Yesterday we started this week’s look at the top infields around Major League Baseball. Today’s observation breaks down the top 10 outfields in baseball headed into the 2015 season, where balance is king and the youth movement is making its impact quickly.
1.) Miami Marlins: It only took a year for the Marlins' young trio to make a substantial enough impact to climb to the preeminent outfield group in the game. Giancarlo Stanton put up a campaign that could have ended with an MVP nod if not for a broken jaw that concluded his season slightly early. His two outfield mates made the most of their first full season up as well, with Marcell Ozuna slugging 23 home runs and Christian Yelich taking home a Gold Glove. The addition of the ageless Ichiro Suzuki as a still-capable and versatile depth option for the upcoming year does not hurt either.
2.) Pittsburgh Pirates: This group could very well be standing at the top of this list next year because there is no collection on this list that has more devastating potential than Pittsburgh’s. Perennial MVP candidate and all-world talent Andrew McCutchen is at the core of a group that boasts the most athletic outfield in the game. Starling Marte is one of the most exciting and emergent talents in the game, while Gregory Polanco is a naturally precocious hitter. This group should remind the Pirate faithful of the Bonds-Van Slyke-Bonilla group that ran rampant in the early '90s very soon.
3.) Washington Nationals: This is a well-balanced group that is one breakout year from Bryce Harper away from being a dominant one. Jayson Werth regularly puts up better than noticed seasons (he owns a .303 average since 2012) and does just about everything well. Denard Span is coming off a year in which he tied for the NL lead in hits and stole 30 bases. Now, if that 22-year-old future franchise cornerstone can get his health on track and his bat regularly in the mix, they’ll really be on to something.
4.) St. Louis Cardinals: What a difference one guy can make. While it was the tragic circumstance of the death of Oscar Taveras that caused the Cardinals to go out and get Jason Heyward, his presence has raised the caliber of the St. Louis outfield tremendously. He brings arguably the top outfield skill set in the game to a group with the bat of Matt Holliday and super-solid all-around effort of Jon Jay, and makes it a well-balanced group. Add in the brilliant glove of Peter Bourjos, and this team can do it all.
5.) Milwaukee Brewers: Carlos Gomez can do it all — and does so blended together better than most — and is just as capable of keeping runs off the board as he is at putting them on it. Khris Davis transitioned well to an everyday role, and Gerardo Parra is potentially the best fourth outfielder in baseball. If Ryan Braun’s wrist is healed completely and he can begin to approach his pre-suspension level of production again, this is going to be a ridiculously deep and productive group.
6.) Kansas City Royals: Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain are the best defenders in the American League at their positions and perhaps all of baseball. Both also swing high productive bats, with Cain finishing over .300 and Gordon regularly topping 50 extra-base hits. Fourth outfielder Jarrod Dyson is one of the most disruptive base-runners in the game, and if newly acquired right fielder Alex Rios can rediscover the swing that just two years ago saw him drive in 81 runs and steal 42 bases, this is another stunningly complete unit.
7.) San Diego Padres: On paper, this may be the best outfield group in the game. Between Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers, there are three bats capable of tape-measure shots and All-Star seasons at the dish. But each has had his share of bouts with either inconsistency or health in recent years, so it dampers some of the expectation until they prove they can beat those internal demons — and spacious Petco Park, whose massive outfield should qualify for national park status on its own.
8.) Boston Red Sox: There is an abundance of talent in the Sox outfield, but there will also be a lot of learning curves at once. Hanley Ramirez will be making the transition to the outfield, while prize young talents Rusney Castillo and Mookie Betts will be looking to affirm their places in the game during their first full seasons. However, the veteran presence of Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava, as well as the versatility of Allen Craig and Brock Holt, make this a group that has plenty of talent and contingency plans.
9.) Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers cleared some playing-time room by dealing Kemp to the Padres but still have more talent than they have regular at-bats for. Yasiel Puig can play and make an impact at any outfield spot, while Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier can fill in the blanks for steady production as well. But the most intriguing option may be their 22-year-old center fielder Joc Pederson, who raked Triple A foes for 33 home runs, 30 stolen bases and a .303 average a year ago.
10.) Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout carries a lot of the weight that gets this unit here, and for good reason. The game’s top player seemingly finds a new way to make a major impact each year on his own and should be considered the default choice for AL MVP until further notice. But Kole Calhoun turned in a very solid 18 home run effort last year, and with righty killer Matt Joyce and maybe even the oft-maligned Josh Hamilton in the mix as well by the season’s midpoint, this could be a very fun group to watch.
Just A Bit Outside: The Indians are very strong with All-Stars Michael Brantley and Brandon Moss manning the edges of their outfield and at the heart of their lineup, just as the Tigers are in a similar place with Yoenis Cespedes and J.D. Martinez. If Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon can duplicate their 2014 production and are joined by a healthy Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies’ outfield is one that's production parallels any on this list. But there is a lot of “if” involved there.
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