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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

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2016 RECORD: 87-75. #2 in NL WEST

Last year, the undoing of the Giants was their bullpen. They blew a remarkable 31 saves in the regular season, one of the highest totals in MLB history. Infamously, they blew a 5-2 ninth inning lead against the Cubs in the ninth inning of game 4 of the NLDS, ending their postseason.

In the offseason, the club attempted to rectify the situation with the addition of closer Mark Melancon, acquired in free agency. Melancon has saved 98 games in the last two seasons, including 47 last year while splitting time between the Pirates and the Nationals. Having a dependable closer at the back end of games will be crucial for the Giants, who didn’t have anyone dependable in the bullpen last year.

Just like last year, Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto will anchor the pitching rotation. Cueto played his first season for San Francisco last year, posting a low 2.79 ERA while throwing a National League-high five complete games. He finished sixth in the CY Young voting, behind his teammate Bumgarner, who finished fourth. Bumgarner has been one of the most dependable pitchers in baseball over the past few years, throwing 200 innings in each of his last six seasons. Last year, he had a career-low ERA of 2.74. He’s still young; about to enter his age 27 season. As such, the Giants hope for many more productive seasons from him.

The offense will be anchored by potential Hall of Fame catcher Buster Posey. Posey, who has established himself as far and away the best catchers in baseball over the past few years. Nonetheless, he will continue to be a big part of the San Francisco offense. Brandon Crawford turned into one of baseball’s most underrated shortstops last season, leading the league in triples while finishing twelfth in the MVP voting. Veterans Hunter Pence and Denard Span will be the cornerstones of the outfield, playing right field and center field, respectively.

Last year, the Giants won 87 games despite a terrible bullpen. If they had a closer like Melancon, they could have won the division. This year, I think they’ll get over the hump.

2017 PREDICTION: 91-71, #1 in NL WEST


2016 RECORD: 91-71, #1 in NL WEST

The Dodgers can be summed up in two players: Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager. The former had arguably his most dominant season last year, and would have led the league in almost every important pitching category had he not suffered from a back injury last year. The ailment limited him to 21 starts and 149 innings last year. A healthy Kershaw is a favorite to win his fourth CY Young award as he continues to build his Hall of Fame resume.

Seager burst onto the scene in a big way last year, winning the National League Rookie of the Year while finishing third in the MVP voting. The 22-year-old shortstop hit .308 with 26 home runs, along with a very impressive 6.1 WAR. If he avoids the so-called “sophomore slump”, he could be the MVP this year.

Behind those two, Los Angeles has an intriguing team. Closer Kenley Jansen was resigned in the off-season, with the Dodgers inking him to a five-year, $80 million contract. Last year, Jansen saved a career-high 47 games while posting a sharp 1.83 ERA. Several other key pieces were re-signed, including third baseman Justin Turner and talented but oft-injured starter Rich Hill. Hill was fantastic in the second half of the season last year, after being acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.

The outfield is a question mark for the Dodgers. Once-promising Yasiel Puig struggled so much last year that he was demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City at one point. He played better once he returned, but his status as a quality major leaguer remains in doubt. The same is true of Joc Pederson, who posted a disastrous .469 OPS against left-handed pitchers last year. While he was much improved against right-handers, that handicap will cost him plenty of starts this year. Andre Eithier, a long-time member of the Dodgers outfield, played just sixteen games last year while dealing with a broken leg.

While the team outside of Kershaw and Seager isn’t much, those two are so good that if they perform well, the Dodgers should return to post-season baseball for the fifth straight year.

2017 PREDICTION: 89-73, #2 in NL WEST


2016 RECORD: 75-87, #3 in NL WEST

Ever since the Rockies formed in 1993, they have put together plenty of teams that can hit. However, because of the thin air in Denver, the environment is so hitter-friendly that pitchers are very leery of playing there. As such, Colorado has never had a star pitcher, and that is once again true entering the 2017 season.

The cornerstone of the Rockies’ lineup is perhaps the most underrated player in baseball, third baseman Nolan Arenado. Arenado has led the National League in home runs and runs batted in in back-to-back seasons while playing excellent defense. Despite his fantastic play, he has not gotten much love in the MVP balloting, finishing eighth and fifth, respectively, in the voting over the past two seasons.

