Craig Calcaterra

Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado signs autographs for fans before a spring training baseball game between the Rockies and the Milwaukee Brewers in Scottsdale, Ariz., Tuesday, March 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Associated Press

2016 Preview: Colorado Rockies


Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2016 season. Next up: The Colorado Rockies

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Rockies, despite scoring lots of runs, were bad in 2015. At the risk of redundancy, allow me to observe that the Rockies, despite scoring a lot of runs, will be bad again in 2016. Maybe this is depressing to some, but there’s something to be said about constants in the universe. The Rockies are like Leonardo DiCaprio’s little spinning top thing in “Inception” in this way.

Nolan Arenado, and Carlos Gonzalez are back again. The former is the club’s best player and one of the best players in the game. The latter is great when he plays but fragile. They’ll be solid and will put up nice numbers. Gerardo Parra has been added. He’s solid enough but no game-changer. Troy Tulowitzki is gone and the guy they got in return for him, Jose Reyes, is away from the team and will likely be suspended for domestic violence. Corey Dickerson is gone. For all the runs the Rockies will continue to score, they will still get below average offense once you adjust for their park. They’ll be a tire fire on the road. Best thing this season outside of Arenado and Gonzalez will be seeing some prospects late in the year. Guys like infielder Trevor Story and catcher Tom Murphy.

As for pitching, it’s hard to believe that Jorge De La Rosa has been hurling at Coors Field for eight years, but he has. And he’s been doing it well. They’re gonna put a statue up of him there one day. An example that you actually can pitch at altitude and not be blasted to the stone age. He’s back. He’s solid. Beyond that there are a lot of question marks but also a lot of pitching prospects who will get chances in 2016, sooner or later. They won’t get a lot of innings early, but as the season goes on remember the names Jeff Hoffman, John Gray and Kyle Freeland, among others. They could be the future.

The bullpen has a couple of names in Jake McGee, acquired in the Dickerson trade, and Jason Motte, acquired in the Rockies’ fever dreams from 2011. I’d say this is an ill-advised tack to take for the Rockies, but it’s not like they’ll be protecting a lot of leads.

No way to spin this: the Rockies are gonna stink on ice. But at least watching Nolan Arenado play will be fun.

Prediction: Fifth place, NL West.

2016 Preview: San Diego Padres

San Diego Padres manager Andy Green, center, talks with pitcher Phlip Humber, left, and James Shield during spring training baseball practice Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Associated Press

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2016 season. Next up: The San Diego Padres

The Padres got a new general manager and a whole new look before the 2015 season. That . . . didn’t work out too well, so they got a whole new look once again heading into 2016. Gone are Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel, Ian Kennedy, Joaquin Benoit, Shawn Kelley, Yonder Alonso and Jedd Gyorko among others. Coming in: Fernando Rodney, Alexei Ramirez and Jon Jay. The order of the day now is to build a bit more slowly rather than try to make a big splash. That means that you shouldn’t expect all that much more than nice weather in San Diego this summer.

New manager Andy Green will be tasked with finding some sort of offense from the likes of Cory SpangenbergWil MyersMatt KempDerek Norris, Alexei Ramirez, and Jay. Myers will hopefully play more than the 60 games he played last year. Kemp, after a very slow start, ended up putting together a fine season. Ramirez will be an upgrade over the dreck the Padres trotted out to short last year. Jay’s 2015 was an 80-game disaster, but he could bounce back. And hey, Melvin Upton Jr. is still there. We’re on at least year four of saying “he can’t be that bad, can he?” And, to be fair, he was pretty decent after coming back from an injury last June. This is no great lineup to be sure, but it could be better than last year, when they were the worst in the league in OBP.

As far as pitching goes, we used to say that Petco Park is a pitchers paradise, but that wasn’t as much the case last year. A lot of homers flew out of the joint in 2015, in large part because Padres pitchers were allowing them. James Shields was particularly bad in this department and he’ll have to bounce back. Tyson Ross was solid but Andrew Cashner was not. Each are capable of being above-average starters and a best-case scenario for the Padres is those two leading the way with Shields returning to respectability. Beyond that . . . things fall off. It’s more likely that Cashner and Ross are on the trading block come June than they are leading the Padres into respectability.

