ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

NL West preview: Where do the Diamondbacks fit in a new-look division?

Mar 18, 2024, 11:22 AM | Updated: Mar 19, 2024, 8:37 pm

Alek Thomas...

Alek Thomas #5 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hits a home run off Michael Grove #78 of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning during Game One of the Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)


No division in baseball was more prevalent in the news cycle than the National League West this offseason, for reasons beyond the Los Angeles Dodgers committing more than $1 billion on new players.

L.A. dominated the first half of the winter with additions of two-time AL MVP Shohei Ohtani, 25-year-old Japanese pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto and top-end starter Tyler Glasnow, but the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants were also top-five spenders with their eyes on the postseason.

The San Diego Padres, meanwhile, have undergone significant change in the first offseason after the death of owner Peter Seidler. Juan Soto and Josh Hader are out of the division, and 2024 NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell reportedly moved up the coast to San Francisco. However, the Padres made a late-in-the-game addition by trading for former White Sox ace Dylan Cease.

It is fitting that the NL West will set the season in motion with the Dodgers playing the Padres in South Korea on Wednesday and Thursday.

Arizona was 29-23 against the NL West last regular season with winning records against the Giants, Padres and Rockies. Counting their 3-0 sweep of the Dodgers in the NLDS, the D-backs finished 8-8 against Los Angeles.

“We embrace it,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said of the challenging division.

“And we love it. And it just means we got to be spot-on in our area. We got to concern ourselves about what’s happening in our dugout. … I don’t hear one player complain about it. I don’t hear one player talk about payrolls externally. What I hear is what we got to take care of, these players know what’s in front of them.”

Lovullo later joked he wished the best players would stop coming to the NL West.

The D-backs have not won the NL West since 2011 and are considered heavy underdogs to do so with the Dodgers’ additions. But as the Diamondbacks proved last year, spending sprees don’t guarantee a trip to the World Series.

The offseason movement sets up a division deep with talent and intrigue, even with 13 games instead of 19 against each opponent.

NL West preview (By order of 2023 standings)

Dodgers

2023 record: 100-62 (1st)

Notable additions: DH Shohei Ohtani, RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP Tyler Glasnow, LHP James Paxton, LHP Clayton Kershaw (re-signed), RHP Joe Kelly (re-signed), OF Teoscar Hernandez, OF Jason Heyward (re-signed), UTL Kikè Hernandez (re-signed), Walker Buehler (missed 2023 with injury), INF Gavin Lux (missed 2023 with injury)

Notable subtractions: OF David Peralta, DH J.D. Martinez, INF Amed Rosario, INF Michael Busch, RHP Shelby Miller, RHP Lance Lynn, LHP Julio Urias

Projected payroll: $214.7 million

Reasons for optimism: Sometimes you get what you pay for — many times you don’t — and the talent pool here stands up to any other club in the league, even with a banged-up rotation entering the season.

Buehler won’t be ready for Opening Day as he works back from Tommy John surgery, Kershaw is out for the first half of 2024 after shoulder surgery and Dustin May is also expected back in the second half. That rotation also includes young standouts Bobby Miller, Gavin Stone and Emmet Sheehan. It could be scary by the time September comes around in contrast to Los Angeles’ NLDS loss against the Diamondbacks.

Glasnow-Yamamoto-Buehler in a three-game playoff series? Kershaw, Miller, May and Paxton are other options. That’s all before Ohtani can pitch in 2025 after an elbow injury.

The Dodgers had the second-highest scoring offense last year without Ohtani, who blasted 44 home runs and stole 20 bases last season in Anaheim. Add in Teoscar Hernandez, who hit 83 home runs over the last three years, and it’s only improved.

Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman are perennial MVP contenders, finishing second and third last year, respectively, before going cold in the postseason. How many teams can say they have three legitimate MVP candidates at the top of the batting order? Maybe Atlanta? Baltimore soon?

The question: Can the biggest offseason spenders get over the hump after three straight postseason disappointments?

Diamondbacks

2023 record: 84-78 (2nd)

Notable additions: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, 3B Eugenio Suarez, OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (re-signed), OF Joc Pederson, OF Randal Grichuk, RHP Cristian Mena, RHP Corbin Martin (missed 2023 with injury)

Notable subtractions: OF Tommy Pham, 3B Evan Longoria, OF Dominic Fletcher, C Seby Zavala

Projected payroll: $130.8 million

Reasons for optimism: The young talent on this team breathed new life into the franchise with a Rookie of the Year campaign from Corbin Carroll, who finished fifth in the NL MVP race with a 25-50 season. Gabriel Moreno broke out as a Gold Glover whose bat picked up down the stretch, Brandon Pfaadt earned a rotation spot in the postseason and entering his second campaign, while Geraldo Perdomo established himself as the everyday shortstop and emerged as a clubhouse leader.

And there is still room to grow, as defensive stalwart Alek Thomas has more to show as a hitter after making adjustments, and top prospect shortstop Jordan Lawlar will be counted on whenever the time comes for a callup.

The D-backs made moves to bolster the veteran corps around youth, but general manager Mike Hazen has said this team will continue to improve as its young players progress.

It also helped that Ketel Marte looked like an All-Star again (.844 OPS), while Christian Walker hit 30 home runs and won a Gold Glove for the second straight season.

The rotation is a greater point of strength than last year with Pfaadt’s emergence and the addition of Rodriguez giving it new depth. A battle for the fifth spot remains ongoing, but there is optimism about the ceiling of a Zac Gallen (Cy Young finalist), Merrill Kelly, Rodriguez and Pfaadt quartet.

