" Judge. Instead, they come into 2023 with a group of acquisition that can end up being really good or just meh. Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto are the definition of the previous description. In all, this roster just screams average. The Giants don't have much star power, if any, but their roster is still full of guys that can get the job done. Regardless, a rotation of Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Sean Manaea, and Ross Stripling can be a top 10 rotation in my eyes when healthy. As previously mentioned, this offense doesn't have any star power players that are household names, but a lineup with the aforementioned Haniger and Conforto with Joc Pederson, Wilmer Flores, and Mike Yastrzemski can be serviceable.
Where the Giants do shine however, is their analytics and behind the scenes kind of things. Gabe Kapler came into San Francisco and made an immediate impact in the Bay Area. As previously mentioned, the Giants went 107-55 and won the division in 2021, with Kapler being a big reason. He played all of his players to their biggest strengths and played almost exclusively matchup baseball. This aided the Giants into getting career years from guys like Darin Ruf, who posted a .904 OPS in 2021. If the Giants continue that kind of play and can get results above expectations from certain players, they can compete for a wild card spot. With the heavyweight Dodgers and Padres in this division, it is very hard to see San Fransisco returning to the playoffs this year.
Team MVP: Logan Webb
Team Cy Young: Logan Webb
Team X-Factor: Michael Conforto
The Nationals play in San Fransisco for three games from May 8-10 and host the Giants for three games from July 21-23.
The Diamondbacks are a weird team. They won't be a super competitive team in the National League or in their own division, but a sneaky playoff push come September wouldn't come as too much of a shock in my opinion. They had a strong offseason and already have a young and budding core that will be a competitive bunch for years to come.
The pitching is what Arizona is waiting for, as the only real quality arms they currently have are Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. They will need bounce back years from guys like Ketel Marte and Carson Kelly, but also have offensive weapons like Christian Walker and newly acquired Lourdes Gurriel Jr. The addition of Gurriel Jr. adds to a deep outfield that includes him, Kyle Lewis, Jake McCarthy, Alek Thomas and Corbin Carroll. The lineup can compete and is full of run producers, but the pitching creates some big question marks.
The highlight of that bunch is Corbin Carroll, the top prospect in baseball. The Diamondbacks organization wasted no time locking up their franchise star, inking him to an eight-year, $111 million deal. Carroll only played in 22 major league games last season, but still racked up 1.1 WAR in that time. He has a ton of potential and looks like a star in the making out in the desert.
Team MVP: Corbin Carroll
Team Cy Young: Zac Gallen
Team X-Factor: Ketel Marte
The Nationals travel to the desert to play in Arizona for three games from May 5-7, and host the Diamondbacks for three games from June 6-8.
The Rockies could win the competition of worst run organization in major league baseball. They finished 68-94 last season and did practically nothing over the offseason, yet owner Dick Monfort claimed the team could "play .500 ball." There would need to be some serious magic out in the Rocky Mountains in order for this team to finish even close to .500 in the 2023 season.
The Rockies pitching is not the worst in baseball, but they play 81 games at Coors field, so their stats are always gonna end up somewhat inflated. Colorado will face the same question they did last season - can Kris Bryant stay healthy? If so, their lineup can be above average, especially at home. If not, this offense might find themselves sputtering to the finish line once again. Overall, this team just isn't very good and won't find themselves being competitive too much throughout the 2023 season. Keep an eye on Ezequiel Tovar though, as he is a young guy that can be a bright spot for this Rockies franchise.
Team MVP: CJ Cron
Team Cy Young: German Marquez
Team X-Factor: Kris Bryant
The Nationals play four games in Colorado from April 6-9, and host the Rockies for three games from July 24-26.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The longtime champs of the National League West might be in trouble this season, but not actually in real trouble. This team is a lock in the playoffs practically every season, so the question for this year is if they can win the division with a San Diego franchise hungry for victory behind them.
