The National League West should be one of baseball's most fascinating divisions this season.
For the last six years, the division has belonged to the two-time defending NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Health permitting, the Dodgers have the inside track on a seventh straight NL West crown, but the competition is a little better this year.
Sure, the Dodgers' bitter rivals in San Francisco face a rebuild and won't pose a threat in 2019. But the Colorado Rockies - the team that forced L.A. to win the division in Game 163 last year - are nipping at the Dodgers' heels.
Meanwhile, the up-and-coming San Diego Padres added Manny Machado to their young team, and the club is itching to end a prolonged playoff drought (the Padres last made the postseason in 2006). Even the Arizona Diamondbacks won't be a pushover despite trading Paul Goldschmidt.
Here's all you need to know about the NL West.
2018 record: 82-80 (3rd in NL West)
O/U win total: 81
World Series odds: 66-1
3-year trend: 2016 (4th); 2017 (2nd); 2018 (3rd)
Highest projected WAR: Robbie Ray (3.1)
Prospect to watch: Jon Duplantier (MLB.com: No. 73)
Winter report card: C
|1||Ketel Marte (S)||CF||2.8|
|2||Eduardo Escobar (S)||3B||2.0|
|3||David Peralta (L)||LF||2.5|
|4||Steven Souza Jr.||RF||1.2|
|5||Jake Lamb (L)||1B||1.6|
|Alex Avila (L)||C||0.9|
|Socrates Brito (L)||OF||0.0|
|Adam Jones (R)||OF||0.6|
|John Ryan Murphy (R)||C||0.4|
|Christian Walker (R)||1B/OF||0.0|
Goldschmidt's presence will be missed, and Jake Lamb needs to rediscover his All-Star form and become this group's leader while replacing him.
Zack Greinke should be his usual dominant self atop this rotation, but he'll have to carry a larger load with Patrick Corbin gone, and a combination of youth, inexperience, and question marks surrounds him.
Taijuan Walker, who underwent Tommy John surgery last April, should return to the rotation later in the season. The bullpen, led by first-time closer Archie Bradley and the underrated Yoshihisa Hirano, could be excellent - especially if Greg Holland replicates last year's second-half performance.
2018 record: 91-72 (2nd in NL West)
O/U win total: 85
World Series odds: 35-1
3-year trend: 2016 (3rd); 2017 (3rd); 2018 (2nd)
Highest projected WAR: Nolan Arenado (4.9)
X-factor: Kyle Freeland
Prospect to watch: Brendan Rodgers (MLB.com: No. 10)
Winter report card: B+
|1||Charlie Blackmon (L)||RF||2.2|
|3||Daniel Murphy (L)||1B||1.8|
|5||David Dahl (L)||LF||1.1|
|7||Ryan McMahon (L)||2B||1.0|
|Tony Wolters (L)||C||0.8|
|Raimel Tapia (L)||OF||0.0|
The Rockies' top four projects to be scary good in the friendly confines of Coors Field, with the team's lineup balanced from both sides of the plate.
That group can help to hide potential issues lower in the order. Garrett Hampson, a highly regarded prospect, could be key as a multi-positional threat.
|Seung Hwan Oh||R||4.57|
Pitching has always been the Rockies' Achilles' heel, but now the club has starters who aren't scared by altitude.
Last year, Colorado's rotation - a group that included the above quintet and injured right-hander Antonio Senzatela - set a franchise record for strikeouts while also posting the second-lowest starters' ERA in team history.
Improvement will be needed in relief, though, as the Rockies' attempt to build a juggernaut bullpen last year didn't work. Wade Davis remained steady, but Bryan Shaw was one of Colorado's biggest free-agent busts, and he's struggling again this spring.
2018 record: 92-71 (1st in NL West)
O/U win total: 94
World Series odds: 8-1
3-year trend: 2016 (1st); 2017 (1st); 2018 (1st)
Highest projected WAR: Corey Seager (5.4)
X-factor: Max Muncy
Prospect to watch: Alex Verdugo (MLB.com: No. 35)
Winter report card: C
|2||Corey Seager (L)||SS||5.4|
|4||Cody Bellinger (L)||RF||3.7|
|5||Max Muncy (L)||1B||1.7|
|7||Joc Pederson (L)||LF||2.8|
|Alex Verdugo (L)||OF||0.6|
Dave Roberts' love of platoons and utility players means that nobody - save for Justin Turner and Seager, and maybe A.J. Pollock - should get comfortable at one position. The Dodgers are flush with multi-positional talent and can run out a variety of productive lineups.
* Clayton Kershaw expected to start season on IL
The name missing here is Dodgers icon Clayton Kershaw, whose status for Opening Day is in doubt due to continued shoulder discomfort. Once healthy, the future Hall of Famer will likely bump either Kenta Maeda or Ross Stripling to the bullpen. However, there's increasing doubt about Kershaw's health and ability to return in top form.
Joe Kelly working in a setup role behind Kenley Jansen adds more power to an already stacked bullpen. The Dodgers are still being careful with youngster Julio Urias, but expect to see him contribute this season.
2018 record: 66-96 (5th in NL West)
O/U win total: 79
World Series odds: 125-1
3-year trend: 2016 (5th); 2017 (4th); 2018 (5th)
Highest projected WAR: Machado (5.4)
X-factor: Wil Myers
Prospect to watch: Fernando Tatis Jr. (MLB.com: No. 2)
Winter report card: A-
|3||Eric Hosmer (L)||1B||1.6|
|6||Franchy Cordero (L)||CF||0.7|
|Francisco Mejia (S)||C||0.7|
|Greg Garcia (L)||IF||0.2|
Quietly, a lot of raw power has been added to this lineup, with Hunter Renfroe (26 HR, .256 ISO in 441 plate appearances last year) in the middle of the order and Franmil Reyes (16 HR, .218 ISO in 85 PAs) coming off the bench. Oh, and that new guy Machado will be in the two-hole.
Expect the lineup's look to change dramatically once top prospect Tatis Jr. gets the call, and Francisco Mejia begins to see more time behind the plate.
It's all about the kids here, as the average age of San Diego's projected Opening Day rotation is 25 years, seven months.
2018 record: 73-89 (4th in NL West)
O/U win total: 73
World Series odds: 125-1
3-year trend: 2016 (2nd); 2017 (5th); 2018 (4th)
Highest projected WAR: Buster Posey (5.1)
X-factor: Evan Longoria
Prospect to watch: Joey Bart (MLB.com: No. 22)
Winter report card: F
|1||Steven Duggar (L)||CF||1.0|
|2||Joe Panik (L)||2B||2.0|
|4||Brandon Belt (L)||1B||2.7|
|6||Brandon Crawford (L)||SS||2.7|
|8||Gerardo Parra (L)||RF||-0.1|
|Pablo Sandoval (S)||3B/1B||-0.1|
|Yangervis Solarte (S)||IF||0.2|
Posey and Brandon Belt should perform at the same high level, but Longoria needs to put his miserable first season in San Francisco behind him for this lineup to be productive.
Giants fans should expect to see plenty of platoons, as this projected lineup is two-thirds left-handed.
Dereck Rodriguez has become a key cog in the Giants' rotation. Last year, he allowed 0.72 homers per nine innings, tops among qualified NL rookie starters. Meanwhile, his 1.5 WAR, per FanGraphs, ranked sixth.
Another solid season from Will Smith in the closer's role could turn him into a highly valued trade-deadline piece this summer.