Throughout the offseason the CBS Sports MLB experts will bring you a weekly Batting Around roundtable breaking down pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we debated Joe Mauer’s Hall of Fame worthiness. This week we’re going to discuss the NL West.
Who’s the team to beat in the NL West?
Matt Snyder: I’ll stick with the Dodgers. The only time in the past decade they didn’t win the division was a year in which they won 106 games. They are certainly diminished from last season, no doubt, and the Padres are very likely to push them. They might even topple them. Until we see it, though, the Dodgers are still the powerhouse here. They’ve shown such a knack for getting the most out of players, they’ll have a few bounce-back and breakout candidates and there’s still good organizational depth, even if not to the extent it has been in recent years.
R.J. Anderson: I still lean toward the Dodgers as well. Depth is a hard thing to account for when you’re at the onset of the season. We don’t know who will get hurt, when they’ll get hurt, or for how long they’ll get hurt. We also don’t know who will underperform. We just know that, realistically, teams are likely to encounter their fair share of both elements. On paper, the Dodgers don’t have the kind of top-end talent we’re accustomed to seeing from them under Andrew Friedman. Nevertheless, they have maintained a good amount of depth, which happens to be something that these Padres lack. Maybe the Padres’ stars stay healthy and they can find improvements on the margins as the year beats on. It’s a long season, though, and at this point I just feel more confident in the Dodgers’ ability to field a better roster over the course of 162 games.
Dayn Perry: I’m going to say the Padres. I think a fairly uninspiring offseason will lead to the Dodgers taking a small step back (while still being one of the NL’s best teams), and I just can’t get past the star power in the Padres’ lineup once Fernando Tatis Jr. returns from suspension. I worry a bit about the depth in the San Diego rotation, but really the same could be said about the Dodgers. I think it’s a down-to-the-wire race, but I see the Padres taking it by one or two games.
Mike Axisa: It’s hard to bet against the Dodgers, but I’m with Dayn. I think it’s the Padres. The Dodgers had an uninspired offseason — replacing Trea Turner with Miguel Rojas? really? — for reasons I don’t quite understand. Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman only have so many prime years remaining, Clayton Kershaw is taking it year to year, Julio Urías will be a free agent after the season, etc. Feels like the Dodgers should put the pedal to the floor instead of cutting back, but cutting back they did.
The Padres are essentially adding two stars to their lineup this year with Xander Bogaerts and Fernando Tatis Jr., plus they’ll have a full season of Juan Soto. There are questions about the back of the rotation, sure, though that also applies to the Dodgers, and San Diego has shown a greater willingness to address their roster deficiencies than the Dodgers dating back to last summer’s trade deadline. At minimum, the gap between the Dodgers and Padres is the smallest it’s been in quite a while. I think the Padres have done enough to be considered the frontrunner in the NL West.