April 26, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon (9) hits a triple in the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Best of the West: Key players in the National League West

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The first month of the season has come and gone. After April, the National League West is shaping up to be a very competitive and open division. As expected, the Los Angeles Dodgers have gotten off to an impressive start. However, the San Francisco Giants lead the way, with the Colorado Rockies currently occupying second. The San Diego Padres have been disappointing, and the Arizona Diamondbacks have slumped to the bottom of the division. Here are the key players from each franchise after the opening month.

San Francisco Giants

An offseason acquisition, Tim Hudson, has led the way for the Giants thus far. Leading the rotation, the veteran starter has gotten off to a scorching start.

Boasting a 2.17 ERA, a 0.74 WHIP and a winning record of 4-1, Hudson truly has been the key man to the Giants division leading April. Most impressively, Hudson has struck out 31 batters, whilst walking only two, collating for a 18% strikeout percentage compared to a stunning 1.2% walk percentage. Averaging 6.11 strikeouts per nine innings against 0.39 walks per nine innings, Hudson has dominated in his first month back in the bay. Amid a struggling rotation, Hudson has been head and shoulders above the rest.

Other candidates: Mike Morse, the other new face in the Giants clubhouse has led the way offensively with eight home runs and 22 runs batted in.

Colorado Rockies

Not only has Troy Tulowitzki been the best player for the Colorado Rockies, the shortstop has been the best player in the National League by a wide margin.

With seven home runs and 26 runs batted in, Tulowitzki leads the Rockies offense, and has guided them to a cool 18-13 record, good enough for second in the West. Tulo also owns a .385/.487/.729 slashline, with a 17.6% walk percentage compared to a 11.8% strikeout percentage. He also has a 81% contact percentage, making him a dangerous batter to face. When the Rockies offense is hot, they can carry their below-par rotation, and April is living proof.

Other candidates: Charlie Blackmon has compiled a .380 batting average, good enough for second best in the MLB, second to only Tulo.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Before the season started, Dee Gordon probably thought he wasn’t going to see much playing time. When Alexander Guerrero was deemed not ready for the big leagues, Gordon got a shot at playing everyday. And boy, has he taken his opportunity.

Not only has Gordon filled the void at second base, he has filled the void at the top of the lineup. While many would consider Billy Hamilton to be the quickest player in the big leagues, Gordon would give him a run for his money. With a major league leading 12 stolen bases, Gordon has been the perfect man to leadoff for the Dodgers. With a .357 batting average and a .387 on base percentage, Gordon has been key for Los Angeles. Given how dangerous the Dodgers lineup already is, having a bonafide leadoff man, makes it even more dangerous.

Other candidates: Zack Greinke, with Clayton Kershaw starting the season on the DL, Greinke has really upped his game to lead the Dodgers rotation with a 5-0 record and a 2.04 ERA.

San Diego Padres

With the offense failing to turn up thus far, Andrew Cashner has brought his ‘A’ game and led the Padres’ rotation to keep them in contention after the opening month.

With a team leading 2.72 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP, Cashner has established himself as the ace of the Padres staff. The 2-4 record is a harsh reflection of his start, and solely down to his lack of offensive support. He has averaged 7.19 strikeouts per nine innings, whilst allowing only 2.72 walks per nine innings on average. His great start has been good enough to hold opponent batters to a .220 batting average. If the Padres offense can step-up, Cashner could be on for a big year.

Other candidates: Chris Denorfia leads the team in stolen bases and runs batted in, and has been a rare bright spark in a poor offense.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks were vastly considered to be the Los Angeles Dodgers’ main rivals in the West, however, after a dreadful April, the Diamondbacks sit rock bottom of the division.

Regardless, Mark Trumbo has been the one impressive player for Arizona – before his trip to the DL. After the first week, Trumbo led the league in home runs, and prior to getting injured was really slugging it. He leads the Diamondbacks with seven home runs and 19 runs batted in with a .506 slugging percentage. When Trumbo returns from injury, he will aim to continue where he left off, and try to lift the Diamondbacks from bottom spot.

Other candidates: Paul Goldschmidt, who had a MVP caliber season last year, has already racked up four home runs and 18 runs batted in.

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Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks Colorado Rockies Los Angeles Dodgers San Diego Padres San Francisco Giants

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