The Dodgers are favored to win the National League West, which doesn't qualify as stunning news, seeing how they've won four division titles in a row and six of the past nine. Here's where it gets interesting:• The Giants, who've won the World Series three times in the past seven
The Dodgers are favored to win the National League West, which doesn't qualify as stunning news, seeing how they've won four division titles in a row and six of the past nine. Here's where it gets interesting:
• The Giants, who've won the World Series three times in the past seven seasons, are really good again.
• The Rockies and D-backs are both getting better, and quickly. Either one of them could be baseball's surprise team in 2017.
• The Padres are loaded with young talent, which makes them both interesting and unpredictable.
That said, the Dodgers remain favored and seem nicely positioned to make a run at their first World Series appearance since 1988. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Dodgers is the depth they've accumulated all around the diamond. No team seems more positioned to execute its Plan B than this one.
Let's take a look:
In using 55 players last season, the Dodgers were forced to dig deep into their Minor League system for contributions from outfielder Alvin Toles, left-hander Grant Dayton and others.
All those players have perhaps created more depth than Los Angeles has ever had. The club also believes it has arguably the best farm system it has ever had.
So the Dodgers' Plan B might be top prospects such as first baseman Cody Bellinger or right-hander Walker Buehler. Or it could be 20-year-old left-hander Julio Urias. Or maybe even veteran outfielder Andre Ethier.
If there's a trade to be made, Los Angeles has the prospects and the money to swing almost any deal. In short, unless ace Clayton Kershaw or shortstop Corey Seager are injured, the Dodgers are as close to a sure thing as there is.
The Giants have money to spend and a string of interesting prospects in the Minor Leagues. Right-hander Tyler Beede is probably the most untouchable prospect in the system and is Plan B for the rotation. And there's infielder Christian Arroyo, who has hit at every level of the Minors. He'll open this season at Double-A, but if San Francisco needs help in 2017, he'll almost certainly be fast-tracked.
Beede and Arroyo are close to untouchable, but if the Giants believe, say, Chris Archer stands between them and another championship, and it requires giving up one of them, they'll go for the trophy and figure out everything else later.
With first baseman Ian Desmond, left fielder David Dahl and catcher Tom Murphy opening the season on the disabled list, the Rockies are already deep into Plan B.
Colorado will open with Tony Wolters and Dustin Garneau behind the plate, Mark Reynolds at first and Gerardo Parra in left. Here's the good news: Desmond, Dahl and Murphy should all return by the end of April, so if the Rockies hold on, they could be in good shape.
There's some pitching depth as well. Jon Gray, Tyler Chatwood and Tyler Anderson offered plenty of reasons for optimism while in the rotation last season, and Colorado loves its other young arms -- Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Harrison Musgrave.
All of them could get a chance to pitch at some point this season. This may be more young-pitching depth than the Rockies have ever had, and it's another reason they feel good about where things are headed.
Plan A is for comeback seasons by center fielder A.J. Pollock, right fielder David Peralta and starters Shelby Miller and Patrick Corbin. If the D-backs have to move to Plan B, it will be for former top pitching prospects Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley to take a step forward.
Another name to watch is left-hander Anthony Banda, who could be traded to bring help at another position, perhaps the bullpen. Arizona has enough stars -- first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, right-hander Zack Greinke, Pollock and Peralta -- to make some noise in the NL West.
Plan A is to let the kids play. Plan B is to let more of the kids play. That's what makes the Padres such an unknown quantity this season. But given the amount of talent that general manager A.J. Preller has accumulated, they could be both entertaining and interesting.
Plan A is to run outfielder Hunter Renfroe and catcher Austin Hedges out there and find out how good they're going to be. At some point, outfielder Manuel Margot, another top prospect, will get a shot.
There's a ton of young pitching in San Diego's system as well. Right-handers Anderson Espinoza and Jacob Nix could arrive this season, and right-hander Cal Quantrill and left-hander Adrian Morejon are not far away. Their development will be a measuring stick for this season. Hang on, Padres fans, this is going to be fun.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice.