We’ve already covered the American League West, AL East, AL Central and National League East in our tour around the league identifying players whose fantasy arrows are pointed up for 2014. Now it’s time to examine the NL West.
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Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers
This one is probably too easy, but we’re all excited to see what Puig can do with a full season of at-bats. The beginning of Puig’s big league career was nothing short of extraordinary, as the Cuban defector put together an improbable .379/.440/.603 batting line with 11 homers and seven steals over his first 58 contests. He did stumble to a .234/.324/.437 finish, but he still hit eight homers over 46 games while improving his batting eye. Puig still has plate discipline issues and has been an inefficient base stealer, but he has some of the best fantasy upside in the game.
Andrew Cashner, SP, Padres
Cashner began last season in the Padres’ bullpen but had entered the rotation before the calendar flipped to May. The move was obviously a wise one, as the big right-hander wound up posting a 3.04 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over his 26 starts, finishing with a flourish from August on with a 1.70 ERA over nine outings. Cashner topped his previous high in innings by more than 60 last season, but the fact that he pitched his best ball of the year down the stretch was encouraging. The strikeout rate (6.6 K/9) wasn’t there in his first full season as a starter, but, hey, neither was Justin Verlander’s. Cashner has big upside if he can manage to stay healthy, which is certainly a question mark with him.
Editor's Note: Find out the secret strategies of nine-time national champion, Larry Schechter. Order: Winning Fantasy Baseball
Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants
At long last, Belt was finally used as an everyday player by Giants manager Bruce Bochy in 2013. The results were encouraging, as he put together a .289/.360/.481 batting line with 17 homers, 39 doubles and 67 RBI. His OPS+ of 142 was even more impressive, as Belt’s counting numbers surely would have looked much better if not for spacious AT&T Park. Unfortunately, his home park isn’t going to turn into a hitter’s paradise in 2014, but it’s reasonable to think more of those 39 doubles will leave the yard in 2014.
Corey Dickerson, OF, Rockies
Dickerson forced the Rockies to call him up last season after sporting an absurd .371/.414/.632 batting line with 11 homers, 14 triples and 21 doubles in 75 games at Triple-A. He got off to a nice start with the big club before fading down the stretch, but the Rockies thought enough of his play that they traded Dexter Fowler over the winter, clearing a spot in the starting lineup for the 24-year-old. Dickerson has some pop, can swipe a bag on occasion and might hit atop what should be a very good Rockies lineup.
Tyson Ross, SP, Padres
Ross arrived in San Diego last winter in an under-the-radar trade with Oakland that is looking like a coup for the Padres. After winning a spot in the rotation out of spring training, Ross suffered a dislocated left (non-throwing) shoulder in mid-April and was initially used out of the bullpen upon his return. He was put back in the rotation for good in late July and thrived down the stretch, posting a 2.93 ERA and superb 85/23 K/BB ratio across 80 innings. The 26-year-old right-hander has a rotation spot in hand for 2014 and will be pitching his home games in the hitter’s graveyard known as Petco Park.
Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies
Arenado began the 2013 campaign at Triple-A even after a disappointing showing at Double-A the year prior. He rewarded the Rockies’ decision by batting a scorching .364/.392/.667 with three homers and 21 RBI over his first 18 games to earn a call-up to the big league club. While his defense at third base was so good that he became a rare rookie to win a Gold Glove, Arenado batted a disappointing .267/.301/.405 with 10 homers in 133 contests in his first go-round through the majors. However, this is a former top prospect that hit .299/.345/.473 in the minors, and he gets the benefit of trying to come into his own as a hitter at Coors Field.
Jedd Gyorko, 2B, Padres
Quick, name the second baseman that hit the most home runs last season. OK, that was Robinson Cano with 27. However, Gyorko was right on his heels with 23 to lead the National League. It’s quite an impressive total given that it was his first action in the big leagues, he missed over a month of action with a groin injury and he had to play half of his games in the most pitcher-friendly stadium in the majors. Petco Park certainly limits Gyorko’s upside, but there could still be 25+ homers in his bat in 2014, and the career .321 minor league hitter figures to make strides in the batting average department as well after hitting just .249 as a rookie.
Chris Owings, SS, Diamondbacks
Owings has to beat out Didi Gregorius for the shortstop job, but if he does he’ll hold plenty of fantasy appeal. The 22-year-old batted .330/.359/.482 with 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases at Triple-A in 2013.
Ian Kennedy, SP, Padres
An oldie but a goodie, the flyball-prone Kennedy has plenty of rebound potential in a full season at Petco Park.
Randall Delgado, SP, Diamondbacks
Delgado’s strikeout rate last season was disappointing, but he really made strides with his control and should have better luck with the longball in 2014.
Tyler Chatwood, SP, Rockies
Chatwood showed flashes of brilliance last season and has the potential to up his strikeout total. He’s already great at inducing grounders and will benefit from an excellence defensive infield in Colorado.