Power Ranking the Best Outfields in MLB After the Justin Upton Trade
As pitchers and catchers are a few weeks away from reporting to spring training, it’s time to get into the baseball state of mind.
This offseason, many outfielders have found a new home. Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher are the biggest names who have changed teams.
While some outfields got stronger, some suffered big losses. The Texas Rangers came up empty in their search for a Hamilton replacement.
Having a good outfield is a major factor in any team. Not just offensively, but the ability to cover ground and throw runners out as well.
In light of the recent blockbuster trade involving Upton, here’s a breakdown of the MLB’s best outfields heading into the season.
30. Houston Astros
Clearly in rebuilding mode, Houston’s outfield features Fernando Martinez, Brandon Barnes, Justin Maxwell and J.D. Martinez.
Not a lot of experience here, Maxwell has the longest major league tenure, playing parts of three seasons at the big-league level.
Trading away Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee in recent years has limited their options.
Recently signing Rick Ankiel to a minor league contract and an invitation to spring training will provide this group with some veteran leadership. He also has one of the strongest outfield arms in baseball.
For now, they are behind every other team until they get more experience.
29. Minnesota Twins
Josh Willingham headlines the outfield of the Twins, but has limited range. He hits for power, knocking a career-high 35 home runs last year. He also had four errors in the outfield last year.
Chris Parmelee is making a transition to the outfield from first base. That’s until Justin Morneau is traded or injured.
Darin Mastroianni started only 41 games last year, playing all three outfield positions with mediocre defense.
The outfield needs work. After trading away Denard Span to Washington and Ben Revere to Philadelphia, the door is opened for Aaron Hicks, former first-round pick to compete for center in the spring.
It’s open competition for the Twins outfield.
28. New York Mets
The Mets outfield showed some potential last season. Led by Lucas Duda, this is another outfield with little experience.
The outfield was a main area of this team that needed to be addressed but wasn’t upgraded.
Though they could still add an outfielder before Opening Day, right now, they lack depth.
Duda clubbed 15 home runs, but displayed numerous poor defensive outings.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter and Collin Cowgill all have a lot of upside, but it’s too soon to consider them anything special. Each is young and has yet to play a full season in the majors.
Another team that is in rebuilding mode, needing a veteran presence.
27. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs outfield is mediocre.
Headlined by Alfonso Soriano, he is coming off one of his most productive seasons in the majors where he hit 32 homers and drove in 108. The 37-year-old veteran may not another season like that left in him.
His range is down, and there’s not another player on this roster who could help Soriano out.
David DeJesus’ production has drastically decreased, and Nate Schierholtz won’t give the Cubs much more.
Brett Jackson is still a question mark.
It could be another long year for the Cubs faithful.
26. Miami Marlins
With Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins have some power. He is still only 23 and has proven to be a dominant piece in any lineup. He smacked 37 home runs last year and has a dynamic arm to go with that swing.
After Stanton, though, the Marlins outfield is thin.
With Logan Morrison moving to first base, Juan Pierre takes over in left. The aging speedster can still cover a lot of ground, but his range has declined over the past few years.
That leaves Justin Ruggiano, who played very well at the end of last season. In 91 games, he hit .313 and is slated to start in center field.
The Marlins are rebuilding, though they could jump in these rankings if Ruggiano can continue the success he has sustained in Miami.
25. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies acquired Ben Revere from Minnesota this offseason to bolster their outfield. Revere brings speed (he stole 40 bases last year) and great range to this Phillies team. And he's only 24. The Phillies will look for production from him right away.
Domonic Brown has spent parts of three seasons trying to earn his spot on this team, and that may come this year. Brown has been disappointing, so far, explosive at times and slumping in others.
John Mayberry, Darin Ruf, Delmon Young and Laynce Nix are the other Phillies outfielders looking for a starting job.
Young can provide some power, as can Mayberry, but their defense is a liability.
It will take some time to tell whether or not this Phillies outfield has what it takes to succeed.
24. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are often overlooked, but here is one category where they have the ability to excel. Their outfield features Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce and Brandon Guyer.
Jennings is a speed guy. He stole a career-high 31 bases last year and will look to improve his overall offensive numbers next season.
Joyce is a quality player with average range and average arm. The 28-year-old hit 17 home runs last year and could put up 20 this year.
Guyer doesn’t have much major league experience, but he is ready to make an impact in a thin Rays outfield.
They have the ability to be top of the line; it just might have to wait a few years.
23. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks have parted ways with Justin Upton after signing Cody Ross.
Ross has been a very solid player the last few years, and the Diamondbacks expect him to be the same next season. He is coming off a 22-home-run season and has been consistent in his outfield range and ability to throw runners out.
