The National League West is in play for the 2023 season. Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres were one and two in the division, with both teams making the postseason. San Diego would ultimately knock out Los Angeles to advance, before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies.
How does the rest of the division shake out? Here is a look at what Colorado, Arizona, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have done and not done to win the West and maybe even the pennant.
Rocky Mountain High
The Colorado Rockies finished their 2022 campaign with a record of 68-94. While they managed to play well at Coors Field, going 41-40, they were terrible on the road to the tune of 27 wins and 54 losses. While 2023 looks to be a season of repositioning, Colorado feels 2024 will be the season for a breakthrough in the NL West. They need it to be. The Rockies in Coors Field dropped below two million for attendance and unless they put a winner on the field, or at the very least show improvement this coming season, Colorado could be in trouble.
We have been attacked pic.twitter.com/oESPCirznl
— DNVR Rockies (@DNVR_Rockies) December 21, 2022
The biggest need is hitting, and at Coors that shouldn’t be such a challenge, but still is. As for pitching, Colorado is always good at finding quality arms, and those can help keep you close. Two starters to keep an eye on are right-handed pitcher German Marquez and lefty Kyle Freeland. Freeland appeared in 31 games, going 9-11 with a 4.53 ERA. Marquez also got 31 starts with a 9-13 record and a 4.95 ERA.
One young hitter to keep an eye on is outfielder Sean Bouchard. At Triple-A Albuquerque, Bouchard hit .300 in 69 games, driving in 56 runs and hitting 20 home runs.
D-Backs Eyeing The Postseason
The Arizona Diamondbacks are a team with a great and productive mix of youth and veterans. Names fans already know include Ketel Marte, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Christian Walker. Established pitchers like left-handed pitcher Madison Bumgarner, right-handed pitcher Merrill Kelly, and righty Mark Melancon will be the centerpieces of the Diamondbacks starting rotation.
Run differential was an issue in 2022. Arizona finished with a record of 74-88, but they could have done a bit better, to the tune of 77-85. A lack of offense showed in a 17-29 record in one-run games. The organization believes 2023 will be better due to more experience from their younger talent. Watch for top prospect Corbin Carroll, an outfielder who reached the majors in late August last season. Second-year player Jake McCarthy broke out with a .283/.342/.427 debut with 23 stolen bases in 354 plate appearances. Veteran shortstop Nick Ahmed will anchor an infield with a possible rotating door at second base. Nonetheless, they have enough talent to overcome a deficiency they will address sooner rather than later.
The #DBacks are looking forward to a bounce-back season from Ketel Marte in 2023.@Dbacks | #WinterMeetings pic.twitter.com/QMMQ7VNIAl
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) December 7, 2022
Arizona manager Torey Lovullo has a Diamondbacks team who can make a run in the NL West. He will lead his most talented team yet, with the promise of big things in 2023.
Building On The Cheap In San Francisco
The San Francisco Giants are a model of inconsistency. President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi has been uber-conservative when spending on talent. The Giants were stellar in 2021, winning 107 games, then not so much in 2022 when they posted a .500 record. But hasn’t this been what San Francisco does best? An up-and-down team depending on the year listed on the calendar?
Tommy La Stella, whose career with the Giants has been injury filled, has been designated for assignment. That said, the starting infield and outfield could shake out with this lineup card given a tweak or two.
C – Joey Bart .215/.296/.660
1B – J.D. Davis .248/.340/.758
2B – Thairo Estrada .260/.322/.722
3B – Wilmer Flores .229/.316/.710
SS – Brandon Crawford .231/.308/.652
LF – Joc Pederson .274/.353/.874
CF – Mike Yastrzemski .214/.305/.697
RF – Mitch Haniger .246/.308/.736
Welcome to the SF side, Sean Manaea 🤝 pic.twitter.com/IAwUIdvkMK
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) December 17, 2022
Pitching is relatively deep. With up to seven starting pitchers, including:
RHP Logan Webb,
RHP Alex Cobb,
LHP Alex Wood,
RHP Anthony DeSclafani,
LHP Sean Manaea,
RHP Ross Stripling,
RHP Jakob Junis.
The Giants will need to find some balance on the mound, meaning free agency is still a wide open proposition.
Manager Gabe Kapler has shown, mostly by necessity, the ability to flex lefty-righty and righty-lefty matchups. Knowing the NL West won’t offer many easy wins, the San Francisco Giants could be looking at another .500 season, with a few wins and/or losses up-and-down.
Padres, Dodgers Battle For A Pennant And A Championship
The San Diego Padres.
The Los Angeles Dodgers.
Say what you want about baseball in Southern California, but the Padres and Dodgers have become two teams from the National League West who can not just win a pennant, but raise a championship trophy in early November. Both teams are solid up-and-down their lineup, starting pitching that can shut their opponents down, and bullpens that can close it out better than most. So, what’s amiss with these two potential champions?
Padres. While 2022 looked like a breakout year, San Diego has been positioning for a while now, and after a monster season, it all seems like 2023 or nothing at all. While ESPN has San Diego winning 100 games, the feeling is more like a window closing than being wide open. Winning 100 games is a great number, but making that a benchmark every year, even next year, won’t be easy. A concern that does exist is the starting rotation. With Yu Darvish anchoring the staff, age is due to slow him down. San Diego did sign Xander Bogaerts, brought back Fernando Tatis Jr. and hopes to get a full season of Juan Soto and Josh Hader. Considering all, the Padres look better than the 2022 edition. The Dodgers, meanwhile, look worse.
X marks the spot. pic.twitter.com/ux8dTwQjCW
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) December 10, 2022
Dodgers. $16 million dollar man Justin Turner is gone, still Los Angeles is predicted to win 97 games. In a season where Dodger Blue could be in transition, veteran pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias are the only “sure things” in 2023.
"I'm excited to get back out there and get going. We have some unfinished business to take care of." @ClaytonKersh22 on his return to the #Dodgers. pic.twitter.com/Ha3Rdwtrdi
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) December 6, 2022
As of now, and likely heading into the spring and beyond with an adjustment here or there, Los Angeles will roll out this group of starters:
Mookie Betts – RF
Freddie Freeman – 1B
Will Smith – C
Max Muncy – DH
Chris Taylor – 2B
Gavin Lux – SS
Trayce Thompson – LF
Miguel Vargas – 3B
James Outman – CF
Not exactly “Murderers Row”.
It’s hard to sell a team ready to bomb its way through the NL West and into a legitimate championship run with a lineup remarkably average. If the Los Angeles Dodgers are hoping to simply make due until someone like Shohei Ohtani is available to put up on the marquee, San Diego could become the undisputed king of the West for a good long while.