The Arizona Diamondbacks jumped out in front of the NL West by taking advantage of injuries to the star three pitchers for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants.
If both get all three pitchers back, the Dodgers are still the World Series contender in the division after going to seven games last year, but the Giants also have added cagey veterans to their line-up and might be the Diamondbacks equal overall. Nowhere are injuries as big a factor as in the NL West.
This division also features the best fielding in baseball.
Explanation of Ratings: We start by rating each team on a base 20 scale, with a 10-point scale for batting, 5-point scale for starting pitching, 3-point scale for relief pitching and 2-point scale for fielding. This was done by reviewing personnel and results to date and playing simulated games through Statis-Pro baseball (free version here), weighing pitching and batting stats by the team’s home ballpark, reviewing which fielders on each team were nominated for a gold glove either of the past two seasons and evaluating all new players. We then assess the new players acquired and present the weaknesses that might be addressed by the July trade deadline.
Los Angeles Dodgers (16.5 of 20) – All the Dodgers need to make another World Series run is healthy pitchers. Even with three starting pitchers with ERA’s under 3.00 all on the DL list, every other aspect of the team is so good that they have stayed above .500. Get them back and they could have another historic run like last year.
Batting (8.2 of 10) – No changes to last year’s NL champ line-up.
Starters (4.6 of 5) – If they return to health, newcomer Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu and of course Clayton Kershaw complete a rotation with Rich Hill and Alex Wood that competes for the best rotation in baseball.
Relievers (2.2 of 3) – Lefty Scott Alexander a nice addition from the Royals to join several strong returning relievers led by Kenley Jansen of course.
Fielding (1.5 of 2) – Gold glove nominees at 3 key positions in Yasiel Puig (RF), Justin Turner (3B) and Corey Seager (SS) make this a truly elite defense.
Arizona (11.8 of 20) – Arizona is strong, but they do not have the talent to compete with a healthy Dodgers starting rotation.
Batting (5.0 of 10) – John Ryan Murphy is a nice new addition with power when he plays catcher, and former Mariner Jarrod Dyson gave an extra decent bat to a line-up that is still below average despite Paul Goldschmidt’s constant dominance.
Starters (4.5 of 5) – The team kept the strong rotation in place – but the question now is if they feel they can compete long-term for first place or if they might be tempted to let Pat Corbin go in a trade.
Relievers (3.8 of 3) – Newcomers Matt Koch and Yoshihisa Hirano join an already strong pen to make it possibly the best in the majors.
Fielding (1.0 of 2) – Except when Zack Greinke pitches, the only gold glove nominees are on the right side of the infield in 1B Paul Goldschmidt and 2B Jean Segura.
San Francisco (11.5 of 20) – Like their hated rivals the Dodgers, the Giants’ will be very good if they get all three of their star starting pitchers back. Their fielding and relief pitching could both be the best in the majors, and even though their line-up is well below average it is made up of a lot of players who were very good and know how to win.
Batting (4.0 of 10) – The Giants pulled in three solid hitters to transform from terrible to an offense that is at least competitive – OF Andrew McCutcheon from the Pirates, 3b Evan Longoria from Tampa Bay, and Austin Jackson from Cleveland. However, these three combine for around an average OPS playing in a neutral park – so solid but not playing at All-Star levels at this stage.
Starters (4.0 out of 5) When healthy, the Giants’ rotation is near the top. Madison Bumgarner is finally back after missing two months, and if Johnny Cueto (0.84 ERA in the five games he pitched before the injury) and Jeff Samardzija (down the last couple of years but still great stuff) come back as well, the Giants can at least count on the starters.
Relievers (2.7 out of 3) – While closer Hunter Strickland is on 10-day DL, the Giants do not need to make any moves because four other relievers have combined for an ERA of 1.89 over 121 appearances with a lot of matching lefties against lefties (119.1 total innings pitched).
Fielding (1.8 of 2) – By adding 3b Evan Longoria to the combination of C Buster Posey, SS Brandon Crawford and 2b Joe Panik, the Giants have four gold glove nominees and quite possibly the best fielding in the majors.
Colorado (7.7 of 20) – While the batting stats always jump off the page in Colorado, this is actually a team that excels more in the field and out of the bullpen – but is unlikely to end up at .500.
Batting (3.5 of 10) – Former Arizona catcher Chris Iannetta gives the Rockies another big bat, but when you adjust for the crazy number of runs scored in Coors Field the offense is actually well below average.
Starters (2.1 of 5) – Adjusting for the ballpart, the starters have done a very commendable job keeping the Rockies in games until the great pen can take over.
Relievers (2.1 of 3) – Like many before them, the transition from Wrigley Field for closer Wade Davis and Cleveland for set-up star Bryan Shaw led to much higher ERAs. However, Davis kept his below 5.00 in recording 20 saves, and with Adam Ottavino sporting an 0.85 ERA and a 3.70 career ERA despite playing his whole career in Colorado – this is actually a very good bullpen.
Fielding (1.8 of 2) – The Rockies may have the best fielding in the majors with outfielders Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez as well as 3b Nolan Arenado and 2b DJ LeMahieu all being nominated for gold gloves.
San Diego (7.4 of 20) – The Padres put together nice additions to help all four aspectsof the game, but the line-up is so weak that it is unlikely they could finish .500 – so it will be tempting to let a pitcher or two go and play for next year.
Batters (2.3 of 10) – The Padres added two huge bats at the corners in Eric Hosner from KC at 1st base and Christian Villanova at third base. Unfortunately most of the rest of the line-up is so weak this still leaves them with a very weak offense.
Starters (1.7 of 5) – The addition of Matt Strahm from KC looked like it would give the starting rotation a boost and makes it average overall – but instead he has mainly worked out of an overall stacked bullpen (and done well) so with teams seeking Tyson Ross the Padres could trade for the future and end up with a weak rotation for the duration of this season.
Relievers (2.4 of 3) – The addition of Adam Cimber made the pen the strength of the team, but with contenders coveting closer Brad Hand it will be tempting to write off 2018 and trade Hand and perhaps see if Cimber can also close.
Fielding (1.0 of 2) – The Padres added a 3rd gold glove nominee in Hosmer from KC, the odd thing is one of the other two (Will Myers) also earned it at first base so he needs to move to OF while 2b Joe Panik is the other. A very strong right side of the infield might discourage lefty pull hitters, particularly if a version of the shift puts Myers in shallow right.