NL West Division Preview

The Dodgers spent a billion dollars. Will it be enough?

In what may well be the most predictable division in baseball, at least in terms of its eventual winner, we arrive at the NL West, where the past decade has been almost an exercise in futility for 80% of its inhabitants. With a run that makes us remember the 1990’s Braves, the Dodgers have now won 10 of the past 11 division titles, averaging nearly 100 wins in the process while the rest of the West appears content with simply competing for wild card spots and enjoy the schadenfreude of seeing LA not translating that dominance to the playoffs. To the Dodgers’ credit, they seem relentless in their pursuit for a championship, and flexed their muscles by committing over a billion dollars in free agent signings this offseason. As they appear to be more must-see-TV than ever before, it could be easy to ignore the other West teams, but this division could be sneaky-tough and more competitive than it appears at first glance.

The current configuration of the West has three clear middle teams that include the defending NL champ, a Padres team scrambling after their failed attempt to buy credibility, and the Giants, who were in on many free agents before pivoting and at least assembling an interesting squad. With the projections pegging these three to hover around .500, the season could go in many different directions for the West’s middle class, from mounting a valiant upper-percentile season and challenging the Dodgers, to scuffling with several wild-card contenders in the NL, or even collapsing with a mediocre season. With the Rockies completing the division and expected to be awful, how each team is able to beat up on Colorado may be the deciding factor between .500 and inching closer to a 90-win season.

As the season kicks off in Korea with a showdown between rivals from this division, it seems important to take a look at how each of them may perform in 2024. Despite having a prohibitive favorite in Los Angeles, things may be closer than expected as the season unfolds.


#5 – Colorado Rockies – 2023 Record: 59-103 – 2024 Projection: 64-98


Major League Baseball has more than a few bad owners, shallow rosters, and overall weird teams, but none can reach the level of the Rockies, who continue to be more confounding year after year. Fresh off a 103-loss season, which was actually the worst in franchise history, Colorado will field the 15th-highest payroll in the league to probably be the worst team in the National League. At the same time, they have a bottom-10 farm system according to industry experts, creating a terrible combination of hopelessness for the present and the foreseeable future. Even with the challenges that come from playing at altitude, there should be no excuse for a franchise that has over 30 years under that condition, as the current roster is bound to fail again when it comes to preventing and scoring runs.

Adjusting for park, the Rockies were a bottom-five offense in 2023, and are bringing back most of the same lineup in 2024. Outside of Nolan Jones, who should again be the team’s best hitter by a mile, there is little to write home about around Denver. Veterans like Ryan McMahon, Ezequiel Tovar, and Brendan Rodgers are serviceable and could be complements in the inevitable high-scoring games at Coors Field, but they lack the consistency to carry an offense that could benefit from some fresh blood. To wit, the team re-signed Charlie Blackmon to a one-year, $13 million contract and he is expected to again start and have over 500 at-bats, which is not something a serious organization would do in the year 2024. With Kris Bryant still on the hook for four more years, the team has to hope he can rekindle some of his magic and finally learn to hit at mile-high conditions.

If the offense is a sad affair, Colorado’s pitching may be downright depressing. A rotation that is headlined by the team’s lifer Kyle Freeland is bound to be hit hard on most games, as it is fair to wonder how many games the Rockies will be favored this season. Retread veterans such as Cal Quantrill, Dakota Hudson, and Austin Gomber will also get the chance to start every five days, continuing the trend of the organization being unable to either lure or develop quality pitchers. The bullpen will not be much better, as it is likely that de facto closer Daniel Bard will not get many chances to earn a save. With Germán Márquez sidelined for most of the season, expect to see a middling-to-bad hurler on the mound for the Rockies during every single inning.

Despite such a pessimistic outlook on 2024, the Rockies are still likely to draw many fans in Denver, feeding the endless cycle of mediocrity that its ownership group has embraced. This is still a team looking for its first-ever division title and that has not won a playoff series since 2007.


#4 – San Francisco Giants – 2023 Record: 79-83 – 2024 Projection: 81-81


San Francisco’s magical 2021 season stands out like a sore thumb in the NL West’s recent history, even as the past two seasons returned the team to its mediocre ways. The franchise’s deep pockets have made them part of the conversation in some of the most prominent free agents of the past two offseasons, but the Giants still missed out on Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinubu Yamamoto, seeing them sign with their biggest rival, to boot. Even with that frustration, the front office at least kept some of its word by going on a calculated shopping frenzy that made San Francisco the second-highest spender in MLB. While the offense still has a few holes and the rotation is depleted beyond the consistency of Logan Webb, it is undeniable that the Giants will at least be intriguing in 2024.

