Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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2021 Projections: NL West

These are my predictions as of February and at this point in the offseason. As things change, I will update these all at once before opening day, or depending on how much things shift, the start of spring training. Today is the NL West, but more will be coming soon.

Los Angeles Dodgers (102-60)

I don’t see the Dodgers winning 100+ games this season, and I might have even undersold this team. They won 43 games in 2020, a 116 win pace, and with several players due for some bounce-back seasons and new additions to the squad, this team is easily my favorite to take the league by storm next season.

My favorite piece of this team is Cody Bellinger. I love him as a player. From his violent lefty swing,

to his crazy catches out in center field.

I love the way that this guy plays. As much as 2020 was a down year for him offensively, every single metric thinks he is due for a great return in 2021. His pwOBA+ is 109, at .343, and his xwOBA was a .360. While Max is holding him much closer to the mean, he’s still ranked 24th and 27th respectively (Min. 185 PA) and ahead of plenty of big-name players. My favorite aspect of Bellinger’s game pertains to the defensive display he put on this season, leading all fielders in Outs Above Average with 8 in Centerfield. Exemplifying that defensive display at a premium position boosts his value a ton, and I’m really excited for him this season.

San Diego Padres (98-64)

This division race appears a lot closer than it is. In my opinion, the Dodgers still own this division. I am pretty confident in this 98 number. I think the Dodgers could potentially blow away that 102 win total in a best-case scenario, but I don’t wanna get too ambitious. I know the Padres made a ton of additions and already had a great 2020, but there were many things in 2020 that fell their way. For example, I don’t expect Eric Hosmer to continue this level of production. Originally it seemed like he finally had found his stroke and fixed his Launch Angle problem, but thanks to @RyanBHQ a little digging lead to the discovery that Hosmer actually does have these dips in GB% sometimes.

This also may sound stupid, but there have also only been about 140 games of Fernando Tatis Jr. I love him as much as the next guy, but in all honesty, how well he will hold up in a full season is unknown. Aaron Judge impressed for 155 games in 2017, and after a wrist injury in 2018 he has struggled to stay on the field in 2019 and 2020. I hope for the best for him. Maybe a better comparison is Yasiel Puig, who had a wRC+ of 172 across his first 628 PA, Tatis Jr. currently has 629.

There are plenty of questions regarding the rotation. The peripherals on Joe Musgrove hold up, but he’s only been good for 39 or so innings. pwOBA per usual is holding him close to the mean, but while xwOBA is very confident in what he’s done, his SIERA is 3.50 and it’s never gone below 3.90. The devil’s advocate here would say that he’s done more with his pitches, and they’d be right. Musgrove had more movement on his pitches in 2020 than in past years, and that could very easily be responsible for the walk rate, the result of a pitch command issue. If the Padres can iron that out, confidence in Musgrove should be high.

Blake Snell is a very good pitcher in the eyes of many. In my own opinion, he’s a flawed pitcher that thrived under the Tampa Bay system. Outside of 2018, he has been less than elite, with 40.5% of his career fWAR coming in that season. It gets even worse with Baseball-Reference believing that his 7.1 bWAR in 2018 was 63.8% of his career WAR. By that metric, he is still only 30th during the span of his career, and his apparent inability to go deep into starts was aided by the Tampa Bay bullpen. If you want to talk about the quality of those innings, his 3.91 SIERA for his career is ranked 48th, nestled right behind fellow Tampa star Tyler Glasnow. If you remove his 2016, he has a 3.78 SIERA, which is 29th and tied with Chris Archer, of all pitchers.

San Francisco Giants (72-90)

This is a team that should surprise many this season. They are a wonderful team of a mix of young and old baseballers and I think the transfer of power between the Brandon BeltBuster PoseyBrandon Crawford era of Giants to the incoming Joey BartHeliot RamosMarco Luciano era of new guys, the latter of which being still a ways away from being called up, is happening right now. This team also makes me sad, because it is an acknowledgment that my childhood is over. Buster Posey is my favorite player of the last decade, and Tim Lincecum is one of my favorite pitchers ever. Those Giants teams were the first great teams that I remember. I remember the excitement Tim Lincecum brought to the mound every time he stepped on one. 

They added Anthony DeSclafani this offseason, who is a very interesting acquisition for this Giants team. While he’s not an impact player, pwOBA seems to think he will rebound to an about-average player, and based on the law of averages one might assume he’ll actually be an above-average pitcher for a while to start the season.

Another interesting player is Mike Yastrzemski who had a fantastic year in 2020. Unfortunately, I don’t think this keeps up, but it was fun to see him tear up the league for all of August in a shortened season.

Anyway, this a long winded way of saying I expect them to not be amazing this season, but I’m excited for the future!

Also, Marco Luciano is about my age and my size, yet I promise you I could not hit a baseball 119 mph. https://twitter.com/BaseballAmerica/status/1322945089602232320?s=20

Arizona Diamondbacks (68-94)

The Diamondbacks are a strange team for me because… I forget about them a lot. They aren’t particularly good, but after they traded away Paul Goldschmidt, a personal favorite of mine, I haven’t paid much attention to them. They’ve quietly built one of the deepest farms in baseball, and due to age they lack top-heaviness; however, they have some studs in their farm system.

I also consider the D-backs to be a bad team, but they haven’t made any acquisitions this offseason, whereas the Giants have made quite a few and I see them being quite good this year. They also have Ketel Marte, who I think should fully expect to be moved as early as this deadline if he shows out in 2021. He had a stellar 2019 that earned him top 5 in MVP voting, and a terrible campaign in 2020. He had a wOBA+ below 100, but his pwOBA again is promising and hopefully, Max is right on this one.

I’m not sure where Ketel would go, but either a team with a big hole at 2B (none of the competing teams have one) or a team with a big hole at CF (that’s much more common).

I could see the Mets as candidates here. Obviously, this simulator isn’t perfect, but if the Mets can extend Lindor I don’t see them needing Mauricio, and Ketel is electric in terms of skillset; however, if he isn’t performing at his peak level I see no reason for the Mets to give up Mauricio. I don’t think they would be crazy for doing so if they get an MVP caliber 2B/UTIL especially after missing on Nolan Arenado and George Springer.

Colorado Rockies (51-111)

I originally did not have them doing this poorly, however, they got quite a bit worse with the loss of Nolan Arenado. It did, however, give the Cardinals the boost they needed to take the NL Central. That’s one of my favorite teams right now. Anyway, the Rockies have it rough this season, and I really don’t expect it to get any better if they gut the roster. Somehow, they will be worse than the Pittsburgh Pirates, *AND IT CAN GET WORSE FOR THEM.* I’m being completely serious, if they trade Trevor Story and German Marquez, as rumors have reported, they could lose close to 120 games, as in historically bad. Nolan Arenado is regularly in the 110 pwOBA range, so outside of the outlier 2020, the Cardinals should be getting an absolute stud offensively and defensively. This isn’t about the Cardinals though, this is about the unfortunate Rockies franchise.

Story and Marquez have to carry the team and in turn, losing these two guys would decimate the team. With no intention to change the direction of the organization, this could ultimately be devastating for the Rockies, who might not be good for another decade. Why this is bad for baseball is a different article, but I really hope the Rockies see some changes soon.

That’s it for my NL West projections. These are not like ZiPS or STEAMER or THE BAT X, these are largely just educated guesses with a little bit of statistical backing. Let me know your thoughts, I can’t wait to hear them.

Here is the schedule for the remaining divisions

AL West: 2/4

NL Central: 2/9

AL Central: 2/11

NL East: 2/16

AL East: 2/18