Caption: NL West Teams
by Ryan Harless
Ryan Harless is a third-year undergraduate at BGSU from Hillsboro, Ohio. He is majoring in Sport Management with a Journalism Minor. Baseball and golf at all levels are his primary interests but he is also interested in combat sports, hockey, basketball, and football.
February 23, 2023
Welcome back to my series predicting breakout stars for every Major League Baseball (MLB) team for the 2023 season. This time, we are rounding out the National League (NL) with the Western Division.
The West is always a tough division with 2-3 teams in playoff contention yearly. The Colorado Rockies finished in last place last year, so they get to kick off this list.
The Rockies are a very young team this year with their longest tenured player at eight years of experience (Randal Grichuk) and their oldest player being only 37 (Daniel Bard).
I think their breakout performer will be someone who has had a few years in the league, but hasn’t yet lived up to his first round hype. Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers was drafted 3rd overall in 2015 and although he has played 100+ games the last two seasons, he has yet to live up to amazing numbers at the plate.
This is not to discredit his work at the plate either. Rodgers has slashed .274/.326/.434 over the last two seasons which is more than acceptable for a shortstop of his caliber, especially if he is able to keep winning Gold Gloves.
Rodgers has also put-up decent power numbers averaging 14 homers and 26 doubles. Last year, he proved that he is capable of being more patient at the plate and can take walks if he doesn’t get his pitch. He more than doubled his walk count from 2021 in just 30 more games.
I think Rodgers will slash .290/.350/.460 with 20 homers as well as bringing his second consecutive Gold Glove to Colorado. I also anticipate him to be on the long list of people receiving MVP votes.
Finishing ahead of the Rockies were the Arizona Diamondbacks. This is another relatively young team with only a handful of players with more than 5 years of experience.
Arizona is looking to shock people this season and possibly even make a run for a Wild Card spot.
My pick for their breakout star is going to be Gabriel Moreno. Although he will be splitting time with Carson Kelly behind the plate, I think he can take the starting position by the All-Star break.
Through 25 games last season, Moreno hit .319, which is what he has done his entire career as he has a .310 average through five Minor League seasons. Especially in today’s game, finding a catcher who can hit for average is increasingly rare and, in turn, valuable.
I look for Moreno to catch 100 games for Arizona this year and slash .290/.360/.400 as well as possibly capturing a Gold Glove.
Finishing the middle of the Western Division last season were the San Francisco Giants. This brings us to the first of three (spoiler alert) pitchers I have chosen for this list. The Giants have a lot of talent but most of it is holed up in their pitching staff.
I think this player is only going to improve after his coming out party last year where he finished 11th in Cy Young voting.
This player is Logan Webb. The now 26-year-old, entering his 5th MLB season, put up career best numbers last season with his 192.1 innings pitched and 2.90 ERA.
Webb looks to be the best option to become the new ace in San Fran. He reminds me a lot of prime Matt Cain, another all time Giant great from those 2010-2014 dynasty years.
If the Giants’ lineup is able to provide good or even decent run support for Webb, look for him to possibly start the All-Star game.
I predict Webb will throw 200+ innings this season and keep his sub 3.00 ERA yet again. Webb is primarily a contact pitcher so I don’t expect his strikeout numbers to be very high, but he will still probably have at least 140 Ks.
Finishing in second place in the West in 2022, were the San Diego Padres, another team looking to make it back to the playoffs and to finally make that elusive World Series run.
The Padres are shaping up to contend again, and I expect a large contributor will be Brent Honeywell Jr. Honeywell hasn’t seen big league action since he started two games and pitched in three for the Rays in 2021.
Honeywell has struggled with the injury bug since being drafted in 2014 and spent 2018-2020 out of professional baseball rehabbing and working to get back into shape.
This being said, he is one of my favorite pitchers to watch as he is possibly the last Major League Baseball player/pitcher who still throws a screwball (outside of Brewers’ pitcher Devin Williams “changeup”).
I think that if Honeywell can stay healthy and throw 120 innings, he can keep his ERA around 3.30 and punch out 150+ batters. I really look forward to watching Honeywell in the coming years as he promises to become a dominant starter.
Finally, we’ve reached the last National League team in this series, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are always expecting a playoff berth and this year is no different.
I think this player has finally worked his way into an everyday role as well as helping to end the revolving door of relievers/closers the Dodgers have been working with ever since Kenley Janson left.
Brusdar Graterol is my choice for their breakout star in the 2023 season. Last year he appeared in 46 games, accruing 49.1 innings and allowing only 39 hits and 20 runs for an ERA of 3.26.
Along with his desirable numbers, Graterol is a treat to watch pitch as he touches triple digits with his fastball as effortlessly as you or I might toss a wad of paper into the trash can.
And while his ERA was a little higher than you would like out of your everyday closer, his fielding independent pitching or FIP, was 2.95. FIP takes into account errors and situations to determine a pitcher’s ERA using only things the pitchers themselves can control.
I predict that Graterol will play in 60 games this season and notch 40+ saves along with a 2.50 ERA over the course of 75 innings. Along with Webb, Graterol could easily become a starter in this year’s Mid-Summer Classic.
Enjoy each of your analysis pieces!
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