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Ranking the AL East: Outfield

Ellsbury is part of a strong Yankees outfield  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Opening Day for the Red Sox is now just a couple weeks away and with that in mind, here is our latest installment for the rankings of the AL East. All five AL East teams have strong outfields though some are considerably stronger than others. After checking out our rankings comment below if you agree, disagree, or have another take!

1. Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner; New York Yankees: The Yankees do not have much going for them this year, but they certainly have a strong outfield. All three players are outstanding defenders capable of playing center field and should be capable of closing many gaps. The short porch in right should be a boon for Ellsbury’s power numbers, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a 20-20 campaign. Beltran will be as solid as ever and Gardner is a grinder and is basically a poor man’s Ellsbury. The Yankees possibly have the best outfield in the AL.

2. Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, David Lough, Baltimore Orioles: Assuming the Nelson Cruz will receive most the DH at-bats, the Orioles have an above-average outfield defensively. Adam Jones has shown that he can be a power bat in the lineup and Markakis is a consistent on-base threat with good doubles power. Nelson Cruz is a bit of a wildcard as we do not know what he can do without steroids, but if he reaches his full potential this team will be dangerous. David Lough is more of a glove first player and will be hitting towards the bottom of the lineup.

3. Wil Myers, Matt Joyce, Desmond Jennings, David DeJesus, Tampa Bay Rays: In just 335 at-bats last year Meyers slugged 13 home runs and knocked in 53. Over a full season he could come close to 30 home runs and 100 RBIs that alone will help Tampa’s outfield immensely. Jennings is great in the field, but still has not fulfilled his potential at the plate. He is still only 27 so there is still time for him and it would not be surprising to see him have a 20-20 season. Joyce and DeJesus are great complementary players that fit right into Maddon’s style of swapping players in and out. They will not play every day, but they will receive many important at-bats.

4. Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Melky Cabrera; Toronto Blue Jays: If I had any confidence in Bautista’s health then the Blue Jays would rank higher. Bautista will hit for power and get on-base, but unless he can play more than 120+ games it will be an unsuccessful season for the slugger. Rasmus and Cabrera are two players of the same ilk. They show immense progress and then go through unexplainable slumps at the plate. The potential is here for this Blue Jays outfield, I just don’t see it coming together.

5. Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, Jackie Bradley Jr, Shane Victorino, Grady Sizemore, Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox have a great team, but their outfield is sub-par when compared to the rest of the AL East. Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes will provide a solid platoon in left while Shane Victorino will bring Gold Glove defense and speed in right. The real wildcard is center field. With the departure of Ellsbury the Red Sox are left with an unproven rookie and an injury-riddled star trying to make it back. If Bradley Jr. reaches his potential or Sizemore finds the fountain of youth the Red Sox can compete with the other AL East outfields. Unfortunately that “if” is a big one.

Brian Roach

1. Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner; New York Yankees: If any team improved in the outfield, then it was the Yankees. They may have overspent on Ellsbury and Beltran, but it is the power and speed combination that makes these three the best outfielders of the AL East. Ellsbury should be able to hit 20 or more home runs with the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium and if Gardner remains healthy he could be a 15-15 guy.

2. Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis; Baltimore Orioles: The Baltimore Orioles have more of a power upswing than any of the other teams in the division. Cruz needs to prove he can stay on the field without the use of PEDs. Jones has shown he is the best center fielder in the division when healthy. Markakis needs to stay healthy all season, but if he can then the Orioles have a legit chance of being the best offensive team in the division.
3. Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Melky Cabrera; Toronto Blue Jays: Joey Bats needs to stay healthy for the Blue Jays to finish above .500 and for this outfield to be the third best in the division. Bautista has 40 or more pop in his bat and that alone makes this outfield one of the best in the league. Rasmus has 15-15 pop and speed and should look to improve on a decent 2013 season. Cabrera had trouble adjusting to the AL East and also had some trouble staying on the field with only 88 games played to go along with three homers and 30 RBI with the Blue Jays in 2013. If he can stay healthy and hit more for power, then he will help the Blue Jays be the third best outfield group in the AL East.
4. Wil Myers, Matt Joyce, Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays have a shot at being a great outfield this season if Joyce can make more consistent contact and Jennings can stay on the field. The addition of Myers to this outfield makes this trio a little bit better than the Red Sox with the mystery of how Jackie Bradley Jr. will do as a full-time starter in the majors, Myers, Joyce and Jennings should all put up double digit power numbers and Jennings has the ability to steal 20 or more bases. Watch out for these three on a nightly basis.
5. Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava/Jonny Gomes, Jackie Bradley Jr, Boston Red Sox: This may come to a shock to most people, but the Red Sox outfield is not that close to being the top outfield in the AL East in 2014 due to the inexperience of Bradley Jr. and the loss of Ellsbury to the Yankees. Bradley Jr. is a great fielder, but no one has really any clue how he will perform at the plate as an everyday player. Victorino will likely digress some after boosting his OPS up .801 from .667 in 2012, but that will likely go down to the .750 range this season. Nava was one of the best OBP outfielders in the game, but will likely see more of a 50/50 split with Gomes depending on the matchups. This team is great as a whole, but the outfielders aren’t near the talent as the rest of the division.

