2024 NL West Preview: The Dodgers have loaded up for October

While the NL Central may be wide open, there are no such delusions of grandeur to be had in the NL West. That means that it’s probably going to be another long season in Denver for the Colorado Rockies, who are very likely going to spend another season in the cellar. If you’re a Rockies fan, then this season is all about hoping that players like defensive dynamos Ezequiel Tovar and Brenton Doyle alongside rising star Nolan Jones can continue to develop and become the cornerstone of any type of success that may come in the future for Colorado.

As far as the present goes, it’s going to be a rough ride. They’re sharing a division with a juggernaut in Los Angeles, the defending NL Pennant winners in Arizona and likely Wild Card contenders in San Diego and San Francisco. With that in mind, the Rockies will be entering this season with Kyle Freeland at the top of their rotation. With all due respect to Mr. Freeland, that’s not exactly conducive to winning in this division — or any other division for that matter. The Rockies just don’t have the pitching to compete (either in their rotation or the bullpen) and this has been one of those things that’s plagued them for their entire existence.

Even the trade for Cal Quantrill to help their rotation out probably won’t solve their problems in the pitching department. Colorado’s going to give up a ton of runs and their offense is nowhere near good enough to compensate for it, so it’s looking like it’s going to be yet another season of the Rockies getting lumped up. Avoiding 100 losses should be considered a success for Colorado this season.

The Rockies figure to be the only real doormat in this division but it’s kind of hard to make heads or tails of what the San Diego Padres are doing. On one hand, you’d think that a team that lost Juan Soto, Blake Snell, Josh Hader, Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo would be busy focusing on the future. Indeed, both the Soto trade and the fact that the team’s days as a top spender in baseball are likely over due to the uncertainty surrounding their TV deal (and they’re not the only team in baseball with this concern) seemed to indicate that San Diego was in for some tough years ahead following a disappointing 2023 campaign.

With that being said, the Padres still have their two superstars in Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. They also have Xander Bogaerts, Ha-Seong Kim and Jake Cronenworth as a reliable supporting cast and if you’ve got players of that quality on your roster then that’s not the sign of a team that’s planning to just roll over and die. They indicated that they weren’t going to just fade away quietly when they managed to swing a trade for Dylan Cease in order to improve their rotation.

San Diego Padres v. LG Twins

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Their rotation still has plenty of question marks, though. Can Joe Musgrove stay healthy? Is Yu Darvish washed? Will Cease be forced to carry the rotation on his own? Will the bullpen be anything close to reliable? The Padres are indeed going to keep it pushing in an effort to stay relevant but this is quite clearly the most volatile team in the division. If everything goes right, Slam Diego could still have some power left but it just seems like there are too many scenarios where the Padres end up on the outside of the Postseason looking in for another agonizing season.

Meanwhile in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Giants have to be feeling a lot more optimistic about their chances at a Postseason spot than they did at this time last year. A lot of that optimism has to come from the fact that their offseason actually went fantastically well compared to the free agency strikeouts that they suffered ahead of last season. They went out and signed Matt Chapman to man the Hot Corner, brought in Jorge Soler for some power, pulled off an international splash deal by signing Jung Hoo Lee from the KBO and then capped it all off by winning the Blake Snell “sweepstakes” in the middle of spring training.

2024 San Francisco Giants Spring Training

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Even with the newfound optimism going into this season, expectations are still being very much tempered when it comes to this team’s ceiling. Despite all of the additions, there’s no guarantee that the offense will be able to consistently produce at a level that’s even close to what’s necessary to compete with the top teams in baseball. The Giants have a lineup that is solid at best but also likely won’t strike fear in the hearts of any pitching staff. Meanwhile, the new 1-2 punch of Logan Webb and Blake Snell is fine but once you get past those two, the Giants don’t have much in terms of dominant pitching, either. They do have a very talented closer in Camilo Doval but that’s about it when it comes to impressive relief pitching as well.

All in all, the Giants are a team that’s perfectly fine and should at least be good enough to compete for a Wild Card spot. The divisional title may be a bridge too far for this squad, though. That might be frustrating for some Giants fans when you consider what their juggernaut rival is up to in Los Angeles but as we’ve seen with this new format, all you need to do is get in the tournament and find a way to make something happen. That should be San Francisco’s goal and one that they should be fully capable of competing for.

