2016 National League West Preview

Dodgers SP Clayton Pitcher became the first pitcher 13 years to reach 300 strikeouts. Photo Courtesy: David Slaughter
Dodgers SP Clayton Pitcher became the first pitcher 13 years to reach 300 strikeouts.
Photo Courtesy: David Slaughter

By Alex Gustafson

With the signing of Zack Greinke this off-season the Arizona Diamondbacks are the favorites to win the National League West in 2016. I would not count out the San Francisco Giants, who have a knack for winning championships in even numbered years. The Los Angeles Dodgers had to retool after losing Greinke to their divisional opponent. I find the Padres and Rockies in the cellar of the division due to numerous factors from an unproductive lineup in San Diego and the dimensions of Coors Field, which provides offensive production for the the home team and an unfair, but also is problematic for the pitching staff with Colorado often posting one of the highest staff earned run averages in all of Major League Baseball.

Note: all statistics compiled from player profiles on mlb.com.

Arizona Diamondbacks (79-83, 3rd in West in ’15)

Starting pitching
With the additions of Zack Greinke (19-3, 1.66 ERA, 222.2 IP and 200 K’s) and Shelby Miller (6-17, 3.02 ERA, 205.1 IP and 171 K’s), Arizona solidified the top part of its rotation. The back portion of the rotation will hinge on the performance of Patrick Corbin (6-5, 3.60 ERA, 85.0 IP and 78 K’s) and Robbie Ray (5-12, 3.52 ERA, 127.2 IP and 119 K’s), two young pitchers that must have productive seasons for Diamondbacks to remain relevant in September and possibly October.

Relief pitching
The Diamondback bullpen should be solid in 2016. Tyler Clippard (5-4, 2.92 ERA, 71.0 IP and 64 K’s) signed in free agency, Josh Collmenter (4-6, 3.79 ERA, 121.0 IP and 63 K’s) is the team’s long reliever. Keep an eye on Daniel Hudson (4-3, 3.86 ERA, 67.2 IP and 71 K’s), once a promising starter with the Chicago White Sox turned reliever after two consecutive Tommy John surgeries in 2013 and 2014. Clippard and Hudson and important back end relief pitchers for the 2016 team’s success and I see both relievers performing well during a season in which the team has pressure to meet expectation with free agent acquisitions added this off-season.

Infield
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt (.321, 33 HR, 110, runs batted in, 38 2B and 21 SB) has established himself as one of the best all around first basemen in the National League over the last three seasons and I would expect no different in 2016. I expect second-year second baseman Chris Owings (.227, 4 HR, 43 runs batted in, 27 2B and 16 SB) to bring defense and efficient offense production to his position for the upcoming season with an increase in his batting average. Shortstop Jean Segura (.257, 6 HR, 50 runs batted in, 16 2B and 25 SB), acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, should bring consistency to the position with his defensive abilities and Chase Field dimension’s will help the 25-year-old shortstop have his most productive offensive season since 2013. Third base is manned by Jake Lamb (.263, 6 HR, 34 runs batted in and 15 2B), whom I expect to see more time in the field after playing well in 2015.

Outfield
In limited action last season, Yasmany Tomas compiled statistics similar to that of a fourth outfielder (.273, 9 HR, 48 runs batted in and 19 2B), after defecting from Cuba and signing with the team. I expect Tomas to increase his runs batted in total this upcoming season as well his home runs. Center fielder A.J. Pollock had an outstanding offensive season in 2015 (.315, 20 HR, 76 runs batted in, 39 2B and 39 SB) as the team’s leadoff hitter. I expect defense and an increase in runs batted in from Pollock. In right field David Peralta (.312, 17 HR, 78 runs batted in, 26 2B and 10 3B) had a successful offensive season and I expect the same from him in 2016.

San Francisco Giants (84-78 2nd in West in ’15)

Starting pitching
The Giants front office spent its off-season building a new rotation for 2016. The team signed Johnny Cueto (11-13, 3.44 ERA, 212.0 IP and 176 K’s) and Jeff Samardzja (11-13, 4.96 ERA, 214.0 IP and 163 K’s) to provide depth behind staff ace Madison Bumgarner (18-9, 2.93 ERA, 218.1 IP and 234 K’s). The newcomers will be under question but I expect both veterans to adapt to their new surroundings in time and have productive first seasons in an even numbered year for the Giants in which the team expects to compete for a World Series title.

Relief pitching
Josh Osich (2-0, 2.20 ERA, 28.2 IP and 27 K’s) and Hunter Strickland (3-3, 2.45 ERA, 51.1 and 50 K’s) were productive rookies for San Francisco in 2015 while veteran Santiago Casilla (4-2, 2.79 ERA, 58.0 IP and 62 K’s) was a reliable closer a season ago. I expect no different in 2016. All three pitchers were consistent in 2015 in making the Giants’ bullpen formidable in a year in which the team did not qualify for the postseason.

