How should the team handle the Steven Souza injury?
Wesley Baier: This will obviously not happen now that Tomas has been optioned to AAA, but I was all for giving Tomas a shot at regular playing team until Souza comes back. . One option I’d like to see that’s also not going to happen but I think is worth trying is sticking Brito or Hazelbaker in left for an extended look and regular playing time. I think we’re likely to see some combination of Pollock, Peralta, Dyson, or Owings.
Dano_in_Tucson: My guess would be that we’ll go with an OF of Peralta, Dyson and Pollock for the most part. Maybe Tomas finds his way onto the opening day roster, and I’m of two minds about that...the only way we’re going to get him off the books without eating his entire salary seems to be if we give him enough of a chance to play at the big league level this year that he can maybe attract the attention of other teams. Of course, Tomas gonna Tomas, so he might not do that. And on the other hand, a well-crafted topiary installation in left field in the shape of Tomas might well catch more balls than actual Tomas. I’d like to see him elsewhere. Given how well Puello and Fuentes have both played this spring, I’d like to see one of them have a shot at being fourth OF while Souza is injured.
Keegan: Fortunately for us Jarrod Dyson is on the roster and has been a serviceable bat against right handed pitchers over his career. Dyson should be able to hold his own against right handers for a bulk of the starts that Souza will miss. Chris Owings is the obvious choice to platoon with Dyson, and he was expected to make appearances in the outfield to begin with. This is the blessing of constructing a roster with interchangeable players. However, we can hardly afford an injury to either Pollock or Peralta in the meantime or our depth will be mostly depleted by that point. I would call up Jeremy Hazelbaker if needed before Yasmany Tomas or Socrates Brito.
Alexander: I think I speak for the majority when I say that Souza was somewhat the replacement for JD. With this pec injury, it seems as though the team will have to piece together a capable outfield. Jarrod Dyson is a great veteran to have and especially with his success against right handers. I also would move Chris Owings to a corner outfield spot. This allows newly acquired shortstop Deven Marrero to fully be a platoon infielder without the pressure of Owings.
Makakilo: My view is aligned with Keegan - the team should platoon Dyson and Owings in the outfield until Souza returns. Deven Marrero would replace Owings as infield utility player.
CumulusChoir: Now that Tomas has been optioned to AAA it seems pretty likely that Dyson will be getting the majority of starts in left until Souza’s return, which is fine by me. Dyson is super freaking quick like wow -- meaning he can turn singles into doubles, doubles to triples, and generally terrorize opposing pitchers by having his way on the basepaths -- and a great defender. Plus, he’s a former Mariner. Platoon him with Owings and run Descalso and Marerro as utility infielders and you have a capable outfield that hopefully won’t miss Souza too much.
The Dodgers (Justin Turner), Giants (Madison Bumgarner) and D-backs (Souza) have all suffered significant losses. Who is hurt most?
Wesley Baier: The Giants are hurt most by losing their ace, and since it is his pitching hand, there is always the question of how well he’ll come back from the injury. Losing Justin Turner hurts the Dodgers, but they are such a well built team that I think they can absorb that loss. Dbacks are hurt by Souza’s loss, but he shouldn’t be gone too long, so I think it’s a wash between the Dodgers and Dbacks as to how much that hurts each team.
Dano_in_Tucson: The Giants, definitely. Like Wesley says above, losing the ace to a pitching hand injury is bad news.
Keegan: Without a doubt the Giants because not only are they without Bumgarner but also Jeff Samardzija. They are trying to remain under the luxury tax, so they can’t even go out and sign an emergency starter. I can see their season going off the rails again in a hurry because it will be difficult for them to find quality replacement starts. That also puts more stress on their bullpen if their emergency starters fail to pitch deep into games.
Alexander: This is easily a devastating loss for the Giants. We have seen this show before, Mad-Bum goes down and the team falters. Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria are too far along in their careers to cover this injury up.
Makakilo: The Giants were hurt very much. Their ace was injured and will be out for months. Previously, another Giant starter, Jeff Samardzija was injured.
Dodgers have depth and will make the playoffs despite the injury to Justin Turner.
Diamondbacks have depth in the outfield, and probably Souza will only miss a few weeks of the season.
