Finding Value in MLB Regular Season Win Totals: NL West
Arizona Diamondbacks – 74.5 Wins
At first blush, this number seems a bit low. Then you remember that Paul Goldschmidt is now a Cardinal and take a look at their depth chart and see a team that looks to be in the midst of a tank job. Around the horn we have; Eduardo Escobar at third, probably better than people realize but nothing special, Nick Ahmed at short, Wilmer Flores at second, and Jake Lamb at first. Is there are a scenario where these guys are all decent? Yes, but it's highly unlikely. In the outfield is another underrated but unsexy player in left fielder David Peralta, followed by the most exciting player in the lineup, center fielder Ketel Marte, and then Steven Souza, Jr. in right field. Again, there is upside here, but it can only go so far. In the rotation, Zack Greinke is getting up there in age, Zack Godley has been an enigma for two years, Robbie Ray has another level to reach but control issues hold him back, and Luke Weaver also has some potential, but his ceiling is capped at a #3 starter. Rounding out the rotation is a player I've never heard of, Merrill Kelly. He actually has encouraging Triple-A numbers with the Rays the past two years. The Diamondbacks bullpen is about as exciting as the rest of their team. Archie Bradley is excellent on the back end, but Greg Holland is a big question mark, as is Yoshihisa Hirano. The rest of the pen consists of complete wild cards.
Conclusion: I lean towards the Under 74.5 wins here. This does not look like a competitive team that will be flirting with .500 for most of the season as they would have to be to go over this total.
San Francisco Giants – 73.5 Wins (Over -105, Under +125)
Wow, looking through the Giants depth chart is a painful process. Their outfield, especially, is utterly disgusting. From left to right the Giants are projected to throw out Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, and Austin Slater. On the infield, it’s your standard boring-old-white-guys crew that we’ve come to expect from the Giants. Evan Longoria continues his slow decline at third, Brandon Crawford brings his excellent defense and underwhelming bat to short, Joe Panik plays the role of slap-hitting tiny 2B to a T and Brandon Belt continues to have his potential waste away in San Francisco's cavernous ballpark. Behind the plate is the perennial All-Star Buster Posey, who could either bounce back to his former elite form or produce less and less in the power department as he hit just five home runs in 2018. While I am actually pretty confident that Posey’s decline last year was entirely injury related and expect a bounce-back, I am not that optimistic about his battery mate and staff ace, Madison Bumgarner. MadBum injured his shoulder in a dirt bike accident back in 2017 and has not looked like the same pitcher since. Maybe he gets back to ace-level, I’m betting against it, but even if he does, the rest of the rotation is average at best. Dereck Rodriguez (son of Pudge) is intriguing but had bad peripherals last year despite sparkling numbers. Derek Holland was surprisingly impressive last year, but Chris Stratton was downright bad, and Andrew Suarez was the definition of average. While Jeff Samardzija and Drew Pomeranz are past their prime, you could do a lot worse for your depth starters.
Conclusion: The Giants are underwhelming at best, and it’s nearly impossible to see them going on any kind of run. I lean towards the Under 73.5 wins. There’s heavy juice on the Under right now at BetOnline, where the under is priced -125 compared to -105 juice on the Over. This might be a team where I’d look to see if the market continues to bet the number down to a spot where there could be value on the Over. My buy price here would be 69.5 wins.
San Diego Padres – 78.5 Wins (Over -130, Under +100)
One of the most interesting totals on the board is the Padres, who jumped from 76 wins to 78.5 with the Manny Machado signing, and it’s hard not to get excited after looking through their roster. In the outfield, the Padres are loaded with upside and volume. Neither Franchy Cordero or Franmil Reyes are penciled in as starters. However, both could be well-above average regulars if given playing time. They will likely receive platoon playing time and could excel in these favorable situations. Wil Myers is the most established of their starting outfielders and should provide power and some speed. Manny Margot has loads of unrealized upside in center, and Hunter Renfroe is a reliable power source in right. If any of them falters, or Myers moves around the diamond, both Reyes and Cordero offer huge power/speed potential. The infield is where the fun really starts. Manny Machado will play third and should be an elite bat and glove at the hot corner. Luis Urias will start at short with Ian Kinsler playing second, but it’s only a matter of time before that changes. The reason for the change will be Fernando Tatis, Jr., a consensus top-3 prospect in baseball. Some would call him the best prospect in baseball, and like Machado, he should excel with both the bat and the glove. Eric Hosmer rounds things out at first and should fit perfectly playing second or third fiddle in this lineup. The Pads are also sold in the pen, with Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen cable of shutting down opponents late. The only question is in the Padres starting rotation, which is led by Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, and Robbie Erlin.
One of the most interesting totals on the board is the Padres, who jumped from 76 wins to 78.5 with the Manny Machado signing, and it’s hard not to get excited after looking through their roster.
