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NL West preview: Dodgers continue six-year perch atop division

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Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws a pitch in the first inning of Los Angeles' 3-2, 10-inning win over the San Francisco Giants Saturday afternoon.

The Dodgers were an absolute force in 2017 landing in the franchise’s first World Series since 1988.

Los Angeles had dominant performances on both sides of the ball all season long. Rookie Cody Bellinger burst onto the scene in a big way, and helped to lead the Dodgers to an MLB-best 104-58 record. The Dodgers rode this wave of success all the way to an eventual Game 7 loss in the World Series, bested by the Houston Astros.

They will be missing many players from last year’s run, and no season-long loss is bigger than that of starting pitcher Yu Darvish. He was acquired from the Texas Rangers at last year’s trade deadline, and was a key piece in helping Los Angeles’ impressive run. But, Darvish became the scapegoat of the Game 7 loss, as he surrendered four earned runs in just 1-2/3 innings. They will also be without third baseman and middle-of-the-order slugger Justin Turner who suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left wrist and will be out for six to nine weeks.

Other player losses include starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, first baseman Adrián González and outfielder Curtis Granderson. All of whom were ultimately expendable, though.

The Dodgers still have a stacked lineup led by Bellinger, the 2017 NL All-Star and Rookie of the Year. He does not show any signs of a sophomore slump, and will be assisted in the lineup by other young studs such as Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig. Turner will only make that imposing group beefier when he returns.

The pitching rotation and bullpen will still be strong as well, even without Darvish. As usual, Cy Young reincarnate and ace starter Clayton Kershaw will anchor the rotation. He will be joined by other familiar faces like Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda. The bullpen is still strong as ever, fronted top-end closer Kenley Jansen, and the addition of left-hander Scott Alexander will only increase this strength.

Los Angeles is still the prohibitive favorite to win the division in 2018 — and perhaps the NL Pennant again. After finishing 11 games ahead of the second-place Diamondbacks last season, there is no doubt that this is the case. An improved Arizona club will likely give the Dodgers a serious run for their money in the division race, and the vastly improved Giants will make this division, which was already loaded with talent, even more interesting in 2018.

Projected Record: 96-66

Key Additions: OF Matt Kemp, RP Alexander

Key Losses: SP Darvish, RP Brandon Morrow, SP Kazmir, SP Brandon McCarthy, 1B González, OF Granderson, LP Luis Avilán

Projected Lineup:

  1. LF Chris Taylor
  2. SS Seager
  3. 1B Bellinger
  4. CF Puig
  5. RF Kemp
  6. C Yasmani Grandal
  7. 3B Logan Forsythe
  8. 2B Chase Utley

Projected Starting Rotation:

  1. Kershaw
  2. Hill
  3. Alex Wood
  4. Maeda
  5. Hyun-Jin Ryu

AL West preview: Astros soar to another division title

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