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The National League West saw major competition for a wild card spot since the Los Angeles Dodgers ran away with the division. This year maybe different as the San Diego Padres look to close the gap and the San Francisco Giants look to bounce back after an odd offseason.
It’s Los Angeles’ race to lose, and if they do, it’s not really a question of who but by how much. There are at least two teams ready to compete for a World Series in this division, and one of them will walk away with the National League West crown.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Year’s Record: 111-51
Player To Watch: Second Baseman Miguel Vargas
X-Factor: Manager Dave Roberts
As mentioned above, this the Los Angeles Dodgers’ division to lose and rightfully so…don’t expect them to lose it. The fact that this team was able to let players like former National League MVP Cody Bellinger and All-Star third baseman Justin Turner walk, only to replace with homegrown talent speaks volumes to the work they’ve done.
Don’t expect Los Angeles to miss a beat, unless manager Dave Roberts overthinks it. Los Angeles may not have the record they did last year, but they’ll still be seen as the favorite regardless. Not just in terms of the division, but in terms of the league.
2. San Diego Padres
Last Year’s Record: 89-73
Player To Watch: Catcher Austin Nola
X-Factor: Outfielder Juan Soto
The other team in this year’s race for the National League West will be the San Diego Padres. After loading up with talent such as shortstop Xander Bogaerts, designated hitter Nelson Cruz and corner infielder Matt Carpenter, this team should produce quite a few runs.
If San Diego wants to send a statement to Los Angeles, they’re best bet is establish a lead early on. They were able to defeat them in the 2022 National League Divisional Series, meaning they know how to beat them. If they can make them play catch up, they may be able to outright beat them for the division. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Year’s Record: 74-88
Player To Watch: Outfielder Alek Thomas
X-Factor: Manager Torey Lovullo
Time is ticking on manager Torey Lovullo. This is his seventh year managing the team, and other than his first season, he has yet to make the playoffs despite developing players just to watch them succeed elsewhere. Eventually, a change is going to be made and it could be coming sooner than people think.
If Lovullo can’t give Arizona a reason to keep him, they will let him go. It’s time for them to put up or shut up, and if they don’t, Lovullo will end up like with a legacy similar to Marvin Lewis with the Cincinnati Bengals: a good coach who couldn’t get his team to the next level.
4. San Francisco Giants
Last Year’s Record: 81-81
Player To Watch: Third Baseman David Villar
X-Factor: Catcher Joey Bart
San Francisco is often a very surprising team: one year they could be beating down the doors to the playoffs, and the next two they’re forgettable. This year, they’d rather not be forgettable while simultaneously forgetting the off-season. Despite signing high upside outfielders Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger, they also lost out on shortstop Carlos Correa due to concerns on his physical, forcing them to stick with longtime shortstop Brandon Crawford.
This probably won’t be a pretty year for San Francisco, especially with the media focused on the team choosing to play it safe with the injury rather than ignoring it for a bat that they really needed. Manager Gabe Kapler is going to have his hands full, but has built up enough good will in the Bay to stay. They could surprise again, but there’s quite a bit of doubt they’ll have to navigate through.
5. Colorado Rockies
Last Year’s Record: 68-94
Player To Watch: Shortstop Ezequiel Tovar
X-Factor: Catcher Elias Diaz
The Colorado Rockies are bad. There’s no other way to spin it, there’s no other way to call it, they’re just plain bad. And what makes it worse, their ownership doesn’t care.
When your owner comes out and says, “I think we can play .500” in January, it shows that he isn’t aiming high and just wants an adequate team. At this point, veteran players like outfielder Charlie Blackmon, first baseman C.J. Cron, and left fielder Kris Bryant, as well as manager Bud Black should want out with a kind of comment like that. Yet they’re still here, so until something is done, don’t expect much from this organization.