MLB Futures: NL West Title Picks

by | Apr 3, 2020 | mlb

If the National League East is the most loaded and the National League Central is the most wide-open, then the National League West is the most predictable division. It doesn’t take much of a memory to name the last seven champions of this division: Los Angeles has won the title every single time.

But can anyone stop the Dodgers from making it eight in a row? Vegas doesn’t think so, making Los Angeles a bigger favorite in its division than any other division’s leader. Such is life when only one of the other four teams in the division had a winning record last season, and that team (Arizona) still finished 21 games back of the Dodgers for first place. Even though Arizona made several moves, the gap between the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers was already a wide enough gulf that the Diamondbacks didn’t even sniff the postseason last year. Let’s take a deeper dive to see if anyone can realistically compete with the Dodgers this year.

Arizona Diamondbacks +900

On the one hand, the Diamondbacks had a lot to be proud of in 2019. Arizona was most people’s pick to finish dead last in the NL West last season, but the Diamondbacks ended up the only team besides the Dodgers to finish on the positive side of the ledger when all was said and done. But given Los Angeles’ dominance, Arizo-na was closer to last place than first place, as the D-Backs ended up 15 games ahead of the Padres and 21 back of the Dodgers.

That’s why the chances that the Diamondbacks can make the jump from second to first are considered slim at best. Really, Arizona has its sights set on the wild card, which it believes to be well within the realm of possi-bility. The Diamondbacks were only four wins from playing postseason baseball last season, and they added Madison Bumgarner to their rotation, giving them the top-of-the-line starter that they needed. Given that the Diamondbacks were just middling in terms of pitching last season, ranking eighth in the NL in WHIP and seventh in ERA, that’ll be a welcome change. So too will the fact that Bumgarner misses bats, something that Arizona pitchers other than Robbie Ray didn’t really do in 2019.

The one area where Arizona stands out is its fielding. The Diamondbacks ranked sixth in the majors in fielding percentage, and of the five teams above them, only Kansas City failed to make the playoffs. The Diamond-backs might be middling in both pitching and hitting, but they make their opponents beat them, which is of-ten a task beyond the ability of the squads in the National League. Arizona is a solid, unspectacular club that will play above .500 baseball this season, which will likely make for a successful season in Phoenix, but not in Las Vegas.

Colorado Rockies +2500

What in the world went wrong here? Two years ago, Colorado was in the playoffs, beating the Cubs in the wild-card game after nearly ending the Dodgers’ division championship streak with a 91-win season that led to a tiebreaker for the division championship. Last year, the Rockies wound up with 91 losses, and there’s no reason to expect that anything is going to get better anytime soon. Colorado is a royal mess at the moment, as the Rockies have made several bad decisions in free agency, and the bill has come due. Things got so bad in Denver this year that the Rockies didn’t even try to be a player in free agency, and there’s now a chance that they’re going to lose 90 games for the second year in a row.

The pitching returned to form for Coors Field in 2019, as the Rockies’ run prevention was just awful. Only the Orioles, which play more like a Triple-A club at this point, had a higher ERA last season. Colorado had no prob-lems producing runs, as the Rockies ranked in the top 10 in runs scored last season, but when you’re giving up more than 5.5 runs per game, it doesn’t matter how many runs you can put up.

It also doesn’t matter how many runs you can put up when you strike out as often as the Rockies did in 2019. Only Milwaukee and San Diego fanned more often than the Rockies in the National League, and the Rockies didn’t return the favor when they got on the mound. No NL team struck out fewer opposing hitters than the 1,264 strikeouts the Rockies recorded, and when you don’t miss bats at Coors Field, bad things often tend to follow.

Throw in that the Rockies’ best player, Nolan Arenado, is still unhappy with team management, and you have a recipe for a mess. The Rockies will get worse before they get batter.

Los Angeles Dodgers -750

The Dodgers were already favorites to win the NL West again before they went out and stole Mookie Betts from the Red Sox, making an already strong outfield perhaps the best in the game. As if that wasn’t enough, Los Angeles’ window looks to be wide open, and that’s not just because two of their four rivals are in a re-building process.

No, the Dodgers have set themselves up to win now as well as in the future by holding on to their top pro-spects in addition to overloading the current roster. The Dodgers don’t really have any weaknesses in their everyday lineup, where they can produce a lot of runs despite not hitting for high averages. Los Angeles only hit .258 as a team last season, but the Dodgers slugged the ball well enough to rank fourth in the majors in OPS and first in the National League in both runs and RBIs. Plus, adding Betts gives the Dodgers some speed that they didn’t have last year. Betts stole 30 bases in 2018, while the Dodgers stole just 57 bases as a team in 2019, so if he’s given the green light, he can make a real difference on the base paths.

