The good news for the Los Angeles Dodgers is that they’ve been to the World Series two consecutive years.
The bad news is that they’ve watched two teams - the Astros in 2017 and the Red Sox last season - celebrate a championship in Dodger Stadium. The Astros won Game 7, the Red Sox Game 5.
The Dodgers vow to win the World Series this season, ending a championship drought that goes back to 1988, the year they beat the Athletics.
But first things first: They have to take aim at winning their seventh consecutive National League West title. And, then they have to win if they get to their fourth consecutive National League Championship Series.
The NL West looks like a battle between the Dodgers and Rockies, a team that’s never won a division.
The Rockies usually rely on their offense, but there’s a new wrinkle in Colorado. That is, the Rockies’ strength is more about overall pitching than run production.
San Francisco is a mix between too young and too old in manager Bruce Bochy’s last season.
Arizona is missing mainstays A.J. Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt and Patrick Corbin, so the Diamondbacks have taken a step back.
San Diego, with former Oriole Manny Machado, is rebuilding. But the prospect-rich Padres hope to follow in the footsteps of the Royals, Astros and Cubs, teams that have torn down and come back to win World Series.
The prediction: Dodgers, Rockies, D-backs, Giants, Padres.
The NL West headlines:
ARIZONA: The Diamondbacks have been to the postseason six times since their first season in 1998, including the 2001 World Series win versus the Yankees. In their last two October appearances, they lost NL Division Series to the Brewers in 2007 and to the Dodgers in 2017. ... The D-backs will be without three familiar staples: Goldschmidt (Cardinals), Corbin (Nationals) and Pollock (Dodgers). ... Lefty-swinging Jake Lamb, who hit 30 home runs in 2017 but was limited by injury to 56 games last season, moves from third to first to take over for Goldschmidt, a yearly NL MVP candidate. ... Eduardo Escobar plays third, Nick Ahmed short and Wilmer Flores is new at second. ... Former Oriole Adam Jones, a late spring signee, will likely play center field in a configuration that has LF David Peralta and RF Steven Souza Jr. ... Ketel Marte, a former shortstop, was going to be the regular center fielder, but with Jones signed, he becomes a utility player. ... The rotation’s front three are solid with RHP Zack Greinke (15-11, 3.21 last season), LHP Robbie Ray (6-2, 3.93) and RHP Zack Godley (15-11, 4.24). ... RHP Luke Weaver, a top-notch prospect that couldn’t find stability in St. Louis, is also in the rotation. The D-backs think that a new team will help Weaver live up to potential. ... Ray, with this being his final season before free agency, could be a trade chip if the D-backs fall out of contention by July.
COLORADO: For the first time in their 26-year history, the Rockies are coming off back-to-back seasons of playoff appearances, losing in 2017 to Arizona in the wild card game and last season getting swept by the Brewers in the NLDS . ... The Rockies rotation, which led the NL with 932 innings, is anchored by LHP Kyle Freeland and RHP German Márquez. ... Freeland finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting after going 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA. He allowed three or fewer runs in 29 of his 33 starts. ... Márquez set a Rockies record with 230 strikeouts last season. ... The Rockies signed 3B Nolan Arenado to a long-term contract after he won a Gold Glove in each of his first six seasons. He’s hit 158 home runs with a .931 OPS in his last four seasons. ... Arenado and SS Trevor Story, a first-time All-Star in 2018, will provide middle-of-the-order power for the Rockies. ... The new guy at first is former Nat Daniel Murphy, 34, a solid hitter that is challenged defensively, so maybe a move to first base is what he needs. Murphy has a .330 career average in Denver. ... The addition of Murphy means that another former National, Ian Desmond, will move from first to center, with Charlie Blackmon moving from center to left. ... The bullpen needs bounceback seasons from RHP Bryan Shaw (5.93) and LHP Jake McGee (6.49). ... Closer RHP Wade Davis was inconsistent, but still saved a career-high 43 games. ... Colorado had a minus-35 run differential for the season, the only playoff with a minus in that category.
