The Top 10 Best Players in the NL West for the 2024 Season

Already stacked with talent, the NL West added another superstar this winter. These are the best position players in the division.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 07: Mookie Betts #50 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels in the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium on July 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The NL West is stacked with top-tier talent.

Three of the top five MLB position players in FanGraphs WAR last season now play in the NL West. Okay, fine, three of the top five MLB position players in FanGraphs WAR last season now play for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Still, the San Diego Padres have four three superstars of their own, and the Arizona Diamondbacks employ one of the flashiest young studs in the game. Even the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies have a couple of guys who deserve your attention.

Here at Just Baseball, we have already ranked the best positions players in some of the most competitive divisions in baseball. However, the NL West might just take the cake in terms of top-10 talent.

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From dependable veterans to high-ceiling youngsters, this division has it all. These are the top 10 positions players in the National League West.

Honorable Mentions

The Rockie: Nolan Jones

I couldn’t write about the NL West without mentioning the Rockies. At the same time, I couldn’t justify putting Nolan Jones into the top 10.

Jones was terrific last year. In 106 games, his 3.7 FanGraphs WAR ranked 13th in the NL West and 29th overall in the National League. His 4.3 Baseball Reference WAR was even better, ranking 10th in the NL West and 19th in the Senior Circuit.

However, I’m not quite convinced he can maintain that high level of performance. His .401 BABIP was unsustainable, even by Coors Field standards. Most projection systems see him as a good, but not quite so great, player.

The Great Defenders

Patrick Bailey, Ha-Seong Kim, Gabriel Moreno, James Outman, Christian Walker

I could have picked any of these guys to go in the No. 10 spot on the list. All five had excellent seasons in 2023, and thanks to their Gold Glove-caliber defense, they have high floors entering the 2024 season. Even if they slump at the plate, it’s a safe bet that Bailey, Kim, Moreno, Outman, and Walker will contribute in the field.

10. Jung Hoo Lee, OF, San Francisco Giants

This is a risky pick, but I’m sticking with it. Not only is Jung Hoo Lee new to MLB, but he is coming off of an injury-shortened down year in Korea. On top of that, it’s normal for KBO players to take some time adjusting when they arrive in MLB. Look no further than Ha-Seong Kim, who stumbled through a rough rookie season with the Padres before taking off in his sophomore campaign.

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Still, Lee has star potential that sets him apart from the other names I could’ve chosen for this final spot. His KBO numbers from 2021 and ’22 are absolutely absurd. If he can make a quick adjustment to MLB pitching and live up to his potential at the plate, he could be an all-around stud.

9. Ketel Marte, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks

Ketel Marte started slowly drifting into afterthought territory in the years following his star-making 2019 season. However, he bounced back in a big way last year, capping it off with a terrific showing in the postseason.

Although he has nine years of big league experience under his belt, Marte is still just 30 years old. Few players can offer that combination of relative youth and veteran leadership.

Furthermore, while he doesn’t boast many standout skills, Marte is good at just about everything. His high-contact approach means he’s more susceptible to the BABIP gods than most, but he has increased his walk rate in each of the past three seasons, and with 20-homer power in his bat, he should be an above-average hitter no matter what.

8. Manny Machado, 3B, San Diego Padres

Manny Machado could make me regret ranking him this low. He could really make me regret it. After all, it’s only been a year since I picked him to win the NL MVP.

Unfortunately, his offseason elbow surgery has me too worried to put him any higher on this list. His swing might not be back to full strength in time for Opening Day, and it’s anyone’s guess when he’ll return to play third base. If Machado is DH-ing for a significant portion of the season, he won’t be nearly as valuable as he would be at the hot corner.

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Machado has a ceiling as high as the superstars at the top of this ranking. However, he’s a much bigger risk – and that was true even before his latest injury. The two names I ranked just ahead of him, Xander Bogaerts and Will Smith, outperformed him by fWAR in two of the past three seasons.

Then again, his 7.5 fWAR in 2022 was higher than Smith or Bogaerts has ever reached in his career. Like I said, Machado could make me regret this.

7. Will Smith, C, Los Angeles Dodgers

Smith isn’t a superstar like the six names ranked ahead of him. He’s never had an MVP-caliber season. Somewhat surprisingly, he has never even received an MVP vote.

Nonetheless, Smith has been one of the most talented and consistent catchers in baseball since making his debut in 2019. Over the past five years, no NL catcher has a higher wRC+ than his 128. Only J.T. Realmuto has played more innings behind the dish.

Since 2021, Smith ranks 23rd among all players in FanGraphs WAR. Among those who currently call the NL West home, he ranks sixth. Plus, at 28 years old, there is no reason to think he’ll slow down anytime soon.

Smith might not have gotten the recognition he deserves to this point in his career, but it’s time that changed. He is the best catcher in the NL and one of the top 10 players in the NL West.

