After looking at the infields around the division, we now move to the outfield. Aside from the Marlins finishing last at every position, the other four teams are very close so far.
Left Field – ATL, WAS, NYM, MIA, PHI
Justin Upton narrowly gets the top spot of the left fielders. The 25-year-old should be able to relax now released from all the trade rumors. His power has varied greatly season by season, also showing some park factor worries. His plate discipline has improved the past couple seasons, and he possesses the tools to be a top 5 outfielder in the game.
Bryce Harper could very easily surpass Upton this season, especially as his age-19 season was among the best ever. He’s just starting to tap into his power, and his .310 BABIP seemed low for his LD rate and constant hustle. He has a tremendous arm and under-rated speed/range, leading to a tremendous all-around game.
Lucas Duda had a very disappointing 2012 season, struggling to make contact and making left field a circus ring. His outfield UZR and DRS both rate in the -30′s over a full season’s worth of innings. His offense should recover, as he’s got good power, a high line drive rate, and a good walk rate.
Juan Pierre gets another starting shot in Miami, hoping his extreme contact approach (6% K rate) is still useful at age 35. However, don’t let the high average fool you; he has no power and rarely walks. He can also still run, stealing 37 bases last year and played an average left field despite having the worst arm in the league.
Domonic Brown should have the inside track of the majority of the Phillies’ PA in LF, hoping to fulfill the Heyward-like promise expected a couple years ago. The power has went missing since ’10, though his plate discipline has remained solid in his limited big league action. If he can get comfortable in the outfield, he should be able to provide positive production.
Center Field – ATL, WAS, PHI, MIA, NYM
B.J. Upton squeaks out another National outfielder for the top spot in center field. His strikeouts and attitude are his biggest problems, but everything else is well above average. He’s stolen at least 30 bases the last five years, though his range has not rated as well. If he maintains a 25-30 HR level and regains his double-digit walk rate, he should be the best in the division.
Denard Span is as dependable as there is, not striking out much, walking an average amount, and playing a good center field. He has no platoon split, making him an ideal leadoff hitter. His power is well below average and he hits a lot of ground balls, so his potential is limited, but you know what you’re getting from Span.
Ben Revere was a teammate of Span in MN before heading to PHI in a trade. His bat is very similar to Pierre, maybe lacking even more in power. His range is among the best in the game, though his arm is only a notch up from Pierre. He doesn’t hit many line drives, but his raw speed and bunts get him a lot of base hits.
Justin Ruggiano broke out of his AAAA label last season, hitting .313 with a lot of extra-base hits. He won’t sustain anything close to a .401 BABIP with his average LD rate, but he could be the best hitting center fielder in the division. His defense is probably more suited for the corners, but he shouldn’t be too bad in center.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill may be the platoon for New York, especially with the Indians seemingly signing Michael Bourn. Nieuwenhuis is a talented left-handed hitter who hits line drives and runs, but strikes out at an absurd rate. Cowgill could be a right-handed complement, though his defense may be a bit lacking for center.
Right Field – MIA, ATL, WAS, PHI, NYM
Giancarlo Stanton is the lone wolf remaining in Miami, probably possessing the most raw power in the major leagues. His plate discipline was a bit worse, but he hit more line drives and flyballs, which is good when nearly 30% of the flyballs leave the park. If his knee is completely healed and can cut his K’s down below 25%, he may be the best player in the division.
Jason Heyward completely revamped his approach at the plate, becoming a semi-aggressive hitter with increased power and poorer plate discipline. At 23 years old, he’s three months older than Stanton, but still early in the career arc. His defense is as good as anybody in RF, and if he can shrink his K-BB% gap, he will be a top 5 outfielder.
Jayson Werth is the aging veteran here, coming off a good, but injury-shortened, season after a poor Washington debut. His power has disappeared since leaving Philadelphia, though the strikeouts came way down last year. His defense rated poorly across the board last year after many years of average to good defense, possibly a sign of age catching up to him.
Delmon Young may be in the running for the worst regular again this year, with his average power and contact skills representing his best attributes. He does not walk, is horribly out of shape, affecting his defense greatly, and his once strong arm is now nearly useless. Fortunately for Philadelphia, there are some prospects who may supplant him after a while.
The Mets have very little to choose from for right field. Jordany Valdespin showed surprising power last year in limited time, but his plate discipline and defense is poor. Mike Baxter gets on base and has gap power. Marlon Byrd and Matt den Dekker are a couple non-roster invitees who could also get time in the outfield.
Tags: Atlanta Braves