If there’s any team that can testify to simply getting into the Postseason, it’s the Arizona Diamondbacks. Against all odds, the Diamondbacks opened up last season’s playoff run with five straight wins where they dispatched both the NL Central and NL West champions in short and dominant order. With that being said, it wasn’t like they simply got hot and lucky in October — they were pretty consistent throughout most of last season and simply hit their peak at the best possible time.

Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks

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Corbin Carroll is poised to deliver another exciting season in the outfield at Chase Field, Ketel Marte is looking to build on what was a very solid 2023 campaign, Christian Walker is slowly but surely becoming one of the most reliable first basemen in all of baseball and Gabriel Moreno is poised to do the same at the catcher spot. Their rotation is very solid as well, as they’ll be heading into the season with the likes of Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Brandon Pfaadt and newcomer Eduardo Rodriguez comprising their rotation. They’ll also have Paul Sewald and Kevin Ginkel as the cornerstones of their bullpen which should also be pretty solid as well.

The Diamondbacks have a lot to like on their roster and should absolutely be right back in the Postseason conversation. The main issue they have is that as talented as they are, it’s obvious that this team’s ceiling does not compare to the NL West’s presumptive favorite. The Diamondbacks could rack up wins in the high-80s and even the low-90s if things go really well. That’s perfectly fine and it was enough to get them into the Postseason last year but it also pales in comparison to what’s being expected from Los Angeles.

Indeed, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the favorites to not just win the NL West but also to do a lot more damage than simply winning the division once again. After staying relatively quiet last offseason, the Dodgers got active and landed the biggest fish possible this offseason in the form of megastar Shohei Ohtani. Any normal team would’ve been happy with simply acquiring the face of the sport for both the foreseeable and distant future but as we all know, the Dodgers ain’t exactly a normal team.

Los Angeles continued to exert their financial might and kept the shopping spree going by signing another Japanese star in the form of Yoshinobu Yamamoto. While his first regular season game may have been disastrous, there’s no reason to doubt that he’ll eventually deliver the goods for the Dodgers once he gets accustomed to the Majors. As if that wasn’t enough, though, the Dodgers also picked up Tyler Glasnow in a trade with the Rays and also were able to bring back team legend Clayton Kershaw for another season. The Dodgers will have plenty of options for starting pitching and they are also bringing back a bullpen that’s more than capable of picking up wherever the starters leave off. Brusdar Graterol and Evan Phillips should continue to be just as imposing in the late innings as they have been in recent seasons.

Then there’s the lineup. Folks, all you have to do is rattle off the names: Shohei Ohtani. Mookie Betts. Freddie Freeman. Will Smith. Max Muncy. Even when you look outside of the stars, this is still a lineup that is rock-solid from top-to-bottom and should give any pitching staff fits on any given night. There’s a reason why it was so easy to give this team the “Sho-Time” nickname, because this is the type of lineup that gives you a reason to buy MLB.tv and enjoy this team as a neutral fan.

2024 Seoul Series - San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers

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When you put all the hype and accolades aside, the story remains the same for the Dodgers as it has been for the past few seasons. Much like the Atlanta Braves, the legacy of this team will not be determined by what they do between late-March and September — it is all about October. You don’t spend a billion dollars over the course of one offseason simply to win the division. The Dodgers clearly have their sights set on winning another World Series and the expectations are higher than ever. Even if everything goes according to plan and we get chalk results from here until the latter stages of the Postseason, the Dodgers should have their hands full when it comes to dealing with the Braves in a potentially-mouthwatering NLCS matchup.

Still, the Dodgers have to get that far in the Postseason to begin with. Another first round exit will be marked as a massive failure and anything less than a World Series appearance would qualify as well. The season has already gotten off to an capriciously inauspicious start due to the gambling scandal and investigation surrounding Shohei Ohtani and his former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. With that being said, every Hollywood story has to have some sort of drama and everybody wearing Dodger blue is hoping that this is the extent of it and not the beginning of something that could jeopardize a potentially special season at Chavez Ravine.

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