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6. Xander Bogaerts, SS, San Diego Padres

Over the past five seasons, no primary shortstop has played more games than Xander Bogaerts (660). Only one, Corey Seager, has a higher OPS or wRC+ in that time.

In addition to his durability and powerful bat, Bogaerts has blossomed into a capable defensive shortstop. While he struggled defensively early in his career, he has been worth 8 OAA the past two years.

Interestingly, Bogaerts has a lot in common with his teammate Manny Machado. They’re both 31 years old. They’re both signed to contracts that run through their age-40 seasons. They both started their careers in the AL East before making their way to the same side of the diamond in San Diego.

Machado is the bigger star with the bigger contract and trophy case. Yet, over the past five years, the two have played just about the same number of games with eerily similar stat lines:

Xander Bogaerts66028229.6%17.9%.858.36613122.3
Manny Machado65728009.5%18.2%.839.35412720.1
2019-23 stats, via FanGraphs

If both were completely healthy, I’d give the edge to Machado. However, the two are close enough that one could make a good argument for picking Bogaerts even if Machado were at 100%.

5. Corbin Carroll, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks were so convinced of Corbin Carroll’s stardom after his 32-game cup of coffee in 2022 that they rewarded him with a nine-figure contract extension. The young outfielder quickly returned the favor, putting up a 6.0-fWAR season and leading his club to an NL pennant.

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Carroll set the bar high for himself in 2023, but he doesn’t need to be a six-win player every year to be one of the best corner outfielders in the game and one of the best all-around talents in the NL West. His elite sprint speed and impressive outfield range give him a high floor, while his contact skills and plus power give him an equally high ceiling.

Best of all, Carroll is easily the youngest player on this list at 23 years old. Expect him to dominate for the next decade, if not longer.

4. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers

Freddie Freeman has already secured his spot in the Hall of Fame. He has accomplished everything an MLB player could hope to accomplish. Yet like the great competitor he is, Freeman still isn’t satisfied. The past two seasons have been the best of his career, and I wouldn’t be shocked if went into an even higher gear in 2024.

While his age and defensive position keep him from climbing any higher on this ranking, Freeman is undoubtedly one of the greatest players of his generation.

3. Fernando Tatis Jr., OF, San Diego Padres

Fernando Tatis Jr. had his ups and downs last year, but ultimately, we’re talking about a guy who put up a 113 wRC+ and 4.4 fWAR in his first year at a completely new position after sitting out the entire 2022 campaign. All controversy aside, that is simply phenomenal.

Indeed, “phenomenal” might as well be his middle name. Tatis has racked up 18.1 fWAR with 451 hits, 106 home runs, and 273 RBI before the age of 25. He’s younger than a handful of top prospects, and he has already amassed the counting stats for what plenty of players would call a successful career.

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Tatis certainly has his question marks. He has shown himself to be unreliable, both on the field and off. At the same time, he has the highest ceiling of any position player in this division, and it’s not particularly close.

2. Shohei Ohtani, DH, Los Angeles Dodgers

Is this controversial? I’m not sure.

Around this time last year, I wrote about how Shohei Ohtani had officially dethroned Mike Trout as the best player in baseball. Now I’m saying he isn’t even the best player in his own division. What gives?

As amazing as Ohtani is, it’s important two things about this list: (1) it’s only for the upcoming season and (2) we’re only ranking position players. I can’t justify ranking a full-time DH number one, no matter how brightly his star shines.

And boy oh boy, does it shine. Ohtani led the sport with a 180 wRC+ next year, 10% better than Ronald Acuña Jr. in second place. He also led the AL with 44 home runs despite playing just 135 games.

In addition to posting career-bests in walk rate, strikeout rate, and all three triple-slash categories, Ohtani stole 20 bases and finished with a career-high 3.4 baserunning runs (per FanGraphs). He also ranked in the 96th percentile or higher in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate.

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I could go on and on, but I know I don’t have to. It’s Shohei Ohtani’s world and we’re all living in it.

1. Mookie Betts, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers

Coming in at number one is Mookie Betts; he’s the player who’s better than the best player in baseball.

Betts is the kind of player who makes baseball look easy, but he never makes it look boring. In fact, just to spice things up last year, he decided to become a really good infielder after winning six Gold Gloves in the outfield.

He’s also trying his darndest to become the second player to win an MVP in both leagues, and the first to ever win an MVP and a World Series on both the Junior and Senior Circuits. He has finished as the NL MVP runner-up (behind an Atlanta Brave) twice in the past four years, with another top-five finish in 2022.

Like his teammate Freeman, Betts has already punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame. Every time you watch him play, you know you’re watching one of the best to ever do it – and he’s still in the prime of his career.

Mookie Betts is the best player in the NL West.

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