Infield
Last season, San Francisco’s offense finally broke out and this was highlighted by their middle infield of second baseman Joe Panik (.312, 8 HR, 37 runs batted in and 27 2B) and shortstop Brandon Crawford (.256, 21 HR, 84 runs batted in and 33 2B). Brandon Belt (.280, 18 Hr, 68 runs batted in and 33 2B) splits time with Buster Posey at first and rookie Matt Duffy (.295, 12 HR, 77 runs batted in, 28 2B and 12 SB) gained experience at third base in 2015. Their infield is anchored by Buster Posey (.318, 19 HR, 95 runs batted in and 28 2B) at catcher both on offense and defense. I anticipate a slight regression from this unit as a whole but for each player to remain productive offensively in 2016. Look for Matt Duffy to increase his runs batted in total with the more in game experience during the upcoming season.

Outfield
Angel Pagan (3 HR, 37 runs batted in, 21 2B and 12 SB) had a solid season patrolling left field for Giants in 2015. I see an increase in his batting average this season with the remainder of his statistics to be on par with his 2015 final statistics. The team signed Denard Span (.301, 5 HR, 22 runs batted in and 17 2B) to play center field and provide a consistent on base and speed threat at the top of the lineup this off-season and I see the former Twin and National producing well in the confines of AT&T Park. Right fielder Hunter Pence (.275, 9 HR, 40 runs batted in and 13 2B ) is a veteran presence in the Giant outfield and after missing 100 games last season due to injury after playing 162 games for two consecutive seasons 2013 and 2014.

Los Angeles Dodgers (92-70, 1st in West in ’15)

Starting pitching
With Zack Greinke spurning the Dodgers for the Diamondbacks, Los Angeles signed Scott Kazmir (7-11, 3.10 ERA, 183.0 IP and 155 K’s) and Japanese product Kenta Maeda (11-10, 3.56 ERA, 172.0 IP and 148 K’s) to provide depth behind Clayton Kershaw (16-7, 2.13 ERA, 232.2 IP and 301 K’s). I trust Kershaw and Kazmir but the jury is out of on Maeda. Kershaw will dominate again and Kazmir will be relied upon heavily as the second starter in the starting rotation.

Relief pitching
Pedro Baez (4-2, 3.35 ERA, 51.0 IP and 60 K’s), J.P Howell (6-1, 1.43 ERA, 44.0 IP and 39 K’s) and Kenley Jansen (2-1, 2.41 ERA, 52.1 IP and 80 K’s) will all be counted on in the Los Angeles bullpen after solid performances from each in 2015. Howell will likely be the primary left-handed reliever this upcoming season. Baez will likely be used as a middle reliever and setup man for closer Kenley Jansen, whom I expect to have a stellar season as the team’s closer.

Infield
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez (28 HR, 90 runs batted in and 33 2B) has been productive during his time with in Los Angeles and I expect the veteran infielder to continue his production. The team resigned Howie Kendrick (.295, 9 HR, 54 runs batted in and 22 2B) to play second base. This veteran is known for his slick glove work and efficient offensive production, expect no different from the veteran infielder during this upcoming season. Prospect Corey Seager (No MLB experience) is expected to start for the team at shortstop in 2016. While blossoming in the minor leagues, the the true test will be the grind of a major league season. Veteran Justin Turner (.260, 16 HR, 60 runs batted in and 26 2B) is the starter at the hot corner, while Yasmani Grandal (.234, 16 HR, 47 runs batted in and 12 2B) and A.J. Ellis (.238, 7 HR, 21 runs batted in and and 9 2B) will share the catching duties during the 2016 season.

Outfield
Andre Ethier (.294, 14 HR, 53 runs batted in and 20 2B) recently suffered a broken leg during spring training and is expected to miss 10 to 14 weeks. With the present alignment, Carl Crawford (.265, 4 HR, 16 runs batted in, 9 2B and 10 SB) would be the next man up in left field for Los Angeles. I expect Crawford to fill the void left by Ethier’s injury with his speed on the base paths. Joc Pederson (.210, 26 HR, 54 runs batted in and 19 2B) and Yasiel Puig (.255, 11 HR 38 runs batted in and and 12 2B) make up the anticipated outfield starters for Los Angeles. Ethier must stay healthy to keep his productive bat in the lineup, Pederson must improve his ability to get on base to remain the starter in center field and right fielder Yasiel Puig has to keep his emotions in check to keep his powerful bat in the field of play.

San Diego Padres (74-88, 4th in West in ’15)

Starting pitching
James Shields (13-7, 3.91 ERA, 202.1 IP, and 216 K’s) experienced success in his first season with the Padres after signing with the team last off-season, but I expect the veteran to bounce back and lead the starting rotation. Tyson Ross (10-12, 3.26 ERA, 196.0 IP and 212 K’s) posted a losing record but had a good ERA in 2015 and I expect him for that to change and for him to contribute as the second starter. Brandon Maurer (7-4, 3.00 ERA, 51.0 IP and 39 K’s), after struggling with the Seattle Mariners for two seasons as both a starter and a reliever, 2015 provided Maurer with his role as a reliever. I see Maurer finding his role as a starter in 2016, although I am unsure of how he will perform in his first season as a starter in San Diego.