CumulusChoir: The Giants, no contest. Like pretty much everybody above has mentioned, not only did they lose Mad Bum, but Jeff Srmjdidjzajajzjzza as well. The Dodgers and Diamondbacks both have the depth to fill their newly acquired holes with quality replacements until the big boys are healthy again. The Giants do not.
Nate: Giants, and it’s not even close. Their rotation is now:
- Johnny Cueto
- Ty Blach
- Chris Stratton
- Derek Holland
- Mystery Pitcher
That’s, uh, less than ideal.
Who is in your Opening Day bullpen?
Keegan: Who in the world knows. We were asked a similar question last week, and I was completely wrong. My choices would be Kris Medlen and Jorge De La Rosa for the final two spots, but it likely will not shake out that way. Medlen and JDLR would render McFarland as excess with Medlen being able to go multiple innings and JDLR a lefty.
Makakilo: I was surprised when two of my previous choices were cut. Albert Suarez was DFA’d and Antonio Bastardo was released. My newest choices are Hirano, Bradley, Boxberger, Chafin, McFarland, Fernando Salas, and Jorge De La Rosa.
Update: Diamondbacks selected contract of Jorge De la Rosa!
CumulusChoir: The release of Bastardo and designation of Suarez were unexpected and a little annoying because now I have to think about who should replace them on my depth chart. Hmph.
I’m going to have to go with a pen of:
- Archie Bradley (R)
- Brad Boxberger (R)
- Yoshihisa Hirano (R)
- Andrew Chafin (L)
- TJ McFarland (L)
- Fernando Salas (R)
- JDLR until Randall Delgado returns from the DL (L, then R)
Nate: If I were making the decisions I’d go Medlen over McFarland as the long guy, but it would appear that won’t be happening. I am in agreement with my peers above on the rest of the pen.
What are your expectations, and any final thoughts as we start the season?
Wesley Baier: I try to go into the season, really go into anything, with no expectations, so I am going out on a limb here. I think the team last year actually could have finished even better, and their Pythagorean win loss had them winning three more games than they actually won. There are some notable departures, but the starting pitching will be the same and the offensive core is largely still intact. We also had down years from Pollock and Peralta, who I expect to both bounce back. We were hit by the injury bugs with our middle infielders, so having Owings and Ahmed for the full year should be a plus. Ketel Marte is a breakout candidate. Goldy will be Goldy. It’s also worth noting that although JD was amazing with the bat, he was absolutely awful in right by most defensive metrics. So with Souza and Dyson we should see improved defense in the outfield, which should easily make up the difference in value. I’m not one for making predictions, so I won’t, but I feel very positive about this team this year.
Dano_in_Tucson: I like our chances this year. I’m bullish. A bit nervous about the Groinke (sorry) issue, and saddened that Souza starts the season on the DL, but there’s always something like that when we’re coming to the end of spring training. There will be grief and angst and gnashing of teeth and rending of garments at various points throughout the season, no doubt, but I think this is going to be another fun season for DBacks fans.
Keegan: I’ve been a fan of this franchise for far too long to have any expectations heading into the season. Nothing is a given, and last season was a prime example. I realize that is a lame answer, so I will say that this is their best chance to have consecutive Postseason appearances. Remember that in 2008 we did not have the benefit of a second wild card spot as the format began in 2012. Playoff aspirations will be on the shoulders of the pitching staff again, and I think they have the potential to be even better this season with improved defense behind them along with the added humidor. Ironically, repeat success will only make roster construction going forward that much more difficult. A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin are slated to become free agents at the end of the season, but payroll is expected to continue to escalate. We need to enjoy this while it lasts because the front office will have heavy lifting to do ahead.
Alexander: This will be the season that is defined by the loss of JD Martinez. His production was very crucial to the teams success in the last half of the year. The Dodgers are poised to remain the kings of this division. This will be a curious season as well due to the looming contractual questions. IF the team falters, do they even consider selling off key assets like Goldy, Greinke, etc.
Makakilo: I have two expectations. My first expectation is an exciting season with a few players exceeding expectations. My second expectation is that the Diamondbacks win a wild card berth into the playoffs. Anything more is like adding cherries to a banana split.
