Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Each NL West team's secret weapon is ...

@matthewhleach
April 18, 2019

Sure, you know the obvious. You know Cody Bellinger is raking and you know Madison Bumgarner is dealing. But some assets are a little less obvious. MLB.com is taking a look at some of the “secret weapons” in each division. In some cases, it’s an unheralded player. In some cases,

Sure, you know the obvious. You know Cody Bellinger is raking and you know Madison Bumgarner is dealing. But some assets are a little less obvious.

MLB.com is taking a look at some of the “secret weapons” in each division. In some cases, it’s an unheralded player. In some cases, it’s something the team does well, or a combination of players and skills. Hopefully in every case you learn a little something.

D-backs:

In an era of extreme bullpen specialization, of 12- and 13-man pitching staffs, the trend is toward super-versatile bench players. The D-backs have gone the other way. They’re carrying three catchers, and more notably, using them all.

Yes, you do sometimes see a club carry a third catcher, but often he’s an emergency option, or alternately somebody who isn’t really a catcher but a bat. Arizona uses all three guys. They rotate. With Alex Avila on the injured list, four players have started at least two games behind the plate.

It’s not a straight rotation like with pitchers ... but it’s not totally different either. That allows extra game planning for the catcher who is starting the next day to work extensively with that game’s starter.

Dodgers:

Maybe this one isn’t such a secret, but it’s absolutely essential. It’s the combination of depth and versatility that the Los Angeles front office has amassed.

Injuries to three key members of the starting rotation? No problem. Julio Urias, Ross Stripling and Caleb Ferguson step in. Oh, by the way, all three of those guys can shuffle back to help in the bullpen once the rotation gets healthy.

Bellinger needs to miss a day or two? Alex Verdugo slots right in. Bellinger isn’t at full strength when he comes back? No worries, he can play first. Max Muncy has started games at first, second, and third this year. Chris Taylor has started at second, short, and in center. Enrique Hernandez started at seven positions last year.

Giants:

Remember all the concerns about the Giants’ outfield over the offseason, and even through the spring? Well, they didn’t sign a big-name free agent, and there are still concerns about the offense from the group. But in one key way, San Francisco definitely did upgrade -- outfield defense.

In trade acquisition Kevin Pillar and homegrown Steven Duggar, the Giants essentially have two center fielders who can cover a ton of ground in their expansive outfield at Oracle Park. Free-agent signee Gerardo Parra, meanwhile, is a two-time Gold Glove Award winner with one of the best arms in baseball.

The Giants' outfield currently leads the Majors with 14 Defensive Runs Saved and is tied with the Rays for the lead in Outs Above Average. That’s a big help to a pitching staff that doesn’t get a ton of ground balls.

Padres:

Can you name the missing player on this list?

Gary Sanchez, Pete Alonso, Mike Trout, Christian Walker, _???_, Anthony Rendon, Aaron Judge.

The missing name would be Franmil Reyes. The list is most barrels per plate appearance, with a minimum 30 plate appearances in 2019. A barrel is a statcast metric measuring ideal contact, the primo combination of exit velocity and launch angle. And Reyes is in absolutely elite company. He hits the ball as well as anybody.

It’s not quite showing up just yet, though he is slugging .510 even with a .224 average. Reyes’ strike zone has improved this year, too. When the hits start falling, and they will, the league will see what Padres fans already know. Though he was an unheralded prospect, Reyes is one of the most dangerous young hitters in the game.

Rockies:

Sometimes the best-kept secret is actually a great player. And somehow, German Marquez is still a well-kept secret.

You can be sure opponents know him, though. Marquez, 24, showed all the signs of an impending breakout last year, with 230 strikeouts against 57 walks, a 2.61 ERA after the break, and a 2.95 ERA away from Denver. This year, he’s making good on that promise.

He hasn’t yet conquered Coors, but that’s hardly a fair ask (and it’s only been one start). Overall, Marquez has been dominant -- 25 Ks and six walks over four starts, one homer allowed in three road starts, a 2.00 ERA. He’s the best National League pitcher the average fan may not have heard of.

Matthew Leach is an editor and reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach.