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MLB Top 10s: Tulo No. 1 while Dodgers dominate NL West's best

by | Baseball Writer

More MLB: Power Rankings | Expert Picks | Latest news & notes | Fantasy news

In the Eye On Baseball Top 10, here's what we do: Rank players according to criteria. Those criteria change depending upon week and whim, but the Top 10 will always be informed by some angle or another, painfully contrived or otherwise.

And that brings us to this week's guiding query: Who have been the best position players and pitchers in the NL West thus far in 2014?

As you're no doubt aware, we've been using this space to name the top performers in each of MLB's six divisions. Now we'll conclude this mini-series by dropping in on the Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Rockies and Diamondbacks.

So as the question above implies, these are NL West hitters and hurlers who are producing the most value in 2014. We list them with no regard for their pre-2014 histories and no regard for whether or not these performances are sustainable. This is about performance in 2014 to date and nothing else. As for position players, defense and base-running are very much part of the calculus.

Omissions? It was tough to leave off names like Buster Posey, Michael Morse, Charlie Blackmon, Brad Ziegler and Tommy Kahnle, among others. It was demonstrably less tough to leave off Kirk Gibson. That's the case for a number of reasons, one of which is the fact that he's currently a manager.

So let us now recite baseball names for the dual purposes of SEO and making you angry. Feel free to brandish your incorrect opinions and make idle threats in the comments section.

Weapons-grade complaints and spleen-venting? By all means, reach out to the author at hotmail@hotmail.jpg.

Superstar production makes Troy Tulowitzki an MVP candidate despite the Rockies' record. (USATSI)
Superstar production makes Troy Tulowitzki an MVP candidate despite the Rockies' record. (USATSI)

1. Troy Tulowitzki, SS - Colorado Rockies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 1
Clayton Kershaw The NL MVP at the break? Quite possibly. Tulo is healthy (345 plate appearances), he's still playing shortstop at an elite level, he's batting .349/.442/.602, and he has walked almost as much as he has struck out. He deserves better than what surrounds him in Denver.
Key Stats: 289 AB, 18 HR, .349 AVG, 47 RBI, 68 R, 1 SB
2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B - Arizona Diamondbacks
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 2
Tim Hudson Simply put, Goldschmidt has developed into one of the best hitters in baseball. Last season, he broke out in large part because of the strides he made against same-side pitching.
Key Stats: 339 AB, 16 HR, .313 AVG, 59 RBI, 66 R, 8 SB
3. Yasiel Puig, RF - Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 5
Zack Greinke Think whatever you want of Puig, so long as you primarily think of him as this: a damn good ballplayer. This season, the 23-year-old Cuban is batting .307/.393/.516. He's on pace for 21 homers and 44 doubles. He has also increased his walk percentage and reduced his strikeout percentage vs. rookie-season levels.
Key Stats: 322 AB, 12 HR, .307 AVG, 50 RBI, 50 R, 7 SB
4. Hanley Ramirez, SS - Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 2
Josh Beckett Ramirez has coped with some bumps and bruises this season, but he's still gutted out 80 games and played almost 700 innings at shortstop. For the year, he's batting .273/.366/.472 while the average MLB shortstop checks in at .254/.312/.375.
Key Stats: 282 AB, 11 HR, .273 AVG, 48 RBI, 43 R, 11 SB
5. Hunter Pence, RF - San Francisco Giants
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 11
Madison Bumgarner Pence rarely reaches the heights of aesthetic pleasure, but all he does is hit and play baseball. The 31-year-old entered play Monday batting .301/.360/.472 (138 OPS+) and in line for a run at 200 hits.
Key Stats: 355 AB, 11 HR, .299 AVG, 31 RBI, 64 R, 7 SB
6. Dee Gordon, 2B - Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 6
Hyun-Jin Ryu Gordon mans a key up-the-middle position, and he's batting .302/.356/.416 (119 OPS+). As well, Gordon adds a great deal of value on the bases: MLB-leading 42 steals against nine times caught, and he has taken the extra base 64 percent of the time.
Key Stats: 334 AB, 2 HR, .302 AVG, 25 RBI, 50 R, 42 SB
7. Miguel Montero, C - Arizona Diamondbacks
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 14
Andrew Cashner Montero is a skilled framer of pitches and a durable presence behind the plate (he's on pace to catch at least 1,000 innings for the fourth straight year, and he's played in 82 games). As well, Montero this season is batting .265/.347/.422 -- plus production by catcher standards.
Key Stats: 294 AB, 11 HR, .265 AVG, 52 RBI, 32 R, 0 SB
8. Brandon Crawford, SS - San Francisco Giants
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 38
Huston Street Crawford remains a top-tier glove-man at short, and he has made steady progress at the plate throughout his career (he's doing a much better job of hitting the ball in the air this year). This season, Crawford's .740 OPS is more than solid enough for a shortstop in 2014 who calls run-suppressing AT&T Park home.
Key Stats: 279 AB, 7 HR, .240 AVG, 36 RBI, 34 R, 2 SB
9. Justin Morneau, 1B - Colorado Rockies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 16
Jordan Lyles Morneau's enjoying a nice bounce-back season in Colorado, as he's batting .315/.347/.514. Sure, Coors has helped, but he has also been productive on the road in 2014 (.824 OPS away from home). If it holds up, it'll be Morneau's most productive qualifying season since 2009.
Key Stats: 317 AB, 13 HR, .315 AVG, 59 RBI, 36 R, 0 SB
10. Seth Smith, LF - San Diego Padres
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 92
Joaquin Benoit Smith has always been somewhat useful in platoon-advantaged situations, but this year it has all come together. His 150 OPS+ in 76 games tells the story. Sure, Smith gives some runs back with subpar glove-work in the outfield, but a .490 SLG while playing home games in Petco is no small feat.
Key Stats: 249 AB, 9 HR, .273 AVG, 26 RBI, 34 R, 1 SB
1. Clayton Kershaw, SP - Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 1
Clayton Kershaw The best pitcher on the planet is also, as you may have already surmised, the best pitcher in the NL West. Kershaw is toting around a 36-inning scoreless streak, and he's also striking out 34.3 percent of the batters he has faced while walking just 3.6 percent. That level of command is simply unthinkable. This season, he has also induced 121 ground balls vs. just 51 fly balls. What a moundsman he is.
Key Stats: 87.1 IP, 10-2 W-L, 0 SV, 1.85 ERA, 115 Ks, 12 BB
2. Tim Hudson, SP - San Francisco Giants
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 41
Tim Hudson Even on the verge of turning 39, Hudson remains a master when it comes to managing contact. This season, he boasts a 2.53 ERA in 113 2/3 innings. In a related matter, Hudson isn't walking anyone, and he owns a GB/FB ratio 2.46. He's also one of eight NL qualifiers to average more than 6.5 innings per start this season.
Key Stats: 113.2 IP, 7-5 W-L, 0 SV, 2.53 ERA, 74 Ks, 16 BB
3. Zack Greinke, SP - Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 17
Zack Greinke On most teams, Greinke would be the staff ace. Things as they are, however, he's "merely" perhaps the best No. 2 starter in baseball. This season, Greinke owns an ERA+ of 132, and he ranks second in the NL with a K/BB ratio of 5.41.
Key Stats: 111.2 IP, 11-4 W-L, 0 SV, 2.66 ERA, 119 Ks, 22 BB
4. Josh Beckett, SP - Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 81
Josh Beckett What a pleasantly surprising age-34 season Beckett is having. In addition to tossing a no-hitter, Beckett has pitched to a 2.26 ERA (156 ERA+) after 17 starts. Sure, there's some luck baked into those numbers, and some negative regression is expected. That said, the value Beckett has provided to date is substantial.
Key Stats: 103.2 IP, 6-5 W-L, 0 SV, 2.26 ERA, 95 Ks, 32 BB
5. Madison Bumgarner, SP - San Francisco Giants
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 13
Madison Bumgarner The 24-year-old slider specialist is on pace to notch at least 200 innings for the fourth straight season, and he's also on pace to top 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career. Mad Bum also checks in with an ERA of 3.09.
Key Stats: 113.2 IP, 9-6 W-L, 0 SV, 3.09 ERA, 120 Ks, 29 BB
6. Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP - Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 50
Hyun-Jin Ryu Yes, a fourth Dodger starter has made the list. Ryu, coming off a strong rookie campaign, owns an ERA+ of 114 in 96 1/3 innings, and he has also ramped up his command (81 strikeouts against just 17 unintentional walks). This season, Ryu has notched a quality start 75 percent of the time.
Key Stats: 96.1 IP, 9-4 W-L, 0 SV, 3.08 ERA, 81 Ks, 19 BB
7. Andrew Cashner, SP - San Diego Padres
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 44
Andrew Cashner Cashner's on the DL (sore shoulder) and hasn't pitched since June 18, but in the 76 1/3 innings he has logged to date, he has been dominant: 2.36 ERA, two home runs allowed, average fastball velocity of 95.0. He has the skill set of an ace, if he just stays healthy.
Key Stats: 76.1 IP, 2-6 W-L, 0 SV, 2.36 ERA, 59 Ks, 22 BB
8. Huston Street, RP - San Diego Padres
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 13
Huston Street Street, when healthy, has been a quality closer for years, but 2014 may be shaping up to be his career campaign. In 32 innings, Street has whiffed 33 batters and notched an ERA of 1.13 (no unearned runs allowed). He has also converted 23 of 24 save opportunities.
Key Stats: 32.0 IP, 1-0 W-L, 23 SV, 1.13 ERA, 33 Ks, 7 BB
9. Jordan Lyles, SP - Colorado Rockies
Jordan Lyles He's another hurler currently on the DL. Thanks to a broken left hand, Lyles has worked just 69 innings and has no clear timetable for his return. No, he won't be on the end-of-season list, but his 3.52 ERA while pitching his home starts at Coors Field is good enough for mid-point honors.
Key Stats: 69.0 IP, 5-1 W-L, 0 SV, 3.52 ERA, 49 Ks, 26 BB
10. Joaquin Benoit, RP - San Diego Padres
Joaquin Benoit Coming off an excellent 2013 season as Detroit's closer, Benoit has continued to thrive as a setup man in San Diego: 36 2/3 innings, 1.23 ERA, 277 ERA+, 5.86 K/BB ratio. Given his recent success, it won't be surprising if he's closing games for a contender after the trade deadline.
Key Stats: 36.2 IP, 3-0 W-L, 1 SV, 1.23 ERA, 41 Ks, 7 BB

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