PT TOMORROW: NL West—No offseason for the hungry

Los Angeles Dodgers

Justified or not, there is a noticeable sense of unease among Dodgers fans despite seven straight NL West titles, World Series appearances in two of the past three years, and a franchise-best 106 wins this past season. With manager Dave Roberts already suggesting there could be more moves than usual this offseason, the roster could look a fair bit different than it does now. 


One name that looks increasingly likely not to be moved, however, is Gavin Lux (2B, LA). Entering last year as one of the team's top prospects, Lux made his MLB debut after torching minor-league pitching to the tune of .347/.421/.607 with 26 HR and 10 SB in 458 AB across Double-A and Triple-A. As noted in the Baseball Forecaster, Lux controls the barrel of the bat extremely well and "didn’t compromise his spray approach as he began tapping into more power." There have already been suggestions that Lux could see time in the outfield to increase his positional flexibility, opening up an additional path to playing time if he continues to produce with the bat.

As for that outfield, it was recently reported that Alex Verdugo (OF, LA) has yet to resume baseball activities as he continues his recovery from a back injury suffered while rehabbing an August oblique issue. Prior to injury, the 24-year-old Verdugo was starting to put the pieces together with his first really good stretch of playing time since making his 2017 debut. His HctX (129), xPX (91) and FB% (29%) were all on the rise, and he had upped his ct% to an impressive 86%. His .327 BA vLHP was somewhat aided by a 37% h%, but the fact that he was able to hold his own against same-handed pitching is an encouraging sign nonetheless.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

After losing a few key pieces heading into this past season, the Diamondbacks surprised many en route to an 85-77 record, hanging around the wildcard race deep into the season thanks to some breakouts from players like Ketel Marte (2B/OF, ARI), Christian Walker (1B, ARI) and Eduardo Escobar (2B/3B, ARI).

The team has already shaken things up behind the plate as they prepare for 2020, parting ways with Alex Avila (C, MIN) and adding another left-handed bat in the form of Stephen Vogt (C, ARI) via free agency. Vogt, who missed all of 2018 with a shoulder injury, bounced back nicely last year with a .263 BA (.259 xBA), 10 HR and 40 RBI in 255 AB, trading some ct% (73%) for power (134 xPX) in the process. Vogt’s defense may not be much to write home about, but he’s showing the skills necessary to post respectable numbers and should have stretches where he provides value in deeper leagues.

The primary backstop figures to again be right-handed-hitting Carson Kelly (C, ARI), a former prospect of note who’d spent most of his time as a back-up prior to last year’s arrival in Arizona. Kelly hit the ground running with his new club, popping 18 HR in 314 at-bats, with nice plate skills (13% bb%, 75% ct%) to accompany a major step forward in the power department (126 PX, 168 xPX). His "UP: 30 HR" in the Baseball Forecaster captures what could happen if things break right, but it’s worth noting that Kelly started in just half of the team’s 26 games in September—including 9 of 22 against RHP. He’s surely in line for the bulk of playing time, but early season trends in terms of usage will definitely be worth monitoring.

Though defensive shortcomings may keep him from logging time behind the plate at the big-league level, prospect Daulton Varsho (C/OF, ARI) could make an appearance in the majors later this year or perhaps early 2021. Varsho showed off his athleticism this past season in Double-A with 18 HR, 21 SB and a .301 BA in 108 games (396 AB). Defensive issues notwithstanding, his CA eligibility will be quite valuable if/when he gets the call.

 

San Francisco Giants

The post-Bochy era is officially underway, and the team’s President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi is doing his best to make sure the rebuild isn’t as painful as it might have looked a year or two ago—making comparatively smaller moves to add depth while strengthening the team for the future. 


His savvy deal-making skills were on display with the team’s recent trade with the Angels, where the Giants took on the final year of Zack Cozart’s (3B, SF) contract while also getting Will Wilson (SS, SF) as part of the return. Cozart, 34, has struggled through injuries in each of the past two years, and his numbers when on the field (.190 BA, 5 HR in 321 AB) have been quite a disappointment. He’ll be working his way back from July shoulder surgery, casting further doubt as to whether he can return to the level he flashed in his career-best 2017 (.297 BA, 24 HR)—and at this point it remains to be seen whether Cozart cracks the Opening Day roster.

