The Rest of the West: Assessing the Dodgers’ 2019 Division Competition

As the 2019 MLB season commences, the NL East and NL Central look to be competitive almost completely from top to bottom after many of their respective teams made upgrades, chiefly the Phillies acquiring Bryce Harper and other big bats, the Cardinals trading for Paul Goldschmidt, and the Reds getting a host of ex-Dodgers and Tanner Roark to end their rebuild. The same can’t be said for the NL West, which aside from Manny Machado signing with the Padres, didn’t change much.

With that said, it may seem somewhat pointless to take a look at the Dodgers’ divisional competition, and just about every major prediction has them winning the NL West. However, we thought the exact same going into 2018, and the Dodgers barely won it after 163 games despite being far superior to Colorado on paper.

You never can be too sure, so for posterity, let’s take a look at the threat each team in the NL West poses to the Dodgers’ hopes for a seventh consecutive division title.

1. Colorado Rockies

The greatest threat given how close they came to ending the Dodgers’ division championship streak last year. Coors Field, long a house of horrors for the Dodgers, threatened their season in an even more grim manner when Kenley Jansen suffered an irregular heartbeat in August. That still remains an intangible even with Kenley ostensibly healthier this season. Not to mention, Colorado locked up Nolan Arenado, thus negating any chance of Los Angeles acquiring him via free agency.

As always, their offense is monstrous with Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story. Hated Dodger killer Daniel Murphy has the potential to add to their power onslaught. And after years of struggling to entice pitchers to their homer-happy park, they have a strong front of the rotation with Kyle Freeland and German Marquez.

Threat Level: Moderate. Despite their wealth of bats, Colorado still can’t equal the Dodgers’ elite starting rotation. As long as Los Angeles hits consistently, the Rockies won’t come close this time around.

2. San Diego Padres

The Padres would seem like an upstart challenger given they won the Manny Machado sweepstakes this offseason. That unquestionably makes them a much better team…but not enough to make it October. They have a beautifully loaded farm system, with prospects like Fernando Tatis Jr., Luis Urias and Francisco Mejia ready to make an impact in 2019. But the playoffs are a lot to ask from a core just coming up.

Threat Level: Nonexistent…but not for long. When the farm system fully manifests in a year or two, paired with Machado still in his prime, the Padres have a legit chance at being a tough division rival for the Dodgers. When that does happen, there’ll be some fireworks. For now, however, they remain irrelevant.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

After challenging the Dodgers the past two years, including a playoff meeting in 2017, the Diamondbacks are now in rebuild mode. They dealt Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis in a lopsided deal that no doubt has their fans in a rage after his historic performance Friday. A.J. Pollock is already tormenting his former team in Dodger blue, and Patrick Corbin signed with the Washington Nationals. That’s too much elite talent gone in one offseason, and many might not be ready for just how bad they’ll be as a result.

Threat Level: Zero…as a challenger for the division crown anyway. But knowing Arizona and their seemingly endless armada of players that destroy Dodger pitching, they have the ability to play spoiler. They nearly did just that late last September, before Los Angeles swept the Giants and took game 163 at home. If Christian Walker or Daniel Descalso pulled their own version of Joe Morgan 1982 on us, I have to say I wouldn’t be surprised.

4. San Francisco Giants

Given they’ve won three World Series this decade, S.F. should ostensibly always be waiting in the wings to take the division crown. It’s strangely easy to forget the Giants and Dodgers have been in notable division races recently in 2014 and 2016, the latter year a relatively down-to-the-wire race that would have been more intense if the Giants weren’t collapsing. Of course, San Francisco won the World Series out of the wild card in the former year, so who won the division didn’t always matter.

At this moment, though, there will be no need to stress out about any close NL West chase from the orange and black. San Francisco has been atrocious the past two years despite one of the highest payrolls in the game, with a porous bullpen and weak starting pitching. Once Madison Bumgarner is traded this summer, an era (thankfully) comes to an official end.

Threat Level: Less than zero. The Giants are slated to be the next Tigers with an aging, expensive core and a famished farm system, yet an irrational aversion to rebuilding. Not to mention, it’s Bruce Bochy’s final year as manager. Like Arizona, they could be a spoiler. But as long as the Dodgers play up to their abilities this year, that scenario should be avoided altogether.

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