LOS ANGELES: The Dodgers have had at least 91 wins in each of the last six championship seasons. The last time they had a losing record was in 2010, when they had 80 wins. ... LHP Clayton Kershaw, who had a 2.73 ERA in 26 starts last season, is slowed by injuries again. He’s won three NL Cy Young and a NL MVP, but in the last three seasons, he’s averaged 25 starts. ... RHP Walker Buehler, 24, who had a 2.62 ERA last season, and LHP Julio Urias, 22, will likely be in the same rotation this season. ... The other starters include LHPs Rich Hill (3.66 ERA) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (1.97) and RHPs Ross Stripling (3.02) and Kenta Maeda (3.81). Stripling was an All-Star last season. ... Russell Martin, 36, and Austin Barnes, who hit .205 in 2018, have plenty to prove sharing the catching duties behind the plate now that Yasmani Grandal’s power bat is gone. ... Max Muncy, a lefty bat, will platoon at first with Dave Freese, but can Muncy hit 35 home runs again this season? ... After hip and elbow injuries, Corey Seager, a left-handed batter, returns to shortstop. He played in 26 games last season. In previous two seasons combined, he hit 48 home runs. ... The heart and soul of the team is 3B Justin Turner, as long as he stays healthy. Turner hit .312 last season. ... RHP Kenley Jansen, the closer, is back to full health after heart surgery in November. He had 38 saves last season. ... RHP Joe Kelly, who pitched for Boston last season, is the big addition in the bullpen. ... The Dodgers’ biggest weakness has been bullpen depth in the last two years, but they figure they can add to their bullpen midseason. ... The outfield will be without Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, but the Dodgers will use four guys, Cody Bellinger (25 home runs in 2018), A.J. Pollock, Joc Pederson (25 home runs) and prospect Alex Verdugo, who hit .329 with a .391 on-base percentage and 10 home runs at Triple-A last season.
SAN DIEGO: The small-market and rebuilding Padres, who have gone eight consecutive seasons without a winning record and 12 without a postseason appearance, made a free agent splash by signing Manny Machado, 26, to a contract worth $300 million. The Padres decided to go after Machado at the Winter Meetings when they realized it would be difficult to find a third baseman via trade. Machado, who insisted on playing shortstop when he was an Oriole, doesn’t mind playing third and says he likes his new organization’s direction. ... Machado joins an infield that has SS prospect Luis Urias, 2B Ian Kinsler and 1B Eric Hosmer, who signed a $144 million free agent contract before 2018. Hosmer hit .253 with 18 home runs last season. ... Padres fans are waiting for top SS prospect Fernando Tatis Jr., 20, to form a double-play combination with Urias. Tatis will likely be called to the majors this season. ... The outfield has prospects from left field to right: Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Franmil Reyes. Renfroe hit 26 home runs and Reyes 16 last season. Margot is a blue-chip defensive player with eight home runs and 11 steals. ... The Padres rotation is led by young LHPs Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer, but there is a wave of young pitchers on the way. Lucchesi had a 4.08 ERA in 26 starts last season, Lauer 4.34 in 23. ... The Padres had 66 wins last season. They haven’t been to the postseason since 2006 when they lost to the Cardinals. Bruce Bochy was the Padres manager at the time. ... The Padres had 16 players make their big league debut last season.
SAN FRANCISCO: After losing to the Cubs in the 2016 postseason, the Giants are coming off consecutive 73-win seasons. The team is aging and in need of a reboot as Bochy enters his final season, his 13th with the Giants. Bochy, 63, led the Giants to three World Series championships and is destined for the Hall of Fame. Bochy goes into the season with 1,926 career wins and this will be his 25th season managing. In 1994, the Padres hired Bochy, then 39, and he was the youngest manager in the game. ... The Giants are hoping that C Buster Posey, 32, can make a comeback following hip surgery after hitting .284 with five home runs in 105 games. ... The Giants would like to move in a trade the four years $72 million left on 3B Evan Longoria’s contract. He’s 33 and coming off a season where he had injuries and a .281 on-base percentage. ... This is also the final year of a contract for a team legend, LHP Madison Bumgarner, 29, so that will be an ongoing story. Bumgarner is having a strong spring, and if the Giants are out of the race in July, he’ll become a trade candidate as the Giants retool their farm system. ... Bumgarner missed time last year with a broken finger and three months in 2017 after a shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident. ... The Giants have a strength with the middle infield in SS Brandon Crawford and 2B Joe Panik. ... 1B Brandon Belt is still a potential for 30 home runs, if they can stay healthy. ... RHP Dereck Rodríguez, son of Hall of Famer Iván Rodríguez, had a 2.81 ERA in 21 appearances, 19 starts, for the Giants last season and heads a group of up-and-coming starters that includes RHPs Chris Stratton and Andrew Suárez, whose 130 strikeouts last season were most by a Giants rookie since Chris Heston’s 141 in 2015. ... Last season, the Giants were 42-39 at home, 31-50 on the road.