They have lost two franchise shortshops in back to back offseasons in Corey Seager and Trea Turner. Gavin Lux was bidding for the starting gig this year, but suffered an extremely unfortunate ACL tear in a spring training game. I'm hoping for nothing but the quickest and safest recovery for him throughout the process. The Dodgers did acquire Miguel Rojas from the Marlins, who looks like the most likely starting shortshop for this team. He was nothing special for Miami, but with what the Dodgers do, expect a magical 4.0 WAR season from Rojas. They still have elite bats up and down the lineup, with Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and Will Smith headlining the lineup out in Hollywood.
The Dodgers rotation should remain a top 10 staff in baseball, even without Walker Buehler. Southpaws Julio Urias and future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw are the lead two pitchers, but the Dodgers still have Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Noah Syndergaard after them.
Like the rotation, the Dodger's 'pen looks like a top 10 unit in the majors, creating a roster with no real holes. The Padres will be hungry for the division crown in 2023, but the Dodgers will not make it easy for them, fighting for yet another 100 win season.
Team MVP: Mookie Betts
Team Cy Young: Julio Urias
Team X-Factor: Max Muncy
The Nationals play three games in Los Angeles from May 29-31 and host the Dodgers for three games from September 8-10.
San Diego Padres
As mentioned in the Dodgers bit, the Padres are hungry. They obviously made it to the National League Championship Series last year, but fell just short to the hands of the Phillies. This year, they are going all in for that World Series ring.
The Padres are what every other team in Major League Baseball should be. They aren't a major market, yet spend like they are one. They signed Manny Machado to a massive contract, and then proceeded to extend him to another one before he hit free agency. They have already signed Fernando Tatis Jr., Joe Musgrove, and Yu Darvish to big extensions, and then added Xander Bogaerts to a big free agent deal. The question that remains is if they can retain Juan Soto through an extension or in free agency. Regardless, this team is legit right now, and even if they lose Soto, will be contenders for a while with an elite core.
This lineup is absolutely star studded and must watch TV, even for East Coast viewers. Tatis Jr., Soto, Machado, and Bogaerts might go down as the best 1-2-3-4 of all time. Jake Cronenworth and one of Matt Carpenter or Nelson Cruz follow, and then comes the bottom of the lineup. The only flaw of this lineup might be a lack of depth, as it does seem a bit top heavy. A huge key for the Friars will be if Cruz can return to the notorious ageless hitter he has been, if Grisham can return to his 2020 offensive self, and if they can get offensive production from the catcher position. If any of those things do hit, this lineup becomes even better, possibly cementing itself as a top three lineup in the majors.
On the pitching side, the Padres have a nasty three headed monster in Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, and Blake Snell. After that, it does fall off some, as Bob Melvin will be relying on Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, and Nick Martinez to carry the rest of the starting duties. After that, there isn't much depth at the starting position for them, something that did plague them throughout last season as well. Headlined by Josh Hader and Robert Suarez, the Padres' bullpen is more good enough to hold down their wins.
All in all, this Padres roster has tons of star power throughout the roster. The question for this team will be if they can get production everywhere they need to, and if their lack of depth will end up causing a potential downfall throughout the season. Here's to hoping they can perform to expectations and be a perennial contender in all of baseball.
Team MVP: Juan Soto
Team Cy Young: Joe Musgrove
Team X-Factor: Michael Wacha
The Nationals host San Diego and old favorite Juan Soto for three games from May 23-25, and head out west to play them for three games from June 23-25.
It's gonna be between the NL West and East for the best division in the National League this year, and both divisions have some stacked squads within them. Expect some serious competition in this division in what should be an electric and fun to watch first place battle between newfound rivals Los Angeles and San Diego. Here is how I think the division standings will end:
1. San Diego Padres (104-58)
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (102-60)
3. Arizona Diamondbacks (82-80)
4. San Fransisco Giants (81-81)
5. Colorado Rockies (69-93)