Conclusion: This total has been adjusted and bet up for good reason in my mind. I feel even better about saying that after looking at the previous two NL West teams, which both figure to be pretty bad. While the Padres will have their hands full with the Dodgers, this team is all of a sudden in win-now mode and will act accordingly during the season to address any needs that come up. I also believe it’s likely that the Padres add another starting pitcher such as free agent Dallas Keuchel. If not, I think this will be addressed with an in-season trade if necessary. I lean towards the Over 78.5 wins, even with the heavy -130 juice.
Colorado Rockies 2019 Win Total
I'm going to start something new with the Rockies. I had been looking at the win total and then looking at the depth chart, but I think I more worthwhile venture would be to look at the depth chart first. Then, after assessing the team, I'll project my own win total and see how it compares. The Rockies will be a force on offense, as usual, this year. While the Coors-effect naturally boosts their numbers, the Rockies hitters are good no matter where they play. Nolan Arenado is the star, but Charlie Blackmon isn't too far behind him, and Trevor Story is right on their heels. David Dahl is the new sexy name in the outfield, and while Ian Desmond doesn't get anyone too excited in center, if he falters Raimel Tapia is bursting with potential on the bench. Other than the Arenado extension, the other big move the Rockies made in the offseason was a brilliant one: signing Daniel Murphy to play first base. Murphy is an ideal fit in Coors field because of his elite ability to put the bat on the ball. The misconception about Coors Field is that the main reason for more offense is the thin air leading to home runs. While Coors does boost home runs, the most significant difference is on players' batting average on balls in play. Due to the thin air, Coors has a cavernous outfield that presents too much ground for outfielders to cover effectively. This means that balls often find the grass rather than the glove when put in play. That was a long-winded way of saying that Daniel Murphy could easily contend for the batting title this year, much in the way that DJ Lemahieu did in the past with similar bat-to-ball skills. DJ is gone, but replacing him is Garret Hampson, an intriguing power/speed youngster that is currently blocked by Ryan McMahon on the depth chart. McMahon was a popular fantasy breakout pick last year and while he has fallen out of favor, he still has upside and is putting it on display this spring.
The most significant change last year for the Rockies was that their starting pitching became a strength along with the offense. German Marquez blew up for 230 strikeouts, and Kyle Freeland threw 202 innings with a 2.85 ERA in 2018. While I expect neither to repeat those numbers, all of a sudden the Rockies have two studs at the top of their rotation. Kyle Freeland and Jon Gray are perfectly acceptable as 3-4 guys, and while Chad Bettis doesn't excite anyone, his 50% groundball rate is a perfect fit for Coors. The Rockies bullpen is reliable, if unspectacular, but Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw should get the job done with the help of Jake McGee, Mike Dunn and Seunghwan Oh.
Conclusion: I think 88 wins is probably too much to ask of this team, but I feel like their win total should be at least 86 wins. I guess that puts my projection at 87 wins, let’s see how I did. BetOnline has the Rockies at 84.5 wins. It's heavily juiced at -130, but I think there is value on the Rockies at this number. I’ll be buying at Over 84.5 wins.
Los Angeles Dodgers 2019 Win Total
The LA Dodgers are a powerhouse. There's no getting around it. They will be likely be setting the pace for the division and should win 90+ games next year. They have too many good players to go around on offense, even after trading Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig to the Reds. They also traded Alex Wood to the Reds, but similarly, have too many good players to go around the rotation.
Clayton Kershaw may begin the year on the DL, which is obviously a huge concern. Currently, he is throwing but has complained about shoulder tendinitis. It could be nothing, but where there's smoke there's been fire with Kershaw. When he's healthy he's still an elite starting pitcher, if no longer the clear-cut best pitcher in baseball.
Behind Kershaw is a potential future best pitcher in baseball, Walker Buehler. In his rookie season last year, Buehler pitcher like an ace and the peripherals backed up all of his numbers. The only question with Buehler will be how many innings he can go. Inning for inning, Walker Buehler can pitch as well as anyone else in the game.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill, and Kenta Maeda round out the rotation, and all are capable of pitching like #2's.
Waiting in the wings are Ross Stripling, who had an excellent 2018, and former uber-prospect Julio Urias who is now finally healthy. The Dodgers always have an excellent bullpen, and it will be no different this year with Kenley Jansen at the back end.
Conclusion: I have to think the Dodgers are expected to win 95 games. Their number may have been inflated a bit when there was a chance that Bryce Harper would sign there, but they are a team without any clear holes and plenty of elite talent. I'm going to guess 94.5 now that Harper has been announced to the Phillies. I was close, BetOnline has them at 93.5 wins. There might be a slight edge on the Over here, but it might not be enough to pull the trigger.