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NL West Division Preview

03/23/2023 7:38 AM

Article By: Michael Lane

Today we’re shifting to the National League, beginning with the NL West.

NL West:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 111-51 in 2022, lost to the Padres in the NLDS

The Dodgers have won the NL West in nine of the past 10 seasons, with 2021 being the only exception when 106 wins wasn’t quite enough to pass the Giants. This year might be different though. The Dodgers focus in 2023 is allowing a lot of their homegrown young talent to make the transition to the major leagues, or get consistent playing time if they’ve already debuted.

Michael Busch (Chatham ‘17) is among those young players that will get a chance to debut at the major leagues this season. Busch, currently the Dodgers fourth ranked prospect, will need to find a role though. That role will likely come in left field or second base, depending on how Max Muncy (Wareham ‘10/’11) bounces back after last year. Muncy and Chris Taylor (Y-D ‘11) both dealt with significant injuries last season and, after returning, did not perform well. The Dodgers still have a strong reliable core at the front of the lineup with Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and Will Smith (Brewster ‘15).

Pitching wise there is even more turnover from the 2022 team. Andrew Heaney (Falmouth ‘11) and Tyler Anderson both departed in free agency, while Walker Buehler (Y-D ‘14) will spend the entire season recovering from Tommy John Surgery. Clayton Kershaw returns for his 16th season, but he hasn’t pitched 130 innings since 2019. With these new openings, Ryan Pepiot (Hyannis ‘18) and Bobby Miller (Brewster ‘18) will both get the chance to establish themselves as reliable rotation arms. Pepiot flashed his potential at the end of last season, with a 3.47 ERA over 36.1 innings.

The Dodgers might not win 100 games or the division title this season, but they’ll remain one of the best teams in the National League. Ultimately how they perform in October, not April through September, will determine how their season is viewed, as it’s been for the past decade in Los Angeles.

Cape League alumni: Max Muncy (Wareham ‘10/’11), Will Smith (Brewster ‘15), Chris Taylor (Y-D ‘11), Michael Busch (Chatham ‘17), Ryan Pepiot (Hyannis ‘18), Bobby Miller (Brewster ‘18), Daniel Hudson (Harwich ‘17), and Phil Bickford (Y-D ‘14)

2. San Diego Padres: 89-73 in 2022, lost to the Phillies in the NLCS

The Padres fell short of catching the Dodgers during the 2022 regular season, but they defeated them 3-1 in the NLDS series. Expectations are extremely high this year in San Diego, as the Padres are projected to win the NL West for the first time since 2006 and are one of the true contenders to win the World Series.

The Padres Opening Day lineup will be loaded with superstars like Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts, and Jake Cronenworth (Orleans ‘14). Cronenworth is entering his fourth season in the major leagues. He’s already been named a NL All-Star twice, in addition to finishing second in the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year voting. Fernando Tatis Jr. missed the entire 2022 season due to an offseason injury and then a PED suspension. His return in late April will bring irreplaceable energy back to the team and deepen an already strong lineup.

Their rotation is led by Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove. Nick Martinez (Falmouth ‘11) finished last season with a 3.47 ERA over 106.1 innings. Last year he made 10 starts, in addition to 37 appearances out of the bullpen. This year he’ll likely spend more time in the rotation, but could shift to the bullpen depending on the team's strengths as the season progresses. Seth Lugo is another pitcher who has experience as both a reliever and starter, although he’s had significantly more success out of the bullpen in his career.

The Padres have never won a World Series, but this year’s team has a real chance to make franchise history.

Cape League alumni: Jake Cronenworth (Orleans '14), Austin Nola (Harwich ‘10), Adam Engel (Chatham ‘12), Nick Martinez (Falmouth ‘11), and Reiss Knehr (Chatham ‘17)

3. San Francisco Giants: 81-81 in 2022

During the 2010s, the Giants had a stretch of even-year magic. They won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014, in addition to reaching the NLDS in 2016. In 2021 the Giants exceeded expectations winning an MLB best 107 games. This season we’ll see if the 2020s might be the decade of odd-year magic!

Replacing the face of a franchise is a difficult task, but that is what Joey Bart (Wareham ‘16/Harwich ‘17) is being asked to do. Bart was the everyday catcher last year, taking over for Buster Posey (Y-D ‘06/’07) who had held the position from 2009 until 2021. Bart is still relatively young, at age 26, and the Giants expect him to take a major jump forward this season. J.D. Davis (Chatham ‘13) hit .263 with a .857 OPS with the Giants last season, after being acquired at the trade deadline from the Mets. Additionally, he had eight home runs in 49 games, after hitting just 4 home runs in 66 games with New York.

A big x-factor for the Giants this season will be which version of Brandon Crawford (Orleans ‘07) they get. The 2021 version of Crawford hit .298 with a .895 OPS, while playing elite defense and finished fourth in MVP voting. The 2022 version of Crawford hit .231 with a .652 OPS, but still added a lot of value defensively. Crawford is the longest tenured player on the Giants and has been crucial to so many playoff runs; if he plays closer to how he did in 2021, the Giants might be back playing baseball in October.

