Mar 3, 2014; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward (22) warms up before the spring training exhibition game against the New York Mets at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves vs. the NL East: Outfielders


 

Mar 3, 2014; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves outfielder B.J. Upton (2) warms up before the spring training exhibition game against the New York Mets against the New York Mets at Champion Stadium.

TomahawkTake.com is introducing a new analysis series - Wait!  Don’t let those eyes glaze over! It will be both interesting and useful, I promise! - to see how the Braves’ players stack up against their competition in the National League’s Eastern Division.   Today, I’ll kick ‘er off with The Outfield.

As of today, here is how the outfield depth charts stack up for each of the NL East squads:

NLEastOutfielders1

Part of the trick in projecting performance and rankings among these players is assessing the amount of playing time each one can be expected to receive.  For example, I project Jason Heyward to improve over his 2013 performance.  Why?  Because he only had one appendix and isn’t likely to get his jaw broken again; therefore we can guess that he’ll see more playing time.  While this may be true for the player, this does not necessarily translate into a better team performance.  When a starter is absent, a replacement player might be better… or worse.  As a result, we’ll be looking at  the whole picture in addition to the individual parts.

  • In 2013, the Nationals led the division in team Outfielder WAR values:  9.8.
  • Atlanta was 2nd:  7.9
  • Mets were 3rd:  7.0
  • Marlins 4th:  5.0
  • Phillies?  Dead last in the NL by a mile:  -1.6

 

Offense

NLEastOutfielder2

Based on the players above, these are my projections on how they will perform in 2014 vs. their 2013 efforts, plus an assessment on the total team offensive performance to be expected.

Here’s a few details:

  • For players like B.J. Upton and Curtis Granderson, they can’t hardly be any worse (despite age, in Granderson’s case).  Therefore, I’m pretty much obligated to stick a “plus” sign in their squares.
  • Justin Upton:  had that great start last year, then was merely mortal after April.  Would like to see a better level of consistency.
  • Nate McLouth should see reduced playing time, therefore his performance will be lessened.
  • Marlon Byrd and Jayson Werth:  these guys just have to start getting old at some point, right?  Even so, Byrd should be a dramatic improvement over the RF’s used by Philadelphia in 2013.
  • Both the Marlins and Phillies can’t hardly be worse than 2013… but I also don’t see a lot of improvement in the case of the Marlins.  Giancarlo Stanton might just beat his team’s offensive WAR performance by himself, though.

 

Defense

There truly isn’t a lot to project on the defensive side.  Curtis Granderson and Marlon Byrd are the newcomers to the division, and both are roughly average defenders.  Granderson switching to left field could be interesting, given that he’ll have to get used to fly balls that curl away from him.  It shouldn’t be a big deal overall, though.

  • Once again the Phillies were terrible in their outfield defense.  At least Delmon Young won’t be out there, so RF will be significantly improved… but not enough.  They will still be league-worst.
  • The Marlins should be about the same:  Stanton has a golden bat and an iron glove.
  • The Nationals:  the same.
  • Atlanta should be a little better in outfield defense since Justin will have a full year behind him in LF and all fielders down through Jordan Schafer can go get it.  Also, Evan Gattis won’t be out there very much at all (so naturally we got another catcher to put out there – but at least he can run :).
  • The Mets should be a little better on defense… not so much that you’d notice, but their arms and speed are pretty decent.
  • Overall:  the first three teams (Mets/Braves/Nationals) will all be about equal.  Marlins and Phils will be lagging well behind.

 

Bench Players

You’d have to expect that Atlanta’s crop is better than the rest, due to their speed, multiple switch-hitters, and past performance.  Additionally, Fredi Gonzalez isn’t afraid to use them – knowing that they will produce well.

The Nationals’ acquisition of Nate McLouth makes their bench next best, though I’d have to wonder how often he’ll be used behind Harper, Span, and Werth.

Third is Eric Young backing up the Mets’ outfield triumvirate.   Streaky – like Jordan Schafer – but can sustain them well in a pinch.

Beyond that… if you aren’t starting for either the Mets or Phils outfields, then I truly can’t say a lot of things about your production potential.

 

Overall Outfield Rankings

Let’s see how things add up…

NLEastOutfielders3

Yes, Washington gets the nod due to the lack to any serious performance questions.  Their outfield lineup simply looks to be more dependable in all aspects of the game right now.  Sure, there are other teams… well, excepting the Marlins and Phils… that could jump up and make some noise, but objectively speaking, you’d have to think that there are fewer questions about the trio of Harper, Span, and Werth.  If Werth breaks down, then McLouth can step in without an unreasonable loss of production.

With Atlanta, the question will be just how far Fredi goes with B.J. Upton if he can’t get anything going.  Fortunately, we have nearly another month to find out if he can snap out of that funk.  If not, then Jordan Schafer could be called upon a lot more often than hoped.

  • Best Overall Player:  (tie)  Jason Heyward, Bryce Harper
  • Worst Overall Player:  It’s B.J., unless he can get it into gear.  Otherwise, pick one of the Marlins.  Hard to say due to limited playing time thus far.
  • One to Watch:  Domonic Brown – will he build on a solid 2013 and realize his potential?  2nd option:  Granderson and Lagares:  on their shoulders rest much of the fortunes of the 2014 Mets.

That’s my projection of the NL East’s outfields… let’s hear your take!

 

 

Tags: Atlanta Braves Featured Outfield Player Rankings Popular

  • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

    Wow. When I get some time, I’m going to try to digest your article Alan. It looks great, but my mind is in 1st gear. K, no quips.

    • fireboss

      Glad it wasn’t just me that was confused. Looked like Tic Tac DUh-Oh to me

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      Bottom line? Not much change from last year, though I do expect some improvements (some from the basement) from all teams other than the Nats. But in their case, they were already #1 since they have three producers.

      • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

        Alan, I wasn’t confused (Fred! ;-) hehe)). I just hadn’t had time when you first posted to read it. Think you’re correct on JHey being the best overall outfielder, but he needs to step up other elements of his game if he wants that LTC. All-in-all, I’d say the NL East is seriously lacking any major outfield talent, with the exception of a handful at best. Nice read.

  • Lee Trocinski

    I think Brown won’t have a season much better than last year, and a lot of his offensive value was offset by his circus routes in LF. Yelich intrigues me, as he should break out as he learns to hit the ball in the air more.

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      Yeah, last year it was “hit it to RF” in Philly. This year, go the other way. Brown’s offense improved noticeably last year, but he’s still got room to grow. Then again, 2 WAR would still be an improvement, and he oughta reach that modest hurdle.

      Didn’t realize he’s gonna be 27 this year. Still looks young compared to… well, the rest of their roster.

      • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

        2013 may have been the best you’ll ever see Brown, and that may have been a good deal of luck. Yelich intrigues me too Lee. He works deep into counts, and is a good contact hitter, but struggles against lefties and has a tendency, because he works deep, to SO alot. He could potentially be one of the best for the Fish though.

  • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

    Alan, I got your piece linked in our topbar menu, Hot Stove, Divisional Positional Comparisons.