Wilson, meanwhile, was a prospect the Giants had their eye on in last June’s draft before he eventually went off the board with the 15th overall pick. Wilson displayed some nice power and plate skills while at NC State, and there is hope that he can settle into the 2B role in the coming years.

As far as other transactions, the team added 28-year-old Kevin Gausman (RHP, SF) to a 1-year deal. Gausman split last year between ATL and CIN, with an overall line (5.72 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) that doesn’t inspire much confidence. Upon closer inspection though, there are reasons to be quite intrigued, including his strong/elite underlying 2nd half peripherals (67% FpK, 18% SwK, 6.3 Cmd, 3.56 xERA). Gausman could potentially slot into the rotation or work in long relief, but with the departure of last year's stopper Will Smith (LHP, ATL) and no dominant arm ready to step in and take his place, a long look in the closer’s role can’t be ruled out.

 

San Diego Padres

General Manager A.J. Preller has been lighting up the phone lines (or whatever the modern-day equivalent is) in his attempt to push up the Padres’ competitive window. Already with the offseason signing of Drew Pomeranz (LHP, SD) and trades for Jurickson Profar (2B, SD), Trent Grisham (OF, SD) and Tommy Pham (OF, SD), the team seems far from settled in terms of roster turnover.

Ridding themselves of Wil Myers (OF, SD) appears to be top priority. Myers, 29, had back-to-back years (2016-2017) of over 600 AB in which he averaged 29 HR and 24 SB, but he’s dealt with injuries (2018) and inconsistency (2019) in recent seasons. A brutal first half (.219 BA, 59% ct%) gave way to a somewhat more typical second half (.264 BA, 64% ct%), even if he did get some help in the h% (38%) department. Another 20/20 season with below-average BA is still very much in the cards, but it’s growing less and less likely that such an opportunity will come with the Padres in 2020.

With Hunter Renfroe (OF, TAM) shipped off as well, a Myers departure would create further runway for newcomer Trent Grisham as well as an opening to be filled either from outside the organization or possibly from a combination of, among others, Manuel Margot (OF, SD) and Franchy Cordero (OF, SD). Margot rather quietly posted a 12 HR, 20 SB season in under 400 AB, upping his bb% (9%) along the way. But his power (90 HctX, 82 xPX, 6 xHR) warn against buying into him as a major power/speed threat in 2020. Cordero, meanwhile, has lost most of the past couple seasons to injury, but is playing Dominican Winter League ball in hopes of being ready for spring training. Cordero flashed an exciting power/speed combination during his brief run in 2018 (7 HR, 5 SB in 154 AB), which came on the heels of a 20 HR, 16 SB season between two levels in 2017.

 

Colorado Rockies

It’s been a relatively quiet offseason so far for the Rockies, with arguably the most notable move coming in the form of a 3-year extension for Scott Oberg (RHP, COL), signaling that Oberg could be the early favorite for saves in the Rockies’ bullpen.

Oberg, who will be 30 by Opening Day, assumed the closer role last August, but his run was short-lived due to a blood-clot issue that shelved him for the remainder of the year. On the mound, his 2.25 ERA and 1.11 WHIP sure looked the part of a closer, but he enjoyed some very favorable H%/S% fortune (25%/84%) while his velocity (94.4 mph) took a step down for the second straight year. Oberg has expressed optimism about being ready for Opening Day, and if he can quickly rediscover the form he showed in 2018 and the first half of 2019, he has a shot to hold down the gig and rack up saves all year long.

As for the man he replaced, Wade Davis (RHP, COL), things couldn’t have gone much worse. He unraveled spectacularly before his eventual removal from the role, struggling to find the plate (6.1 Ctl, 41% Ball%) while watching his swinging-strike rate (11%) and velocity (93.2 mph) each continue their downward trend. All told, he ended up with an 8.65 ERA (6.11 xERA) and 1.88 WHIP in 43 innings. With one more year left on his contract, the team is surely hoping he can make a positive contribution, but at this point it’s fair to doubt whether he can return to the closer role.

The more interesting candidate, it would seem, is 29-year-old Jairo Diaz (RHP, COL). Diaz converted 5-of-6 September saves after Oberg hit the IL, and he owns a high-octane fastball (97 mph) that he pairs with an effective slider (44% usage, 24% SwK). His early NFBC ADP (382) figures to drop even lower with the Oberg news, making him an interesting stash in deeper formats.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.