Where can this go wrong for the Dodgers? The bullpen is not a strength for this squad, and the rotation has some serious question marks beyond the pocket aces of Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. Plus, there’s also the worry of Betts’ contract hanging over the Dodgers’ heads. Betts is a free agent after the season, which means Los Angeles has to get a deal done ASAP or face a real distraction.

But even that isn’t likely to derail the Dodgers on their quest for an eighth consecutive division crown. This team is loaded and is expected to win going away. The best Dodgers odds and safest place to bet where you can get down and not worry about your sportsbook going out of business is 5Dimes Sportsbook!

San Diego Padres +1200

Put the Padres in a different division, and there would be a really good chance that they could make the playoffs. Alas, San Diego has to time things just right because the Padres share a division with the behemoth up Interstate 5 that is the Dodgers. It looks like the Padres are doing precisely that, as San Diego is setting it-self up to be competitive in 2021 and beyond. The Padres have a wealth of top prospects that are going to be under their control for at least the next two and possibly three seasons and beyond, which should give them plenty of opportunities to battle the Dodgers on a more level playing field when they’re ready to do so.

For now, though, San Diego is a younger, less advanced version of Arizona: a squad that’s definitely on the right track but still not there yet. In Fernando Tatis Jr., the Padres have a genuine star to build around who’s just 21 years old and could be the cornerstone of the franchise well into the next decade. They have Manny Machado locked up, and at age 27, he’s still going to be in his prime when the Padres are ready to compete for championships. They’ve got quality pitching coming up the pipeline from Triple-A El Paso, and they’ve made some potentially smart free agent signings that give them a lot of upside.

The one thing that San Diego has to fix if it’s going to compete is that it strikes out far too often. The Padres whiffed more than any team in the National League, and only the Tigers’ pathetic bats saved them from lead-ing the majors in strikeouts. But San Diego is taking the long road to competitiveness, knowing that the Dodgers are going to be there for the foreseeable future. This team has a lot of upsides, but it’s likely not go-ing to be ready to compete for a title in 2020.

San Francisco Giants +3000

It has to stick in the Dodgers’ craws that the Giants managed a World Series victory during the streak of seven straight division titles, and Los Angeles couldn’t do it. In fact, since the Dodgers last won the World Series in 1988, their ancient rivals have won three World Series titles. But that’s the past, and now the Giants are es-sentially a cruise liner on the Danube River: stuck in one direction with no ability to change course. San Fran-cisco knows that the window has closed, but the Giants are stuck with a lot of bad contracts and older play-ers, many of which are generating no interest from the contending teams. San Francisco would love to be able to tear things down and start over with prospects, but as long as they’ve got this lineup in place, that’s impossible.

Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto would be a great set of options to have as your No. 4 and No. 5 starters. Unfortunately for the Giants, those are the pitchers in the No. 1 and No. 2 slots after Madison Bumgarner fled the Bay Area for the desert. With Bumgarner, the Giants already had a mediocre pitching staff and very little offense to back it up. Without him, there’s an excellent chance that the run production could completely fall off and leave San Francisco in a royal mess.

There’s also the fact that Bruce Bochy, one of the best managers in the game, chose to call it a career last sea-son after squeezing 77 wins out of a Giants squad that really had no right to be that competitive. Gabe Kapler is a decent skipper, but he’s not Bochy, and he’s not likely to get much out of this roster. The Giants gave San Francisco three great memories during this decade, but Bay Area fans will either want to look to the East Bay or the football season for their excitement during the first few years of the next decade.

Dan’s Pick to Win the NL West

The odds on the Dodgers are staggering, but which club can realistically stop them from winning the crown? Arizona is still a year away from amassing the kind of talent that can go toe-to-toe with the Dodgers, and San Diego badly needs to get some experience at the major league level before it can hope to compete with Los Angeles. Los Angeles is just head and shoulders above the rest of the West, and the Dodgers have a fan base that demands excellence behind them. After 31 years of waiting for a world title, the only way the Dodger fans will accept 2020 that doesn’t end with a World Series title is if COVID-19 wipes out the season altogether.

What does that mean for betting this division? It means that the Dodgers are going to stop at nothing in order to get another division title, and that means that there’s little reason to put your money anywhere besides Los Angeles. However, given that the odds are so poor, I wouldn’t recommend making this bet at all. After all, you would have to put down $75 just to win $10, and you’d have your money tied up all season to do it.

If you’re inclined to bet the Dodgers, I’d instead bet them to win the pennant or the World Series so that you get something for your money. If you want to play a longshot here (and I don’t recommend it), your best play is probably the Padres, who have the most upside of anyone in the West. However, San Diego is likely to go through some growing pains, which means taking anyone but the Dodgers here is probably a fool’s errand. You can make your pick to win the NL West for FREE by taking advantage of a 100% REAL CASH bonus at one of the web’s biggets and best sportsbooks: MyBookie! You must sign-up through this link and use promo/bonus code PREDICT100 in order to get the free money credited!