With Opening Day around the corner, theScore's MLB editors Tom Ruminski, Simon Sharkey-Gotlieb, and Brandon Wile answer some of the biggest questions in the National League West.
Manny Machado. The $300-million man will be the Padres' focal point and if last season's antics taught us anything, it's that Machado is must-see TV every night.
There are so many underlying storylines when it comes to Machado. How will he respond to a record contract? Will his numbers dip in San Diego? Will he emerge as a leader for a young Padres team? Can he improve a reputation that labels him lazy and dirty? The Padres aren't built to contend this season but it will be intriguing to see how high - or low - Machado can take them. - Wile
Nolan Arenado. Machado is a fantastic player but he isn't even the best third baseman in his own division. That distinction belongs to Arenado. The 27-year-old perennial MVP candidate is the Rockies' heart and soul, playing sensational defense at the hot corner and providing a tour de force in the batter's box.
Arenado is a six-time Gold Glove winner who makes even the most difficult plays look routine, and his at-bats are just as tantalizing. The four-time All-Star hit a combined 158 home runs over the last four seasons and owns a career .291/.346/.539 slash line. - Ruminski
Corey Seager. You might have forgotten just how good Seager is after he missed almost all of last season due to Tommy John surgery, so let's do a quick review. Seager, who turns 25 in late April, already owns two Silver Slugger awards - one for each full season he's played in the majors. Recall that in 2016, he not only ran away with the NL's top rookie honor but was also a finalist for the MVP.
He's stellar defensively, saving 10 runs with a 9.0 ultimate zone rating in 2017 (his poor defense last April was probably a product of the elbow injury). Steamer projects Seager as a five-win player in his comeback season - right in line with his pre-injury production - and predicts he'll have a better overall slash line than Machado. Seager's as bright a star as any in the NL West and it's going to be fun watching him re-establish himself as a divisional force. - Sharkey-Gotlieb
Will Clayton Kershaw stay healthy for a whole season? Kershaw hasn't pitched 200-plus innings since 2015 because of various injuries. The three-time National League Cy Young winner is already dealing with a shoulder issue that will force him to miss the Opening Day start for the first time since 2010. When he's on the mound, the 30-year-old is still one of the best pitchers in baseball, but there's a ton of mileage on that prized left arm.
Kershaw broke into the majors as 20-year-old in 2008 and has pitched 2,248 1/3 career innings including the postseason. This could be the beginning of the end for the Dodgers ace, at least as a No. 1 starter. His health could again become a major narrative as Los Angeles chases a seventh straight NL West crown. - Ruminski
Can the new-look D-Backs make noise without Goldy? Subtracting Paul Goldschmidt - one of the best bats in the game - from the lineup certainly made Arizona a weaker team overall. It also indicated a rebuild is coming to the desert - but when will it arrive? Former All-Star Jake Lamb, Goldschmidt's replacement at first base, should rebound at the plate after last year's injury-plagued season. Some interesting pieces surround him, including infielder-turned-utility man Ketel Marte and third baseman Eduardo Escobar.
The rotation, while somewhat inexperienced, is still anchored by a potential Hall of Fame pitcher in Zack Greinke, and manager Torey Lovullo has a reliable bullpen at his service. Some youngsters are on the way but the team also went out and signed veterans like Adam Jones and Greg Holland.
All this is to say it's a bit hard to tell what this Diamondbacks team is. Arizona could inject itself into the race or it could fall flat on its face and cue up a full-scale rebuild. Which way will the D-Backs go? We'll sure have fun finding out. - Sharkey-Gotlieb
Will the Giants be forced to blow it up? It seems like it's one last run for the San Francisco core that helped bring three championships to the Bay Area over the last decade. The Giants are coming off back-to-back losing seasons and will need more than their fair share of luck to even sniff a playoff berth in 2019.
Manager Bruce Bochy has already announced this will be his final season. With Madison Bumgarner in the last year of his deal, it will be interesting to see how long the front office holds on to the left-hander. The Giants have a number of veterans locked up long-term, leaving new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi with plenty of questions if he looks to blow it up. - Wile
Dodgers. The future of this division might belong to San Diego, but the Dodgers still rule the roost in 2019. Even with the questions surrounding Kershaw, Los Angeles boasts the best all-around roster featuring a mix of veterans and youngsters all capable of filling multiple roles; they're still able to beat you in so many ways on any given night. Until they're dethroned, it's very hard to bet against the Dodgers. - Sharkey-Gotlieb
Rockies. Someone other than Los Angeles has to win the division eventually, right? The Dodgers have rattled off six straight division crowns, but the Rockies proved last season they're closing the gap after finishing just one game back. Colorado's pitching staff took a major leap last season and the roster continues to benefit from the arrivals of solid young players. With the Dodgers facing injury concerns with Kershaw, Kenley Jansen coming off heart surgery, and Seager returning from Tommy John, it may finally be the Rockies' time to win the first division title in franchise history - Wile
Dodgers. The road to the top still goes through L.A. The Dodgers have owned the NL West for the past six seasons and still have a lot of pieces in place from back-to-back World Series appearances. Seager's return reunites him with Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, and Max Muncy to form a powerful middle of the order. The club's starting rotation is still one of the best in the NL and the bullpen is solid. Even a few potential trips to the IL for Kershaw shouldn't be a complete disaster, as Walker Buehler looks like the next great homegrown pitching star to don blue and white. - Ruminski