Swing, batter: NL West players with top hit tool

April 24th, 2020

Since the advent of the three-division format, the National League West has produced the league’s batting champion in 17 of 26 seasons. From Tony Gwynn to Larry Walker to Justin Morneau, the division has seen a string of hitters with exceptional ability to put bat on ball.

That is no different in 2020. Former American League batting champ Mookie Betts has joined the Dodgers. Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. appears destined for superstar status after a spectacular, albeit shortened, rookie season in San Diego. The Rockies have several players with the offensive skill and consistency to maximize the Coors Field effect in their favor.

Here's a look at who has the best hit tool on each NL West team:

D-backs: Ketel Marte
Acquiring from the Mariners was one of the first moves Mike Hazen made after taking over as D-backs general manager in the fall of 2016, and it remains one of his best. Marte had a good year in 2018, but the one thing that held him back was his struggles from the left side of the plate, where he hit just .224 as opposed to .321 from the right side. Marte spent the offseason working on some new mechanics at the plate from the left side that allowed him to find better balance, and the results were impressive. The Dominican Republic native hit .329 from the left side last year and .327 from the right. His ability to make contact and his eye for the strike zone are evidenced by the fact he slugged .592 and struck out just 86 times in 628 plate appearances. -- Steve Gilbert

Dodgers: Justin Turner
Picking among current Dodgers for the best hitting tool is almost as tough as pitching to them. Two (Betts and Cody Bellinger) have won MVP Awards, with Betts also a batting champ. is clutch, consistent and analytical. While Bellinger has the frame and swing best crafted for today’s pull-happy, launch-angle, shift-defeating power game, Turner’s postseason poise and production against the toughest pitching gives him the edge in a blanket finish. -- Ken Gurnick

Giants: Buster Posey
A hip injury hampered ’s offensive production the last two seasons, but a quick glance at his résumé reveals his immense talent as a hitter. A six-time All-Star, Posey has earned an NL MVP Award, four Silver Slugger Awards and was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2010. In 2012, he won the NL batting crown with a .336 clip, becoming the first catcher to accomplish the feat since the Braves’ Ernie Lombardi in 1942. His .302 career batting average ranks third in San Francisco history, behind only Barry Bonds (.312) and Orlando Cepeda (.308). -- Maria Guardado

Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr.
’s hit tool works for so many reasons. First and foremost, he hits the ball with authority. Statcast metrics show Tatis recorded barrels on 13.2 percent of his batted balls last season -- tops for a Padres hitter and more than double the Major League average. But Tatis is also patient and works counts. And when he doesn’t hit the ball hard -- well, he has a knack for turning those into hits, as well. Tatis’ “misses,” one Padres coach mused last season, were often bloops into shallow right or slow grounders to third (which he managed to beat out). There’s a reason Tatis was challenging to become the youngest batting champ in baseball history before his back injury last August: He can hit. -- AJ Cassavell

Rockies: Charlie Blackmon
The Rockies have planned to move right fielder from leadoff to third in the order, and the numbers explain why. Over the last three seasons, Blackmon has hit .312 with a .374 on-base percentage. According to Statcast, Blackmon posted a career-best 40.1 percent hard-hit rate last season. There is competition in this category: Third baseman Nolan Arenado has improved his selectivity and willingness to flare pitches the opposite way, Daniel Murphy has a .298 career batting average and new leadoff man David Dahl has Blackmon-esque bat-to-ball skills. -- Thomas Harding