Much like our look previously at the biggest positional improvements in the American League from 2013 to 2014, a number of National League saw comparable improvements from their position players last year. Much like the A.L. list, the improvements below come in a number of different ways, though there are more instances of individual improvement than there were in the A.L.
These rankings again come using Wins Above Replacement from Baseball Reference.
1. Philadelphia, RF
The biggest improvement on this list came from the Phillies getting some more stability at the right field position in 2014 than they had in 2013. In 2013 they had three different players get more than 100 plate appearances as right fielders, including the largely ineffective Delmon Young and John Mayberry. While the Marlon Byrd was somewhat justifiably criticized before the 2014 as a waste of money by a team unlikely to contend, it did bring some stability to a position that had the worst production in the N.L. in all of 2013.
2. Colorado, 1B
Much like the Yankees at shortstop a year later, the Rockies’ franchise player’s swan song in 2013 didn’t lead to a whole lot of value from the first base position. They replaced the appearances that largely went to Todd Helton in 2013 to Justin Morneau in 2014. While replacing one aging veteran with another isn’t always the soundest strategy, in this instance it worked well for the Rockies as Morenau led the league in batting average and posted above average production from a traditional power position.
3. Cincinnati, C
This improvement largely came from the leap in production from Devin Mesoraco. Mesoraco received over half of the team’s plate appearances from the catcher position in 2013, but justifiably received the vast majority of them in 2014 as he was named to the All-Star team and even received some MVP votes.
4. Miami, RF
In both seasons Giancarlo Stanton received the vast majority of the plate appearances in right field for the Marlins. However, Stanton’s production increased to superstar status in 2014, and other players received approximately 200 plate appearances in right field for the Marlins in 2013. By 2014 that number was down to about 100.
5. Miami, CF
Justin Ruggiano received over half of the center field plate appearances in 2013, and wasn’t so great in the process. Marcell Ozuna received the second highest number of plate appearances in center field in 2013, and wasn’t too productive, either. However, by 2014 the Marlins gave Ozuna the position full time and his total individual WAR jumped by 3.6 from 2013 to 2014, leading to the second outfield spot on this list belonging to the Marlins
6. New York Mets, CF
Similar to Marcell Ozuna one spot above, Juan Lagares received amount of playing time in center field in both 2013 and 2014. Also like Ozuna, Lagares made a significant jump in production in 2014 which led to a more playing time.
7. Milwaukee, C
More of the top ten largest positional improvements in the National League were due to improvements from individual players, as this is the fourth straight spot in which the same player received the most plate appearances at the position in both years (the American League featured just one such instance). Jonathan Lucroy was already the team’s full time catcher in 2013 and was also an above average catcher, however he saw even greater improvement in 2014 as well. It didn’t hurt that Lucroy’s backup both seasons, Martin Maldanado, performed 0.9 WAR greater in 2014 than 2013.
8. L.A. Dodgers, 3B
This is actually the fifth straight spot in which the same player (the ageless Juan Uribe) received the most plate appearances from this position both years. However the team’s overall jump in 2014 in third base production actually came from the other players receiving plate appearances. Justin Turner had a WAR of 4.3 for the whole season in 2014 with the Dodgers, and about half of his playing time came at third base. This was a significant improvement over the (also seemingly ageless) Jerry Hairston, who produced -0.7 WAR with the Dodgers in 2013 (at a number of positions with third base being his most common), his final season in baseball.
9. Milwaukee, 1B
First base with the Brewers in 2014 was the only one on either this list or the American League list in which the team still produced negative WAR. However, the Brewers went from atrocious in 2013 with seven different first basement in 2013 (led by Juan Francisco) to just slightly below average in 2014 with Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay receiving the majority of playing time.
10. Cincinnati, 3B
Once again there’s another spot on this list that came from individual improvement (bringing the total to five). Todd Frazier was the team’s full time third baseman both years, and appeared in over 150 games both years, but offensive improvements in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and even better ratings on the defensive side saw Frazier’s overall WAR jump by 2.8 from 2013 to 2014.