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5 NL West players with something to prove

@SteveGilbertMLB
August 22, 2019

Whether they are running away with the division like the Dodgers, battling for a Wild Card spot like the Giants or looking more toward next season like the Rockies, there is still plenty on the line for players on National League West teams. Over the next six weeks, players will

Whether they are running away with the division like the Dodgers, battling for a Wild Card spot like the Giants or looking more toward next season like the Rockies, there is still plenty on the line for players on National League West teams.

Over the next six weeks, players will solidify their postseason roles or go a long way towards sewing up roster spots for 2020.

This week we take a look at one player from each NL West team that has something to prove as the season heads down the stretch:

D-backs: Archie Bradley, RHP

Bradley was dominant as a setup man during the team’s 2017 run to the NL Wild Card Game, but he took a step backwards last season and struggled earlier this year as well. With Greg Holland gone, the closer’s job now belongs to Bradley.

It’s a role he’s performed in occasionally, but he now has a chance to show the D-backs that he can not only handle the role the rest of this season, but that he’s a guy they can count on to be their closer next year as well.

Dodgers: Kenley Jansen, RHP

Simply put, Jansen is not the dominant force he was in 2017 when the Dodgers came within a game of winning the World Series. His velocity has dipped, and the cutter is not the intimidating pitch it once was when he could ride it almost exclusively.

Jansen is trying to adjust to the new normal, incorporating more sliders and two-seam fastballs to try and recapture his previous form and reassure the Dodgers that he can be counted on in October. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have been trying out rookies Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May in relief roles to try and stabilize the bullpen.

-- Ken Gurnick

Giants: Brandon Crawford, SS

Crawford was the starting shortstop for the National League at last year's All-Star Game, but he's struggled to settle into an offensive groove for the Giants this season. His .642 OPS ranks last among qualified shortstops, and he's also shown a dip in power, with a .347 slugging percentage that is the third-worst among qualified hitters. Crawford's -0.2 WAR is on track to be the worst of his career, according to FanGraphs.

Crawford is still under contract through 2021 for a total of $30 million and the Giants would like to know that they’re going to get their money’s worth as they assess future plans.

-- Maria Guardado

Padres: Wil Myers, OF

So bad were Myers’ struggles earlier this season that the Padres gave him a de facto month off from late June into July, using him as a defensive replacement and pinch-hitter while he worked extensively on his swing pregame.

Those changes appear to have paid some dividends. Entering play Wednesday, Myers was hitting .259 in the second half, compared with his .217 mark in the first. But Myers’ .714 OPS this season simply isn’t good enough, especially for someone who is owed more than $20 million per season through 2022.

-- AJ Cassavell

Rockies: Kyle Freeland, LHP

Freeland finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting last year after he seemingly had solved the mystery of pitching well at Coors Field, going 10-2 with a 2.40 ERA. This year, though, he struggled so badly the team sent him to the Minors to try and work things out.

One key for Freeland is limiting the long ball. Last year he allowed 0.8 homers per nine innings, while this year he was at 2.3. The Rockies still believe in him, but a strong finish to the season would go a long way toward giving the young lefty confidence heading into next spring. Potentially complicating matters is the fact that Freeland was placed on the injured list on Wednesday after exiting his start on Tuesday with a left groin strain in the sixth inning.

-- Thomas Harding

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.