An elite defense team will help the pitching staff, including a returning bullpen that played a catalyst role down the stretch after adding Paul Sewald and Ryan Thompson, along with a callup of Andrew Saalfrank.

The question: Have the D-backs done enough to build a consistent postseason threat?

Padres

2023 record: 82-80 (3rd)

Notable additions: RHP Dylan Cease, RHP Michael King, RHP Randy Vasquez, C Kyle Higashioka, LHP Yuki Matsui, RHP Enyel De Los Santos, LHP Wandy Peralta, RHP Woo-Suk Go, OF Jurickson Profar

Notable subtractions: OF Juan Soto, LHP Blake Snell, RHP Michael Wacha, RHP Seth Lugo, LHP Josh Hader, RHP Nick Martinez, C Gary Sanchez, UTL Garrett Cooper, LHP Tim Hill, C Austin Nola, DH Matt Carpenter

Projected payroll: $153 million

Reasons for optimism: The roster still has some of the best players in the world despite losing its best hitter, starter and reliever of 2023. Fernando Tatis Jr. is set up for his first full season after missing all of 2022 and the start of 2023 due to injury and suspension for PEDs. He was still a 5.5-win player last year (Baseball Reference) and heads a lineup with six-time All-Star Manny Machado, four-time All-Star Xander Bogaerts, two-time All-Star Jake Cronenworth and Gold Glover Ha-Seong Kim. Prospect Jackson Merrill has had a standout spring and will be relied on to patrol center field as a 20-year-old.

Cease was the AL Cy Young runner-up in 2022 and has led the league in starts twice in the past three years. His peripherals were better than his 4.58 ERA output last year (3.72 FIP) and he gets a more pitcher-friendly environment to work with.

He joins a rotation bolstered by veterans Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, while the bullpen will have a new look with Matsui and Go set to make their MLB debuts.

Mike Shildt enters as manager to handle a team that was a miserable 9-23 in one-run games and 2-12 in extra innings last year, which cost it a postseason berth.

The question: Do the Padres still have enough firepower to stay competitive and turn around their late-game fortunes?

Giants

2023 record: 79-83 (4th)

Notable additions: LHP Blake Snell, 3B Matt Chapman, DH Jorge Soler, OF Jung-Hoo Lee, RHP Jordan Hicks, LHP Robbie Ray, C Tom Murphy, SS Nick Ahmed

Notable subtractions: LHP Sean Manaea, RHP Jakob Junis, OF Joc Pederson, SS Brandon Crawford, LHP Scott Alexander, LHP Alex Wood, SS Paul DeJong, OF Mitch Haniger, RHP John Brebbia, 3B J.D. Davis

Projected payroll: $155.2 million

Reasons for optimism: The Giants have more punch in the lineup after finishing 2023 as a bottom-10 team in runs, OPS and strikeout percentage. The Barry Bonds curse rages on, as no Giants player has hit 30 home runs in a season since Bonds in 2004. Wilmer Flores led the team with 23 last year.

Soler hit 36 home runs last year in an All-Star campaign with the Marlins, and Chapman hit 27 in 2021 and 2022 before an offensive slide last year in Toronto. Chapman has been a well above average bat throughout his career in Oakland and Toronto and is a four-time Gold Glove winner.

Lee, 25, started his KBO career as an 18-year-old in 2017 and has a .340 batting average with more walks than strikeouts for his career. His bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline project well into a Giants lineup that needs more runners aboard with power behind him.

The Giants will have to wait for the complete version of the rotation, as Ray works back from Tommy John, Alex Cobb from hip surgery and Tristan Beck from vascular surgery. NL Cy Young runner-up Logan Webb headlines what appeared to be an otherwise unproven group, featuring top prospect Kyle Harrison and reliever-turned-starter Jordan Hicks. That was, unless they had another move in them, which they did. Snell reportedly agreed to a two-year contract, creating a two-headed monster atop the rotation with Webb.

A strong backend of the bullpen remains intact after closer Camilo Doval saved 39 games last season.

The question: Do the Giants have enough hitting and pitching depth to be a well-rounded team after the slew of late offseason moves?

Rockies

2023 record: 59-103 (5th)

Notable additions: RHP Dakota Hudson, RHP Cal Quantrill, LHP Jalen Beeks, C Jacob Stallings, OF Sam Hilliard

Notable subtractions: LHP Brent Suter, RHP Chase Anderson, RHP Chris Flexen, C Austin Wynns

Reasons for optimism: Well … Colorado has not fielded a .500 club since its 2018 playoff berth. The D-backs ended a six-year drought last season, but contrastingly the Rockies’ win totals have declined in each of the past three seasons and they don’t have a highly regarded farm system.

What is going for them is that this could be a very good defensive team with Gold Glover Brenton Doyle patrolling center field (15 OAA in 2023), while Ezequiel Tovar and Ryan McMahon are excellent on the infield.

The pitching staff remains banged up with Antonio Senzatela likely out for the year and German Marquez to miss a significant portion of 2024 after they had Tommy John surgery, but Colorado added some potential floor raisers with Hudson and Quantrill.

Offensively, Nolan Jones was the standout last year as a rookie coming over in a trade from Cleveland, boasting a .931 OPS and 20 home runs. Big-ticket free agent Kris Bryant has only played 122 games over two seasons in Colorado but is healthy in camp and stationed at a new spot at first base. Former top prospect Brendan Rodgers is healthy and has crushed it this camp after injuries have impacted the early section of his career.

The question: Which Rockies’ youngsters will show up as building blocks?

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