As before, I'm using the projected numbers from Fangraphs at each position to determine the rankings.
1. Dodgers: 5.1 WAR (#4 overall)
Everyday starter: Yasiel Puig (4.9)
Backup: Andre Ethier (0.2)
Dammit all to hell, I feel dirty simply writing the above. Is it wrong to hope fervently the BABIP fairies, who have had Puig at a .366 clip over his first thousand plate-appearances, move on to sprinkle their magic dust elsewhere? It's the highest BABIP among all 685 major-leaguers with as many PAs since 2002, and would be so nice to see a decline set in. It's not impossible, because his line-drive rate, typically a big factor in BABIP, is nothing special at 16.5%, and while reasonably quick, Puig's no Billy Hamilton. I dunno, maybe he'll just be less irritating this year: worked like that for Bryce Harper. If not though: industrial-strength regression couldn't happen to a better candidate.
2. Giants: 3.1 WAR (#8)
Everyday starter: Hunter Pence (3.0)
Backup: Norichika Aoki (0.1)
Somehow, I'd vagued over how good Pence has been, but he has averaged over five WAR the past couple of seasons. However, he will turn 32 not long after Opening Day, and the projections expect the moderate slide in his value which took place last year, to accelerate - though Pence is still expected to be better than most. His defense may also be a bit of problem, even if he hits another 20 home-runs: Hunter hasn't had a positive value with his glove since he was an Astro in 2009. He's a Giant through the end of 2018, at a cost of $18.5 million per year: I sense he won't be worth that by the time the contract ends, but he seems unlikely be much of an albatross this season.
3. Padres: 2.0 WAR (#17)
Everyday starter: Matt Kemp (1.8)
Backup: Will Venable (0.2)
Not sure who will be more weirded-out by the Padres outfield this year: Arizona or Los Angeles fans, with both sets seeing their former franchise faces now wearing camo on Sundays. At least we're not funding Upton: the Dodgers are chipping in a cool $18 million towards Kemp's salary for the Padres this year, then $3.75 million every season through 2019. Such is the price of signing a player to a long-term contract, immediately after he puts up the highest WAR (8.4) by an NL position player since 2009. Since then? Not so much: 4.6 WAR total over 2012-2014. If that continues, especially if Kemp's arthritic hip comes into play, San Diego will have lots of time to regret this one.
4. Rockies 0.9 WAR (#27)
Everyday starter: Charlie Blackmon (0.3)
Backup: Corey Dickerson (0.6)
I mentioned last time about the Rockies potentially dealing Blackmon, and the above stats may indicate why, since they would appear better off with Dickerson playing there full time - that WAR is in half the playing time of Blackmon. Dickerson more or less came out of nowhere (an 8th-round pick) to post a 142 OPS+ for Colorado last year, in his sophomore season, although there are some concerns about his defense. He was also a Coors product, with a road OPS 363 points lower than the home figure. Still, with the fifth-best 2014 OPS among qualified NL hitters, he'll certainly get his playing-time this season, it's more a question of at where. If it's RF, Colorado might be okay.
5. Diamondbacks 0.7 WAR (#29)
Everyday starter: David Peralta (0.6)
Backup: Cody Ross (0.2)
To say the least, it's not an encouraging projection for the D-backs, but I have hopes things might not be as bleak as painted here. I'd like to see Chip Hale basically use a strict platoon: we know that Ross is much better against left-handers, but Peralta's splits last year were also dramatic. His OPS vs RHP was .848, while versus LHP it was only .510. Put the two of them together, and you could get decent production out of the spot. Since we are on the hook for $9.5 million to Cody anyway, with not much chance of trading for anything worthwhile, we might as well squeeze the maximum possible out of him. But based on these numbers, I can't go with other than one star here.
Going by these projections, it's a toss-up whether our worst position will be this one or catcher, but I don't feel anywhere near as concerned about right field. Properly used, I think we can be serviceable, though that would depend on both Ross still being decent against left-handers, and Peralta not being a single-season mirage (like 2009 NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, who has been worth a total of 0.8 WAR since): it's not unreasonable to say David is the kind of player that baffles most projection systems, having less than 450 minor-league PAs between signing out of indie ball and being called up. Is he the real thing? We certainly hope so.
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.