Jose Bautista has put together a historical, Ruth-like run since the beginning of the 2010 season, but has that been enough for him to surge past other All-Stars like Matt Holliday, Ryan Braun, or last year's MVP Josh Hamilton as the best outfielder in Major League Baseball?
Find out here with this list of the Top 10 Outfielders in the MLB.
Andrew McCutchen: Five-tooler, leader of the surprising Pirates, could rocket toward top of list in the next year or two.
Shane Victorino: Overshadowed by MVPs in the Phillies lineup but a prominent top of the order hitter, with above average CF defense and a cannon of an arm.
Carlos Beltran: Despite playing for the hapless New York Mets the last half-decade, remained among the game's elite OF, still posting .900 OPS at the plate.
Ichiro Suzuki: Worst year of professional career on any continent and still will push 200 hits.
Michael Cuddyer: Nearly as important to the Twins' success in AL Central over the last half-decade as Mauer and Morneau, solid OPS year in and year out, one of the toughest middle-of-the-order hitters to strikeout in MLB.
Carl Crawford: Who would've thought he'd slip out of top three—never mind, 10. Likely will return to form and be the hitter Boston paid for in the future.
21-year old Mike Stanton has emerged as perhaps the premier power hitter in the MLB
Let's start with the few things Stanton doesn't do well on a baseball field. Yes, he strikes out. A lot, in fact, as he's on pace for about 170 in a full MLB season this year. And striking out that much will most likely keep him from ever being confused with a batting champion.
However, it is necessary to remember that Stanton turned 21 during the offseason last year. You should also consider that, at the same age, another premier slugger, Ryan Howard, struck out at a similar pace of 145 times in 135 games. And he was in Single-A, not battling Cy Young winners like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.
Now consider that with the strikeouts comes something any big-league club would welcome—incredible power. In his 206 MLB games, Stanton has slugged 47 homers and 40 doubles while knocking in 127 runs. Those numbers translate to a 162-game average of 31 doubles, 37 homers and 100 RBI.
Stanton, who is probably five to six years away from "prime hitting years," has led the MLB in round-trippers since May 1 this year. He looks like a lock to produce runs and hit in the middle of both the Marlins and NL All-Star lineups for the next decade or so.
Oh yeah, throw in the fact that he plays solid defense and has one of the best arms in the entire league (anyone who doubts that need to find themselves the video of him throwing Jose Reyes out by 20 feet at the plate a couple days ago), and it's no wonder Stanton is on the right path towards superstardom.
Granderson has emerged as the offensive leader of the Yankees in 2011.
Fast forward a year, and the Yankees couldn't be happier to have him on board as he's returned to his Detroit form and then some. With A-Rod battling the injury bug and Teixeira hitting on the wrong side of .250 all season, Granderson has powered an offense that currently has the Yankees sitting with the AL's best record.
Granderson, whose OPS is currently at .930, is on pace for more than 40 homers, 140 runs and 125 RBI. The center fielder has also swiped 20 bases already and will be among a handful of legitimate MVP candidates when the season finishes.
Ellsbury put his lost 2010 behind him, emerging as one of the game's best lead-off men.
Perhaps the most surprising name to break onto this list after his 2010 was lost to injury. Making it more impressive that he's here is the bad publicity that surrounded him in Boston.
He was painted as a bad teammate and malcontent who stayed away while injured and didn't put in effort to get back on the field, leading to constant rumors that he'd played his last game in a Red Sox uniform.
Quickly and often this year, Ellsbury has erased any ill memories people may of had of him, emerging as one of the best and most electric lead-off hitters in the MLB.
He has dazzled fans since his first day in the big leagues with his incredible speed, but this year Ellsbury has transformed his entire game the plate. He doesn't show any real weakness now, and has tapped into some unforeseen power to go with his upper-echelon speed.
Ellsbury, who had 20 career homers in 349 games entering this year, has slugged 18 already in 110 games. His 66 RBI this year are already more than any full season of his career, and with 83 runs scored already, he is on pace to score more than 120 times.
He does benefit from having former MVP Dustin Pedroia and 2011 MVP front-runner Adrian Gonzalez hitting behind him, but the man known formerly for having game-changing speed had transformed into just a game-changer.
Gonzalez burst on to the scene winning the NL batting title a year ago
A season ago, Gonzalez ripped through the National League and had some calling him the best player in the MLB after he won a batting title and swatted 36 home runs.
For those who pegged Gonzalez as a 40-40 guy who couldn't be stopped, the earliest parts of this season were something of a disappointment. His OPS was a meager .582 after April.
It has since steadily reached .849 and will climb towards .900 before season's end.
Gonzalez may never rip off 40-40, and better players have failed to get there before him, but he will be a guy who at least creates a buzz about it annually.
While he gets some boost from being able to call Colorado home (and will for at least the better part of the next decade, since the Rockies inked him and Troy Tulowitzki to team-friendly long-term deals last winter), the real reason Gonzalez's best days are in front of him is his birth date.
In late October, after he has finished his fourth season the MLB, the five-tool outfielder will turn just 26.
Justin Upton has become the face of the DBacks as a 23-year old.
Upton, who doesn't turn 24 until the end of the month, hasn't had the same problem of building on his promise like older brother BJ. In fact, Justin, an all-star for the second time this season, is putting together his finest campaign to date.
He's on his way to his first season with an OPS over .900, and could finish the year with 30 homers for the first time.
He truly has no weakness on the field. He strikes out like any other middle-of-the-order hitter, but also draws more walks than most players his age. His power and speed are evident, and he has one of the few arms in the game that can rival Stanton's.
Considering that Upton is playing in his fifth season in the MLB, despite the fact that many prospects debut at his current age, one can only wonder what his future holds.