CumulusChoir: I’m trying to remain grounded in my expectations, but this team is just too good and has too much potential for me to not expect the second NL Wild Card spot at the very least. Pollock will be looking to bounce back in his contract year after a really poor 2017 by his standards, Ahmed has shown a much improved approach at the plate and is producing a lot more pop this Spring, and the young pitching core has the ability to step up and improve on their 2017 campaigns, among other things. Am I ready to be disappointed? Of course, I’m an Arizona sports fan. Do I think I will be? Not at all. This is a special team. This will be a special season.
Nate: My heart tells me this team could be even better than last year, my brain tells me they finish a couple games above .500. I’m fearful of regression in the starting rotation, and one injury before the return of Shelby Miller would kill them.
Prediction time: What order will the NL West finish, and why?
I know this is nuts, especially the last three spots, but here’s my thinking. The Padres made some moves, and their farm system is good, and their home park is kind to pitchers, and they’ve been in the throes of an ongoing rebuild for a long time now, and something’s gotta pay off for them sometime. I’m guessing it’s gonna be this year, kind of as a result of all of the above. Also, I think the Giants and the Rockies are less good than maybe they appear on paper.
Regarding the Giants, they went out and got themselves some oldish talented veterans to bolster their lineup, which is always a great move for what was already an oldish team. They’ll be better than they were last year, but the age of their roster is going to counterbalance their offseason moves to a substantial degree. Bumgarner’s injury doesn’t help them either...they’ll have something of a difficult start, and it’s not like their rotation or their bullpen were all that impressive to begin with.
And then the Rockies. Home park issues...hitters hit better there, pitchers pitch worse. It seems in recent years like they’ve gotten better and working around that, but I feel like they overperformed on pitching last year, and they didn’t really improve their pitching roster during the offseason, and their lineup is less good this year than it was last year.
As for the Dodgers, well, duh. I don’t think they’ll run away with it quite like they did in 2017, but still, they’re formidable and have lots and lots of depth.
And as for us, I think we’re a good team, I think last year wasn’t a fluke, I think that our starting pitching is substantially better top-to-bottom than any of the other teams in the division. Aside from JD Martinez and the inevitable bullpen churn, we’ve got mostly the same team returning, but healthier (at least at the outset), and we improved our outfield depth and we got ourselves some interesting bullpen lottery tickets this offseason. I don’t think we can catch LA, but I do think we can come close to matching our 2017 performance, and maybe even surpass if we’re a bit luckier on down the line.
The distance separating the Rockies and Padres will only be a few games as the Rockies struggle to finish above .500. For the life of me I cannot understand why they spent as much as they did on bullpen arms. That has already blown up in their face before. The gap between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers should not be as great as it was last season as well because the run that Los Angeles had is likely to not be repeated. Overall, I expect a well rounded and competitive division. The Giants will are not as awful a team as they were last season, but the moves they made were not enough to make them a contender.
For the Diamondbacks, things remaining the same is a huge benefit. The Dodgers will continue to be the best team in the NL West (if not the best team in the MLB). The Padres are on the upswing due to their loaded farm system highlighted by Fernando Tatis Jr. The Giants and Padres could be flipped here, however Mad-Bum’s injury is definitely going to impact them negatively. The excuse that plagued Colorado for years was they were lacking power arms. With the addition of some above average bullpen arms, Nolan Arenado will look to power the Rockies to a playoff spot. For the Diamondbacks, the question of JD’s departure will remain.
- Fifth. Padres are in the valley of a rebuild. Their fans are excited about the new players, such as Hosmer. Though last season’s 71 wins sounds not horrible, their stats show they were much worse than that. Their Wins Above Average (WAA) was last in the Majors. Their run differential and Pythagorean record were last, too.
- Fourth. Giants: Madison Bumgarner’s injury and Jeff Samardzija’s injury hurt their season. Their outfield and third base were last in the Majors in WAA. Their starting lineup, entire rotation, and closer all underperformed their Zips projections (Grant Brisbee). Instead of rebuilding, they are trying to plug their holes. Nevertheless, this season they will sink.
- Third. Rockies are like riverboat gamblers. They hope that luck will turn power hitters, paired with a mega-bullpen, into a playoff berth. The odds are long.
