In less than 90 days, the Los Angeles Dodgers will begin their quest for an eighth consecutive division title. Even including 2016 and 2018, when the Dodgers took the NL West title by the skin of their teeth, they have won the division by an average of almost 9 games. There isn’t another team in the league that can boast that dominant of a run.
Will the competition be stiffer in 2020?
Who Got Better?
- 2019 Record: 85-77
- ERA: 12th in MLB (4.25)
- Runs Scored: 11th in MLB (813)
The Diamondbacks finished four games out of the NL Wildcard last year as a team that was good in many departments, but not great in any one. After trading away Zach Greinke to the Astros this past July, they went out and signed bonafide ace Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner should re-solidify the top of the rotation along with Robbie Ray and the up-and-coming Zach Gallen (2.89 ERA in 8 starts). There’s a lot of tread on the MadBum tires, but he’s still a pitcher no one wants to face in the fall.
Right-hander Zac Gallen is headed to the Arizona Diamondbacks from the Miami Marlins for shortstop prospect Jazz Chisholm, source tells ESPN. Gallen has been very good, with a 2.72 ERA in seven major league starts.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2019
They’ll open the year with a better closer in Archie Bradley. In addition to being a big Dave Roberts supporter, Bradley posted 17 saves and a 1.71 ERA in the second half. Adding the 34 year-old Junior Guerra will also improve the back of the bullpen. Expect Arizona to win more close games.
Led by Eduardo Escobar and Ketel Marte, Arizona has a legitimate lineup that will continue to churn out runs. Bringing in Kole Calhoun will give them a second power bat in the outfield as opposed to a fading Adam Jones.
The @Dbacks' Eduardo Escobar currently leads the majors with 93 RBI through today's games.
Since RBI became an official stat in 1920, only one switch-hitter has ever finished a season as the majors' RBI leader: Mickey Mantle in 1956 (130).#RattleOn
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) August 8, 2019
Breakout Christian Walker filled the Goldschmidt void admirably in 2019 (.259/.348/.476) and 2017 All-Star third baseman Jake Lamb just needs to stay healthy. Throw in homerun hitting catcher Carson Kelly and two-time Gold Glove shortstop Nick Ahmed, and Arizona might have one of the best infields in the NL.
Who Stayed the Same?
- 2019 Record: 71-91
- ERA: 25th in MLB (5.17)
- Runs Scored: 9thth in MLB (835)
At this juncture, the Rockies haven’t dealt either of their high paid All-Stars in Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon. There’s been plenty of offseason chatter that the Rockies are open to dealing one or both if the price is right. Will the trade rumors further frustrate a locker room that massively underperformed in 2019 a year after pushing the Dodgers to game 163?
Outfielder David Dahl (.302/.353/.524) will be back following a scary leg injury in August and adds depth to a lineup that also features shortstop Trevor Story (.917 OPS) and savvy vet/Dodger killer Daniel Murphy. Getting runs across shouldn’t be the challenge.
Trevor Story’s 505 ft blast is the longest HR this season and broke the Statcast all-time record. pic.twitter.com/sO91bjrOLI
— ?O?KEY???K™ (@DonkeyHack) October 9, 2018
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Rockies pitching staff is a concern. Backing up the porous starting rotation, that had the worst ERA in baseball, was the third worst bullpen. In 2019, the Rockies had four starters make at least 15 starts who finished with ERAs north of 6.56. 2018 Cy Young candidate Kyle Freeland was one of those four and figures to be better this upcoming season along with German Marquez…or it will get worse because it’s Coors Field. Pour one out for Wade Davis (8.65 ERA & 1.875 WHIP).
San Francisco Giants
- 2019 Record: 77-85
- ERA: 15th in MLB (4.38)
- Runs Scored: 28th in MLB (678)
Year 1 A.B. (After Bochy). Another year where the Giants will inject more youth, hope to shed pricey veterans, and bolster the farm in the process. This is the final year of their annual $19.8M donation to the Jeff Samardzija foundation. It could also be the year Farhan Zaidi finds a taker for first baseman Brandon Belt who never lived up to his $68.8M contract. Zaidi was given a difficult rebuilding task, but a 19-6 July offered a glimpse at a return to winning baseball in the Bay.
For the first time in a long time, the Giants have two top-100 prospects in catcher Joey Bart and outfielder Heliot Ramos. Bart’s promotion to the bigs plays a pivotal role in rejuvenating Buster Posey’s sagging offensive production by allowing him to spend time at first.
#SFGiants top prospect Joey Bart blasts off with a mammoth grand slam! (103.7 mph, 423 ft.)
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 30, 2019
More than just a name, outfielder Mike Yastrzemski (.852 OPS) was a huge factor and gave the Giants something they’re always missing – power. The Zach Cozart trade and Kevin Gausman signing were smart, low risk maneuvers. Who knows, maybe starter Johnny Cueto returns to form in the pitching friendly confines of Oracle Park.
The Giants are still at least a year away from challenging for the division title.
Who Got Worse?
San Diego Padres
- 2019 Record: 70-92
- ERA: 18th in MLB (4.60)
- Runs Scored: 27th in MLB (682)
In 2019, the Padres had the best closer in baseball, one of the best shortstops, Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer…and that was about it. Tatis Jr., Machado, and Hosmer were not enough to carry a lineup that was third in strikeouts and in the bottom third of the league in walks. Trading homerun hitting outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Rays for Tommy Pham gives San Diego a much better contact hitter who steals bases (25 in 2019) too.
Wait…HE'S ONLY 20?!?!
Fernando Tatis Jr. now has more home runs (21) than years on this earth! ??
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 7, 2019
Starter Chris Paddack (3.33 ERA in 140.2 IP) showed top of the rotation potential, but can new additions Zach Davies and Garrett Richards give a young, patchwork staff stability? When you have a closer as good as Yates, it’s all about the bridge which explains the aggressive signing of Drew Pomeranz ($34M/4 years).
Much like 2019, the Padres will be entertaining, but probably not successful.
Did the Dodgers Get Worse?
- 2019 Record: 106-56
- ERA: 4th in MLB (3.78)
- Runs Scored: 5th in MLB (886)
For the pessimists, losing an ERA-title winner like Hyun-Jin Ryu rarely improves a pitching staff. Once again, the Dodgers are betting on their depth bailing them out of spending on free agents. The front office was unwilling to pay top dollar to retain a pitcher they groomed into an All-Star and Cy Young candidate. First baseman, elder statesman, and clubhouse favorite David Freese retired this October and left the Dodgers devoid of a clutch pinch-hit playoff bat.
Clayton Kershaw is a year older after registering his first ERA over 3.00 since 2008 and again, struggled in the playoffs.
On the flip side, number two overall prospect Gavin Lux will get plenty of at-bats in 2020 and could be a superstar in the making. Fireballers Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May return one year wiser after their first taste of the senior circuit. Newly signed reliever and certified Friedman reclamation project Blake Treinen provides insurance in case Kenley Jansen continues to decline. Outfielder AJ Polluck was never able to get into a rhythm after playing just 86 games due to injury.
Better or worse than 2019, it would be an absolute shock if the Dodgers didn’t win the NL West again in 2020.