National League West
2021 National League West Outlook: Projections and Standings (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS/ABACAPRESS.COM)

2021 National League West Outlook: Projections and Standings

Foreword

The National League’s most exciting division just got even more exciting. The Dodgers reign as champions of the World. The Padres are not too far behind from also reaching that goal. The rest of the National League West will struggle with the Giants, Dbacks, and the Rockies all finishing well below .500. Across the Wild West, things are shaken up, and surprises may be in store for 2021.

Los Angeles Dodgers (Projected: 104-58)

There isn’t a deeper team than the Dodgers. The best team in baseball just got better, signing Trevor Bauer. Newly returned Justin Turner adds depth at third base. Age will play a factor in his game though. If Turner does suffer an injury, he has guys like Edwin Rios to back him up. Mookie Betts will be a surefire MVP candidate, batting .300 with 30 home runs and a .950 on-base plus slugging. Every position player will be impactful. Look out for a resurgence of both Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger coming off of less than desirable 2020 seasons. The pitching will be strong as usual, and Walker Buehler will be a Cy Young Candidate. The depth of pitching with younger guys like Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin will come in handy down the stretch. This is if an older starter like Kershaw suffers a setback.

San Diego Padres (Projected: 96-66)

The Padres just might be one of the flashiest, ascending teams in all of the MLB, and they will surely be a contender. To state the obvious, adding Blake Snell will give the San Diego starting rotation some much-needed consistency in 2021. Also, let’s not forget some of the Padres’ other underrated offseason transactions, including the addition of Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, and even and the signing of Jurickson Profar. Yes, the Padres starting rotation is insane, but they did have to give up a couple of big names from the bullpen like Kirby Yates and Trevor Rosenthal. San Diego will also be without Mike Clevinger this year as he underwent Tommy John surgery this past offseason.

Aside from those couple of negatives, San Diego still has their core players on the offensive side of things, including guys like Machado, Myers, MVP candidate Tatis Jr., Hosmer, etc. San Diego finished 2020 fourth in the MLB for homers, third in RBI’s, and third, in runs scored, so they should be expected to match those totals at the very least. The only question mark for the boys in brown will be if they can stay on the Dodgers’ tail for all 162 games this year, as opposed to a smaller sample size of 60 games in 2020.

San Francisco Giants (Projected: 75-87)

If the Giants had anything resembling a pitcher, they’d be in a position to make even a little dent in the division. Too bad they won’t. San Francisco isn’t completely in rebuilding mode but isn’t far away from it either. The young players that shone through last year may have exciting breakout years. Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson Mike is already holding a 162 game average with 31 home runs and 90 runs batted in. He hasn’t played a full season yet, but in 2020 he had an on-base plus slugging of .968. Yaz was even 8th in MVP voting. Another impactful player could be Alex Dickerson. There’s also Brandon Belt, who I believe will break out and hit 25 home runs next season. Give these boys pitchers who aren’t washed up like old man Cueto. They could perhaps earn that third wild card slot out of the National League West division.

Arizona Diamondbacks (Projected: 79-83)

After finishing 2020 in last place in the NL West, the Diamondbacks had to take a look at their team and evaluate what they had…and do absolutely nothing after. If you take a look at their offseason transactions, there’s a lot going on with singing a bunch of no-names and dropping a bunch of no-names. Really the only bright spot in 2020 for Arizona was the stellar performance of Zac Gallen, who had a 2.75 ERA, 82 SO, and a 1.11 WHIP in just 12 starts. Not to mention Madison Bumgarner played like a bum, and the Diamondbacks could use some help in the bullpen.

However, the D-Backs front office still kept the core of their team together, made up of players like Ketel Marte, David Peralta, Kole Calhoun, and Nick Ahmed, who made enormous strides as a hitter last year. Ahmed batted .266, had a .327 OBP, and even drove in 29 runs in just 57 games played. Word around the league has it that Arizona is looking to keep the payroll low in 2021, which could mean a bit of a bumpy ride for Arizona fans, so stay tuned.

Colorado Rockies (Projected: 67-95)

Oh boy, where do we even start with this atrocity of a franchise? The Colorado Rockies front office just might have severed any kind of support from the great fans of Denver after one of the biggest blunders in professional baseball history. They GAVE AWAY superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals AND still have to pay $50 million of his remaining contract. What did the Rockies get in return, one might ask?

Well, they got a bunch of fry cooks for arguably the best 3rd baseman in the league right in the middle of his prime. Literally, the only thing stopping Colorado from finishing last in the division is the leadership and play of their remaining stars by the names of Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, and… oh wait that’s it. The Rockies at least had David Dahl in their corner as an up-and-coming player but GM Jeff Bridich and Owner Dick Munfort decided he was not worth their time so he signed with Texas back in December.

The Rockies have dire needs in the bullpen but they have a nice foundation in the starting rotation with young guys like Jon Gray, German Marquez, Kyle Freeland (who struggled last year), and even Austin Gomber who came over in the Arenado trade. As always, the Rox will put up formidable offensive numbers in 2021 but the question is always their pitching consistency, particularly in the latter half of games. Colorado was finished 29 in team pitching in 2020, with an overall ERA of 5.59 and the most earned runs surrendered in the league.

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