Jason Kubel brings power to this outfield. He smashed 30 long balls last year. Arizona will look for more of that this season. He doesn't have much defensive ability.
Gerardo Parra is an above-average fielder with above-average range. He should provide some stability in the outfield when Kubel is out.
Adam Eaton has yet to play a full big-league season, but did show what he can do in a limited role last year.
For this outfield, soon it’s going to be rebuilding time.
22. San Diego Padres
Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin and Will Venable are the outfielders here.
Maybin has shown his range the past couple of seasons, and we shouldn’t expect that to falter any time soon. He does have some offensive struggles, but he will stay in the lineup because of his defense.
Carlos Quentin was brought in for power. He hit only 16 homers last year and has very bad range on defense.
Venable is no more than an average player. He holds a career .253 average and .740 OPS. His defense is inconsistent.
San Diego may have to look for other options soon.
21. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners have added three veteran hitters to their outfield: Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay and Michael Morse.
Bay has a lot to prove in the outfield, as does Ibanez. This group is only here because of their ability to hit. Defense could be a major issue here, and that is why they aren’t higher on my list.
Morse plays mediocre defense; his bat also keeps him in the outfield everyday.
Franklin Gutierrez is going to have to carry this outfield on his back. He has above-average defensive skills and must show his range this year with the slow players in the corner spots.
Seattle addressed their need for an outfielder and will hope to see some production from them.
20. Cleveland Indians
With the acquisitions of Drew Stubbs and Nick Swisher, this outfield may be one to watch in 2013. The Indians have given Michael Brantley two very qualified outfielders.
Swisher will give you some power, some run production and some flashy defense.
Stubbs is quick. He has great range and a decent arm. He has totaled 24 outfield assists in his career and has stolen 70 bases the past two seasons.
Brantley keeps getting better. His new teammates should help him tremendously.
Cleveland is heading in the right direction with the upgrades to their outfield.
19. Kansas City Royals
Alex Gordon has showed his No. 1 pick value the past few seasons. He clubbed 14 home runs last year while hitting .274 in 161 games. With 37 outfield assists the past two years, he’s been a treat for the Royals who have made strides at becoming a contender.
Lorenzo Cain needs a breakout year. I thought it would be last year, but he was hurt in the beginning of the season and never reached his full potential. If he’s able to stay healthy, he has great range in the outfield and great speed.
Jeff Francoeur has one of the best arms in baseball, but no range and no speed. He should be able to complement Cain, but his arm is the only thing keeping him in the outfield.
It's another middle-of-the-pack group.
18. Pittsburgh Pirates
Andrew McCutchen leads this group of young players. He is the most proven of the bunch, becoming a dynamic force in that lineup and the face of the franchise.
McCutchen hit .327 last year with 31 homers, 96 RBI and 20 steals. He is the ultimate five-tool player.
Behind him, things get tricky.
Starling Marte has tons of potential, but not playing a full season has hurt the Pirates power rankings. He showed signs of explosiveness, but we don’t know what kind of player he can be year in and year out.
Garrett Jones can hit for power, but he’s inconsistent. He had a down 2011, but turned things around with 27 homers and 86 RBI last year.
There are too many question marks behind McCutchen for the Pirates to be any higher right now.
17. Texas Rangers
After failing to retain Josh Hamilton and striking out on a deal for Justin Upton, the Rangers outfield took a hit.
David Murphy is consistent. He hit .304 last year and had some clutch hits down the stretch. Look for him to take control of this outfield early on.
Nelson Cruz provides the power. He’s had at least 20 homers and 75 RBI the past four years.
Craig Gentry has a lot to prove if he’s going to replace Hamilton. He has tremendous upside and played well filling in for an injured Hamilton last year.
There will be no doubt that the Rangers will be hurting from the loss of their best player.
For now, they’re in the middle of the pack.
16. Boston Red Sox
The Sox have said goodbye to Cody Ross, but welcome Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes. These are two guys who have a strong clubhouse presence and could help get this team back on the right track.
Jacoby Ellsbury is an MVP-caliber player. A career .297 hitter, Ellsbury possesses dominant range. In Fenway Park, it seems he can run down any fly ball no matter where it is. He has an above-average arm to boot.
Victorino will be a nice complement to Ellsbury. He signed a three-year, $39 million contract earlier this winter. He is a base stealer, a game-changer and brings positive range to Fenway. He should perform as well as Ross a year ago.
Gomes brings a likable personality and home-run capabilities. He will have to learn to play the Green Monster in left.
Youngsters Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish will be ready to go to provide some depth.
15. Colorado Rockies
When an outfield has Carlos Gonzalez, that immediately boosts them up in the rankings. CarGo is a premiere player in the majors. He has a .299 career average and .874 career OPS.
