Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 3/14/12

Our 2012 MLB preview places the eyeball on the best players by position in each division. Find out how the NL West shakes out and don’t forget to check out our MLB Preview Center.

Infield

Troy Tulowitzki

C – Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants – Posey has yet to play a full season in the major leagues and is coming off of a major injury in 2011. Even with the consistency of Arizona’s Miguel Montero also residing in the division, Posey gets the nod. We can only dream of what a full season of stat padding might look like for Buster.

1B – James Loney, Los Angeles Dodgers – Loney beats out Todd Helton in what is a relatively weak first base class in the NL West. Helton will turn 39 this season and Loney, while never quite living up to expectations, has been solid for several years now. He is a career .288 hitter who averages about 12 homers and 80 RBI’s/season. Not bad.

2B – Marco Scutaro, Colorado Rockies – Tapping a 36-year old as the best second baseman in the division speaks to the lack of depth here. However, Scutaro has been remarkably productive over the past 4 seasons and now will hit in gap-friendly Coors Field. 35 doubles and a +.300 average is definitely possible in 2012.

SS – Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies – Tulo is a true star. He has battled injury nearly every year of his career and that is the last obstacle standing between him and superstardom. If the planets align for Tulowitzki, he could go .320, 35, and 120. I wouldn’t bet against it.

3B – Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants – It’s cool to be a panda again in the Bay. Sandoval slimmed down and ripped the baseball to the tune of a .315 average, 23 homers, and 70 RBI’s in 2011. If he can stay healthy in 2012, he could threaten the 100-RBI mark for the first time in his career.

Outfield

Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers – Kemp put it all together in 2011 when he finished 2nd to Ryan Braun in MVP voting. He went .324, 39, 126 with 40 steals. He has sights set on 50/50 in 2012. Would you really put it past him?

Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks – The only thing missing from the 24-year old’s resume is a 100-RBI season. 2012 should be the year. He may never reach 30/30 stature but will be a bona-fide star in the middle of the D’backs lineup for years on end. He has matured as a contact hitter and should threaten MVP status in the very near future.

Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies – CarGo has all the tools and has now put 2 huge seasons together to back it up. He has 30/30 upside with a .300 batting average to boot. He may not run that much due to fear of injury but he is a legit freak who stuffs the stat sheet on a nightly basis.

Pitchers

Starters

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers – The most talented lefty in the game parlayed his ability into the 2011 NL Cy Young Award. Mastering command of the strike zone and the art of the punch-out, Kershaw is as good as it gets in the National League. His ’11 numbers bear repeating because they were simply that good: 21-5, 2.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 248 K’s in 233.1 innings.

Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants – He may never again be what he was in 2008 and 2009, but he is still among the game’s elite pitchers. Most pitchers would kill to have a 2.74 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 220 strikeouts like he posted in ‘11. For Lincecum, we’ve somehow come to expect more, which speaks to his greatness.

Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants – Cain may be the #2 on his team, but it’s not by much. He has become Mr. Reliable and yet turned in his best season to date in 2011 finishing with a 2.88 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 179 K’s. It seems like he’s been around forever, but he’s still only 27-years old. Lock him up San Francisco, lock him up!

Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks – Kennedy found his happy place when he arrived in the desert in 2010 and then turned up the heat with a near Cy Young season in 2011. It’s unlikely he ever duplicates last season (21-4, 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 198 K’s) but he doesn’t have to in order to remain top 5. He frontlines a rotation that promises to be special for a long, long time.

Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants – You know your pitching staff is good when your #3 had a 3.21 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 191 K’s. This 22-year old lefty dominated the competition from May until the end of the season a year ago and should be able to maintain that level of production in the NL West.

Closer

JJ Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks – It’s always the same with Putz, when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best, and when he’s not, well, then he’s not. At 35-years old, Putz is never more than one misstep away from his next DL stint, but as of right now he’s healthy and the best in the West. In ’11, he saved 45 games with a 2.17 ERA and 0.97 WHIP.

Follow me on Twitter @isportsJoe

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