Ranking the right fielders in the AL East is not at all an easy exercise. Every team but the Tampa Bay Rays features a veteran at the position, all players who have been quite successful over their career.
Because of that, the position is very much up for debate. Read my rankings and then comment and let me know why I am wrong!
1. New York Yankees
Let’s start with age. Beltran is 36 years old, and was just given a 3-year, $45 million contract by the New York Yankees. This will be Beltran’s 17th season in the major leagues, and the eight-time All-Star comes off a very successful 2013 with the St. Louis Cardinals. A lifetime .283 hitter, Beltran has driven in over 100 runs eight times. Unfortunately for Yankees fans, the last of those 8 times was in 2009. Carlos is no longer the speed threat he once was, and also has lost some luster in the field with age. But, he still heads up the right field rankings due to the consistent success he has had, despite aging.
His backup, Ichiro is not a spring chicken either. At 40 years old, Ichiro no longer will put up a season where he has over 200 hits and hits over .300, and that is why the Yankees have him in a reserve role, although he easily could see time at DH as well. The Yankees’ number of aging players is staggering, and if age catches up to a number of them, it will be a long season for the pinstripe-clad crew.
2. Baltimore Orioles
Another make no mistake about it, despite all the depth in the Orioles’ outfield, RF is Nick Markakis’ territory. To be honest, I had Markakis ranked last until I looked at the stats. But when I did that, and you factor in his age compared to the other players in the division, I realized he deserved to be much, much higher. A first-round pick in 2003, the 30-year-old is in a contract year, is healthy and coming off the worst season of his career. Since becoming a starter in 2006, Markakis’ first year in the majors, he has played in 160 or more games in five of those eight seasons. In fact, only in 2012 did he play in less than 145 games, and Orioles fans won’t let anyone forget why (thanks C.C. Sabathia). Markakis’ numbers over a 162 game average are very consistent, and since he is typically so healthy, is what you normally see from him. Over 180 hits, 30 doubles, 17 HRs, 81 RBIs are just some of those numbers. From 2007 through 2011 Markakis was in the top 10 in hits in the AL in each season. Markakis also has the best eye on the Orioles’ team, and although he doesn’t take a lot of walks he does not strike out a lot either. He has played in the second most games in the majors at RF among active players, behind only Ichiro, and has the second most putouts and assists among active right fielders, trailing Ichiro in both. He also has the best active fielding percentage for a RF, second only to Terry Puhl for a career. Markakis’ offensive and defensive consistency makes him the player he is and earns him this spot on the rankings.
Delmon Young is pushing to make the team as a back up and DH against left-handed pitchers, and would likely be Markakis’ main backup at the position. Ryan Flaherty could also see time here if necessary.
3. Boston Red Sox
Victorino, at 33 does not have the youth of one of the players further down the list, but is still quite a spark plug for the Red Sox. Victorino had his best average of his career in 2013 at .294. Not a big power hitter, Victorino is usually in the double digits in HRs, but less than 20. Out of all his full seasons in the majors, only 2005, which was his first full year was Victorino not in between 10-20 HRs. Victorino doesn’t strike out much, but also doesn’t take a lot of walks. He did lead the majors in hit by pitches in 2013, and is a player known to do whatever the team needs. In fact, he played through several injuries in 2013 to help the Red Sox with the World Series. The Flyin’ Hawaiian has four Gold Gloves, including one from 2013.
Gomes will make the team and will likely be the reserve corner outfielder, able to fill in at either right or left field. Gomes brings more of an offensive presence than a defensive one.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
Bautista, 33, has been an All-Star each of the last four seasons as he basks in the glow of leading the majors in home runs in 2010 and 2011. But a look at his numbers reveals something alarming. Those two years, were the best years of his career BY FAR. In fact, a lot of that had to do with the fact he stayed healthy and played in 161 games in 2010, and 149 in 2011. In his career, he only has one other season in which he has played more than 130 games, and that was back in 2007. Bautista has a great eye and will often take as many walks as he does strike out. Clearly, playing in Rogers Centre in Toronto has helped his numbers, as before 2010 he never hit over 16 home runs. A career .254 hitter, Bautista has only hit better than .260 once, and that was in 2011 when he led the majors in on-base percentage and was third in the MVP race. And the defensive numbers are not really great either, as Bautista is more of a liability than he is a solid defender. The Jays are going to have to hope the slugger can stay healthy in 2014.
Sierra and Pillar are fighting to make the team as the reserve corner outfielder. I think Pillar gets the nod, but neither player has had a lot of success at the major league level, albeit in limited opportunities last season.
5. Tampa Bay Rays
Myers, who by the way is 23, played in 88 games in 2013 for the Rays, hitting .293 and winning Rookie of the Year honors in the AL. The numbers from his first partial campaign are not eye-popping, and that is what keeps this man who thinks could be one of the best pure hitters in baseball so low on the rankings. Will he be able to live up to the expectations everyone has for him? He struggled mightily in the playoffs in 2013, going 2 for 20 with no extra base hits and 7 strikeouts. Myers is not going to be a star defender, he is expected to be a star with the bat. But he is going to have to prove it game in and game out against the top competition in the AL East.
Joyce will likely be the backup corner outfielder and get starts in LF or at DH, but make no mistake about it, RF is Wil Myers’ position.
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