NL West: Checking in on the new guys
SAN DIEGO -- Yes, Matt Kemp and Chris Iannetta really are impacting the Dodgers and Rockies, respectively. We swear it's 2018.
There are plenty of new faces in the National League West, and a handful of new old faces as well. All of them are sure to play pivotal roles in what figures to be one of the sport's tightest division races.
Three weeks into the Major League season, it's worth examining the performances of a few prominent newcomers in the NL West. Here's a breakdown of the early results and future expectations for the big-name new guy on each club.
Who's the new guy? Right-hander Brad Boxberger
How's it going so far? Boxberger has been everything the D-backs hoped for when they acquired him from the Rays in December. The right-hander won the closer's job during Spring Training, beating out Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano. Arizona likes his downward-plane fastball as well as his changeup, which he has shown the willingness to throw in any count.
What's on deck? Durability has been a question for Boxberger as he missed significant time in each of the past two seasons due to a variety of injuries. This spring he experienced a tired arm, and the D-backs have been careful with his workload. The presence of Bradley and Hirano have made it easier to stay away from Boxberger on the couple of occasions when they've wanted to give him a break.
Number to know: Boxberger is 5-for-5 in save opportunities over eight appearances. He allowed his first two runs Wednesday night against San Francisco, but he's struck out 11, and opponents are hitting just .179 against him.
Who's the new guy? Outfielder Matt Kemp
How's it going so far? Better than everyone thought it would. There have been zero signs of perceived bad attitude from Kemp's first Dodgers stint, which was mostly bluster anyway. He has been healthy -- not to be overlooked with Justin Turner and John Forsythe on the disabled list. Kemp is no longer Gold Glover Award-caliber, but he hasn't done anything terribly wrong in the outfield, either. A solid acquisition -- so far.
What's on deck? Can Kemp keep it up? He's already been starting more than the club originally indicated, and he does have a history of hip and leg injuries. Manager Dave Roberts will continue to replace Kemp when the club leads, both to improve the defense and preserve his health. Kemp strikes out a lot, but opponents still must respect the bat.
Number to know: Kemp's .981 OPS is better than Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor and everyone in the starting lineup other than Yasmani Grandal.
Who are the new guys? Third baseman Evan Longoria and outfielder Andrew McCutchen
How's it going so far?
The Giants' prized offseason acquisitions slumped out of the gate, both lingering around the Mendoza Line early on. Longoria, however, appears to have turned a corner, with four multihit games in his past five. McCutchen, meanwhile, has done very little since his six-hit night against the Dodgers (which included a dramatic walk-off home run).
What's on deck?
San Francisco is committed to letting Longoria and McCutchen figure things out at the plate, banking on their combined 21 seasons of big league experience shining through in the long run.
Number to know: Neither McCutchen nor Longoria has ever posted a season with an OPS+ at or below 100 (meaning they've been above league average every year they've spent in the Majors). Right now, both are well below that mark.
Who's the new guy? First baseman Eric Hosmer
How's it going so far? Hosmer was off to a hot start before missing a couple games with lower-back tightness. He's fallen into a bit of a rut, going 2-for-21 over the past week. But Hosmer launched his first homer as a Padre at Petco Park on Wednesday night -- a rally-starting solo shot off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. Defensively, his mishap in Houston grabbed plenty of headlines, but he's been rock-solid otherwise.
What's on deck? Hosmer will continue hitting third, and he's going to anchor first base for the next five years, at least. (Hosmer's eight-year deal with an option after the first five was the largest in team history.) Soon enough, William Myers will return from the DL to help comprise a formidable middle of the lineup alongside Hosmer.
Number to know: Hosmer's 61-percent ground-ball rate ranks sixth in the Majors. He's seen a bit of good fortune -- as evidenced from his .348 batting average on balls in play. But Hosmer has done his part to hit the ball hard enough to find holes.
Who's the new guy? Catcher Chris Iannetta
How's it going so far? Iannetta, who broke in with the Rockies in 2006, was brought in for defense and to nurture a young pitching staff. His impact bat has been a bonus. Iannetta has slugged .434 with three doubles and two homers. With the rest of the lineup struggling, he's filled in at the No. 2 spot.
What's on deck? Even if the slugging declines, Iannetta's pitch-calling and leadership won't. If the offensive output continues over the full season, that's even better for Colorado.
Number to know: Iannetta posted a .953 OPS during the Rockies' first homestand of the season. Colorado begins a six-game stretch at Coors Field on Friday against the Cubs.