While he may still be two to three years away from primetime, he's already turned into an impressive player all over the field. He's already an All-Star, but his upside has got to be something similar to what Ken Griffey Jr. did for the Mariners in his mid-to-late 20s.
Budding star Matt Kemp has showcased all five tools this season.
Kemp seemed on the verge of a breakout year in 2009, winning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger while finishing in the top 10 in MVP voting. Last year, he had a down season, only hitting .249 and posting the worst OPS of his career.
His "down" season a year ago still featured 28 homers, 19 steals and more than 80 runs and RBI.
This season, Kemp rebounded in impressive fashion, has been better than ever, and would likely be the front-runner for the NL MVP if the Dodgers were any good. His .977 OPS is fourth in the NL, and he is the only player in the MLB with a legitimate shot at a 40-40 season as he has 26 round trippers and 28 stolen bases.
He's only five RBI off his pace of a season ago, trailing only Ryan Howard in the NL as he's knocked in 84 runs.
The 26-year-old Kemp is still a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder who can throw, and will be the main reason the Dodgers are ever able to climb past the debacle that's surrounded the team during the McCourts' divorce proceedings.
Matt Holliday is consistetly of the top hitters in baseball.
Remember when people chastised the Cardinals for overpaying for his services because they "bid against themselves?"
Well, it turns out all Holliday does is hit, and hit, and hit. And he's the rare hitter not affected by playing in Colorado. A career .319 hitter who posted an OPS of .938 while playing his home games in the Denver air, Holliday has been even better as a Cardinal.
Sure he's got the Albert Pujols factor now, but his .321 average and .962 OPS with the Red Birds have improved his career slash marks.
His career OPS is .936 and only twice ever has Holliday failed to reach the .900 mark by season's end, and those were his first two seasons in the MLB.
Few players are a lock to hit .300, homer 25 times, score 100 times and knock in 100 runs but year in and year out, Matt Holliday uses those as the floor of his production.
Throw in the fact that he's swiped double digit bases every season since sophomore year, and it's clear that Holliday is one of the most complete offensive players in the game today.
Reigning MVP Josh Hamilton needs to stay healthy.
Tough crowd when a reigning batting champ and MVP finds himself as the third-best player at his position, but that is the case with Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton's physical tools, or natural baseball talent, are probably better than anyone collecting a check from a Major League team right now. They're probably as good across the board as anyone who's ever played the game, whether you're talking about Mantle, Mays, Bonds or Griffey.
The thing keeping Hamilton from the top of this list is simply his injury history. Hamilton put a lot of miles on his body before his well-documented recovery from substance abuse and ascension to stardom, and that is the only thing that seems to slow him down.
Only one season of his five at the big league level has he avoided at least one trip to the disabled list. Even last year as the AL MVP, Hamilton found himself sidelined for most of the season's final month with a rib injury.
When he gets on the field he can hit, he can run, he can catch and he can throw, all in impressive fashion. He's made the All-Star team four times in five years, and has won two Silver Sluggers as a career .311 hitter who's posted a .913 OPS. He has only been able to play in 543 of a possible 762 games in that time.
In two years Bautista has gone from back up to one of the games best.
And that answers the question of whether Bautista is the best in baseball. Right now, he's only smashed his way up to No. 2 on the list.
With some tweaking, the old saying of "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" applies to Bautista. See, last year, he exploded onto the season, bashing his way into the Blue Jays record books.
No one saw it coming, so it was okay to be surprised by what he did. Now, a year later, Bautista is putting together an even more impressive campaign, and it's time for no one to be fooled by him anymore—he is an elite slugger in Major League Baseball. It's okay to utter his name in the same sentence as anyone else you'd mention with Pujols when discussing the game's most potent bats.
Bautista may not reach 50 bombs ever again, but he could wind up with 100 homers over a two-year stretch, something rarely seen outside of an era where players were more juiced than Tropicana oranges.
A season ago, his power launched itself into the spotlight by breaking George Bell's Jays single season home run record. This year, the rest of his offensive game has caught up as he's hitting an impressive .319. More impressively, he's also drawn 22 more walks than strikeouts, allowing him to lead the league with a gaudy .456 OBP. He's slugging better than a year ago as well, posting a .655 mark to lead the MLB.
I won't be fooled. The power in his bat is very real, and if he maintains the rest of his game through this year and into the next, he could assume the top spot without argument.
Ryan Braun has emerged as the best outfielder in the MLB after nothing but success in five years in the show.
Obviously, it would take a pretty special talent to hold off Jose Bautista for this spot, and Ryan Braun is just that. He's essentially a younger, more athletic, better fielding version of Matt Holliday.
From day one in the big leagues for Braun, the outfield ranks have been his world with everyone else just living in it. He famously burst on the scene in as 23-year-old in 2007 by crushing 34 home runs in 113 games en route to winning the Rookie of the Year as the first rookie to ever lead the MLB in slugging percentage.
That year wound up being the only time Braun wasn't an All-Star, and it's the only year he hasn't been awarded a Silver Slugger at the end of the season.
He's tuned up MLB pitching for a .311 average, .928 OPS and 149 homers in 681 games as his early career numbers have started to look like those of Manny Ramirez. His bat alone makes him an offensive terror capable of causing lost sleep for opposing pitchers, but Braun uses his speed and athleticism to run the bases well. He is a threat to swipe a bag at any time and has nabbed a minimum of 14 every year.
And even though he's also turned into a very sound, perhaps even above average defensive left fielder with a solid arm, what has Braun sitting on top of this list is that as good as he's been, he's just 27 and should be on the verge of hitting his best years in the league.
This season has certainly indicated that's the case, as he's posted his best ever batting average and OBP so far, second best slugging percentage, tied his career mark in steals and will push his best single season marks in runs and RBI before the end of the year.
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