SAN FRANCISCO, CA – MAY 19: Brandon Crawford #35 of the San Francisco Giants tags Scott Van Slyke #33 of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the top of the eighth inning at AT&T Park on May 19, 2015 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Don Feria/Getty Images)

Welcome to the sixth and final edition of The Comeback’s MLB divisional preview series, in which we ask our writers to banter by email about a given division, then publish the results here.

Previously, we’ve looked at the AL Eastthe NL Eastthe AL Centralthe NL Central and the AL WestToday, Alex Putterman and Joe Lucia preview the National League West.

Alex Putterman: As you know, the Dodgers won this division in 2016. In fact, the Dodgers have won this division the past four years, winning more than 90 games each time.

Now, Los Angeles returns much of the same roster, having plugged a hole at second base and (for now, at least) worked the starting pitching staff back to health. The projections peg this as the best team in baseball, and even if most people would give that title to the Cubs, it’s clear that the Dodgers are up there.

With all that said, can you find any reason to think the Dodgers are vulnerable? Or do you expect them to run away with the NL West?

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Joe Lucia: I have questions about the Dodgers rotation. Clayton Kershaw is obviously a cyborg sent from another planet to dominate baseball, but even he missed some time last year with a back injury. Kenta Maeda is coming off of a successful rookie season, but I’m curious as to whether or not he can do it again in 2017. Brandon McCarthy looked shaky last year in his return from Tommy John surgery. Scott Kazmir, Rich Hill, and Hyun-Jin Ryu might not combine for 40 starts.

As for the team’s offense, my main issues reside in the team’s outfield. I’m still not sure what they’re going to get from Yasiel Puig, Andrew Toles (still somewhat of an enigma to me) seems destined to come back to Earth.

With all that being said, I still think they’re going to finish at the top of the NL West.

AP: I think last year actually showed why we shouldn’t be too worried about the Dodgers’ starting pitching. Los Angeles’ rotation is injury prone, but there are so many pitchers here that even if a few of them are hurt at a given time, the staff can function just fine. Only five need to be healthy (and effective) at a time. And you didn’t even mention phenom Julio Urias, who will start the season in the minors but could be this team’s No. 2 starter by season’s end.

The Dodgers’ toughest competition will presumably come from the Giants, who added closer Mark Melancon this winter to firm up last season’s biggest weakness. San Francisco could have an excellent starting rotation (led by Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija), but there are some holes in the lineup. I’ll be a little nervous about any team that enters the season with Jarrett Parker and Eduardo Nunez playing major roles.

Where do you think San Fran ranks among the NL’s top teams. If the Dodgers are going to win this division, are the Giants at least a wild card favorite?

(Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

JL: The National League is so bottom-heavy that the Giants are a wild-card contender by default. I’m a bit concerned about their bullpen in front of Melancon—losing Will Smith to Tommy John surgery was a massive blow—and the bridge from that rotation to Melancon in the ninth will be a bit more rickety than it has been in previous years. Maybe Derek Law and Hunter Strickland can step up to join a long line of great Giants relievers over the past few years, but until they do, consider me skeptical.

You mentioned the two problem spots on offense, Nunez and Parker, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Giants were looking for upgrades in left and at third sooner rather than later. Luckily for them, the rest of the team’s offense is pretty damn good. When you’re debating whether Joe Panik or Denard Span (who each had rough years in 2016) is a team’s fifth-best hitter, you know you’re in a pretty good spot.

AP: Now, the middle of the NL West starts to get a little murky. The Diamondbacks were everyone’s sleeper wild card pick in 2016, then they were hit with a ton of injuries, plus underperformance from key players, and wound up losing 93 games. Now they’ve got a new, more modern front office and could be due for a bounce-back.

The Rockies are a trendy sleep pick this year, but they have already seen Ian Desmond and David Dahl go down and gotten news of Chad Bettis’ scary cancer diagnosis. In a season where everything had to go right, things are already going wrong.

Who do you think has a better chance of challenging this division’s top teams, Colorado or Arizona?

