With the 2021 Major League Baseball (MLB) season now in full flow, many fans and analysts are eagerly watching the early standings to see which teams are emerging as contenders for the playoffs. In the National League West division, there are a few surprises brewing, with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres both starting the season slower than expected, and a new team stepping up to challenge them: the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Diamondbacks are a team with a young and talented roster that has been struggling in recent years. Last season they finished last in the division, with a disappointing record of 25-35. However, their early performance this year suggests that they could be turning things around. Through their first 14 games, the team has a record of 6-8, including a series win against the defending champion Dodgers.
So what makes the Diamondbacks a potential threat in the NL West? One key factor is their pitching staff, which has been one of the strongest in the league so far this season. The team’s starters have a combined ERA of 3.35, which is the fifth-best in baseball. This is thanks in large part to the impressive performances of young pitchers like Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly, who have both shown the ability to shut down opposing lineups.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Diamondbacks have a few key players who could make a big impact this season. First baseman Christian Walker has been one of the team’s most consistent hitters in recent years, and is off to a strong start in 2021 with a .400 batting average and three home runs. Shortstop Nick Ahmed is another player who has been hot at the plate, with a .328 average and four doubles through the first two weeks of the season.
Of course, the Diamondbacks still have a long way to go if they want to outpace the Dodgers and Padres, who remain heavy favorites to win the division. Both of those teams have rosters stacked with talent and experience, and will likely be near the top of the standings all season long.
However, it’s worth noting that the Dodgers and Padres have both struggled in the early going of the season. The Dodgers lost three of four games to the Diamondbacks in their opening series, and have also dropped series to the Oakland Athletics and Colorado Rockies. The Padres, meanwhile, have lost two straight series to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers, both of whom are expected to be among the weakest teams in the league this year.
All of this suggests that the competition in the NL West could be more wide-open than many people anticipated. If the Diamondbacks can continue to play solid baseball, and the Dodgers and Padres continue to stumble, then there’s a chance that Arizona could steal the division and earn a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2017.
Of course, there’s still a lot of baseball left to be played, and anything can happen over the course of a grueling 162-game season. But for now, the Diamondbacks are a team worth watching, and could be a surprise contender in the NL West if they continue to play at a high level.