With Opening Day approaching, we wanted to preview the 2024 season from a defensive perspective. So to be fair to all 30 teams, we’ve got a stat-driven theme or story to watch for each team. Here’s our look at the National League teams after we did our tour through the American League last week.

Braves – The Braves were generally average or better through much of their defensive lineup last season. The big exception was shortstop, where Orlando Arcia and Vaughn Grissom didn’t do well. Arcia had -6 Runs Saved last season due to poor range numbers. He is back for another go and looking to return to the form he showed in 2018 when he totaled 8 Runs Saved.

Brewers – The Brewers ranked 2nd in MLB in Defensive Runs Saved last season but they’ve got some unknowns on this year’s roster with Jackson Chourio in right field and Joey Ortiz at third base. Last year’s Brewers rookies played very well (Brice Turang, Joey Wiemer, Blake Perkins) and the defensive success of this year’s team may hinge on their young players again.

CardinalsNolan Arenado went from overwhelmingly awesome to decidedly average at third base overnight (from 20 Runs Saved in 2022 to 0 in 2023). So the big question this season is whether he can return to the standard-setting level of excellence of years past.

Cubs – The Cubs have the best double play combination in baseball with shortstop Dansby Swanson and second baseman Nico Hoerner. Given that they also have two-time Gold Glove winner Ian Happ in left field, Mike Tauchman and Cody Bellinger in center field, with Bellinger likely also at first base, the Cubs could be pretty good defensively. They finished tied for 8th in Defensive Runs Saved last season and could better that.

Diamondbacks – It’s reasonable to suggest that the Diamondbacks are the NL’s best defensive team. They finished 4th in Defensive Runs Saved last year and have very good defenders at catcher (Gabriel Moreno), first base (Christian Walker), and center field (Alek Thomas). Shortstop and third base may determine whether that suggestion becomes reality. Runs Saved has not viewed Geraldo Perdomo or Eugenio Suárez favorably, so those are the positions to watch entering 2024.

Dodgers – The Dodgers have been a Top 10 team in Defensive Runs Saved in each of the last 8 seasons. They always seem to make the right moves and in 2024 they’re making a bold one by making Mookie Betts their everyday shortstop. Betts, who won the Fielding Bible Award last year for multi-position play, handled second base very well last season. The Dodgers do have some flexibility here. They could move Betts back to second and play one of the game’s best defensive shortstops, Miguel Rojas, if things don’t work out.

Giants – In theory, the Giants should be a lot better defensively than they were last season. Their 3 weakest defensive positions by Runs Saved were shortstop, third base, and center field. They signed 2 standout infield defenders in Matt Chapman and Nick Ahmed and signed Jung Hoo Lee, who led all KBO center fielders in Runs Saved last season. Those could be a boon to pitchers like Blake Snell and Logan Webb.

Marlins – What can infield coach Jody Reed do for Tim Anderson? The new Marlins shortstop has totaled -22 Runs Saved the last 2 seasons, which ranks 2nd-worst at the position. Reed will do his best to maximize what Anderson can do. The Marlins ranked as one of the best-positioned infields in MLB last season.

Mets – One year after signing Brandon Nimmo to a long-term contract, they’ve moved him from center field to left field and attempted to turn a defensive weakness into a strength by signing Harrison Bader as their new primary center fielder. Bader has twice totaled at least 15 Runs Saved in a season in center field. His 5 Runs Saved there the last 2 years are 16 more than Nimmo in that span.

Nationals – The Nationals have finished 29th and 28th in Runs Saved the last 2 seasons and need a few things to happen in order to improve on that in 2024. One would be to see some improvement from catcher Keibert Ruiz. The Nationals ranked last in MLB in Runs Saved from their catchers. It would also behoove them to find playing time for minor league Gold Glove winner Trey Lipscomb, who can play any of the infield positions (read our interview with him here).

Padres – Two things: One is whether Fernando Tatis Jr. can replicate his 2023 season, when he blew away everyone else at the position with 29 Runs Saved. Two, the position switch of Xander Bogaerts to second base so as to put their best infield defender, Ha-Seong Kim, at shortstop. Bogaerts has managed a positive Runs Saved total once in the last 10 years. Second base may be a better fit for him but time will tell.

Phillies – Johan Rojas didn’t have a particularly good spring training with his bat but he’s arguably too valuable to even consider sitting. He’s by far the Phillies’ best defensive player. Rojas ranked 4th in Runs Saved among center fielders despite ranking 37th among them in innings played.

Pirates – The Pirates ranked 28th in Defensive Runs Saved from their center fielders last season, but that could change significantly if Michael A. Taylor hits enough to stay in the lineup there. Taylor leads all center fielders in Runs Saved over the last 3 seasons.

Reds – The Reds ranked 27th in Defensive Runs Saved last season. They’re running out most of the same players this season, save for Jeimer Candelario at third base, which could be a small improvement in Defensive Runs Saved. But they may be a bottom-10 team again.

Rockies – The most watchable thing the Rockies have right now is their defense. They have Fielding Bible Award-caliber players at second base (Brendan Rodgers), shortstop (Ezequiel Tovar), third base (Ryan McMahon), and center field (Brenton Doyle), and a left fielder with a terrific arm (Nolan Jones). This will probably be the team with the biggest difference between the quality of its defense and its win-loss record.