NL West prediction: Dodgers walk to NL West title

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been the class of the National League West for nearly a half-decade. And none of their competition has done enough to end that run.

Los Angeles (91-71) claimed the 2016 division title, and each of the past four winning more than 90 games in each season. But their World Series aspirations were dashed in NLCS defeat at the hands of the eventual champion Chicago Cubs.

Now, they return the majority of the players from that playoff roster. And, with improvement in mind, they spent the offseason addressing any issues that could be exploited by the wild card winning San Francisco Giants. Additions of Logan Forsythe and Sergio Romo gives them a viable late-inning arm and fills the hole at second base.

Their only remaining question marks are in the outfield, with the untested Andrew Toles filling left field and the extremely talented but often sporadic Yasiel Puig in right.

But with a starting pitching staff of Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu, and super prospect Julio Urias waiting in the wings, you’re expected to win a lot of games. Projections peg them as the best team in baseball, and even if you disagree and feel it’s the Cubs, it’s clear that the Dodgers are up there.

With the Giants doing little to address massive bullpen issues in the offseason — only one addition, albeit All-Star closer Mark Melancon — there is little reason to think the Dodgers won’t win the division again. Though the Giants will improve on last season’s record (87-75).

The Giants had three major issues going into the last offseason revamp the bullpen, upgrade in the outfield, and get younger.

And they failed to truly address any of them.

First, the boys in black and orange blew 32 saves last season, leading to a 30-42 second-half record, pretty much costing them the division title. Adding only Melancon, the bullpen doesn’t have the workforce to withstand a rash of injuries.

Second, the Giants are old — one of the three oldest teams in baseball. Their starting position players and rotation will average 30 years of age on Opening Day.

Lastly, it is worrisome entering the season with Jarrett Parker as your starting left fielder. That spot has been a hole the Giants have been trying to fix for a while now. Who knows, maybe Ryan Braun will be the answer. Or Andrew McCutchen? But never count out a Bruce Bochy-coached team — that man is a wizard.

The Colorado Rockies who could potentially be a pretty good team, or “sleeper pick,” however you want to call it due to their prolific offense. Colorado led the National League with 845 runs (boosted by baseball’s most hitter-friendly home park), and finished 75-87, 3rd NL West.

And they did so with hard-hitting shortstop Trevor Story out for almost all second half of the year, and star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez name spiraling in the rumor mill all year.

But offense is not the problem for the Rockies. It never has been.

Last season they ranked 29th in league with a 5.40 era at home. Until the Rockies hire some guys in lab coats to figure out how to pitch in that mile high altitude, we keep seeing moonshot after majestic moonshot. Bottom line: The Rockies were 16 games behind the Dodgers in 2016, and it’s hard to see where they will be able to make it all up or become scientist anytime in 2017.

The final two teams, the Arizona Diamondbacks (69-93), and San Diego Padres (68-94) will find themselves both at the bottom of the division with completely different stories.

The Diamondbacks like the Rockies scored more runs than the Dodgers or Giants last year. And in in the absence of some of their top talent, with A.J. Pollock missing almost all the year.

But Arizona is in the middle of a failed rebuild.

Having whiffed on the huge signing of Zack Greinke — to a $206.5 million deal two summers ago — and a horrible trade made to the Atlanta Braves for Shelby Miller, giving up potential franchise cornerstone shortstop Dansby Swanson.

Arizona has limited depth in their farm system, and with the current talent now they are a long way from contending.

Finally, the free spot on the bingo board in the NL West — the Padres.

There isn’t much to say about this roster, it’s clear San Diego is rebuilding and looking to develop young players after blowing everything up last trade deadline shipping away James Shields, Andrew Cashner, Matt Kemp, Fernando Rodney, Drew Pomeranz and Melvin Upton Jr.

The most interesting story out of the division does come from San Diego, and the name Christian Bethancourt. He is a back-up catcher who also doubles as a relief pitcher. Say what? Aztecs?

He’s not too bad either. At both. Bethancourt has a 2.16 ERA this spring, and a walk-off homer, so the experiment seems to be going pretty well. But can this really work? We shall see.

FINAL PREDICTION

The Dodgers win the division and make another playoff run with their strong pitching staff. The Giants have a decent season and fight for a wild-card spot but can’t overcome the thin bullpen. While the Rockies are still puzzled by the altitude and the D’Backs rebuild. As for the “Friars,” they will be one of the worst teams in baseball.