As we come to the conclusion of our series on the top 10 players at each position, we come to a position in the outfield that has had a variety of player types. The Hall of Famers at this position include everyone from the big-time sluggers (Ruth, Aaron, etc.) to the talented pure hitters (Gwynn, Clemente, etc.), and plenty of great fielders. The best defenders in right field are the guys with a rocket for an arm that can throw the guy out at third base trying to get from first to third on a single (Vlad Guererro is one of the best ever). Well, let’s get started with the top 10 from MLB Network:
1. Jose Bautista (.302, 43 HR, 103 RBI, 1.056 OPS)
2. Justin Upton (.289, 31 HR, 88 RBI, .898 OPS)
3. Mike Stanton (.262, 34 HR, 87 RBI, .893 OPS)
4. Carlos Beltran (.300, 22 HR, 84 RBI, .910 OPS)
5. Nelson Cruz (.263, 29 HR, 87 RBI, .821 OPS)
6. Shin-Soo Choo (.300, 22 HR, 90 RBI, .885 OPS – 2010 stats)
7. Nick Swisher (.260, 23 HR, 85 RBI, .822 OPS)
8. Hunter Pence (.314, 22 HR, 97 RBI, .871 OPS)
9. Jayson Werth (.232, 20 HR, 58 RBI, .718 OPS)
10. Corey Hart (.285, 26 HR, 63 RBI, .866 OPS)
The interesting thing, to me, as I was looking at this list is that there aren’t exactly a lot of “spring chickens” here. Most of the better right-fielders are seasoned veterans. We’ll see whether or not that holds true for my list. There aren’t a lot of base stealers in right field, but I like the stat a little better than batting average for this group. So, here’s how I’d rank them:
1. Jose Bautista – is the leader in 6 of 9 categories the last two years. His defense is below average, but let me put it this way: Bautista’s WAR the last two seasons is 60% higher than the second-highest right fielder!
2. Justin Upton – these next three guys are so close, it’s been very difficult for me to decide how to rank them. They’re all young, have plenty of pop, and are excellent in the field. I finally decided that it’s so even, the only way to do it is by ranking them by their overall WAR. So, Upton takes the lead here. He doesn’t turn 25 until August, but ranks in the top 10 in every category the last two seasons.
3. Jay Bruce – how MLBN didn’t have him on their list I will never understand. The only category he’s outside the top 10 is stolen bases. And, he ranks in the top 5 in HR, RBI, TZL (where he’s ranked #1), and DRS. Plus, next week is just his 25th birthday.
4. Mike Stanton (a.k.a. Giancarlo Stanton) – not sure why the name change, but this guy doesn’t even turn 23 until August! Yet he ranks in the top 3 in OPS, ISO, TZL, and DRS. Plus, he’s in the top-10 in three more categories.
5. Hunter Pence – ranks in the top-10 in 6 of 9 categories . . . while spending 3/4 of the last two seasons in Houston. I almost moved him up a couple more spots just because I think he’s going to thrive in the middle of that Phillies offense. I don’t see any reason why he won’t have 30+ home runs, 100+ rbi’s, and a .900+ OPS.
6. Corey Hart – does anyone outside of Milwaukee appreciate how good this guy is? He ranks in the top-5 in five categories, and is second only to Bautista in home runs the last two years. He just turned 30, so age shouldn’t start catching up with him for another couple years.
7. Shin-Soo Choo – this is more of a projection than where Choo actually ranks the last couple years. He does have 6 top-10 rankings the last two seasons, but only 3 in the top-5, and nothing in the top-3. However, he missed half of 2011 with injury. If he had played 2011 the way he had the previous two years, he would have been near the top in OPS, RBI, and SB. He doesn’t turn 30 until July, so he should heal and be ready for 2012.
8. Nick Swisher – ranks in the top-10 in 7 of 9 categories, and has the same WAR the last two seasons as Hart and Pence. I might would have ranked him a spot or two higher, but he’s 31 going on 32, so I’m not sure how age is going to effect him this year.
9. Nelson Cruz – second only to Bautista in OPS the last two years. And, he ranks in the top-10 in six categories. But, he’ll be 32 in July, and has already demonstrated that he’s prone to injuries, as he has yet to play a full season his entire career (which might explain his 11th ranked WAR in RF).
10. Jayson Werth – it’s so hard to tell whether or not he could recover from his putrid season in 2011. Was he the happy benefactor of playing in a potent offense in Philadelphia? (If so, could that mean even bigger numbers for Pence??) Did he show his true colors in Washington last season? Either way, he still has 5 top-10 rankings the last two seasons, but will be turning 33 in May. He just barely makes the cut.
Honorable mention here goes to Jason Heyward. He battled some injury in 2011, and subsequently suffered a bit of a sophomore slump. But, he’ll just be 23 in August, so watch out for this kid. My lone deletion from MLBN’s list is Carlos Beltran. He’ll be 35 next month, only has 3 top-10 rankings, and has been a fairly consistent injury risk the last few years. That’s the make-up of a middle-of-the-pack RF’er at best – not a top-10 guy. What do you think?