Projected order of finish for 2020: Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Padres, Giants, Rockies.
Since 2013, the Dodgers have averaged 96 victories a season in winning seven consecutive National League West championships.
That consistency hasn’t shown up in the postseason. The Dodgers lost to Houston in 2017 World Series and to Boston in 2018 World Series. Last season, the Nationals eliminated the Dodgers in the Division Series.
The Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since 1988, the year of Kirk Gibson’s memorable Game 1 home run versus Oakland.
Last season, the Dodgers led the NL with 886 runs, and in the offseason, they traded for Mookie Betts, the AL MVP with Boston in 2018, the year he led the AL with a .346 average and .640 slugging percentage.
Betts and Clay Bellinger (.305/.406/.629) give the Dodgers two legitimate NL MVP candidates. Second baseman Gavin Lux is a candidate to be the league’s top rookie.
And, because of rule changes, the Dodgers get to add a DH to the lineup, likely A.J. Pollock. The new position could help him stay healthy. Pollock hit 15 home runs and .266 last season in 86 games.
Lefty starter David Price, acquired in a trade from Boston, has decided not to play this season, and the Dodgers traded Kenta Maeda to Minnesota. But the Dodgers rotation is strong with Clayton Kershaw, a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, and Walker Buehler in the first two slots. Kershaw was 16-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 2019, Buehler was at 14-4 with a 3.26 ERA.
The Dodgers signed Alex Wood, a 2017 Dodgers All-Star who had injuries and a 5.80 ERA last season for Cincinnati. They’ll also have Julio Urías (2.49 ERA in 79 innings) and Ross Stripling (3.47 ERA in 90 innings).
In Arizona, the Diamondbacks think they have a chance to make the postseason. Last season, they won 85 games, despite trading pitcher Zack Greinke and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. In a sense, Arizona has rebuilt and reloaded at the same time.
In the offseason, they added lefty Madison Bumgarner, 30, who will pitch in an already capable rotation that includes Luke Weaver (2.94 ERA in 12 starts), Zac Gallen (2.89 ERA in eight starts) and Robbie Ray (235 strikeouts).
The Rockies won 71 games last season and didn’t do much to improve. They signed superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado to a long-term contract with the idea that they would be competitive soon, but the team is basically the same last season.
Former National Ian Desmond decided not to play this season because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Rockies are counting on another former National, Daniel Murphy, to bounce back from last season’s injuries and be a force in the lineup that has Arenado (.315, 41 home runs), Trevor Story (35 home runs), Charlie Blackmon (.314/.364 on-base percentage) and David Dahl (.302 average).
Murphy hit .279 last season.
Jon Gary (11 wins, 3.84 ERA) and German Márquez (12, 4.76) were consistent in the Rockies rotation last season, but they need bounceback seasons from starters Anthony Senzatela (6.71) and Kyle Freeland (6.73) and health from reliever Wade Davis, who had an oblique injury last season.
In San Diego, the Padres, after winning 70 games last season, will be trying to end a streak of nine consecutive losing seasons. They have a new manager, Jayce Tingler, and they need former Oriole Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer, signed to big-money contracts, to live up to expectations.
Hosmer, the first baseman, hit .265 with 22 home runs last season while Machado was at .256 with 32 home runs.
The Padres have had trouble scoring runs. But they added two outfielders, getting Tommy Pham (.369 on-base) from Tampa Bay and Trent Grisham (.329) from Milwaukee. The Padres didn’t get any rotation help, but they added Emilio Pagan and Drew Pomeranz to an already strong bullpen.
Fernando Tatis Jr., the shortstop who hit .317/.379/.590 last season in 84 games, and pitcher Chris Paddock are the franchise players expected to take the next step in their second season. Paddock had a 3.33 ERA in 26 starts last season.
There are still faces left from San Francisco’s three World Series titles in the last decade - Brandon Belt (17 home runs in 2019) and Brandon Crawford (11 home runs) - but after a 77-win season in 2019, the Giants are in rebuild mode.
The season’s success will be about the continued growth of Mike Yastrzemski, (.852 OPS) Alex Dickson (.290 in 56 games) and Donavan Solano (.330 in 81 games).
The Giants have a new manager, Gabe Kapler, replacing future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy. They let Bumgarner leave via free agency to Arizona and Buster Posey, 33, will not to play because of the coronavirus pandemic. Pitcher Kevin Gausman was their only key addition in the offseason. Gausman had a combined 5.72 ERA for Atlanta and Cincinnati last season.
The Giants hope that Gausman, Belt, Evan Longoria (.254, 20 home runs) Jeff Samardzija (140 strikeouts) and Johnny Cueto (16 innings) will make impressions early with the idea of trading them before the Aug. 31 deadline.
Cueto will start for the Giants on opening day.