As before, I'm using the projected numbers from Fangraphs at each position to determine the rankings.
1. Diamondbacks: 2.6 WAR (#12 overall)
Everyday starter: A.J. Pollock (2.1)
Backup: Ender Inciarte (0.3)
Hey, we're projected to have the best center field in the division! Woo! The bad news is, it's very much of a muchness in the middle of the rankings, with less than half a win separating us in 12th and the Indians in 21st place. That band also covers everyone in the division bar the Rockies, so we aren't expected to pick up much ground here, though at least Pollock's expected solid performance - particularly on defense - makes a change from the long run of Arizona question-marks, stretching back to when we looked at Paul Goldschmidt. If you're curious, he's expected to be better than Adam Eaton (1.8 WAR).
2. Dodgers: 2.6 WAR (#14)
Everyday starter: Joc Pederson (2.4)
Backup: Andre Ethier (0.2)
Will the Dodgers really use Ethier, who is due $18 million this year, as a back-up for the minimum-wage rookie Pederson? The latter did put up the first 30-30 season in the 80-year history of the Pacific Coast League last year, and expectations are high, despite not performing in a brief September call-up, going 4-for-28 with no XBH. He likely has the inside track to the job, but if he falters, we may well see him replaced - however, if he's sent down,. a more likely arrangement would by Y*s**l P**g in center and Ethier in right. But if Pederson does stick, then it makes Ethier hellaciously expensive as a fourth outfielder, and I'd expect LA to be looking for a trade partner.
3. Giants: 2.3 WAR (#19)
Everyday starter: Angel Pagan (1.7)
Backup: Gregor Blanco (0.5)
Pagan missed the end of the regular season and the Giants' run to their third World Series in five years, after requiring surgery for a bulging disk in his back. It had bothered him for much of the season, and helped ensure he failed to reach 100 games for the second consecutive season. It's expected he will be healthy in time for Opening Day, but Pagan turns 34 in July, and only the Cubs and Padres are expected to be worse defensively at the position in 2015. I would tend to take the under, because after all, we know the Giants are only any good in seasons where the year is divisible by two...
4. Padres 2.2 WAR (#20)
Everyday starter: Wil Myers (1.8)
Backup: Will Venable (0.3)
C'mon, San Diego: you really need to decide whether that first name has one L or two, and stick to it. You can't have it both ways, y'know. The amusing thing here is to see Myers now on the same San Diego team as James Shields, two years after the players were swapped for each other, in a trade that pretty much broke the Internet before a certain butt did so. Myers is a former top 10 prospect, who won Rookie of the Year with Tampa in 2013, despite playing only 88 games, but couldn't live up to that in 2014, posting s 77 OPS+. The Padres will (or Wil) be hoping that was a result of the stress fracture Myers had in his wrist, and that he rebounds strongly in 2015.
5. Rockies 1.7 WAR (#25)
Everyday starter: Drew Stubbs (1.0)
Backup: Charlie Blackmon (0.5)
Like the Dodgers, the Rockies have an excess of outfielders, albeit of the lower-profile variety: as well as Stubbs, they have Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez. It is at least possible, that Blackmon will see as much playing time there as Stubbs. But it appears they have been offering the former in trade talks, looking to upgrade their pitching staff in exchange for Blackmon's four seasons of control. Stubbs' main problem is his splits: while he torches left-handers, Stubbs only hits righties at a .232 career clip, with a Satanic .666 OPS. That's woeful, considering the Coors effect, and is why Colorado find themselves in last here.
This is perhaps the most evenly-matched category around the diamond, with little to separate the five teams in the division - none are outstanding, but they all have some reason for optimism, based either on past performance or future potential. Pederson certainly comes in with an impressive pedigree, and long-term may end up being the best of the current bunch. However, his lack of major-league experience makes his output far from a sure thing. For the D-backs, we'll hope Pollock can avoid further unfortunate injury and return to the form he showed in early 2014, showing why Eaton became dispensable to the previous regime.
The story so far
Below, you'll find a chart summarizing the findings, which we'll update as we continue this series. For each position, we have awarded the teams a rating of between one and five stars, depending on how strong they are projected to be at the position. Generally, a five-star rating requires them to be among the best in the majors; a four-star one is clearly one of strength; three stars would be about average; two stars is a position of concern; and one star is a gurgling vortex of suck.