Sept. 22, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) hits a single in the second inning against Seattle Mariners at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Ranking the right fielders in the AL East is a very difficult task. Last year, I ranked them in this order.
1 – Carlos Beltran, NYY
2 – Nick Markakis, BAL
3 – Shane Victorino, BOS
4 – Jose Bautista, TOR
5 – Wil Myers – TAM
I was right on Myers, the highly touted player who struggled mightily and then was traded to San Diego in the offseason. I was way off on Bautista, who had a very good year and should have been first. Beltran dealt with injury issues and struggled. Victorino was hurt, and Markakis had the rebound year I expected.
1. Toronto Blue Jays – Jose Bautista, Chris Dickerson, Chris Colabello
Last year, I commented that Bautista’s success in 2010 and 2011 had carried his reputation through 2012 and 2013, where his numbers were down. Of course, a lot of that was due to injuries. I said that the Jays needed to hope he would stay healthy in 2014. And healthy he was. Joey Bats went .286/.403/.524. He was an All-Star, a Silver Slugger and 6th in MVP voting. He was second in the AL in on-base percentage, and third in offensive WAR.
Now, Bautista is not a good defender. And he is also now 34 years old. But, he is clearly the best in this division where several of the players are aging veterans.
2. Boston Red Sox – Shane Victorino, Mookie Betts, Allen Craig, Daniel Nava
Not only is Victorino healthy heading into 2015, but the Red Sox also have options behind him if he would get hurt. Victorino only played in 30 games, but some of his numbers are comparable to what you would see in a full season from Victorino. A decent average hitter, the Flyin’ Hawaiian hit .268/.303/.382 in 2014. The average number was about 10 points below his career average, but his on-base percentage and slugging percentage were way down. Victorino is now 34 years old, but I think he may have a little more legs left in his game.
Victorino also has to be rejuvenated by the much-improved Red Sox team, and he also won’t have to play every game. Betts is going to be a utility player for the Sox, if he doesn’t get traded to Victorino’s former team, the Phillies. Allen Craig certainly can start as well.
3. Tampa Bay Rays – Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr.
The fact the Rays are in third does not bode well for the teams below them. Kiermaier has one year of experience, playing over 100 games last year for Tampa. Kiermaier hit a respectable .263/.315/.450 in 2014, with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs. Considering what the Rays saw from highly touted Myers and Desmond Jennings, and from David DeJesus, and Kiermaier actually did quite well for the light-htting Rays.
Not only will he likely start, but it may not necessarily be in right field. Steven Souza Jr. was acquired from Washington in the Wil Myers trade. Souza is probably at this point best known for his diving catch to preserve Jordan Zimmermann‘s no-hitter. He struggled mightily in 20 games at the plate for the Nationals in 2014, but his year in AAA Syracuse was fabulous. Souza hit .350/.432/.590 against AAA pitching, and the Rays certainly could use some offense. Souza will likely be given the opportunity to win a job on the team and could be starting by the end of 2015.
4. Baltimore Orioles – Travis Snider, Steve Pearce, David Lough
This is tough — because I am putting the Orioles here based on what both Snider and Pearce did last year, as opposed to what Beltran has done in his long, successful career. Pearce is going to play all over the place, but he could start in right field. Snider is the projected starter, but Chris Davis could also see some time in RF.
The Orioles’ decision not to re-sign long-time right fielder Nick Markakis has been oft-talked about. And now it is back in the news after Markakis’ recent comments. Markakis hit .276/.342/.386 last year, with 27 doubles, 14 homers and 50 RBIs in 155 games. He also scored 81 runs from the lead-off spot. Last year, Snider went .264/.338/.438 with 13 home runs, 38 RBIs and 37 runs in 140 games. Pearce hit .293/.373/.556 with 21 home runs, 49 RBIs, 26 doubles and 51 runs in 102 games. Yes, you read that right Orioles fans. Pearce was a much better offensive player than Markakis last year, and can replace Markakis.
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The problem lies in the defense. Markakis gave the Orioles Gold-Glove quality defense year after year. And although Snider is a decent defender and Pearce is scrappy, they aren’t the defensive players that Nick was. Lough on the other hand could be.
What I am trying to say is that Snider and Pearce don’t have to have the career years both had last year to replace Markakis. But they do need to be closer to their 2014 performance than their career averages. If they both struggle, I think Lough could play RF and bring a different kind of ability to the position. One other thing worth mentioning is that the Orioles have other players that could play here, such as Chris Davis, Everth Cabrera, Delmon Young, Nolan Reimold, and lastly Dariel Alvarez. Alvarez is a talented young player from Cuba who could make the Orioles at some point in 2015, and he is supposed to be excellent defensively.
5. New York Yankees – Carlos Beltran, Chris Young, Garrett Jones, Tyler Austin
The ability of an aging, 38-year-old Beltran is not the only reason the Yankees are last. But, there is also the issue of his backups being trusted based off of career years in 2014, and also the fact they may have to start at other positions. If Alex Rodriguez isn’t able to DH, there goes Young. If Mark Teixeira isn’t healthy, there goes Jones. You can see the issues here.
Beltran went .233/.301/.402 last year, with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs. You can see, these numbers were similar to Markakis. But, Beltran is a career .281/.356/.491 hitter. He wasn’t close to that. And with another year on his aging legs, for a guy who has played 17 years in the majors, there isn’t a lot left.
Carlos Beltran is an eight-time All-Star and should be in the Hall of Fame, in my opinion. But I can’t seem him having much left in the tank in 2015. And with all of the other age and injury issues, the Yankees are handcuffed into running Beltran out there.
Young and Jones have been discussed at other positions and are going to play important roles with the age of some of the other players for the Yanks. If Beltran can’t stay healthy, some of that may have to be in RF.
What do you think? Think Beltran still has one more year? Think the O’s will miss Markakis? Let me know!