By Josh Flagner
To kick off my More Than a Fan National League East season preview series, I’ve decided to do something a little different. It’s an executive decision, if you will. I even went and put on a tie for this paragraph so I would seem extra official.
Instead of writing about a different team every week – I can’t possibly do it any better than the season previews that Lisa, Ryan, Stephanie, Dom, Mark, Deb, and Matt have already done – I’m going to pick out a position group and look at how that group stacks up in comparison to the rest of the division. (If you’re wondering why those two paragraphs sound familiar, it’s because I copy/pasted them from the last two Snapshots. I don’t want to jump right into an over-played joke or table full of stats without an explanation.)
There are about 70 outfielders at each spring training camp at this point in the process, but I tried to pick the group of players that were on Major League contracts, or that I predict will end up making the teams.
Prado, Bourn and Heyward should be starting in a pop-less opening day outfield. Michael Bourn had a solid 2011 batting average, and 61 stolen bases led the league by a wide margin, but 29 home runs out of your starting outfield is (I’m being nice here) not enough.
The defense for this outfield is that that Martin Prado was playing much better in the beginning of 2011 before losing 31 games to a staph infection. If Prado can return to his 2009-10 form, he should improve his batting average to about .300. That’s very good, but his power numbers aren’t going to get any better.
Is it bad that I chose my favorite outfielder based on his twitter feed? Marlins left fielder Logan Morrison’s twitter feed is as much fun as any big leaguer. LoMo should start alongside Emilio Bonifacio and Giancarlo Stanton. If LoMo improves his batting average a touch, the pop that he and Stanton provide will complement the singles hitting speedster Bonifacio perfectly. This Marlins outfield is set up like you would set up a video game outfield. Power bats in left and right, and a good OBP and ton of steals in center.
The wild card fourth outfielder is 34 year old, $12 million Aaron Rowand. The San Francisco Giants are on the hook for for $11.52 million, which is the only way an 11 year veteran hitting .233 should be on this team. Rowand is only a non-roster invitee to Marlins camp, but given his experience with Manager Ozzie Guillen in Chicago, there’s a good chance that he’ll make the team to be veteran presence on a young outfield group.
New York Mets
I know it seems like leaving two rows empty makes it seem like this is just going to be another bashing the Mets free for all, but… Who am I kidding? That’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Bay, Torres, Duda, and Hairston are the only four players on the 40 man roster or on the Mets list of non-roster invitees that I can even somewhat comfortably assume will make the team. I can’t call any of these guys good and feel like I’m doing my readers justice, but I can take sick pleasure in pointing out that Jason Bay made over $18 million in 2011 in return for that .245 average. Don’t worry, New York fans, his number falls to $16 million this season. That should make it much easier to handle a 33 year old corner outfielder with no power left in his bat.
|John Mayberry Jr.||104||73||15||49||8||26||55||0.273||0.341|
Mayberry, Victorino, and Pence make up the most seasoned outfield in the division. Adding in the possibility of a left field platoon of Mayberry and Lance Nix makes this outfield not only seasoned, but the most offensively dangerous group we’ll see with all three projected starters have averages above .27o.
If there’s a weakness here, it’s that there could be a little more threat of the long ball coming from this group, but that’s a pretty nit-picking thing to say considering it was built around an infield anchored by master masher Ryan Howard. It’s not the outfield’s fault that the Phillies will be missing 33 HR and 116 RBI, but they need to step it up a little bit to help pick up the slack. (And Hunter Pence needs to calm down swinging at every damn thing, 124 strike outs is a bit much.)
*Stats combined from single-A Hagerstown Suns and double-A Harrisburg Senators.
Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth owns the only contract in the NL East outfield worse than Jason Bay’s. Werth may have been paid a comparatively paltry $10.5 million for his .232 average, but Washington still owes Werth $112 million for six more years. Pretending like Werth is going to worth anywhere near his salary is a waste of time, but if he can just get back to his career 162 game averages of 25 HR, 85 RBI, and .265 BA and he should make a solid opposite corner from left fielder Mike Morse.
Morse shined in his first chance at playing a whole season and if he can duplicate his 2011, the Nationals will have a tough decision to make concerning their fourth outfielder, Bryce Harper. Harper is most likely candidate to take Jayson Werth’s job in right field, but sitting a $112 million man for a 19 year old with no major league experience is a pretty iffy proposition. The weakest spot in the outfield offensively is Bernadina (this is also the weakest name in the division. I’ve called him Bernadette in my head each time I’ve thought of him), but center field isn’t Harper’s best position.
There are plenty of options in this outfield, though. Morse is also the backup first baseman and short stop, and Rick Ankiel is one of seven non-roster outfield invites to Nationals camp. I’m just hoping everyone does me a favor and finds Ryan on twitter or facebook and tells him how awesome Bryce Harper will be this year. He’ll love that.
So far I like the Phillies starting rotation and the Nationals bullpen the best. The outfield group is harder to choose from than the first two groups. I love the flashes of power and solid averages of the Marlins outfield just a bit more than the veteran consistency of the Phillies outfield. Washington would be in contention with the top two if I had any faith that Jayson Werth would play well, but I think he’ll continue regressing. The Braves and Mets outfields are both in shambles. There’s very little chance that there won’t be some surprise players making those two teams out of camp as the organizations will be trying to find the right formula.
Picking my favorite overall is starting to look like it’s going to be a tough task.