The Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League West and got to the World Series again, only to fall short for the second consecutive year. Now the Dodgers have to worry about an improved division, and fighting for the top spot in the West.
Oddsmakers believe they will make it. Manager Dave Roberts’ crew is the -400 pick to win the NL West. But the Colorado Rockies, who finished a game behind last year, could seriously threaten for the crown. They are a +450 to win.
Even the San Diego Padres, who finished in last place in 2018, could challenge for at least a wild card spot.
Dodgers Still Tops
Until they get knocked off the hill, Los Angeles is still the team to beat, but they definitely have some concerns going into Spring Training.
The first is ace left hander Clayton Kershaw. The 30-year-old came into Spring Training and started to complain about pain in his shoulder. That sent off alarm bells among fans, who thought the worse, but Roberts said he is confident he will still the opening day starter. It would be his ninth consecutive year.
“Nothing new, nothing new, we’re going to wait and see how it feels,” Roberts said. “I am not trying to get too much into overthinking it. Once he picks up the ball on Thursday, then we’ll reassess.”
Kershaw, if healthy, would have Walker Buehler, Rich Hill, and Hyun-Jin Ryu behind him. The chances of the team getting Corey Kluber from the Indians is still a possibility, but with the rumors swirling about the team’s Bryce Harper, they may pass.
The Dodgers seemed to be out of the running for Harper a month ago, but all of sudden they have stepped up as the frontrunner. If the team was able to sign Harper, they would instantly be the World Series favorite. They are currently the second pick at 7/1, behind Houston, who is at 6/1.
Padres Make Investment
San Diego was in the cellar last year, and were one of the worst teams in the majors. Signing former Dodger Manny Machado as a free agent gave the Padres some respectability.
All of sudden there is hope in San Diego, but if Machado can deliver it, remains to be seen.
The biggest area of concern is starting pitching. The staff is young, and some have suggested the team is after free agent Dallas Keuchel. If they can land him, the team might jump ahead of Colorado in the standings.
Rockies Not Content
If Colorado is going to make the playoffs for a third straight year, they will need the pitching staff to be as solid as it was last year. The projected rotation of Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, Tyler Anderson and Chad Bettis should provide some serious innings to get to an equally strong bullpen. If Jon Gray proves to have a better year than 2018, they should be fine.
The offense is led by Nolan Arenado, who almost quietly, signed a long-term deal to avoid free agency. The Rockies weren’t going to let the third baseman get away. Adding to Arenado’s bat, will be Charlie Blackmon and free agent Daniel Murphy.
If the team can improve its team batting average, one of the worst in the majors last year, they could not only challenge the Dodgers for the division, but possibly break Los Angeles’ seven-year division champion streak.