The new-look lineup is headlined by three free agents with very different backgrounds. Jorge Soler hits the ball hard and could become the franchise’s first 30-homer hitter since 2004 (!!!), giving the franchise a needed full-time DH. Jung Hoo Lee was not as hyped as his Japanese import counterparts, but he has been hailed as a bat control artist with strong defense in center field, which should be a strong combination if he can adapt well coming over from the KBO. Matt Chapman was a late addition in free agency, and his premier defense should bode well for a groundball-heavy staff, but he could endear himself to the Bay Area if he finds a way to get better offensive results from his hard-hit profile. These additions suggest that the front office is not sold on its youngsters, as the likes of Marco Luciano and Heliot Ramos have not established themselves as big leaguers. Instead, expect many at-bats for the heroes of 2021, with veterans like Mike Yastrzemski, Thairo Estrada, and Wilmer Flores trying to get back to a playoff race.

San Francisco’s pitching staff represents a whole spectrum of scenarios. The aforementioned Webb should again be excellent and contend for a Cy Young award, but the rest of the rotation is full of injuries and question marks. The team expects Alex Cobb and Robbie Ray back at some point, which could eventually give them a strong trio, but it is far from guaranteed. The same can be said from the Jordan Hicks experiment, even if he could become a premier reliever if it does not work. The X factor comes from sophomore Kyle Harrison, whose electric stuff needs better command and durability to become a true force. While the Giants are still linked to Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, they will likely start the season with a patchwork rotation and plenty of openers. This strategy could work as the team has a deep bullpen and a shutdown closer that will help them shorten games.

While 2023’s late collapse led to manager Gabe Kapler’s firing, the addition of a veteran manager may reminisce the days of Dusty Baker and Bruce Bochy, which appears to be a good formula for this franchise. Following two seasons hovering around .500 and with few significant games in September, the current configuration of the Giants represents a new hope for this organization and its fans.


#3 – San Diego Padres – 2023 Record: 82-80 – 2024 Projection: 82-80


Lost among the many disappointments of 2023, the Padres fell flat in their attempt to assemble a super team that could challenge the Dodgers. Instead, they scuffled all year long and barely made it over the .500 mark, which is not something that ownership would have envisioned when they opened their checkbook. ‘Following the RSN debacle and well-publicized financial issues, the team was forced to pivot and lose some of its stars. The Juan Soto trade returned a solid bunch of prospects, but it’s still Juan-freaking-Soto we’re talking about. The same can be said for the free agent departures of Blake Snell and Josh Hader, as the team made no attempt to retain them, while the change of identity even included letting go of its manager to a division rival. As it stands today, the Padres will try to change the narrative with a true stars-and-scrubs roster – one that feels really far away from the brief “Slam Diego” days.

The biggest hope and selling point for this franchise is that Fernando Tatis Jr. came back strong in 2023 and became a solid defender in his new position, suggesting that they may have at least hitched their wagon to their right star. Entering his age-25 season, Tatis is barely entering his prime and will enter the season as an MVP candidate. He will be surrounded by an infield full of stars, with Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts, and Ha-Seong Kim expected to produce high OBPs and provide solid defense. However, things fall apart quickly after them, as the team is relying on several question marks and league-average bats to round out the offense. With the likes of Jake Cronenworth, Luis Campusano, and Kyle Higashioka at the bottom of the order, expect a lot of fruitless innings for this team.

The late trade for Dylan Cease gives San Diego a better outlook on the pitching side, as long as its veterans are able to shake off their lackluster 2023 results. Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish should be better from a positive regression standpoint, and a good season from them could be the difference between a slow start and a team that can at least contend for a wild card spot. There are other intriguing options, such as former Yankees Michael King and Jhony Brito, but overall the rotation feels like a weak link with limited upside. Losing Hader leaves the Padres without an experienced closer, though they should still have a solid duo in the late innings with Robert Suarez and Yuki Matsui, though the middle innings could become a roller coaster for new manager Mike Shildt.

These post-hype Padres enter a new era in which they are probably not expected to challenge the big boys in the NL, which could be an underrated sigh of relief for a team that crumbled under pressure in 2023. If it all fails, we know that AJ Preller is not afraid to make deals and go all-in, which immediately makes the Padres an interesting team to follow this season.


#2 – Arizona Diamondbacks – 2023 Record: 84-78 – 2024 Projection: 83-79


2023 gave us a lot of talk about the Baltimore Orioles, who completed a magical turnaround from 100+ losses in 2021 to a division title. That shifted some attention from Arizona, who may have done them one better by going from 110 losses in 2021 to a pennant, albeit one that came after the team barely made the postseason as a wild card. Nevertheless, it is important to appreciate and celebrate how the Diamondbacks managed to have this shocking change of identity, as they slowly built through their farm system and with shrewd free-agent signings. As reigning NL champs, 2024 starts with higher expectations, even as the team may not be that different from the one that won 84 games and then got scalding hot in October.

