The NL West is already one of the better division’s in MLB as they had three playoff teams last season. This year the Dodgers have gotten out to a rough start along with the Padres, but the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Giants have put themselves into the playoff conversation in the first month of play.
While the Giants made a splash for veteran leadership during the offseason, they seem like the only team in the NL West without a good or great foundation for the next five years. Take a look at how every team will rank in the future based on their top prospects and players who are pre-arbitration or under 25 years old.
Top Prospects: Heliot Ramos (#61 in MLB top 100), Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Austin Slater, Jacob Gonzalez
Players Under 25/Pre-Arbitration: Ty Blach (27), Chris Stratton (27), Madison Bumgarner (28), Joe Panik (27)
The Giants are quietly having a good year even with all the injuries piling up in the rotation. At 20-21, the Giants are 4.5 games back of the Diamondbacks for the division lead, but the Giants future is now or never right now.
Just about every player is over 30 years old except for injured Joe Panik and the other two infield depth options in Alec Hanson and Kelby Tomlinson. While the core of Posey, Belt, Cueto, Crawford, and Longoria are signed through 2021, the Giants will be in desperate need of a youthful spark sooner than later. McCutchen and Pence will be free agents next season, and all three outfield positions will be up in the air.
With one of the thinnest minor league system in the business, look for the Giants to try to get younger before the trade deadline and in the offseason.
Top Prospects: Jon Duplantier (#72 in MLB top 100), Pavin Smith (#88 in MLB top 100), Jasrado Chisholm, Taylor Widener, Daulton Varsho, Socrates Brito
Players Under 25/Pre-Arbitration: Ketel Marte (24), Archie Bradley (25), Steven Souza Jr (29), Zack Godley (28), John Ryan Murphy (27), Matt Koch (27), Braden Shipley (26), Robbie Ray (26), Taijuan Walker (25), Shelby Miller (27)
The Arizona Diamondbacks are in a similar situation as the Giants but with a much more youthful core. With the exception of two headliners in Duplantier and Smith, the Diamondbacks prospects aren’t blowing away any scouts and front office decision-makers. Duplantier and Varsho have made very strong impressions in the past year, but their minor system is more set up for major league depth at this point with guys like Christian Walker, Braden Shipley, Matt Koch, Kris Medlin, Anthony Recker, Yasmany Tomas, Neftali Feliz, and now Clay Buchholz.
The youthful core of the past might be coming to an end this season with the possibility of losing their two best players this season (AJ Pollock and Patrick Corbin) to free agency. The face of the franchise might be struggling mightily right now with a .218 batting average, but next year might be his last year as he has a club option in 2019 for 14.5 million dollars.
With Tomas’ and Greinke’s contracts worth more than 138 million dollars through 2020 and 2021, it is going to be extremely difficult to extend and or resign Pollock, Corbin, and Goldschmidt.
The good news is the rotation looks to be in good shape for the future with Ray, Godley, Koch, Duplantier, Shipley and the two Tommy John victims in Walker and Miller. Maybe Archie Bradley will make a return to the rotation to in the future…
Top Prospects: Brendan Rodgers (#14), Ryan McMahon (#39), Riley Pint (#96), Peter Lambert, Ryan Castellani, Colton Welker
Players Under 25/Pre-Arbitration: Trevor Story (25), David Dahl (24), Tony Wolters (25), Jon Gray (26), German Marquez (23), Kyle Freeland (25), Raimel Tapia (24), Jeff Hoffman (25), Antonio Senzatela (23)
The Rockies payroll is pretty darn high this year with close to 140 million dollars invested into without their superstar Nolan Arenado extended. Charlie Blackmon was recently extended through 2023, and their entire rotation is under contract through at least 2022 with the exception of Chad Bettis who is a free agent in 2021.
Already with great major league depth, the Rockies will have to make some decisions soon with the likes of Rodgers and McMahon who are knocking on the doorstep to Coors Field. Luckily, DJ LeMahieu is going to be a free agent this offseason opening up a spot for Rodgers.
If you are a Rockies fan, you have to be ecstatic with a young, controllable pitching staff and with a potent lineup without the likes of Tapia, Rodgers, McMahon, and Dahl yet to make an impact.
Top Prospects: Walker Buehler (#12), Alex Verdugo (#32), Keibert Ruiz (#50), Mitchell White (#99), Yusneil Diaz
Players Under 25/Pre-Arbitration: Cody Bellinger (22), Corey Seager (24), Julio Urias (21), Chris Taylor (27), Joc Pederson (26), Chris Taylor (27), Austin Barnes (28), Kike Hernandez (26)
While this might look like a potential lost season with the Diamondbacks hot start and Seager’s unfortunate injury, the Dodgers young players might be good enough to step up and continue their NL West championship run.
Verdugo and Buehler are already on the big league roster and making contributions, so the future is now for the Dodgers. Once Turner returns, the Dodger’s will be back in business.
The offseason will be imperative for the Dodgers though as many will be expecting them to add a big piece and potential final piece to this roster. Kershaw can opt out after this season, but he would be leaving 68 million dollars on the table if he did so. Machado and Harper will probably be discussed by the front office too. Harper makes the most sense with question marks throughout the outfield and Puig becoming a free agent, but the price tag will be really high.
Top Prospects: Fernando Tatis Jr. (#8), Mackenzie Gore (#19), Luis Urias (#35), Cal Quantrill (#38), Michel Baez (#40), Adrian Morejon (#48), Anderson Espinoza (#86), Logan Allen
Players Under 25/Pre-Arbitration: Manny Margot (23), Franchy Cordero (23), Christian Villanueva (26), Joey Lucchesi (25), Eric Lauer (22), Austin Hedges (25), Hunter Renfroe (26), Allen Cordoba (22), Dinelson Lamet (25)
The future is bright in sunny San Diego with their incredibly deep minor league system. It is going to be a long summer again with Padres fans with a 16-26 record to start the year, but this will allow for some late summer call-ups.
The Padres have already called up Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi this season with a thin starting rotation. While Lauer has struggled in four starts, Lucchesi has excelled in eight starts with a 2.98 ERA and 46 K’s in 42.1 innings. Dinelson Lamet is another young arm with major league experience, but he started the year on the DL with a 139 K’s in 114.1 innings.
Christian Villanueva and Franchy Cordero have been bright spots offensively with 9 and 6 homers respectively. While they have both struck out in just over 30% of their at-bats, their power has been exciting especially considering they both weren’t considered top 10 prospects within the organization.
Even with a lough of talented pitching prospects inching up to the bigs, the most exciting two prospects got to be Urias and Tatis Jr who could be the double play partnership of the future. They can both be plus defenders and possible middle of the order bats. Urias has shown the better bat in the minor leagues with more walks than strikeouts in all of this minor league stops, but Tatis Jr has All-Star potential with quick bat speed which should bring along plus power.
With both Wil Meyers and Eric Hosmer signed through 2023 and 2025, these young bats will be able to learn from these two veterans for years to come.
Photo from MLB Pipeline Twitter