Cape League alumni: Sean Manaea (Hyannis ‘12), Taylor Rogers (Harwich ‘11), Mike Yastrzemski (Cotuit ‘10/’11), Joey Bart (Wareham ‘16/Harwich ‘17), JD Davis (Chatham ‘13), Brandon Crawford (Orleans ‘07), Scott Alexander (Brewster ‘09), John Brebbia (Orleans ‘10/’11), Austin Slater (Hyannis ‘13/’14), and Anthony DeSclafani (Y-D ‘10)

4. Arizona Diamondbacks: 74-88 in 2022

The Diamondbacks won’t be playoff contenders in 2023, but they have a lot of exciting young players to watch for.

Alek Thomas was one of the top prospects in baseball entering last season and the Diamondbacks envision him as a key piece of their future. Jake McCarthy (Harwich ‘17) impressed in his rookie season last year, finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting. Rounding out the Diamondbacks outfield is Corbin Carroll, currently ranked the second best prospect across MLB. Kyle Lewis (Orleans ‘15) is the fourth outfielder in their depth chart and should get a good number of at-bats this season.

Zac Gallen (Chatham ‘14/’15) is a dark horse candidate for the NL Cy Young this season. Through four seasons in the major leagues, Gallen has a 3.09 ERA over 457.1 innings. Last season he finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting, with a 12-4 record and a 2.54 ERA over 184 innings. Gallen also received Cy Young consideration in 2020 when he finished ninth in voting. Gallen was originally traded to the Marlins in 2017 as part of a package for Marcel Ozuna. Also included in that trade package was Sandy Alcantara, the 2022 NL Cy Young Award winner.

Cape League alumni: Zac Gallen (Chatham ‘14/’15), Christian Walker (Harwich ‘11), Evan Longoria (Chatham ‘05), Andrew Chafin (Orleans ‘11), Kyle Lewis (Orleans ‘15), Josh Rojas (Cotuit ‘15), Nick Ahmed (Bourne ‘10), Kevin Ginkel (Cotuit ‘15), Jake McCarthy (Harwich ‘17), Tommy Henry (Y-D ‘17/’18), Joe Mantiply (Harwich ‘11), Corbin Martin (Falmouth ‘16), Ryne Nelson (Y-D ‘18), and Pavin Smith (Harwich ‘16)

5. Colorado Rockies: 68-94 in 2022

The Rockies are at an interesting turning point. In February of 2021 they traded Nolan Arenado in exchange for Austin Gomber (Bourne ‘13) and four prospects, none of which were highly ranked. Then last offseason they signed Kris Bryant (Chatham ‘11) to a seven year contract with a $26 million AAV. They currently have four prospects in MLB’s Top 100, but in recent years their top prospects haven’t translated to success at the big league level. The team quietly made some moves this offseason that have high upside potential, but their ceiling is still realistically around a .500 club.

Nolan Jones, acquired from the Guardians, was one of the moves made this offseason that could work out really well for the Rockies. Jones had a .681 OPS in limited action as a rookie last season, but has a good amount of raw power that could play well in Coors Field. Speaking of Coors Field, the Rockies offense will need to take advantage of their home park and drastically improve in 2023. Despite playing in one of, if not the most hitter-friendly parks, their offense ranked just 23rd in home runs and 26th in wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus). Kris Bryant’s injury issues played a major role in that, but besides C.J. Cron (Cotuit ‘10), none of the Rockies starters had an OPS+ above 100, which is considered league average.

The Rockies pitching staff will never be elite due to the Coors Field effect, but they need to be closer to league average. In 2022 they had the second worst ERA in MLB. Kyle Freeland (Hyannis ‘13) has had a few quality seasons, including 2018 when he finished fourth in Cy Young voting. Freeland performed well during the World Baseball Classic for Team USA and hopes to carry that success into the regular season. If the Rockies finish with 74 or fewer wins for the sixth consecutive season they’re going to seriously need to consider committing to a full rebuild.

Cape League alumni: Kris Bryant (Chatham ‘11), C.J. Cron (Cotuit ‘10), Daniel Bard (Wareham ‘05), Kyle Freeland (Hyannis ‘13), Charlie Blackmon (Cotuit ‘05), Michael Toglia (Cotuit ‘17), Austin Gomber (Bourne ‘13), Brent Suter (Wareham ‘11), Jake Bird (Falmouth ‘16), Connor Seabold (Y-D ‘16), Pierce Johnson (Harwich ‘10/’11), Brian Serven (Bourne ‘14), Ryan Feltner (Brewster ‘16/Bourne ‘17), Gavin Hollowell (Hyannis ‘18), Ryan Rolison (Orleans ‘17), and Sean Bouchard (Chatham ‘16)