Arizona’s calling card comes with speed and defense, headlined by Corbin Carroll, who exceeded all expectations after starting since Opening Day and belting 29 homers as a rookie. His presence in the outfield gives the team a high floor and an exciting outlook, which is quite the change for a franchise that appeared in limbo just a year ago. The underrated Ketel Marte will serve as the offensive Robin to Carroll’s Batman, complemented by other solid veterans, including Christian Walker, Alek Thomas, and the new additions of Eugenio Suárez and Joc Pederson. This combination of speed and power is unique and makes Arizona a dangerous team, as the Dodgers could attest in the NLDS.

Much like the Giants, Arizona’s rotation features a stud, a few solid veterans, and an X factor that could take the team to greater heights if it all breaks right. Zac Gallen has long been an analytical dear for his pitching arsenal and consistency and remains the unquestioned ace for a team that needs all the pitching it can get. Merrill Kelly and free agent Eduardo Rodriguez cannot match Gallen’s upside, but they will cover a lot of innings and provide consistency. Arizona’s bellwether is youngster Brandon Pfaadt, who struggled mightily in his first season but then came back to deliver in the playoffs. His pedigree as a top prospect suggests that he will continue to get better, which could represent Arizona’s status as the best rotation in the West. The bullpen is a bit more risky, as closer Paul Sewald always tries his best to give Arizona fans a heart attack, and there are no clear heir apparents in the pen should Sewald falter. Kevin Ginkel could fill that role, though he seems clearly better suited for a set-up role.

The Diamondbacks will try to reach consecutive postseasons for the first since 2001-02, so history suggests that it will not happen this season. With a projected record barely above .500, this team will need to squeeze out any advantage it can get and could become buyers around the trade deadline, especially when it comes to bullpen help.


#1 – Los Angeles Dodgers – 2023 Record: 100-62 – 2024 Projection: 93-69


During their recent run of success, the Dodgers have been known for many things. Whether it is spending big bucks on free agents, swinging aggressive trades, or unearthing hidden gems out of thin air, it seems like this franchise can do no wrong in terms of roster construction. All of these traits were on full display during this offseason, as LA was able to lock up the top two free agents in the market, trade for one of the best per-inning pitchers in the game, and sign a few veterans that will surely recapture their form in Dodger blue. The elephant in the room for this team is that they could win 110 games and dominate the season from end to end, but it all would be for naught if they again collapse in October. The Dodgers are still looking for their first full-season World Series title since 1988, and the 93-win projection reflects that this roster may be missing a few key elements to be considered the class of the National League.

While the NBA may have given us the dawn of the super team and big threes, the Dodgers are the closest thing in MLB. With a top offensive three that counts a combined 4 MVPs over the past half-decade, LA has star power in its prime and is ready to ruin many pitchers’ days in the process. The addition of Shohei Ohtani, even if he is only a DH in 2024, could be as seismic an addition as Mookie Betts was when he came over from Boston, and having Freddie Freeman is almost unfair at this point. Surrounding them with quality bats like Will Smith, James Outman, Teoscar Hernández, and even the renaissance of Jason Heyward suggests that the Dodgers will score early and often. A year removed from a 900-run campaign, it would not be shocking to see this version of LA challenging for a thousand.

On the other hand, the pitching staff offers no such guarantees, even if the upside is evident. The multi-year deal for Yamamoto is still a coup, but he will need to adapt quickly to an MLB workload and much stiffer competition than he faced in Japan. The deal for Tyler Glasnow was also masterful, but the righty has yet to pitch over 120 innings in a season. Bobby Miller and James Paxton are not exactly world-beaters, but they need to hold the fort as the many injured Dodger hurlers start coming back, including Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. As every projected Dodger starting pitcher comes with a caveat, it is fair to wonder how manager Dave Roberts will handle this staff. The bullpen also comes with question marks, as a closer-by-committee is the likely formula to earn saves. Brusdar Graterol’s recent injury issues may push the team towards more trades, as even a team that may score in bunches needs a few assurances in their staff.

With an all-in mentality and the commitment to maximize Ohtani’s title window, it seems almost inevitable that the Dodgers will try anything to fortify their roster, especially when it comes to pitching. While their division foes seem far in terms of talent, early inconsistency could provide a tighter battle in the West, even if the final outcome seems preordained. As the weirdness of seeing Shohei in blue starts wearing off, expect the Dodgers to have a massive following in all ballparks they attend, be featured in countless national broadcasts, and face plenty of scrutiny if things do not go as well as expected.

Pablo Figueroa

Pablo Figueroa is a Baseball Writer here at Pitcher List, with experience as a writer since 2013. He lives in Aguascalientes, Mexico - proud home of Los Rieleros. When he´s not thinking about baseball , he's a husband, owns two dogs, watches random episodes of The Sopranos , plays padel, and works on his day job to pay the bills.

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