NL West

Predictions:

5 Arizona Diamondbacks

4 Colorado Rockies

3 San Francisco Giants

2 San Diego Padres

1 Los Angeles Dodgers

Arizona Diamondbacks

Key Additions: RP Mark Melancon, Ian Kennedy

Key Subtractions: Kole Calhoun

Strength: Plenty of youth

Weakness: Not much talent!

Face of the Franchise: Ketel Marte

Player to Watch: Zac Gallen

The Diamondbacks were bad and tore down a terrible roster last year, but kept Madison Bumgarner and Ketel Marte. They didn’t do anything to improve it, and the rest of the division, even the ROCKIES, got better. Something tells me they could be staring down one of the worst records in baseball in 2022 as they look to evaluate prospects around the league.

Colorado Rockies

Key Additions:  3B Kris Bryant, SS Jose Iglesias, SP Chad Kuhl, RP Alex Colome

Key Subtractions: SS Trevor Story, SP Jon Gray

Strength: High-scoring at home

Weakness: Allowing runs to the opponent at home, too

Face of the Franchise: Kris Bryant

Player to Watch: Ryan McMahon

Welcome to the most confusing and contradictory franchises in major league sports. Just after Colorado made the postseason with a promising roster and extended Nolan Arenado, they traded him for a bag of beans, lost an embarrassing amount of games, didn’t deal Trevor Story or Jon Gray to get anything in return for them or re-sign them, but then they shelled out a massive contract to Kris Bryant this offseason. Are they trying to win? Are they trying to lose the most games in baseball but just have a star to put on a billboard? The rest of the roster is in no way ready to win baseball games. Unless they decide to continue to spend and build a competent core around Kris Bryant, he’s either just going to hit a lot of homers in a beautiful ballpark on a losing team, or he could be dealt down the line the same way they shanked Arenado. It feels like such a mess.

San Francisco Giants

Key Additions: OF Joc Pederson, SP Carlos Rodon, SP Alex Cobb, SP Matthew Boyd

Key Subtractions: OF Kris Bryant, 2B Donovan Solano, SP Kevin Gausman, SP Jose Quintana, C Buster Posey

Strength: Veteran presence and depth

Weakness: Youth and star-power

Face of the Franchise: Brandon Crawford

Player to Watch: Logan Webb

The Giants were the most-pleasant surprise in baseball last year, potentially in all of the four professional sports. They went from a team projected preseason to likely deal veterans at the deadline as a losing and old team in a tough division to putting up the best record in major league baseball from end-to-end and beating out the dreaded division rival Los Angeles Dodgers. It was such a feel-good, Cinderella run even if they did end up losing in the ALDS to the Dodgers in the end.

They proved that they can win and develop whatever personnel they have with their coaching staff, but this year recognized that they have the opportunity to be competitive beforehand, so they acquired World Series cult hero Joc Pederson and one of the best pitchers in the American League last season, Carlos Rodon. The only problem with the Giants is that not only are the Padres going to be better in the division and the Dodgers are going to continue to be the Dodgers, the acquisitions compared to their significant losses might mean that they could take a step back this year. Last year felt magical, so we’ll need to see if it was absolutely real and that they’re still one of the contending teams in a loaded National League.

San Diego Padres

Key Additions: SP Mike Clevinger (injury), 1B Luke Voit

Key Subtractions: RP Mark Melancon, 2B Adam Frazier

Strength: Star power and depth with a high-ceiling

Weakness: Bullpen and team health

Face of the Franchise: Fernando Tatis Jr.

Player to Watch: Blake Snell

The Padres were America’s darlings last season, projected to be the one to take down the dreaded Dodgers with all of their all-in moves they made, but a season of injuries and a lack of offensive production made their stretch run to end the year absolutely abysmal and they missed the playoffs entirely. They’ll be without Fernando Tatis Jr. for a significant amount of time to start the year after he suffered a motorcycle accident, but the Padres look prime for a bounce-back this season. They hired Bob Melvin, a generational manager in Oakland, Mike Clevinger will be back for the first time since his Tommy John surgery, and Blake Snell had an underwhelming debut season out west- he’ll have a year under his belt now. There are simply too many young stars and talented individuals with positive vibes on the roster for them to not be a threat in the NL when healthy.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Key Additions: 1B Freddie Freeman, SP Andrew Heaney

Key Subtractions: SP Max Scherzer, SS Corey Seager, RP Joe Kelly, RP Corey Knebel, RP Kenley Jansen, DH Albert Pujols

Strength: Uhh… possibly the deepest lineup in baseball this decade

Weakness: Bullpen depth

Face of the Franchise: Clayton Kershaw

Player to Watch: Will Smith

The Dodgers are going to continue to be the Dodgers. The lineup is not only one of the best of this generation, featuring 3 former MVP winners, but it’s only going to get better- their bats are still young and entering their prime. They can beat you with speed from Trea Turner or Mookie, they can beat you with home runs from Cody Bellinger or Max Muncy, and they now have the fun clubhouse leader in Freddie Freeman that can spray the ball all over the field. Kershaw is back in what could be one of his final seasons, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias will continue to be Cy Young candidates, and the Dodgers develop talent as good as anyone else and have the money and resources to go make another move if need be. It’s just another year of an embarrassment of riches in LA, and Dave Roberts has every right to claim that they’re going to win the World Series as they’re the favorite.

AL West

Predictions

5 Oakland A’s

4 Texas Rangers

3 Los Angeles Angels

2 Seattle Mariners

1 Houston Astros

Oakland A’s

Key Additions: OF Christian Pache, lots of prospects!

