NL West preview: San Diego looks to end its playoff drought

San Diego was last in the playoffs back in 2006 and the club hasn’t really consistently contended since (the only other season’s they had a shot was an 89-win season in 2007 and a 90-win season in 2010). The club has struggled with very little forward momentum as prospect after prospect, and free agent after free agent, has failed to live up to expectations.

But heading into the abbreviated 2020 season there is hope for this wayward club. Prior to the start of the 2019 season, the Padres signed Manny Machado to a monster deal that will keep the 28-year old in town through the 2029 season. The goal is to give San Diego a solid, consistent, bat in the middle of its order to build around with its talented farm system…and to improve on the putrid level of offensive production in 2018.

The offense did improve in 2019 — the wRC+ of 88 was four points higher than it was in 2018 — and Machdo was productive last season; but the club is going to need more than Fernando Tatis Jr. to step up around its super star.


Strengths and Weaknesses

Heading into the pandemic shortened season, the NL West is not as top heavy as its American League counterpart. That being said, the Dodgers clearly are the favorites in the division with their talent advantage and deep roster. It seems unlikely that any of the other rebuilding squads would pose a serious threat to Los Angeles’ division title streak.

But there are some weaknesses on their roster that a few of these teams could exploit in such a short season. Let’s take a look.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Strength: The Dodgers’ offense was down right deadly throughout the 2019 season as they hit .257/.338/.472 with a wRC+ of 111. They did it with an eye popping level of power and an ability to get on base that made their power even more dangerous. With a young offensive core of Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Joc Pederson, LA’s offense will continue to be its strength for the foreseeable future.

Weakness: Los Angeles bullpen was the weak link in its 2019 season as they earned an ERA of 3.85 and FIP of 4.06 throughout the year. With an uncomfortably high walk rate, and a middle of the pack hard hit rate, the pen found itself in uncomfortable situations with regularity. Unfortunately, there was nothing really done to address this problem in the off season by the front office.

San Diego Padres

Strength: San Diego’s offensive wRC+ of 88 was pitiful last year, but the roster has a promising offensive core built around Machado and Tatis Jr. that should become more productive as some of the other talent develops around them. The offense would be significantly improved if 29-year old Wil Myers will take some strides offensively to help add depth to a line-up that sorely needs it.

Weakness: The starting pitchers for the Friers struggled to keep runs off of the board in 2019. While the emergency of Chris Paddack is encouraging, the Padres lost their second best starting pitcher last season and struggled to find anyone to replace him. This years draft class heavily focused on pitching, but they will be a couple years away from the big leagues at best.

San Francisco Giants

Strength: The Giants’ bullpen ERA of 3.85 and FIP of 4.09 made them easily the team’s biggest strength in 2019. San Francisco’s pen was particularly good at being mediocre; the walk rate was an acceptable (but not great) 23.4% and the walk rate was also…alright at 8.9%. If they can generate a few more swinging strikes heading into 2020 they could be a dangerous group.

Weakness: An already putrid offense will be playing in 2020 without its most productive player Buster Posey as he will be skipping the season to protect the newborn twins he and his wife adopted. In 2019, San Francisco posted a wRC+ of 83 while having a team slugging percentage of .392 and a pathetic on base percentage of .302. And the club didn’t really do anything to improve on this in the off season…it feels like a full blown tanking effort is in effect on the west side of San Francisco Bay.


Colorado Rockies

Strength: A strong, young offensive core of Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and David Dahl all had wRC+ better than, or the same as, 110 last season. They were the major offensive threats last season in the roster — along with 34-year old Charlie Blackmon. If the young players can walk a little more in 2020, than this season could be a major developmental step for the young guys.

Weakness: Pitching, in general was absolutely atrocious for Colorado last season. The starting staff’s ERA and FIP were 5.87 and 5.31 respectively; while the pen’s was 5.18 and 5.12. There were some individual stand out performances in both groups, but overall there wasn’t a lot for the Rockies to be optimistic about heading into the season…or the near future.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Strength: With a offensive core that is anchored by the 26-year old Ketel Marte, complimented by the two aging stars in Nick Ahmed and Eduardo Escobar, the Diamondbacks posted a wRC+ of 94 and hit .252/.323/.434 last season. The offense will need to see a uptick in walks going into 2020 and 2021 for it to become even more effective. Otherwise its sluggish pitching staff could hold this organization back.

Weakness: Arizona’s pitching staff (both its starters and relievers) weren’t particularly bad last season, but they also weren’t good. The starting staff was the slightly better of the two with a lower ERA (4.23 to 4.26) and roughly the same FIP (4.41 to 4.40), but neither group preformed well enough to keep up them in the playoff hunt. Unfortunately not much was done in the off season to bolster either group and this could keep them out of the playoffs again.


My projected winner

The Dodgers have a huge talent advantage over the rest of the teams in their division, and they should feast on some of the weaker rosters in the AL West to pad their record. While San Diego has lots of young talent to build around its star, that franchise just isn’t there yet in its rebuild to push the power house out of the first spot in the division; and Arizona’s inability to bolster its starting staff and bullpen will severely cripple their playoff chances.


Projected playoff odds

TeamProjected W – LWin DivisionWin WildcardMake PlayoffsWorld Series win
Dodgers36 – 2474.6%12.4%87.1%15.1%
Padres31 – 2912.2%20.2%32.4%3.6%
Rockies28 – 323.7%8%11.7%0.3%
Giants25 – 351%2.3%3.2%0%
Courtesy of Fangraphs

*Baseball reference simulated an 84 game season in Out of the Park Baseball 21. It is not included in this article but you can read about it here.