Predicting the NL West with 10 key questions

March 3rd, 2023

Opening Day is less than a month away. That’s so soon! Every year, we preview a different division every two weeks leading up to the start of the season. 

Previews So Far:

Today, we continue with the National League West, which just went through the biggest transition we’ve seen in this division in nearly a decade. Not at the top of the standings, though, as the Dodgers won the West for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons. But the Padres, at last, got the best of their Southern California rivals in the NLDS last season, and after the comparatively idle Dodgers offseason, there is a sense that this division could be had -- and maybe not just by the Padres. After all, the Giants won the division in 2021, and the D-backs are on the rise.

So, let’s continue our previews with the NL West. Teams are listed in alphabetical order by nickname up top, with my standings prediction below.


1) Is Corbin Carroll already an MVP candidate?

Admittedly, that might be pushing it a bit. But there’s no question having a phenom like -- who looked like far and away the best player on this team from the minute he arrived in the Majors late last season -- around every day will start to inspire you to dream big. After years of building and rebuilding, the Arizona Diamondbacks added , , and exciting young catcher this offseason. It’s impossible not to connect those additions and the optimism of how much better the D-backs were when Carroll arrived. If the D-backs are going to make a push, it’ll be behind Carroll, who at the very least is an early Rookie of the Year candidate.

2) Is this the year to push?

The D-backs are widely believed to have one of the most talented farm systems in baseball, with Jordan Lawlar and Druw Jones (and Carroll) headlining a group that also includes Brandon Pfaadt, Deyvison De Los Santos, Ryne Nelson and Drey Jameson. That’s not even accounting for Jake McCarthy, Geraldo Perdomo and Alek Thomas, all of whom are 25 or younger. This lineup could be stacked in a year or two. So, do the D-backs just see how it goes with the young guys this year, sort of pulling an Orioles if you will, or do they push for a playoff spot? If the D-backs are near a Wild Card spot in July, will they be more aggressive with prospects? Or trade some? Or just sit tight? With the way things have gone in Arizona the last few years … these would be terrific questions to even have the opportunity to ask.


1) Did they forget they were the Dodgers this offseason?

Logically speaking, you can absolutely understand why the Dodgers didn’t go big this offseason. They’re trying to reset the luxury tax -- get under it now so they can spend more in the future -- and there’s a certain pitcher over in Anaheim (who it turns out can also hit a little) that they’d presumably love to make a run at next offseason. But the timing -- letting key players such as and walk right after losing to the Padres in the playoffs -- didn’t look great. The Dodgers are trusting their farm system to fill in any remaining gaps, which is a strategy that has worked out well for them in the past. But if there are any blips, well, this fanbase is a little grumbly after how last season ended and the quiet offseason that followed.

2) Is this season a failure if they don’t win the World Series?

This is totally not a fair question because the Dodgers just won the World Series two seasons ago. But, fair or not, they will forever be haunted by the “Well, you only won the World Series in the COVID-19 year” line until they get their proverbial monkey off their proverbial back. Even if you think it was actually harder to win during the COVID-19 year -- and I do think that -- there’s just something to winning a World Series in a building at full capacity. The Dodgers have been the best team in baseball for the last decade, but this is a postseason sport now. Until the Dodgers win two -- you know, like the Astros have -- this is going to be a fact that pesters them every day, every week and every month of every year.


1) Are they recovered from the Correa affair?

In an ideal world, the Giants would have felt a little relief from the heat that was put on them for not going through with the signing after the Mets ended up backing out of their own deal with Correa for the same reasons the Giants did. History will ultimately show whether or not the Giants were correct in having medical concerns with Correa, but the problem the Giants had last year, alas, still remains: They are a team built to have a superstar at the center but do not, in fact, have a superstar at the center. They thought it might be Aaron Judge. Then, they thought it was Correa. Who will it end up being? Will there ever even be one?

2) Is this pitching better than anyone realizes?

The Giants' lineup is solid even without Correa -- that signing looks incredibly savvy -- but the real excitement might be in the rotation. and have been an excellent 1-2, and the Giants have seen what can do as well. But it’s the additions that are intriguing. seems a perfect fit for this organization, but the real excitement this spring has been , who has shown a noticeable uptick in velocity in his appearances so far. There is reason to believe this is the most stable rotation in the division. Add a veteran bullpen to the mix, and, well, you shouldn’t expect the Giants to win 100 games or anything, but they sort of look like the type of team that will sneak up on you this year like they did in 2021.


1) How does this rotation end up looking?

Remember when the big question about the Padres' rotation was which arm was going to be the best Cy Young contender? The Padres have six potential starters, but all are over 30 and none are likely to be included in a majority of Cy Young short lists. The Padres clearly believe in (who they just signed to a contract extension) and , but you couldn’t help but notice that the recent signing reeked of an organization that is a little worried about getting enough innings from its staff. This team has a stacked lineup, but if your pitching falls apart (and Musgrove is already dealing with a broken toe that will cause him to miss time), not even this team will hit enough.

2) Is this the best lineup in baseball?

If is the Juan Soto of two years ago … it has to be, doesn’t it? Soto, , , and when he returns from suspension in April. There is not a better quartet in baseball, right? And there is also intrigue further down the lineup. was a bummer last year, but he’s still Nelson Cruz: You wouldn’t be that shocked if he hit 30 homers again, would you? If is anything close to what he was with the Yankees, or if and take a step forward and hangs in there, this could be a deep and very scary lineup. Or, it’ll just be four stars you just grit your teeth to make it through. It really would help if Soto has the monster year it sure feels like is coming. Even his down years are terrific, but imagine if he explodes.


1) What will they get out of Kris Bryant?

You hate to pile on here, but the Rockies signed to a seven-year, $182 million deal before last season and currently have five homers in 42 games to show for it. Bryant says he’s finally feeling healthy this spring, and that’s good news for the Rockies, who are obviously counting on him to be the centerpiece of their lineup.

2) What’s the long-term plan here?

Even if you squint really hard, it’s hard to see how the Rockies win the division this year. There is some talent on the roster, but probably not enough of it to win enough games to overtake the other teams in the West. The Rockies have a loyal fan base that turns out for games, but they still have never won this division, and it’s still unclear when they will.


Dodgers: 94-68
Padres: 91-71
Giants: 88-74
D-backs: 79-83
Rockies: 61-101

As much as everyone wants to push the Padres (or even the Giants or D-backs) past the Dodgers, I can’t quite get there. It is telling that a 94-win season feels like a huge step back for the Dodgers nevertheless. All told, don’t be surprised if the Giants make a push because of their rotation. Either way, this division is fascinating this year. There are four ambitious teams that could go any number of directions … and there is also the Rockies.