Key Subtractions: 1B Matt Olson, 3B Matt Chapman, SP Chris Bassitt, OF Starling Marte, OF Mark Canha, C Yan Gomes, 2B Josh Harrison

Strength: They’re going all in on their identity: tanking

Weakness: Quite possibly everything needed to win games

Face of the Franchise: Tony Kemp

Player to Watch: Cole Irvin

The A’s, on the brink of uprooting their franchise out of their wasteland of a park in Oakland, decided that they would also uproot their entire playoff-contending roster too. They traded away or failed to re-sign any of their major players, didn’t spend a dime on anyone new to replenish their losses, and could even move more pieces in Sean Manaea or Frankie Montas. There’s going to be A LOT of losing in that empty ballpark.

Texas Rangers

Key Additions: SS Corey Seager, 2B Marcus Semien, C Mitch Garver, SP Jon Gray, SP Martin Perez, OF Kole Calhoun, INF Matt Carpenter, INF Brad Miller, RP Garrett Richards

Key Subtractions: SS Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, SP Jordan Lyles

Strength: Infield superstardom

Weakness: Pitching depth

Face of the Franchise: Corey Seager

Player to Watch: Taylor Hearn

After a half decade of being irrelevant outside of building a new ballpark, the Rangers went out and spent the most money of any team this free agency within the first couple of days, locking up two of the prized infielders, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, for around the next decade at a half a billion dollars total. It’s great to see teams spending money! The Rangers want to be back in contention and winning games in their new park, and the new GM is doing something about it by attaching his name to these two stars. The problem is that it’s not going to be enough just yet- the rest of the division has more complete rosters and talent-development systems by far. The Rangers have prospects on the come up that they can implement down the line, but the route of buying the biggest names without consciously evaluating the rest of the team is like a late-night drunk Taco Bell purchase; Seager ande Semien can’t do it alone, and their fate going forward will be adding more pieces in free agency or developing the rest of their minor leaguers to create some depth.

Los Angeles Angels

Key Additions: SP Noah Syndergaard, RP Aaron Loup, SP Michael Lorenzen, RP Archie Bradley, RP Ryan Tepara

Key Subtractions: SP Alex Cobb

Strength: The brightest superstars in baseball

Weakness: Reliable pitching depth for the past decade

Face of the Franchise: Shohei Ohtani

Player to Watch: Brandon Marsh

It’s an absolute hate-crime that the Angels have continued to waste the talent of Mike Trout throughout his career and failed to put a competent roster around him so that he can make the playoffs more than 3 games in his career. Now, Trout might not even be the best player on his team because Ohtani is the face of baseball, and it STILL wasn’t enough last year, because year after year they have one of the worst pitching staffs across the league and don’t address it. Mike Trout isn’t normally vocal, but we hope that he made that very clear- they spent EVERY single draft pick on pitching, they signed a former superstar coming off of injury in Noah Syndergaard, and didn’t irresponsibly spend money on bats they don’t need in free agency. Now, we just have to hope that their pitching pans out, their superstar trio of Ohtani, Trout, and Rendon stay healthy and on the field, and that we don’t have another year wasted of Trout and Ohtani not in the postseason. 

Seattle Mariners

Key Additions: OF Jesse Winker, OF Eugenio Suarez, SP Robbie Ray, 2B Adam Frazier

Key Subtractions: SP Yusei Kikuchi, 3B Kyle Seager, SP James Paxton

Photo: Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

Strength: Outfield depth

Weakness: Scoring runs at home in a pitcher-friendly ballpark

Face of the Franchise: Jesse Winker

Player to Watch: Jarred Kelenic

After coming within wins of the postseason last year, the Mariners are really going for it. They have the longest postseason drought of any sports team in the four major sports, so they have the potential to be the darlings of the MLB season. They made one of the biggest trades of the offseason, acquiring MASHERS in Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez, they signed the Cy Young winner in Robbie Ray, and some of their key pieces like Jarred Kelenic, Kyle Lewis, or Logan Gilbert will have a year under their belt and some experience in the big leagues. They might not even be done making moves yet because they have an overcrowded outfield now with the Reds trade. They struggled to put together any kind of offensive production last year, but they addressed that this offseason with their slugging acquisitions. The Mariners are young, talented, and want to win, and that’s something we have not seen in over two decades.

Houston Astros

Key Additions: SP Justin Verlander (injury)

Key Subtractions: RP Kendall Graveman, SS Carlos Correa, SP Zack Greinke

Strength: High-scoring offense

Weakness: Giving up walks

Face of the Franchise: Jose Altuve

Player to Watch: Kyle Tucker

Let’s face it: the Astros struck out in free agency this offseason. They didn’t re-sign Correa, they failed to replace him with the other marquee shortstop in Trevor Story, and Greinke walked away to go back to Kansas City. It’s a more-depleted team than the roster was last year that made the World Series and has made the ALCS for the last 5 years. That does NOT mean they’re going away any time soon. For the first time in two years, they’ll have Justin Verlander back from his injuries, Altuve, Bregman, Alvarez, and Tucker aren’t going away any time soon, Dusty Baker is one of the best managers in MLB, and the Astros develop talent that nobody has heard of like nobody’s business. They’re simply a stable organization that puts together a winning roster every single season that there aren’t enough pieces missing that you can start to doubt them yet in the AL West despite the Rangers, Angels, and Mariners all significantly making improvements. They’re going to be a contending, high-powered team until we see otherwise.

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