The National League West appears to be the Dodgers’ division to lose. That being said, I like the offseason improvements made in San Francisco, San Diego, and Colorado a lot while the Diamondbacks should remain tough. Don’t be surprised if a few playoff teams come out of this division come October.
The NL West has plenty of young star powered littered across most of the rosters making it one of the more dynamic as well as up and coming divisions in baseball. Who is the best at each position then?
Check out this segment of our MLB preview content:
Catcher – Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants – Posey really struggled after the All-Star break last year but remains an elite catcher and easily the best in the NL West. Expect him to be in better shape this Opening Day and to carry that momentum to another MVP-caliber season with the bat.
1st Base – Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks – In just three seasons Goldschmidt has gone from prospect to stud to superstar. His ascension up the ranks of top-shelf 1st baseman has been impressive as he hit .302 with 36 doubles, 36 homers, and 125 RBI’s in ‘13. Beast.
2nd Base – Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks – The 2nd base class in the NL West is weak, making Hill the best choice here. When he can stay in the lineup he puts up big numbers as evidenced by his monster 2012 season. If he can stay upright, a repeat is in order.
Shortstop – Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies – Nope, not Hanley Ramirez. As good as he was last season he has not been nearly as steady as Tulo from year to year. If Ramirez puts up another prolific season in ’14 then I’ll reconsider. Neither guy stays healthy so let’s not go down that road. Tulo is king, hitting .312 with 25 homers and 82 RBI’s in just 126 games a year ago.
3rd Base – Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies – His offense (.267, 10 homers) didn’t play up in his rookie year but his defense was elite enough to earn him a Gold Glove. I think the bat catches up in his 2nd go around and he passes the likes of Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley for hot corner bragging rights.
Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies – Like his teammate Tulowitzki, if he could only stay healthy… CarGo is the most talented outfielder in the division but can’t stay on the field. In a mere 110 games in ’13 he managed 26 bombs and 70 RBI’s while hitting .302. Just. Stay. Healthy.
Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants – Pence doesn’t do anything at a superstar level but he does everything really well. Setting a career-high with 22 steals in ’13 elevates his status on this list. Writing .280, 25 homers, and 90 RBI’s into the books before Opening Day is a nice luxury for any manager.
Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers – The young Cuban set the league on fire upon his call up and possesses superstar potential. And even if he doesn’t reach it, he’ll still be better than most. If he can stay out of his own way I could see a 30/20 season this year.
- Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers – He’s won two of the last three Cy Youngs and is the premier pitcher in the game. His 232:52 K to walk ratio is drool-worthy. So are the rest of his stats for that matter.
- Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants – At age 24, Bumgarner is the best young pitcher that gets the least buzz around the league. He is a slider-heavy pitcher but is flat out dominant. I’m not sure how much he can build on 199 K’s, a 2.77 ERA, and 1.03 WHIP but I wouldn’t bet against it.
- Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers – It seems like Greinke has been dinged up a lot lately and he’ll start the season with a calf issue that has already pushed back his first start. When he’s healthy, he’s among the league’s elite starters.
- Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants – Cain had been insanely consistent from 2007-2012 so I’ll give him a mulligan for his down year in ’13 (4.00 ERA, 1.16 WHIP). Fantasy drafters take note, he’ll be a bargain this year and will bounce back.
- Andrew Cashner, San Diego Padres – Cashner finally broke out in 2013 (3.09 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) and should build on that in ’14. One area of improvement to watch this year is his strikeout rate as he managed just 128 covering 175 innings as he opted for control over punch-outs. He has better stuff than that though.
Setup – Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres – Why he’s not the closer over Huston Street is a problem I assume will sort itself out over the course of the season. Benoit went from being an elite setup man in Detroit in 2011 and ’12 to seamlessly taking the closer’s job in ’13 and running with it. He’s a 4:1 strikeout to walk pitcher who annually puts up a low WHIP. The Padres got a good one here.
Closer – Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers – While throwing just 141.2 innings the past two years Jansen has K’d 210 batters. One word: filthy. It seems like the Dodgers never fully endorse him as the closer (see Brandon League, Brian Wilson), but he is, and he’s the best in the division by a wide margin.
The Best Players in Baseball by Division