5): Colorado Rockies
2019 Record: 71-91
2020 Record Prediction: 68-94
What happens with 3B Nolan Arenado will determine the fate of the Rockies’ future. If they decide to trade him amid the very public tension between the front office and Arenado, that would likely mean the Rockies are leaning towards a rebuild, or at least a significant retool. If they keep him, they have a chance to contend for a playoff spot for as long as he’s there. There is also a chance that he opts out of his contract after the 2021 season if the two sides can’t repair their relationship.
2020 is likely to be a down year for the Rockies, but not because of the offense. Nolan Arenado and SS Trevor Story make one of the best left sides of the infield in the league, while David Dahl and Charlie Blackmon have produced at an All-Star level over the past few seasons in the outfield. There are some younger players that figure to make an impact as well, with Ryan McMahon, Sam Hilliard and Garrett Hampson all in line to get regular playing time.
The rotation has a lot of potential, as Jon Gray, German Marquez and Kyle Freeland have shown that they can pitch at a high level for a full season, but it’s tough to see any Rockies pitching staff perform at a high level because of the extreme hitter’s advantage at Coors Field.
The bullpen also has potential and plenty of players who have performed well before, but Coors Field is a different animal. Fans have seen Wade Davis become essentially unusable after being one of the league’s better closers before signing with the Rockies, and they’ve seen Bryan Shaw become one of the worst relievers in the league after being a dominant force in the Indians bullpen for several years.
The pitching won’t give Colorado much of a chance to contend for a Wild Card spot, even if the offense performs at a high level like they always do. It will be interesting to see what direction the franchise goes in as the next couple of years come and go, and the roster could even look significantly different after the trade deadline this year.
4): San Francisco Giants
2019 Record: 77-85
2002 Record Prediction: 71-91
It’s weird to see the Giants going into a rebuild following their decade of dominance in the 2010s, winning 3 World Series titles. They had a run last July that got them close to a wild card spot, but it wasn’t hard to realize that it was a fluke and that the team was not close to contention.
The roster is filled with many older position players who don’t have much left in the tank, such as Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt. The lineup doesn’t have much batting talent, with OF Mike Yastrzemski being the best bat they have, which doesn’t spell well for their chances this season.
The rotation is going to struggle as well with the loss of Madison Bumgarner, but the return of Johnny Cueto is an encouraging sign. The bullpen is mediocre at best with their best reliever, Reyes Moronta, being out until the midseason mark and most of the middle relievers transitioning to a middle relief role after struggling as starters.
There are some interesting players in Mauricio Dubon and Jaylin Davis who could be a part of the next good Giants team, but that’s pretty much as far as the young talent goes. San Fran has done a good job building a fantastic farm system, but most of the premier talent is 2-3 years away. The Giants likely will not contend until that period of time.
3): San Diego Padres
2019 Record: 70-92
2020 Record Prediction: 82-80
The Padres will go into 2020 with legitimate playoff hopes for the first time in a decade. Fernando Tatis Jr. seems like he will be one of the game’s biggest stars for the foreseeable future atop San Diego’s lineup as a perennial 30/30 threat. Manny Machado struggled in his first year at pitcher-friendly Petco Park, but he’s still one of the best hitters in the game when he’s on, and he’s gotten more help in the offense with the arrival of OF Tommy Pham. The depth is a concern, as it is uncertain that players like Francisco Mejia, Jurickson Profar and Franchy Cordero can be counted on as consistent producers at the bottom of the lineup.
I’m higher on the pitching staff than most, as Chris Paddack looks like he can be an ace while the arrival of Zach Davies and the potential of Dinelson Lamet combined with all the young pitching talent gives the Padres more weapons than they’ve had in a while. The bullpen could very well be the best in the game, as Kirby Yates will once again be the closer after a breakout 41 save season last year, and the team added shutdown relievers in Emilio Pagan and Drew Pomeranz this offseason to give them a 3-headed monster for late in games that will give opposing offenses no chance to come back.
There is definitely some momentum building towards a Padres playoff appearance, but I’m not sure this year is the year with all the competition in the NL and a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers in their division.
2): Arizona Diamondbacks
2019 Record: 85-77
2020 Record Prediction: 85-77
The D-Backs were one of the league’s overachievers last season, finishing with 85 wins and a real shot at a playoff spot late in the year after many predicted them to be among the league’s worst teams with the departure of stars Patrick Corbin, Paul Goldschmidt and A.J Pollock.
They were able to do this by having guys like Ketel Marte blossom into a MVP candidate while 1B Christian Walker, the replacement for Goldschmidt, and Carson Kelly becoming cornerstones of the franchise. All 3 will return to the offense and are joined by All-Star caliber talents in Eduardo Escobar and Starling Marte, who they gained from the Pirates in a trade. It seems likely that the Diamondbacks will be among the league-leading teams in runs scored.
The pitching staff received a huge boost with the addition of Madison Bumgarner, who gives them a front-of-the line guy with playoff experience that they’ve lacked, while Robbie Ray, Luke Weaver, Zac Gallen and Mike Leake round out one of the deeper rotations in the league. The bullpen is also extremely deep with good arms at every spot and a rising star in Kevin Ginkel, who looks like he has a future as a shutdown closer.
The D-Backs should be in the run for a Wild Card spot, but they will just miss out as there’s too many good teams in the NL and not everyone can make the playoffs.
1): Los Angeles Dodgers
2019 Record: 106-56
2020 Record Prediction: 103-59
It’s almost impossible to improve a roster that won 106 games in 2019. The Dodgers managed to do just that, though. They acquired one of the best players in the game, Mookie Betts, and a good starter in David Price for a low price from the Red Sox, while adding high-upside arms in Brusdar Graterol and Blake Treinen to a bullpen that struggled at times last season.
The lineup is unbelievable, as there isn’t a single soft spot from #1 to #8 in the batting order, which includes two of the best hitters in the game, Betts and 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger. The line-up is also highlighted by Max Muncy, Corey Seager and one of the game’s top prospects, Gavin Lux. The bench features players like A.J. Pollock, Kike Hernandez and Chris Taylor, all of whom would be starters for a number of teams in the league.
Walker Buehler is a front-runner for the NL Cy Young Award, while Clayton Kershaw and David Price complete a ridiculous front of the rotation with loads of experience and potential. The bullpen is the weakest part of the roster, but it’s still above-average and features one of the deepest collections of arms in the league.
There’s no excuse for the Dodgers to not win the World Series with the roster that they have, and it seems like fans may get the long-awaited Yankees-Dodgers World Series in a battle of traditional powerhouses.