The offense is much deeper than Arenado, though. Center fielder Charlie Blackmon is also another very underrated player. He hit a very impressive .324 last year, and stole 43 bases in 2015. Right fielder Carlos Gonzalez has been one of the team’s power sources for a long time now, and played that role well last year. He hit 25 home runs while driving in 100 runs. Second baseman D.J. LeMahieu won the NL batting title last year, with a whopping .348 average. When newly acquired first baseman Ian Desmond returns from a broken hand suffered in spring training, this lineup will be one of the best in the whole league.

Of course, as it usually is, the Rockies’ big downfall is their pitching rotation. Jon Gray will be the opening day starter. He led the team with 185 strikeouts while posting a 4.61 ERA. Colorado has high hopes for this 25-year-old, but he’ll have to improve a lot to look like a bona fide major league ace. Tyler Chatwood had the lowest ERA on the team last year, with a 3.87 mark. As a whole, the Rockies staff finished near the bottom of every pitching category in the National League. While this is not atypical of them, they’ll have to do a whole lot better to be contenders.

However, if their young pitchers improve, and the offense keeps on doing what it’s been doing, a run at a wild card spot is not impossible for this club.

2017 RECORD: 81-81, #3 in NL WEST



2016 RECORD: 69-93, #4 in NL WEST

The Diamondbacks had a big off-season last year, signing ace pitcher Zack Greinke to a gigantic contract, while acquiring starter Shelby Miller from Atlanta, giving up top prospect Dansby Swanson in the process. These moves made Arizona look like a playoff contender in the eyes of many.

Unfortunately, they never got off the ground. They suffered a big blow during the pre-season, when star outfielder A.J. Pollock broke his elbow. He played just twelve games last year. Miller was a total disaster, with a terrible 6.15 ERA. His season included a stint on the disabled list and a trip to Triple-A Reno. Greinke was better, but his ERA jumped almost three runs compared to 2015. Both pitchers must improve for the Diamondbacks to have any hope this season.

Pollock and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt will anchor the offense. Goldschmidt had a down year compared to usual last year, although he did lead the league in walks. He’s been the runner-up in the NL MVP balloting twice in his career, and the Diamondbacks are counting on his good form to return this year.

Greinke and Miller will be backed up in the rotation by Taijuan Walker, recently acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners. Walker has shown promise in the past, but struggled in recent years with Seattle. If he can finally find his good form, and Greinke and Miller rebound, Arizona might have some hope.

2017 PREDICTION: 72-90, #4 in NL WEST


2016 RECORD: 68-94, #5 in NL WEST

The future is the priority in San Diego. The team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006, saw a bunch of big off-season signings go up in smoke a couple of seasons ago, and finished last in their division last year. The Padres aren’t expected to be contenders this year, but they do have some promising pieces for their future.

By far the best player on the team last year was first baseman Wil Myers. The former Rookie of the Year made his first all-star team, while hitting 28 home runs and driving in 94 runs. After a few injury-riddled seasons, he finally played more than 100 games last year, and the Padres will need him to stay healthy if they want to be respectable.

One of the biggest parts of the hopefully bright Padres future is outfielder Hunter Renfroe. He’s been picked by some pundits to win the NL Rookie of the Year award, after a promising eleven-game stint last year in which he hit .371. He’ll man right field for the San Diego club this year, and will hope to live up to his sky-high expectations.

Third baseman Yangervis Solarte is another offensive highlight. He played third base for the team last year, but can play anywhere in the infield. Solarte has played two full seasons in San Diego, and has gotten better in each one of them. Last year, despite playing only 109 games, he posted career highs in most offensive categories, including batting average, OPS, home runs, and RBI.

The pitching rotation in pitcher-friendly San Diego is led by one-time star Jered Weaver, who has declined significantly from his once All-Star form. Clayton Richard pitched respectably well after coming to the Padres at the trade deadline last year, posting a 2.52 ERA. He hopes to make more than 11 starts in a season for the first time since 2012.

This year, you can sell these Padres short, because while they have some good players, contending for any length of time would be a big surprise.

2017 PREDICTION: 69-93, #5 in NL WEST



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