- Second. Diamondbacks will take second (and a wild card berth) because of great pitching, better outfield defense, Paul Goldschmidt, superior coaches, and wise roster decisions. GM Hazen knows and lives his priorities. He said, “...We knew that the things we prioritize, with run prevention certainly being one of those things, given the pitching staff that we have, and being well-versed defensively and having versatility on the defensive side, was important….” And he said, “I think continuing to push our defense, continuing to push our baserunning, continuing to get more well-rounded in every phase of the offensive game.”
- First. Dodgers will win the Division because their solid core of players, depth in their farm system, and high spending. Unlike last season, they will need to break-a-sweat because a) they decided to avoid the luxury tax this year, and b) the NL West teams made effective strides to improve.
The Dodgers will win the division because, well, that’s what they do. They are a machine, churning out division titles with more consistency than Owen Wilson’s vocal cords the word “wow”. The race between first and second should be much closer than last year, however: I can’t imagine this squad has another 43-7 run left in them.
The D-backs will finish 5 or 6 games back of first, the first NL Wild Card spot in hand. I’m not sure if this season will be better or worse than the last. I only know that this team is hungry to make up for a premature NLDS exit.
This is a tough call. I feel like the Rockies did too little this offseason to address their extremely top heavy lineup and that their rotation outside of Jon Gray is due for regression. The only thing keeping them above San Fran is the Giants’ loss of Bumgarner and the Shark. Both teams will sniff the second NL Wild Card spot but neither will clinch.
A few days ago I would have considered switching the Giants and D-Backs, but then the injury gods reared their ugly heads. The Dodgers and Padres are easy to peg as first and last, the middle is where things get tricky. There’s no way the Giants are as bad as they were last year, while the D-Backs and Rockies will regress a bit. All three teams will finish around .500, with the Los Angeles being the only team to make the playoffs.
Call the six division winners, the two pennant winners and the 2018 World Series champion
- -NL West: Dodgers
- -NL Central: Brewers
- -NL East: Nationals
- -NL Wild Card #1: Diamondbacks
- -NL Wild Card #2: Cubs
- -AL West: Astros
- -AL Central: Twins
- -AL East: Yankees
- -AL Wild Card #1: Indians
- -AL Wild Card #2: Red Sox
- -NL Pennant: Nationals over the Diamondbacks
- -AL Pennant: Astros over the Yankees
- -World Series: Astros over the Nationals
- -NL West: Dodgers
- -NL Central: Cubs
- -NL East: Nationals
- -NL Wild Card #1: Rockies
- -NL Wild Card #2: Diamondbacks
- -AL West: Astros
- -AL Central: Indians
- -AL East: Red Sox
- -AL Wild Card #1: Yankees
- -AL Wild Card #2: Angels
- NL Pennant: Cubs over Dodgers
- AL Pennant: Astros over the Yankees
- World Series: Astros over Cubs
Makakilo: As I looked for teams that could surprise to the upside this season, I read Jim’s article comparing fan confidence in each of the 30 teams. What if I based my prediction on last season’s wins added to this season’s change in fans’ confidence?
NL Division Winners:
- Brewers (Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain in the outfield)
NL Wild Cards:
AL Division winners:
- Yankees (and they acquired Giancarlo Stanton!)
- Twins (new pitchers include Odorizzi (SP), Lin(SP), Fernando Rodney(closer), Addison Reed(closer), Duke(RP) and Kinley(RP))
AL Wild Cards:
- Angels (with Shohei Ohtani)
NL Pennant: Dodgers
AL Pennant: Astros
World Series: Astros over Dodgers (again!).
- NL West - Dodgers
- NL Central - Cubs
- NL East - Nationals
- NL WC #1 - Diamondbacks
- NL WC #2 - Brewers
- AL West - Astros
- AL Central - IndiansAL East - YankeesAL WC #1 - Red Sox
- AL WC #2 - Angels
- NL Pennant - Nationals over Diamondbacks
- AL Pennant - Indians over Astros (major upset, but I swear by the World Series hangover)
- World Series: Nationals over Indians
- NL West - Dodgers
- NL Central - Cubs
- NL East - Nationals, by 30 games
- NL WC #1 - Brewers
- NL WC #2 - Cardinals
- AL West - Astros
- AL Central - Indians, by 20 games
- AL East - Yankees
- AL WC #1 - Red Sox
- AL WC #2 - Twins
- World Series: Yankees over Brewers