Every day, Pinstripe Alley offers updates on what the Yankees’ top American League opponents are up to through the Rivalry Roundup. The AL East is well-trodden ground there, but with the month of April coming to a close, we’re going to take a peak around MLB as a whole and check in with each of the other five divisions. Who’s surprising? Who’s underwhelming? Who’s simply mediocre at the moment? Read on and find out.
First Place: Arizona Diamondbacks (15-12)
Top Position Player: Geraldo Perdomo/Corbin Carroll (1.1)
Top Pitcher: Zac Gallen (1.7)
Well, this certainly wasn’t the start that many imagined for the Diamondbacks. They’re a team that has already played a handful of chaotic games to start 2023, and after a 74-88 performance in 2022, there are plenty of reasons to go to Chase Field and take in a game. Corbin Carroll, one of the top contenders for the NL Rookie of the Year within MLB circles, has made a name for himself already not only in the batter's box with his 151 wRC+ or in the field with his 89th percentile outs above average, but also on the basepaths, where he’s tied for second in the league in stolen bases with 10.
Geraldo Perdomo is bound to regress from his incredible slash line of .365/.450/.577 and wRC+ of 180, but he’s still been valuable defensively and in the batter's box through his high walk and low chase rates. However, Zac Gallen has been the name people are talking about. He’s tied for first in MLB among all pitchers in fWAR with 1.7, and even though he’s 10th in ERA, he’s second in xFIP only behind Jacob deGrom. After running a streak of 44.1 consecutive scoreless innings last year, he’s at it again in 2023 with 28 in a row active as of right now.
The Diamondbacks are getting contributions from everywhere, and they’ve beaten some very good teams on their way to the 14-12 record, like the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, and the San Diego Padres. They’ve DFA’ed Madison Bumgarner after some pretty horrendous starts and with regression likely hitting down the line. The team is fun and full of fun players, so hop on the bandwagon.
Second Place: Los Angeles Dodgers (14-13)
Top Position Player: James Outman (1.4)
Top Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw (0.7)
Now, this is the team that was supposed to be in first place by now. However, they’re not. That’s not to say the Dodgers can’t be by the first week of May. It’s very possible. However, April has not been the kindest to them. Carroll’s fellow Rookie of the Year contender, James Outman, has been the most valuable player to the Dodgers so far this season playing both center and left field. His .367 BABIP is sure to regress, but he has been a great presence in the lower half (and even upper half when he’s gotten the chance) of the Dodgers lineup.
On the mound, Clayton Kershaw has been excellent, pitching to the tune of a 2.32 ERA and 0.7 fWAR in 31 innings pitched. His xFIP is a 3.14, which is the best among starters on the Dodgers. At the ripe age of 35, it appears that Kershaw still has some left in the tank, getting players to chase and only walking 4.1 percent of hitters, even though he threw whatever this pitch was to the aforementioned Moreno in his start against the Diamondbacks.
One of the developments so far this season outside of Kershaw and Outman has been Mookie Betts playing in the infield. With Gavin Lux out for the entire season and Jason Heyward (somehow) returning to a playable form, Betts has been taking reps in the infield, and he’s actually been pretty good! Of course, he was originally an infield prospect and was moved to the outfield, so this isn’t entirely new territory for him, but it has been fun as an observer of the game to watch how Betts has fared getting adjusted back to shortstop.
Third Place: San Diego Padres (13-14)
Top Position Player: Xander Bogaerts (1.6)
Top Pitcher: Yu Darvish (0.7)
The San Diego Padres have gotten off to an oddly slow start, too. Their newly signed shortstop Xander Bogaerts has been excellent with 1.6 fWAR (1.2 more than the next highest Padres position player) and the 13th-lowest strikeout rate in MLB so far this season, and Yu Darvish has been as steady as he usually is with a 3.00 ERA and 3.14 FIP, but the real story of the season so far isn’t those two players. It’s the poor performance of Juan Soto.
Soto’s numbers are some of the worst in his career, sitting with a slash line of .183/.345/.344 and wRC+ of 98. Yes, that’s right. Soto, by wRC+, is a below-average hitter so far in 2023. His BABIP is also unusually low at .217. There’s not a ton of power springing from his bat, and he needs to fix it as soon as possible because this Padres team is only going to go as far as their star players, especially Soto, take them
Fourth Place: San Francisco Giants (11-14)
Top Position Player: Thairo Estrada (1.3)
Top Pitcher: Alex Cobb (0.7)
The San Francisco Giants weren’t expected to be anything special this year, and they aren’t. After failing to sign Aaron “Arson” Judge and not signing Carlos Correa in the offseason, they’re expected to be right where they’re sitting currently in the NL West standings. 27-year-old and former Yankee Thairo Estrada has seemed to find his stride out in California, hitting over .320 and having stolen 8 bases up to this point. LaMonte Wade Jr. and Mike Yastrzemski are also having solid starts to the season, with Wade specifically, sitting with the highest walk rate in the major leagues at 21.2 percent and the highest wRC+ on the team (153) among players with at least 80 plate appearances.
Alex Cobb has been the team’s best pitcher in terms of fWAR (0.7) and ERA (1.91), but the real story is Logan Webb, who sits with an ERA of 4.10 but the third-best xFIP among starters with 2.59. So, while he has struggled with giving up runs, primarily from the long ball (17th highest HR/9 in MLB), there is plenty of reason to be optimistic that he can get back on his horse and get back to where people expect him to be (and maybe better).
Another pitcher that has deserved some praise early in the season for the Giants is Tyler Rogers. The submarine-hurling righty has been nothing but excellent since Opening Day, currently holding a 0.63 ERA through 14.1 innings pitched with just under six percent of the batters he has faced being walked. When the Giants have needed a pitcher to come out of the bullpen in a big spot, he has been the guy they’ve relied on, and it’s worked through the first month. (It’s working out better for him than for twin brother Taylor, anyway.)
Fifth Place: Colorado Rockies (8-19)
Top Position Player: Elias Diaz (0.7)
Top Pitcher: Ryan Feltner (0.5)
And now we arrive at the bottom-feeding Colorado Rockies, who have some names that you might recognize, like Charlie Blackmon, Kris Bryant, and C.J. Cron, but the top performer has easily been Elias Diaz, the catcher who has been excellent both behind the plate catching runners who are attempting to steal and with a bat in his hands. He’s tied for fourth among catchers in fWAR (0.7) with names like Adley Rutschman and Willson Contreras, and he has the fourth-highest OBP (.392) and wRC+ (128) among catchers with at least 70 plate appearances this season.
The Rockies' lineup is not great, and neither is their pitching either. Ryan Feltner leads the staff in fWAR, but his numbers like ERA (4.68), FIP (3.91), and xFIP (4.51) are all not great. The team is bad for a reason, and even after watching Feltner pitch and feeling like his numbers could be better than they are, there’s a reason they are where they are in the standings. The good news is that young players like Brenton Doyle have come in and made an impact, which is the kind of steps you want to see, considering where the franchise is currently.
The NL West has been kind of a mess up to this point, but the chaos is fun. It’s only the first month, which means things are bound to even out down the line (betting on the Dodgers and Padres to be at and below .500, respectively, for even another month might not be the best investment of your money), but even so, that’s what makes the first month of the baseball season so exhilarating. We get to see what teams like the Diamondbacks might have in store for us down the line, and we can focus on the adjustment storylines for players in Los Angeles and San Diego.
All cited statistics outside of team won/loss record were active as of the beginning of play on Friday, April 28th.