The Dodgers have been the kings of the NL West for the past five seasons.
Last year, the 93-win Diamondbacks finished 11 games back in second place in the NL West. They were later swept out of the NLDS despite winning 11 of 19 games against the Dodgers during the regular season. Los Angeles was simply too good.
Now, Arizona is hungry to defend its impressive 2017 campaign to show it wasn’t a fluke. The Diamondbacks return most of their key players and have added some pieces, as well.
It’s impossible to accurately predict how both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks will finish in 2018, but a position-by-position comparison might show which team could have the upper hand.
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet and doesn’t look to be relinquishing that title in the near future. Rich Hill, Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda also project to fill out the Dodgers’ rotation and contribute behind Kershaw.
The uncertainty surrounding Zack Greinke and his velocity is the main reason Arizona’s rotation isn’t closer in comparions. If the 2015 Greinke was involved in the discussion, it’d be a different story. He isn’t, however.
Robbie Ray has the makings of a future ace but isn’t quite there yet. Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin and Zack Godley are nice complimentary pieces, but the experience of the Dodgers’ staff is enough to give them the edge.
Like the rotation and Kershaw, the Dodgers have the best closer in baseball in Kenley Jansen. Despite losing a few pieces from last year’s team, they retained Pedro Baez, Josh Fields and a handful of other pitchers who could provide quality service.
Because there are still such big questions looming over the Arizona’s bullpen situation, Los Angeles has the better group.
Austin Barnes broke out in 2017 and stole the job from Yasmani Grandal late in the year, so there are high expectations surrounding him this year. Even if Barnes scuffles, Grandal is a great backup plan for a Dodgers team looking to get back to the Fall Classic.
Cody Bellinger is a rising MLB star and will be good for years to come, but Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt has the track record and fundamental skills to make him one of the best first basemen in all of baseball.
Bellinger could be on his way to that status but has to get some more service time under his belt before he’s on Goldy’s level.
Forsythe struggled last year, while Marte had a strong postseason and will look to breakout in 2018. At only 24 years old, Marte is the better pick for this year and the future.
He was an all-star, as well, and was a key contributor for Los Angeles all season. There’s no sign he’s going to slow down, so he gets the upper hand despite Lamb’s clear talent and potential.
A unanimous Rookie of the Year award and two all-star appearances by his 23rd birthday has Corey Seager at the top of the mountain for current shortstops. He’s clearly better than any shortstop on the Diamondbacks’ roster. Enough said.
Kemp, Pederson and Hernandez each have their own merits, but none of the three has shown they are that much better than either of their counterparts.
Peralta and the Diamondbacks have the advantage because manager Torey Lovullo doesn’t have to worry about who he’s going to pencil into the lineup in left field each day. If Peralta can play, he’s going to, and limiting uncertainty within a lineup is a major key to long-term success.
Chris Taylor came out of nowhere last year and set career highs in practically all his statistical categories. His career seemed to take a major upward turn after he was traded to the Dodgers, but there’s always that chance he could be a one-hit wonder.
A.J. Pollock had a down 2017 and will look to bounce back this year. He has to the capabilities to be better than Taylor, but Taylor has the current advantage based on the most recent performance.
Yasiel Puig (a.k.a. “The Wild Horse”) is an interesting case. He’s been on the trading block for the past few seasons but has stuck around with the Dodgers and been a key contributor at points along the way.
Dodgers (7) vs. Diamondbacks (3)
Paper projections only mean so much, but the Dodgers appear to have a significant edge over the Diamondbacks in a number of areas. The season could go more like it did in 2017, or the Dodgers could turn the tables.
Regardless, the Dodgers still look like the clear favorites within in the division and have the firepower to get back to the World Series.
That’s why they play the games, though.