It’d be easy to say that the bullpen will be a disaster now that Craig Kimbrel and Joaqun Benoit are gone, but the pen wasn’t all that great with them. Now with Fernando Rodney closing and a lot of filler, well, filling, it will probably still be bad. Just for different reasons.

Ain’t no way to spin this: the Padres are going to be bad in 2016. They won’t be a massive failure of high expectations like they were in 2015, but it’s hard to see them winning many more than the 74 games they won last year either. And even if they do exceed those expectations a bit, their best case scenario is likely a slightly better fourth place finish than expected. They’re not catching Los Angeles, San Francisco or Arizona. They’re probably big sellers at the deadline.

Prediction: Fourth place, NL West.

2016 Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke throws during spring baseball season practice in Scottsdale, Ariz., Friday, Feb. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Associated Press

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2016 season. Next up: The Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks made perhaps the biggest and most surprising move of the offseason in signing Zack Greinke following his opt-out with the Dodgers. Putting him at the top of their rotation — the day after revealing their new uniform combinations — instantly transformed the image of the Dbacks. And instantly got people talking about them as contenders. But was adding Greinke enough?

No one player can make a baseball team, of course, but there was more than one addition this past winter. Joining Greinke at the top of the rotation is Shelby Miller, acquired in a trade from the Braves. Miller was historically unlucky in Atlanta last year, ending up being the first pitcher to lose 17 games with an ERA under 3.50 since 1984. His run support was awful and things just always broke wrong for him, rarely is own doing. While his strikeout and walk rates and his move to a far more hitter-friendly ballpark may suggest that he’s not quite as good as his 2015 ERA suggests, he’s a nice upgrade for the Snakes. Moreover, Arizona will have the services of Patrick Corbin all year long. Corbin made a nice comeback from Tommy John surgery in half a season last year and has looked sharp this spring. Expect the Diamondbacks to have the best 1-2-3 in the rotation that they’ve had in years.

The lineup is headed up by one of the best hitters in all of baseball in Paul Goldschmidt, who should be an MVP candidate once again. Behind him is A.J. Pollack, a guy so often called the most underrated player in the game that he may no longer be underrated. But he’s still outstanding, both with the bat and the glove. David Peralta hit a ton last season. Yasmany Tomas‘ rookie year was nothing to write home about at the plate, but he has potential as a hitter, as do prospects Brandon Drury and outfielder Peter O’Brien and third baseman Jake Lamb. The Dbacks will score runs, both because of their talent and because of their home park.

The biggest problem on this team, however, is going to be defense. Pollock is great but the Dbacks lost one of the best defensive outfielders in the game when they traded Ender Inciarte to the Braves in the Shelby Miller deal. That will move Tomas — who was an absolute trainwreck at third base last year — to the outfield, where one can’t reasonably expect him to be any good with the leather either. Peralta is no great shakes himself. Between the more hitter-friendly park and the butchers in the outfield corners, Greinke and Miller may wish they came here at times.

The one other big addition of the offseason was Tyler Clippard. He’ll likely get the highest leverage innings while Brad Ziegler closes and Daniel Hudson helps out late. Assuming health, it could be a nice back-end.

There is a lot to like about the Diamondbacks. Many are picking them as a sleeper team this year, claiming that they may be a surprise challenger to the Dodgers and Giants. I don’t know that you can be that big of a surprise when you sign Zack Greinke and have Paul Goldschmidt anchoring the lineup, but I do think they could be a pretty frisky team, especially if Corbin and Miller continue to build on their 2015 performances. I do worry an awful lot about defense, though. Defense has been absolutely critical for contending teams in the past several seasons, and Arizona’s could be a disaster.

Prediction: Third place, NL West. But, like I said, they could be pretty frisky.