2019 MLB preview and predictions: How Cubs stack up against Rockies originally appeared on nbcsportschicago.com
The National League looks as strong as ever, with as many as 12 of the 15 teams planning to contend in 2019.
The Cubs had a quiet winter, transactionally speaking, but almost every other team in the NL bolstered their roster this offseason.
But expectations haven't changed at the corner of Clark and Addison. After a disappointing finish to 2018, Kris Bryant and Co. once again have their sights set on another World Series.
With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:
2018 record: 91-72, 2nd in NL West
Offseason additions: Daniel Murphy, Mark Reynolds
Offseason departures: D.J. LeMahieu, Adam Ottavino, Gerardo Parra, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Holliday, Drew Butera
X-factor: David Dahl
Once the top prospect in the Rockies organization, Dahl missed almost all of 2017 to injury and didn't play a single game in the big leagues. A foot injury kept him on the shelf for two months last year, but he turned it on at the end of the year, emerging as one of the most important hitters in the lineup.
Dahl is only 24 (he turns 25 April 1) and clubbed 16 homers with 48 RBI in less than half a season's worth of action last year. He was particularly hot in September, smashing 9 dingers with 27 RBI and a .985 OPS in 24 games.
This is already a very good Rockies team that would only get better if Dahl is healthy and proves his offensive tear was legit.
1. Kyle Freeland
2. German Marquez
3. Jon Gray
4. Tyler Anderson
5. Antonio Senzatela
The Rockies low-key had maybe the quietest offseason in baseball. Ottavino is a big loss for that bullpen, but the rest of the guys can be replaced, especially when you consider that Murphy and Reynolds can form a great platoon at first base and Desmond is moving off first base. Blackmon moving out of center field will also be a huge boost to the overall defense, even if Desmond isn't an elite defender in center.
Cubs fans know Murphy's impact with the bat. Now add him to Coors Field and into a lineup with Arenado, Blackmon, Story and Dahl and it's easy to dream about how this team could lead the league in runs scored. That's especially true if top prospects Hampson and Brendan Rodgers pan out at second base or center field.
Cubs fans also know how well this Rockies team can pitch, managing just 1 run against Freeland and Co. in 13 innings. Freeland and Marquez took huge steps forward in their second full seasons in the big leagues and represent a dynamic 1-2 punch atop the rotation. Gray is a former first-round pick (one slot after the Cubs selected Kris Bryant in 2013), but has yet to put it all together. If he suddenly figures it out, watch out.
The weakness of this team may be the bullpen, despite former Cub Wade Davis still hanging around as closer. He had 43 saves, but also blew 6 and finished with a 4.13 ERA. Losing Ottavino was big and high-priced arms like Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw and Mike Dunn are coming off awful seasons.
While they had a quiet offseason, the Rockies managed to avoid the biggest potential distraction of the season when they inked Arenado to an extension through the 2025 season.
Still, as good as this roster can be, it's going to be a tough road for Colorado to get into the playoffs again. The talent is too top-heavy and depth may be an issue, especially on the pitching staff. The Dodgers still look like the class of the NL West and there are going to be a few really, really good teams vying for the two Wild-Card spots from the other two divisions.
The best thing they have working in their favor is they play in the weakest division in the league, as the Diamondbacks and Giants probably won't be all that competitive and the Padres may still be a year or two away.
The Rockies will be contenders this season, but I'm betting they come up just short.
Prediction: 2nd in NL West, just missing out on 2nd Wild-Card
All 2019 previews & predictions
San Francisco Giants
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Los Angeles Dodgers
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St. Louis Cardinals