These NL West hitters have elite batting eyes

May 1st, 2020

There are many factors that have led the Dodgers to seven consecutive National League West titles. But the reason that especially stands out has been their potent lineup's excellent offensive approach.

Last season, Los Angeles ranked second in the NL with a .338 on-base percentage, behind only the World Series champion Nationals (.342). The Dodgers ranked first with an .810 OPS, as their patience at the plate also helped them hit an NL-high 279 home runs.

But the other four NL West teams also have some strong hitters with keen eyes for pitch selection and the ability to capitalize on the right offerings. The D-backs, Giants and Rockies all have veterans anchoring their lineups, while the Padres -- who have struggled with getting on base at a high rate in recent seasons -- continue to improve by surrounding their youth with some key additions.

Here’s a look at each NL West team's hitter with the best batting eye:

D-backs: Ketel Marte
slugged 32 homers last year despite missing the final few weeks of the season because of a stress reaction in his back. Usually strikeouts come with that type of power, but Marte whiffed only 86 times in 569 at-bats.

Of the 48 players in the Majors who hit at least 32 homers last year, the only player to strike out fewer times than Marte was Houston’s Alex Bregman, who fanned 83 times. Marte can get a little aggressive at the plate at times, but that approach has paid off, as he hit .329 with a .389 on-base percentage, making his first All-Star team and finishing fourth in NL MVP Award balloting along the way. -- Steve Gilbert

Dodgers: Mookie Betts
In a Dodgers lineup loaded with professional hitters, gets the nod, as he ranks seventh in MLB since 2016 in lowest chase rate for full-time players (19.2 percent) and ranked 14th in in-zone contact rate in '19 (92.1 percent). He surpasses new teammates Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Max Muncy and Corey Seager in both those metrics.

As’s Matt Kelly pointed out, Betts hit .340 against pitches in the strike zone since 2016. Known as a fastball hitter, he has raised his average against breaking balls each of the past three seasons, improving to .300 against them in '19. He’s disciplined enough to get ahead in the count, punishes fastballs and has greatly improved against breaking balls, creating an ideal formula to torment pitchers. -- Ken Gurnick

Giants: Brandon Belt
has been a polarizing player since he debuted with the Giants in 2011, with his detractors lamenting his lengthy injury history and his modest home run totals for a first baseman. But he also possesses elite strike-zone awareness, a skill that earned him praise from Gabe Kapler at the manager’s introductory press conference in November.

"I've thought a lot about Brandon Belt and specifically what he brings -- how impressive it is to watch him take an at-bat, independent of the outcome of the at-bat," Kapler said. "He tends to look over pitches and make really good swing-or-don't-swing decisions."

The Belt Wars may continue to rage among Giants fans, but he is unquestionably valued and appreciated by the front office and coaching staff. With a .354 career on-base percentage, Belt should play a key role in setting the tone for the club’s offense once baseball returns. -- Maria Guardado

Padres: Tommy Pham
doesn’t merely have the best eye on the 2020 Padres -- he might have the best eye for a San Diego hitter in years. His.373 career on-base percentage is higher than any qualifying Padres batter in a single season since Chase Headley's .376 clip in '12.

Pham’s .381 OBP over the past three seasons placed him tied with Los Angeles' Max Muncy at No. 17 overall among qualified batters -- right between elite hitters like Houston’s José Altuve and St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt. Clearly, Pham can be a useful acquisition for a San Diego team that finished last in the Majors in OBP for five straight seasons before ranking 26th in 2019. -- AJ Cassavell

Rockies: Nolan Arenado
displayed power from the beginning of his career, but he bought into selectivity after former teammate Carlos González helped convince him he could be a .300 hitter. Arenado's eye is a bit non-traditional: He is among the best in the game at homering on pitches out of the strike zone, tallying 18 extra-base hits (seven homers) and 54 total base knocks on such pitches last season.

Arenado also batted a career-best .315 last season, after hitting .297 in 2018 and .309 in '17. His .379 on-base percentage led the Rockies in '19, and late in the year, he and many of Colorado’s other key hitters zeroed in on counts in which they can be more selective. By leading the way, Arenado could add to his argument in future NL MVP Award discussions. -- Thomas Harding