In the latest issue of Sporting News, they rate the top team outfield groups. Each team correspondent for TSN has a vote and the best NL outfield is the Atlanta Braves. You know, the team with a rightfielder (Francouer) sporting a .293 OBP and a leftfielder (Langerhaus) who meekly slugged at a .378 clip. While Andrew Jones is still a top-notch player and their defense is excellent, it’s hard to imagine the National League ever having a weaker “best” outfield.
If you think that TSN must have screwed up in their rankings, it’s hard to say they are flat-out wrong, as the NL really hurts when it comes to this position. The New York Mets have a potentially strong hitting group, as long as Beltran, Alou, and Green stay healthy, but considering it’s not the year 2002, there are few guarantees of this happening.
The American League is not a whole lot better. The Yankees group of Matsui, Damon, and Abreu are very impressive hitters, but are not a plus in the field. When you add in Cabrera to this unit, though, they do rate as the best overall outfield in MLB. TSN I think blows it with their second rated AL group, as the Tigers unit (Monroe, Granderson, Ordonez) are solid players, but I question if they won’t all slip some in 2007. The Angels (Anderson, Matthews, Guerrero) and Red Sox (Ramirez, Crisp, and Drew) have larger upsides, but both teams’s must be concerned, like the Mets, about the significant injury risks their outfield’s have.
Another thing that becomes apparent when looking at the starting outfields is how few of them have players hitting their prime years. The only quality outfield groups that will start the year with all of their members under the age of 30 are the Devil Rays (Crawford, Baldelli, Young) and Braves. The Blue Jays just miss fitting into this group, as Reed Johnson recently turned 30. It could argued that Toronto might be the best overall outfield, as their defense is top-notch and Wells and Rios should continue to improve.
On TSN’s individual list, the Top 5 AL outfielders are Sizemore, Wells, Crawford, Guerrero, and Suzuki. TSN’s NL list is Beltran, Jones, Bay, Soriano, and Lee. While all are good players, it just shows how much the game has transitioned, as it would be hard to rate any of them, besides maybe Beltran, as one of the Top 10 players in the game. No position on the diamond has been more impacted by the exodus of better athletes choosing instead to play basketball or football over baseball.
I welcome anyone to do the research and point out any year where the outfield position was weaker than where it is going into 2007. I’m doing a bit of talking out of my ass here, but sometimes like Ace Ventura, great success can come from this activity.
Scott’s Top 10 Overall Team Outfields
2. Blue Jays
3. Red Sox
5. Devil Rays