As before, I'm using the projected numbers from Fangraphs at each position to determine the rankings.
1. Padres: 3.0 WAR (#5 overall)
Everyday starter: Justin Upton (2.8)
Backup: Carlos Quentin (0.2)
He's BAAAAAAACK... Well, back in the National League West, anyway. Upton was dealt to the Padres by the Braves in December, thanks to the signing of Nick Markakis and a desire to build for the future [J-Up was in the final year of his contract, and is due $14.5 million this season]. So, less than two years after the blockbuster Upton/Prado deal between us and the Braves, the highest profile player remaining with either team was Chris Johnson. Seems likely Petco will have its usual dampening effect on Upton's offense, with a projected OPS of .779. But he's still likely an upgrade: his 29 home-runs last year, were as many as all the San Diego outfielders put together.
2. Rockies: 2.7 WAR (#10)
Everyday starter: Carlos Gonzalez (2.2)
Backup: Corey Dickerson (0.5)
Remember when the Rockies signed Gonzalez and Tulo to long-term extensions, and prepared to be long-term contenders in the NL West? This year, the pair will earn a combined $36 million: add Jorge de la Rosa's $12,5m and that's more than half the team's expected payroll. Only the Mets and Mariners are more top-heavy. Good when healthy, it doesn't help that CarGo and Troy-boy didn't play 162 games combined in 2014. Gonzalez managed only 70, thanks to problems with his finger, ankle and a knee that required season-ending surgery in August. This is why the projections see the backups getting 30% of the playing time - and that might end up being an under-estimate.
3. Dodgers: 2.5 WAR (#12)
Everyday starter: Carl Crawford (1.8)
Backup: Scott Van Slyke (0.7)
With the Dodgers severely overstocked in the outfield department, there were rumblings at the beginning of the off-season that Crawford might be on the trade block, with rumors of a swap for the Rangers' shortstop Elvis Andrus. But when the dust settled on a very busy winter for Los Angeles, it was Matt Kemp who had gone. The left-handed Crawford will likely platoon with the rightie Van Slyke: the main issue is that the 33-year-old Crawford will be paid $21.36 million this year, and additionally is on the books through the end of 2017. Decent enough, yet undeniably over-paid. [Note: he's only the fourth-most expensive player on the Dodgers roster this season]
4. Giants 1.7 WAR (#21)
Everyday starter: Norichika Aoki (1.4)
Backup: Gregor Blanco (0.3)
Having lost Michael Morse to free-agency, the Giants needed to find a replacement, but went for a less-powerful option, whose strengths are more speed and defense. However, it doesn't look like Aoki will be batting lead-off for the Giants, as he did with Kansas City - that role remains in the hands of Angel Pagan. Still, if he can reproduce the .349 on-base percentage, with almost as many walks as strikeouts (43:49), he should be productive enough to justify his relatively-low cost of $4 million. That's even if he also reproduces the solitary home-run hit by Aoki over his 491 at-bats during the 2014 season.
5. Diamondbacks 1.2 WAR (#25)
Everyday starter: Mark Trumbo (1.0)
Backup: Ender Inciarte (0.2)
No evidence to back this up, but I have a theory that we traded for Trumbo in a mistaken belief the DH was about to be added to the National League. He'd be perfect in that role, but unfortunately, his limited defensive range all but wiped out any positives from his offensive production last year. We have to keep our fingers crossed that resulted from the slew of health issues experienced by Trumbo. The projections don't think Inciarte would be any better, which is disappointing, but I guess, given his appearance out of almost nowhere in 2014, it's not too surprising. As noted before, there is no projection for Yasmany Tomas, so who knows if he'll fit in to this picture.
Looks like another area where we have to hope for the best. However, there are at least several ways in which "the best" could happen. Perhaps the best-case scenario, for the team's long-term success, sees Trumbo returning to being a 30-homer guy, and bringing a nice haul at the trade deadline [again: long-term success. I'm taking it as read for the purposes of this paragraph that the Diamondbacks will be out of contention]. That opens the door for Tomas to return to left-field, while Jake Lamb takes over at third-base, and Inciarte proves that 2014 wasn't a fluke, adopting a roaming fourth outfielder role and torching right-handed pitching.
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.