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NL West: The division’s top five players

The National League West has a couple of good teams in the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, but the amount of top-flight players is almost never-ending. In that vein, we take a shot at naming the top five men in the division, counting down from five to one. Let the arguments ensue.

5. Zack Greinke

Keep in mind, this is not just ranking the player for this season. If it was, Greinke would be at the head of the class after starting for the National League in the All-Star Game. Greinke has been to the All-Star Game three times and won the 2009 American League Cy Young Award.

This year, he is leading the Dodgers to the NL West title with a 1.39 earned run average along with an 8-2 record and an absurd 17 quality starts in 18 chances. Greinke is the odds-on favorite to win his second Cy Young award.

4. Adrian Gonzalez

Gonzalez is one of the most underrated players in recent Major League Baseball history. Gonzalez, 33, has reached the All-Star Game five times, won four Rawlings Gold Gloves, a pair of sliver sluggers and hit 280 home runs while knocking in 1,021 runs in his illustrious career.

So why is Gonzalez so unnoticed by the national media? For years, Gonzalez quietly toiled with the San Diego Padres, then went to the Boston Red Sox during a down period. Now with the Dodgers, Gonzalez isn’t as flashy as Yasiel Puig or as incredibly dominant as Clayton Kershaw, so he looms in the shadows. This is one of the best players in recent memory.

3. Madison Bumgarner

Bumgarner has to be close to the top of this list. In the regular season, Bumgarner is one of the finer pitchers in baseball, shown by his appearance in the All-Star Game this week, the third such consecutive trip for the Southern gentleman. Yet, the brilliance that has made his famous took place in the 2014 postseason.

Bumgarner all but carried the Giants to their third World Series title in five years. The 25-year-old right-hander won the National League Championship Series and World Series MVP awards while pitching 26.2 consecutive scoreless innings. In Game 7, Bumgarner pitched on two days rest out of the bullpen, shutting out the Kansas City Royals for five innings.

2. Paul Goldschmidt

Goldschmidt is another incredibly underrated player. The first baseman has put up some eye-popping stats during his brief career, but gets completely overlooked because he plays for the middling Arizona Diamondbacks in the middle of the desert.

In 2013, Goldschmidt made a run at NL MVP with a .302 average, 36 home runs and 105 RBI. This season, Goldschmidt has racked to a .340 average with 21 home runs and 70 RBI in just 87 games. Look for this 27-year-old to finally get his due soon.

1. Clayton Kershaw

It’s tough not to put this guy at the top of the heap. Kershaw had a slow start to this season, but still found his way to the All-Star Game for the fifth-straight year. Kershaw has racked up three Cy Young Awards (2011, 2013 and 2014) and could be the best left-handed pitcher we have seen since Randy Johnson.

Kershaw, 27, has a 104-55 record with a 2.51 career ERA. If he can continue this torrid pace into his 30’s, we could be looking at a Hall of Fame hurler. Kershaw also has a gold glove, a no-hitter, two wins title and a pitching triple crown to his name. This contest is no contest for Kershaw.

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