Gonzalez has totaled 38 assists in his five year career and has an explosive power bat.
Dexter Fowler showed signs of breaking out last year on his way to hitting .300. He still has a lot to improve on, most notably his defense, but the speed and the range are there. He just has to put it all together.
Tyler Colvin played very well in his first season in Colorado, and with the talent around him, he should continue to produce.
It's another middle-of-the-pack outfield.
14. Chicago White Sox
Alex Rios is the veteran in this group. Rios has a power bat, and he showed that with 25 home runs a year ago. He is a proven outfielder who should help considerably to the young players to his right.
Alejandro De Aza is set to be the everyday center fielder. De Aza showed his value last year with his ability to track down fly balls. He played in 136 games and had four leadoff home runs (fifth in franchise history).
Dayan Viciedo is extremely valuable. He had a .996 fielding percentage and powered his way to 25 home runs and 78 RBI.
The White Sox outfield has tremendous upside and should play well for the 2013 season.
13. Milwaukee Brewers
2011 MVP Ryan Braun is still one of the best hitters in the game. He hit 41 homers and knocked in 112 runs last year while almost duplicating his MVP season. He has a career .313 average and is capable of putting an entire team on his back.
Carlos Gomez had his best year in 2012, seeing career highs in average, home runs and stolen bases. He doubled up four runners from the outfield and had five outfield assists.
Norichika Aoki had a solid rookie season hitting .288 with 30 stolen bases and a .787 OPS. He played his best in right field, which is where he’ll spend most of his time in 2013.
With a group that includes Ryan Braun, there shouldn’t be too many things to worry about.
12. Baltimore Orioles
Adam Jones is the face of the Orioles franchise. He is coming off a season where he posted a 3.4 WAR (wins above replacement) while hitting 32 homers. He is an above-average fielder with 35 assists in the last three years.
Nick Markakis is one of the most valuable players on the team. He hits for average and has some pop in his bat. He missed some time due to injury last season, but had 14 assists in 2011.
Markakis is a big piece in what the Orioles are trying to do.
The weak link is Nate McLouth. His defense far outweighs his offense.
The Orioles have been looking to add an outfielder and may need to do that to bolster their depth.
11. Cincinnati Reds
Replacing Drew Stubbs with Shin Soo-Choo gives the Reds a slight upgrade at center field.
Choo is an above-average hitter, a career .289 average. He provides the Reds with a viable option to play all three outfield positions.
Jay Bruce has been consistent during his tenure with the Reds.Coming off a 34-homer, 99-RBI season, Bruce is improving defensively each year.
A combination of Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey make this a very interesting outfield.
Ludwick hit 26 home runs last season with an .877 OPS. His number will be called to help lead the Reds to a division title.
10. San Francisco Giants
The Giants won a World Series last year with Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence. The same three will trot out there on Opening Day.
Like the old saying goes: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Pence proved to be a valuable piece to the puzzle, becoming a key factor in the World Series run. His unorthodox style makes him fun to watch. After joining the Giants, he hit seven homers and was a leader in the clubhouse. He’s had 11 outfield assists in each of the last two seasons.
Pagan received a new contract this offseason to be the Giants center fielder for four more years. He had a 2.70 range factor, above the league average.
Blanco may be best known for his diving catch that saved Matt Cain’s perfect game. The 29-year-old had his most productive season last year and will look to improve on that with the same group of guys around him.
This group was a valuable piece to their World Series victory and will continue to be valuable to the team.
9. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers reached the World Series last year and has improved its outfield this season with the signing of Torii Hunter.
Hunter is consistent. A .992 career fielding percentage, an above-average arm (14 assists, five double plays last year) and a player coming off a season in which he hit .313, Hunter greatly improves the outfield.
Austin Jackson is a career .280 hitter. He is above average defensively and has 23 assists in a three-year career to go with a .990 career fielding percentage.
Quintin Berry still needs to prove himself. Andy Dirks may have the left-field job come Opening Day.
Regardless, both these players are capable of playing well in limited roles as we saw last year. Dirks hit .322 in 88 games last year.
The Tigers upgraded from Delmon Young to Hunter in a year after a World Series appearance.
8. New York Yankees
The Yankees defense is aging, but speedy.
Ichiro can cover ground, Brett Gardner may be the fastest person in baseball and Curtis Granderson has emerged into an elite power hitter.
Ichiro revived his career in New York last season, and there’s no reason to think he’s done. He had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage with the Yankees the last half of the season.
Gardner can cover a lot of ground, which should bode well for Granderson, as he can shift toward right center. He brings the stolen bases to this Yankee team that missed his speed last season.
