NL West: Deep Depth with Revived Giants
The National League West is MLB's sleeping giant. It's not just about the Dodgers and the Giants anymore. From top to bottom, the division is starting to flex its muscles.
Yes, the Astros -- from the American League West -- are the defending World Series champions, thanks to knocking off the Dodgers in the full seven games.
However, the NL West had the best overall winning percentage (.517) of the six divisions last year, with the Dodgers, D-backs and Rockies compiling three of the five best NL records. The NL West claimed both NL Wild Card slots as the D-backs and Rockies joined the division-champion Dodgers in the postseason.
And the division has been aggressive this offseason, maintaining at the top and improving at the bottom, showing no signs of taking a back seat in 2018.
• The Dodgers will be favored to repeat as division champions in their quest to win their first World Series championship since 1988. Given the fact they have a young nucleus -- six position players 27 or younger, one starting pitcher going into the spring older than 30 and a bullpen led by 30-year-old Kenley Jansen -- the Dodgers haven't felt pressured to make major offseason additions.
• The D-backs won more games (93) in 2017 than any NL teams other than the Dodgers and Nationals. Former first-round draft pick Archie Bradley moved from the rotation to the bullpen a year ago, and he created confidence he can handle a late-innings role. Arizona added insurance by acquiring Brad Boxberger, who had 41 saves as a closer with Tampa Bay in 2015 before being limited in availability the past two years.
• The Rockies benefited from pitching depth in the farm system, and featured as many as four rookies in the rotation for more than two months. The four rookies -- German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman -- were a combined 38-28 and Colorado won 53 of their 93 starts. They are the focal point of a rotation that opens the spring with seven candidates, all in their 20s, and only one of whom has three years in the Majors -- Chad Bettis. The Rox also bolstered the bullpen, acquiring Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw.
• The Giants suffered a wake-up call, losing an NL-most 98 games last year on the heels of a seven-year stretch in which they not only made the postseason four times, but won three World Series championships. Left-hander Madison Bumgarner was injured in a dirt bike accident during an April off-day in Colorado and was limited to 17 starts and four victories. And Mark Melancon, signed as a free agent last offseason to handle the ninth inning, was bothered by a right forearm problem that limited him to 32 appearances and 11 saves in 16 opportunities before undergoing surgery in September. San Francisco added Sam Dyson from Texas last July, and he converted 14 of 17 save opportunities to give the club support for Melancon in the late-inning role. Then the Giants made bold moves this offseason to reinforce the offense, swinging a deal with the Rays for third baseman Evan Longoria and acquiring outfielder Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates, giving them reason to believe they will be a factor again in 2018.
• The Padres have made bold bids to shake up their roster, but they have come up short in efforts that included the pursuit of Shohei Ohtani, the two-way player from Japan who wound up with the Angels. Their major off-season addition was the signing of free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, which does mean they will try to get by moving incumbent first baseman Wil Myers to the outfield. They also brought back third baseman Chase Headley from the Yankees with the hope he can provide a veteran influence on a lineup that does not have a projected starter who is 30.