3 reаѕonѕ Dіаmondbасkѕ саn be а legіtіmаte threаt to Dodgerѕ, Pаdreѕ іn NL Weѕt

When you think about the NL West, it’s easy to remember the teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and even the San Francisco Giants. Those teams are historic in their own right, having superstar rosters and being in-state rivals. But what about the Arizona Diamondbacks?

You know, the team that is just three games back of the Dodgers in the NL West. The Diamondbacks are sneakily good.

Diamondbacks can be legit threat to Dodgers, Padres in NL West

With as much money as the Dodgers and Padres have put into their rosters, it’s easy to understand why all the focus has been on them in the NL West. The Dodgers are always going to be a great point of interest because they’re the darlings of the Los Angeles’ media market, along with the Los Angeles Lakers. Not to mention that the Dodgers have won the NL West all but one time since 2013.

The Padres, in a sense, are clutching on the coattails of the Dodgers fame. They’ve mimicked Los Angeles’ spending frenzy by acquiring some of the game’s best players like Manny Machado, Juan Soto and Yu Darvish. San Diego has also signed of their own, Fernando Tatis Jr. to a massive contract.

Of course, the rivalry took a turn in last season’s postseason when the Padres bested the Dodgers 3-1, in the NLDS. The overarching story line heading into this season was: Can the Padres take the NL West from the Dodgers? 

All the while, slithery, snakingly and unnoticed by most, the Diamondbacks are in second place in the NL West, behind the Dodgers and in front of the Padres. There’s reason to believe after watching Arizona recently that they can be a legitimate threat to both Los Angeles and San Diego.

3. Beating NL West opponents

It’s only May, but in the 12 games the Diamondbacks have faced the Dodgers and Padres, they’re right at .500. However, if you count the entire NL West, including their recent series win against the Giants and one series against the lowly Colorado Rockies, they’re 11-8 overall in the division.

Last season they finished 29-47 against division opponents.

The Diamondbacks’ just over $115 million payroll ranks 21st in the MLB, per Spotrac. Arizona has been impressive competing against big spenders like the Padres (third-highest payroll) and Dodgers (fifth-highest).

2. Youth Movement

The Diamondbacks are a young team, but especially in their outfield. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (29), Alek Thomas (23), Jake McCarthy (25), and Corbin Carroll (22), are making it hard on their opponents to score runs.

Arizona’s outfield has even caught the eye of Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, via Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports.

“I’m telling you, as far as run prevention, this is as good as an outfield as I’ve ever seen,” Roberts said. “These guys are better than the Expos’ outfield. These guys are freakin’ unbelievable. You hit the ball in the air, it’s an out.”

The Montreal Expos outfielders Roberts was referring to were Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom, Moises Alou and a then young Rondell White. That’s quite high praise.

Although Thomas has struggled as of late, batting only .202, and McCarthy was optioned back to Triple-A Reno on April 25, Gurriel and Carroll have been big parts of the Diamondbacks lineup. Gurriel was just recently one of the heroes in the conclusion to their Giants series on Sunday after hitting a walk-off double. Carroll, meanwhile, has all season showcased his speed not just in the outfield snagging fly balls, but also by leasing the team in stolen bases with 10.

Then there’s the other guys in the lineup, catcher Gabriel Moreno (23) and shortstop Geraldo Perdomo (23), who are batting .320 and .329, respectively. The Diamondbacks feel like they’re just getting started.

1. 2023 MLB rule changes

While everyone between fan, player and coach are trying to adjust to all the new MLB rule changes, some teams are using it to their advantage. The Diamondbacks are one of those teams.

Currently, the Diamondbacks are third behind the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Guardians with 1.55 stolen bases per game. They’re one of the more aggressive teams on the base paths. This season, they’ve been known to take advantage with up to five stolen bases in one game. They’ll steal, double steal, hit sacrifice flies, and even sometimes, steal home if they have to just to score runs. They don’t need the long ball.

Rojas was the player who stole home for Arizona in a contest against the Padres. He has adapted to the Diamondbacks’ base-stealing ways and plans to continue taking advantage of the new rules, via Nightengale.

“I think we are changing the game a little bit,’’ Rojas said. “We’re going back to the old-school style, bunting guys in, hitting and running, being aggressive on the basepaths.”

One should first remember what the Diamondbacks are coming out from — irrelevancy, which in sports terms means you’re not the worst, but you’re not even close enough to compete with the best. That has been the Diamondbacks for most of their 26-year history. The team hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2017 with a Wild Card berth and hsn’t won their division since 2011. Just last season they were fourth in the division with 74-88 record. Mediocrity at its finest.

The MLB season is still young with lots of time between now and October for the standings to change and teams to rise or fall. But it shouldn’t go unnoticed what the Diamondbacks have accomplished this season thus far. Even if they should fall this season, they’re looking ready for the next season and beyond to compete in the NL West.

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