Baseball

Creating the All-NL West Lineup

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Ranking players at each position can be entertaining, but making an ultimate lineup for each division might just be better. If the five National League West teams combined, this might be the unit they roll out: the All-NL West Lineup

Catcher: Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers

Smith is the one member of the Dodgers lineup who is not a former All-Star. However, Smith is an All-Star-level catcher who has been unfortunate in his three seasons. Last year, he mashed 25 home runs en route to a .860 OPS and 130 OPS+. He has a career 5.8 percent home run rate and an 11.5 percent walk rate. He also strikes out at a level better than the Major League average. If he was slightly better in the field, he would be the best catcher in baseball by a mile.

Smith has a home run in his last four playoff series including a pair in the 2021 Division Series. He slashed .268/.375/.537 in the NLDS and Championship Series last year.

First Base: Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers

A mainstay of the Atlanta Braves since 2011, Freeman traded in his navy “A” for a Dodger Blue “LA.” The 2020 NL MVP has been one of the most consistent hitters in baseball since 2013. He has nine seasons in a row with an OPS+ of at least 132. Freeman has finished in the top ten in Most Valuable Player voting six times. He limits strikeouts, walks a lot, and is a consistent power option. Freeman led the NL in doubles in both 2018 and 2020.

After years of underachieving in the playoffs, Freeman has an OPS of at least .996 in each of his last four playoff series including a pair of NLCS against the Dodgers and the 2021 World Series.

Second Base: Jake Cronenworth, San Diego Padres

The Dodgers’ run was ended by Cronenworth. After a strong 2020 season, Cronenworth was just as productive in 2021. He made the All-Star team for the first time, and he kept his OPS+ over 120 for the second year in a row. Cronenworth is also a good defender at second base. Last season, he posted 4.8 bWAR to go along with 33 doubles and 21 home runs. He was one triple behind Shohei Ohtani and Bryan Reynolds for the MLB lead.

With Fernando Tatis Jr. out for an extended stretch, Cronenworth could spend some time at shortstop.

Third Base: Manny Machado, San Diego Padres

Machado made his fifth All-Star team in 2021, earning MVP votes for the second year in a row. He had 61 extra-base hits including 28 home runs. He also stole 12 bases. While he was not quite as spectacular as he was in 2020, he still had an excellent season. He walks at a healthy clip, and his strikeout rate seems to fall every season. Machado remains one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball.

While the Padres faded down the stretch, Machado maintained his stellar play. In the second half, he had an OPS of .840, slightly higher than his first-half efforts.

Shortstop: Trea Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers

Since 2020 began, Turner has been nothing short of a superstar at shortstop. He has 49 doubles, 40 home runs, and 44 steals. He has led the Majors in hits in both seasons. Turner led the NL in steals and total bases in 2021. Turner is also a steady defender at shortstop, posting +4 DRS in 2021. All told, Turner ended with a 6.5 bWAR in 148 games last season.

Turner was excruciatingly close to the 30-steal, 30-home, 30-double club in 2021. He has cleared the doubles plateau twice and steals plateau five times. He is a reasonable pick to improve on his 28 home runs from 2021.

Left Field: Chris Taylor, Los Angeles Dodgers

Taylor is yet another Dodgers All-Star. In six seasons with the Dodgers, Taylor has an OPS+ of 113. He is a bit of a jack of all trades, but his versatility is a healthy addition to the team. In 2021, Taylor made at least eight appearances as a second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, left fielder, center fielder, right fielder, and pinch hitter. He has a healthy walk rate, hits enough home runs, and can steal some bases.

Taylor is a playoff folk hero for the Dodgers. He won the 2017 NLCS MVP, and he had an excellent 2021 NLCS despite losing.

Center Field: Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks

When Marte is on the field, he is one of the best players in baseball. In 2019, Marte was a first-time All-Star, and he finished fourth in NL MVP voting. In 2021, it was much the same from a production standpoint, but he missed 72 games. Marte has split time between second base and center field in the last three seasons, but his focus needs to be staying on the field.

In five seasons with the Diamondbacks, Marte has a 122 OPS+ with a .495 slugging percentage. He has a pair of seasons with a 140 OPS+.

Right Field: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers

Betts is such an excellent player that 4.2 bWAR was the worst full-season output of his career. He made his fifth straight All-Star team, but he received zero MVP votes for the first time since his rookie year. Betts missed 40 games and was not quite the same hitter, but he was still well above average. His 128 OPS+ was aided by his 12.4% walk rate. Betts continues to be an extra-base hit machine and savvy base runner.

While Betts’ monopoly on Gold Gloves ended in 2021, he still was +5 DRS. It snapped his run of six seasons in a row with at least 10 (including the shortened 2020 season).

Designated Hitter: Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers

Muncy was an everyday first baseman in 2021, but with Freeman coming to Los Angeles, Muncy will find a new home. He will likely play second base with reasonable frequency, but he files into the designated hitter spot here. Muncy was 10th in NL MVP voting last season, his third time in four seasons finishing in the top 15. With the Dodgers, Muncy has an OPS+ of 136, slugging .520. He has a 6.2% home run rate since 2018.

If Muncy plays more than 144 games, he will flirt with a 100-walk season. He has a 15.2% walk rate with the Dodgers, averaging 98 walks per 162 games.

Pitcher: Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers

Buehler is officially the ace of the Dodgers’ staff. He finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting in 2021 after a masterful season. Buehler posted a career-best 2.47 ERA en route to an ERA+ of 165. His WHIP of 0.968 was among the league leaders, and he struck out 212 batters. Buehler has good control of the three true outcomes, and he induced more soft contact than ever before in 2021.

Buehler made his second All-Star team in 2021, and he earned a first-team All-MLB honor. Only one NL pitcher posted more bWAR than Buehler.

Main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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Ryan Potts is an avid football and baseball fan. He covers the NFL and Major League Baseball, focusing on the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Braves.