JL: It seems crazy to say after the disaster of 2016, but I like the Diamondbacks this year. They have a strong offensive core with Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb, and a hopefully healthy AJ Pollock, and despite their underperformance last year, I like their rotation of Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke, a seemingly rejuvenated Shelby Miller, Robbie Ray, and new face Taijuan Walker.

The Rockies have had a disastrous spring, losing Bettis, Dahl, and Desmond. I like Jon Gray and Tyler Chatwood in their rotation, but don’t know what to make out of the rest of their starters. I’m also not so hot on their offense this year. Yes, Nolan Arenado is a superstar and DJ LeMahieu has somehow managed to turn himself into a hitting machine, but at least to start the year, they’re not going to be getting a whole lot out of left field, first base and catcher, three positions where you’d ideally like above-average hitters.

On the bright side, both of these teams do appear to be heading in the right direction after years of seemingly being stuck in first gear.

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

AP: I’m trying to come up with a question to ask about the Padres, but it’s really not easy. This is a bad team without many bright spots. The starting rotation, as our colleague Matt Clapp wrote recently, could be historically bad.

But there is one interesting dude on this roster, and that’s Christian Bethancourt, the back-up catcher who is trying his hand as a relief pitcher… while not giving up his catching. He’s got a 2.16 ERA and a walk-off home run this spring, so the experiment seems to be going pretty well. Can this really work? Can Bethancourt be a successful two-way player?

JL: I don’t think I can name five Padres players without looking. Maybe that says more about me than the Padres… or maybe it doesn’t. I’m not sure. It’s been awhile since the Padres have been interesting.

The Christian Bethancourt thing is fun, because he was a Braves prospect for *years,* and the tag on him was always “great arm, probably won’t hit enough, but likely will be a major leaguer as a backup.” And here we are—with him as a backup catcher and now a pitcher as well. Will he be *good*? I highly doubt it. However, his presence on the roster likely will allow the Padres to carry and extra player on the bench, letting Bethancourt serve as a pinch hitter, backup or third catcher, and a reliever.

I love when teams do “weird” stuff with their roster construction. Another example is the Cubs, who have three players on their roster who can catch and three super-utility type guys who can play a variety of positions. Versatility is awesome, and I want to bang my head against a wall when teams carry players on their bench who have such limited skillsets. That’s probably why someone like Ryan Howard is having trouble finding a job.

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 12: Christian Bethancourt #12 of the San Diego Padres swings at a pitch during a game against the New York Mets at Citi Field on August 12, 2016 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

AP: That’s a great point. Versatility has become even more important as teams have increasingly chosen to carry 12 or even 13 pitchers. If you’ve got a short bench, you need guys to fill multiple roles.

I think we’ve kind of revealed your NL West predictions throughout this conversation, but let’s get them in writing anyway. Give me your predicted order of finish, plus a Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year (shouldn’t be so hard) and an under-the-radar player to watch.

JL: Though I can see the Diamondbacks and Rockies flipping if Colorado gets healthy quickly…

1. Dodgers
2. Giants
3. Diamondbacks
4. Rockies
5. Padres

Player of the Year: There are three “easy” choices (Arenado, Goldschmidt, Corey Seager), but I’ll go a bit off the board and say Buster Posey. I think he has a big year after the worst full season of his career in 2016.

Pitcher of the Year: In the non-Kershaw division, I’ll take another Giant, Johnny Cueto.

Under the radar player: I don’t know if he’s really under the radar anymore, but I love Jake Lamb. Here’s a bold prediction: Jake Lamb has a better year at the plate than Nolan Arenado.

AP: That is bold, indeed.

This is our final division preview and the first time I’ve exactly agreed with the other person’s order of finish. Sorry Colorado, but you botched the offseason.

1. Dodgers
2. Giants
3. Diamondbacks
4. Rockies
5. Padres

Player of the Year: Corey Seager
Pitcher of the Year: If we’re leaving aside Kershaw, I’ll say Madison Bumgarner
Under-the-radar player: Jon Gray