Relief pitching
Nick Vincent (0-1, 2.35 ERA, 23.0 IP and 22 K’s), Drew Pomeranz (5-6, 3.66 ERA, 86.0 IP and 82 K’s) and Fernando Rodney (7-5, 4.74 ERA, 62.2 IP and 58 K’s) are three important bullpen arms to watch in 2016. Vincent, a veteran member of San Diego’s bullpen since his Major League debut 2012 will perform as advertised during this upcoming season. Pomeranz, known as a starting pitcher for the Colorado Rockies and the Oakland Athletics, is entering his first season with the team and I see him being the primary left-handed reliever in 2016.

Infield
Wil Meyers (.253, 8 HR 29 runs batted in and 13 2B), Cory Spangenberg (.271, 4 HR, 21 runs batted in and 17 2B), Alexei Ramirez (.249, 10 HR, 62 runs batted in, 33 2B and 17 SB), Yangervis Solarte (.270, 14 HR, 63 runs batted in and 33 2B) and Derek Norris (.250 14 HR, 62 runs batted in 33 2B) make up the starting infield for the 2016 Padres. Meyers, a former third baseman is in first season at first base and I see the former Boston Red Sox prospect struggling in the field at his new position. Cory Spangenberg is the expected starter at second base and after two stints with the team the previous two seasons. I anticipate an increase in runs batted in and for his batting average to remain similar to his .271 during the 2014 season.

Outfield
Jon Jay (.210, HR, 10 runs batted in and 5 2B), Melvin Upton Jr. (.259, 5 HR, 17 runs batted in and 12 2B) and Matt Kemp (.265, 23 HR, 100 runs batted in and 31 2B) are the expected starting outfield for San Diego the upcoming season. Jay came to the team via trade and is expected to patrol left field and possibly center field as well. I see Jay being productive during his first season with the Friars possibly as the team’s lead off hitter. Melvin Upton Jr. had an unproductive first campaign with the team in 2015 and he must be productive in second season offensively as the team’s center fielder. Former Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp is expected to start in right field for San Diego and has to repeat his statistics from his first season and provide offensive production for a team known for its inability to score runs. I expect a solid season from the former MVP candidate at best by the expectations brought with him upon his arrival in San Diego.

Colorado Rockies (68-94, 5th in West in 15)

Starting pitching
Jorge De La Rosa (9-7, 4.17 ERA, 149.0 IP and 134 K’s), Chad Bettis (8-6, 4.23 ERA, 115.0 IP and 98 K’s) and Jordan Lyles (2-5, 5.14, 49.0 IP and 30 K’s) are three starting pitchers to monitor during the 2016 season. De La Rosa is the unquestioned leader of the rotation and I anticipate him to lead the rotation once again. Bettis and Lyles both struggled in 2015 and I expect Lyles to have a solid 2016 season. However, I see Bettis struggling once again.

Relief pitching
Jake McGee (1-2, 2.41, 37.1 IP and 48 K’s), Chad Qualls (3-5, 4.38, 49.1 IP and 46 K’s) and Jason Motte (8-1, 3.91 ERA, 48.1 IP, and 34 K’s) are three veteran relief pitchers to watch in the Colorado bullpen during 2016. McGee, acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay will be an important left-handed reliever for a team hungry to find pitching help. Qualls will likely be used as a middle reliever and set up man for Jason Motte, both of which I see solidifying the Rockies’ bullpen in 2016.

Infield
Ben Paulsen (.277 11 HR, 49 runs batted in and 19 2B), D.J. LeMahieu (.301, 6 HR, 61 runs batted in, 21 2B and 23 SB), rookie Trevor Story (no MLB experience), Nolan Arenado (.287, 42 HR, 130 runs batted in and 43 2B) and Nick Hundley (.301, 10 HR, 43 runs batted in and 21 2B) make up the projected starting infield for manager Walt Weiss in 2016. Paulsen must be more productive than his 2015 form, I look for LeMahieu to replicate his 2015 production. Story is the next man up at shortstop while Jose Reyes is suspended. I do not know what to expect from Story at the Major League level in 2016. Arenado is one of the top offensive and defensive third basemen in the National League and I see Arenado being productive on both sides of the plate during the coming season. Catcher Nick Hundley thrived in 2015 during his first season in Colorado, but I expect his statistics to slip slightly in 2016.

Outfield
Gerardo Parra (.291, 14 HR, 51 runs batted in, 36 2B and 14 SB), Charlie Blackmon (.287, 17 HR, 58 runs batted in, 31 2B and 43 SB) and Carlos Gonzalez (.271, 40 HR, 97 runs batted in and 25 2B) are the outfielders who are expected to start on Opening Day at Coors Field this season. I expect all three veteran outfielders to perform well in 2016 while all of them are positioned at different positions in the Colorado lineup.

Predicted Final NL West Division Standings
1) Arizona Diamondback
2) San Francisco Giants
3) Los Angeles Dodgers
4) San Diego Padres
5) Colorado Rockies

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2016 AL Central Preview here