Granderson may have lost some speed, and therefore range, but he has proved he can track down a fly ball in the gap on numerous occasions. He made zero errors in 157 games played a year ago.
Though they need a right-handed bat for some insurance in the outfield, this group should carry the load, and there’s no reason to think they won’t be able to.
7. Oakland A’s
The emergence of Yoenis Cespedes has worked wonders for the A’s. In a superb rookie season, Cespedes posted a .292 average with 23 homers. The ball absolutely flies off his bat.
Defensively, he posted a .988 fielding percentage and added nine outfield assists.
Reddick quickly became a fan favorite as he smashed 32 homers and drove in 85 runs.
Defensive-minded Coco Crisp is in center, where he posted a .992 fielding percentage last year with four assists and two double plays. He has plus speed and great range.
This outfield is young (though Crisp is 33), has shown consistency and has a bright future.
6. Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays have bolstered their outfield depth with the addition of Melky Cabrera. The reigning All-Star Game MVP, Cabrera missed the end of last season while serving a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
Before the suspension, Cabrera hit .346. Though we don’t know how much of that is due to his steroid use, he still has a cannon for an arm. He’s thrown out more than 10 runners in three separate years and has a career .989 fielding percentage.
Jose Bautista is the best power hitter in the game and the leader of this Toronto team.
Colby Rasmus is an above-average defender who threw out seven runners last year.
This team is destined for great things, and a lot lies on the shoulders of the outfield.
5. St. Louis Cardinals
An outfield with Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran has been a strong suit for St. Louis. Their offensive production is consistent. Beltran hit 32 homers, and Holliday added 27 of his own. But, their defense could be a liability.
Enter Jon Jay. With his ability to cover ground on both sides of center, it means Holliday and Beltran won’t have to cover that much ground. He will use his defense to stabilize a heavy-hitting outfield.
With the production the Cardinals get from these three, they should be right back in the thick of the playoff hunt.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
Matt Kemp was an MVP candidate two years ago, and while injuries hurt his 2012 campaign, he should be back to dominating. His power goes without question as he has come to hit many opposite-field home runs.
He is a dynamic duo with Andre Ethier. Ethier is a great defender (.988 fielding percentage in right field last year) and can hit with the best of them.
Carl Crawford is coming off a season filled with injuries and will miss a chunk of the first half of the season. He wasn’t the same player in Boston whom he was in Tampa Bay. He has always had the speed and range in the field, but his offensive production is way down. Still, he is plenty capable of coming back to life in Los Angeles.
Jerry Hairston Jr. and Skip Schumaker provide depth in this outfield and will fill in for Crawford until he is ready.
If Crawford can have a comeback year, the Dodgers will exceed their already high expectations.
3. Washington Nationals
When the Nationals acquired Denard Span, he gave them a leadoff hitter with great outfield range.
He mans center in an outfield with Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth.
Werth has been a mainstay in the outfield for years, showing his “werth” with Philadelphia. He has some pop in his bat and an above-average glove.
Harper is going to be compared to Mike Trout for his entire career which is a little unfair. He is coming off an NL Rookie of the Year campaign.
Harper is a prodigy, just 20 years old and will continue to be a major force both on offense and defense. His aggressiveness, both going after the ball on defense and stealing bases on offense, is something that separates him from most.
The Nationals are primed for another NL East title run, and this gives the NL East two of the top three outfields in baseball.
2. Atlanta Braves
The Braves replaced Michael Bourn with B.J. Upton and acquired his brother, Justin, from the Diamondbacks last week.
Add Jason Heyward and Atlanta has three five-tool guys in its outfield. Heyward won his first Gold Glove in 2012 at age 23.
Both Uptons bring high value to this team. They have speed and range. On offense, they are both capable of hitting 25 homers (Justin had 18 last year, while B.J had 27).
The youth of this outfield is incredible—three players each with at least three years of experience and the oldest player is B.J.; he’s 28.
This could easily challenge the Angels as the best outfield in baseball.
1. Los Angeles Angels
With the signing of Josh Hamilton, the Angels became the best outfield in the majors. Hamilton brings the ability to hit for power and a plus arm in the field.
Alongside Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo, this is a very dangerous outfield.
Trout was second in MVP voting last year and won the AL Rookie of the Year. He had 30 home runs, scored 129 times and had 49 stolen bases. Oh, and he’s just 21 years old. He has tremendous range that we saw when he robbed home run after home run.
Trumbo hit 32 home runs last year and settled in as a corner outfielder after struggling at third base. He will excel with the talent he has around him.
With Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells, they have the most outfield depth in the league.
At this early point, I think the Angels have the best outfield in all of baseball.