Scott Siegler

1. Alfonso Soriano, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, New York Yankees: The Yankees outfield has everything. Speed, power, defense, and the ability to get on base. After adding Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, there’s no doubt that the Yankees have the best outfield in the AL East. Furthermore, the depth at the position is exemplified by having Ichiro Suzuki, who would be starter almost anywhere else, buried in the Yankees depth chart. Yankees outfielders will take up most of the spots at the top of the order and will play solid defense throughout 2013.

2. Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles: Pound for pound, it could be argued that the Orioles have the most talented outfield in the AL East, but It lacks the depth that the Yankees have. Adam Jones is a five tool superstar and Nelson Cruz can hit the cover off of the ball (when he’s in the lineup). Although Nick Markakis hasn’t been producing in the past few seasons, he has continued to get on base at a very steady clip (.360 career OBP) while maintaining a nice batting average (.292 career hitter). All three have also demonstrated speed on the base paths throughout their careers. Baltimore’s outfield will be dangerous in 2014 and will add a great amount of depth to Buck Showalter’s lineup.

3. David DeJesus, Desmond Jennings, Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays: Tampa Bay’s outfield isn’t quite at the level of Baltimore’s, but it is certainly on the way there. As Desmond Jennings continues to develop as a hitter, he has shown an incredible amount of potential with a nice .748 OPS and 14 home runs. In the field and on the base paths, Jennings is already among the best. Wil Myers is also an intriguing player entering 2014 after winning AL Rookie of the Year award last season. Myers’s 13 home runs and 53 RBI are intimidating coming from just 335 at-bats. And in line to Tampa Bay’s mantra, the guy can get on base. David DeJesus is a solid veteran to have in left field, and while the Rays outfield looks good this season, it’s scary to think about where it could be in five years.

4. Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays: With 2/3 of the Toronto outfield, you pretty much know exactly what you’re going to get. Strong power numbers from Bautista and 20 home runs from Rasmus. However, Melky Cabrera is pretty much a wild card at this point. After serving a steroid suspension, battling injuries, and fighting through a benign surgery tumor, who knows what Cabrera will do next? His numbers with the Giants in 2012 were impressive. He had 10 triples, 11 home runs, and an absurd .346 batting average through 459 at-bats. But these numbers are far from guaranteed. It’s possible the Blue Jays’ outfield could be more productive than Tampa’s this season; just very unlikely.

5. Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, Jackie Bradley Jr, Shane Victorino, Grady Sizemore, Boston Red Sox: With the Red Sox outfield comes a swarm of question marks. While they were all affirmative last season, things get a little more challenging for the Boston outfield after losing its centerpiece in Jacoby Ellsbury. Adding Mike Carp to the list above shows good depth, but the Red Sox are going to be relying on a lot to match last season’s production. There is still a lot of upside in Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino are veterans that can be relied on for decent production. However. whether or not Jackie Bradley Jr. or Grady Sizemore can shore up center field is very unclear. Although the red Sox outfield can still be good, it’s tough to see it as good as any other outfield in the AL East.

Those are your rankings for the outfield in the AL East with the strongest having few questions and the bottom being riddled with them. What’s your order? make sure to check out our next ranking on DH and bench.

About Jamie Worthington - @Jam_Worth

Jamie is a regular contributor and editor for Sports of Boston, but has thoughts for all Boston areas sports for SoB. He loves that in sports everyone is allowed to have their own opinion and wants to hear yours! Follow him on twitter at: @Jam_Worth


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