by Chris Camello (@chris_camello)
LOS ANGELES — In a condensed 60-game schedule, the L.A. Dodgers are considered the heavy favorite to clinch yet another NL West division crown.
The rich got richer as L.A. acquired former MVP and World Series champion Mookie Betts to provide speed and power to an already star-laden offense that features fellow MVP Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, and Corey Seager.
“I think the [designated hitter] will allow us to tap into our depth on the position-player side,” manager Dave Roberts told the L.A. Times. “We have a bench that is more than capable of taking on a certain matchup we see as beneficial. On the pitching side, you don’t know how [starters] will be built up, so to be able to tap into our depth there makes sense.”
The rotation will be strong led by young right-hander Walker Buehler and three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. If some key relievers like closer Kenley Jansen can find their groove again, they should dominate.
The question becomes in this 60-game season, could another team in the division give the Dodgers a run for their money?
The Arizona Diamondbacks added some solid players like Starling Marte and Kole Calhoun to go along with a talented nucleus that includes Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar and David Peralta. Madison Bumgarner will anchor a suspect rotation but it’s hard to gauge what he has left.
The San Diego Padres could be ready to take a step forward after a productive off season acquiring talents like Tommy Pham and Jurickson Profar to their dynamic core. However, the young stars like Fernando Tatis Jr., Francisco Mejia, and Chris Paddack must avoid the sophomore slump if they’re going to progress.
The San Francisco Giants will be in rebuild mode under new team president and former Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi, but still have some familiar names from the championship years like Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. However, developing young talent like Mike Yastrzemski and top prospect Joey Bart should be the focus.
The Colorado Rockies are interesting in this condensed season despite many negative headlines that surrounded Nolan Arenado’s relationship with the organization. Their deep lineup and potent offense especially at Coors Field with All-Stars Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story and David Dahl still able to mash could keep them in the mix this season.
The NL West is the Dodgers’ division to lose and while the margin for error is thinner over 60 games, if the Dodgers are healthy and clicking on all cylinders, these other teams won’t have a shot in denying them their eight straight division title.