Posts Tagged ‘Adam Jones’

 

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There is no more fun position in the game than center field. It is baseball’s equivalent of an ultra-amazing wide receiver, an eye-popping wing in basketball or a puck-handling magician at center in hockey. The position is home to some of the most iconic players in MLB history, such as Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb and the Hall of Fame’s newest superstar, Ken Griffey Jr.

As a result, it is a position that carries quite an impressive standard for its current inhabitants. And luckily enough for today’s viewers, it is home to the most diverse collection of talents in the game today. There are two former MVPs at spot who can also be argued as being two of the top three players in the game overall. There is also a collection of power hitting, mileage covering, run scoring, Gold Glove collecting talents that are nucleus of each of their teams. And such is the depth at the position that this description is apt for those that even just missed the list.

As a result, ranking out the top center fielders in any year is a task that is based in a certain level of guaranteed error. So many crucial talents are bound to double back on each other in some way, shape or form. On any given day, a match-up between any pair of players on this list could see them change the game with the glove in the top of an inning, while then following it up in the same fashion with the bat in the bottom of the same frame.

But regardless of that, it is time to get into the task of separating and splitting hairs for the top 10 players in the heart of the outfield, today.

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10. Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees (#6 in ’15)

2015: .257/.318/.345 7 HR, 53 RBI, 15 doubles, 66 runs scored, 21 stolen bases, .663 OPS

Last 3 Years: .277/.335/.401 11 HR, 52 RBI, 24 doubles, 76 runs scored, 37 stolen bases, .736 OPS

It is completely fair to say that Ellsbury has not lived up to the standards of the $153 million deal that he inked before the 2014 season. However, it is also not completely accurate to say that he has been a total bust either. In reality, Ellsbury has settled into a more of a groove of the type of player he truly is: a solid on-base speed threat, whom can make a strong defensive effort while being a traditional top of the line up bat.

As has been his constant story in his career, injuries limited his playing time and effectiveness a year ago. A right knee sprain took curbed him mid-May, after he worked to a .324 average over the first two months of the year. After missing all of June and returning in July, he hit below .230 for the rest of the year. Despite this, his quick start still saw him top 20 stolen bases and work 24 extra base hits. With an offseason of healing time behind him, Ellsbury could continue at the pace that he opened the year at.

 

9. Carlos Gomez, Astros (#4 in ’15)

2015: .255/.314/.409 12 HR, 56 RBI, 29 doubles, 61 runs scored, 17 stolen bases, .724 OPS

Last 3 Years: .276/.338/.468 20 HR, 67 RBI, 30 doubles, 79 runs scored, 30 stolen bases, .806 OPS

This is a rather steep dip for Gomez, who before last season had back-to-back All-Star appearances for the Brewers and had established himself as one of the major all-around threats in the game. However, this is also not what could be called a legit decline for the 30-year-old now Astro. A rash of injuries zapped his power and speed, while limiting him to 115 games. While always a free swinger, his numbers were hampered by a lowered contact rate even by his standards, but regardless of that his skill set remains intact.

Gomez looks primed for a rebound if his health is faithful to him this year. He translates well into the Astro lineup and 81 games at Minute Maid Park look awfully good for him as well. His 12 home run dip was more than half of what he had been good for from 2013-14, and his average declined nearly 30 points. As a result, Gomez is primed to be one of the big bounce back candidates in the game this year.

 

8. Adam Eaton, White Sox (NR in ’15)

2015: .287/.361/.431 14 HR, 56 RBI, 28 doubles, 98 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, .792 OPS

Last 3 Years: .285/.353/.407 6 HR, 38 RBI, 21 doubles, 71 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, .760 OPS

Not enough people know how good Eaton is becoming, and that’s not quite fair. While he showed steady improvement over his first few seasons, Eaton made the big jump last year into affirming himself as one of the game’s better leadoff hitters. He had a major uptick in power last year, hitting 9 more home runs in 2015 alone than he had in his three previous years between Arizona and Chicago.

Otherwise, he showed the ability to either maintain and/or improve everywhere else in his offensive repertoire. He matched his .360+ on-base percentage for the second straight year, while also nearing double digits in triples (19 since 2014) and increasing his hits, doubles, stolen bases and runs scored (from 76 to 98).

 

7. Charlie Blackmon, Rockies (NR in ’15)

2015: .287/.347/.450 17 HR, 58 RBI, 31 doubles, 93 runs scored, 43 stolen bases, .797 OPS

Last 3 Years: .291/.340/.449 14 HR, 51 RBI, 25 doubles, 70 runs scored, 26 stolen bases, .780 OPS

Blackmon proved that his full-time breakout of 2015 was no fluke. While he carried some prototypical home/away splits that are evident for many Rockies bats (.331 home average vs. .238 road, 890 home OPS vs. .695 road), an impact is an impact and Blackmon made plenty of those a year ago.

The 29-year-old had career-highs in OPS (.797), hits (176), runs scored (93), doubles (31), triples (9) and stolen bases (43), the latter of which was good for the second most in the National League. Blackmon also contributed nine outfield assists, while working to a respectable 2.35 zone rating in the field.

 

6. Kevin Kiermaier, Rays (NR in ’15)

2015: .263/.298/.420 10 HR, 40 RBI, 25 doubles, 62 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, .718 OPS

Last 2 Years: .263/.305/.432 10 HR, 38 RBI, 20 doubles, 48 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, .737 OPS

In many ways, he is becoming the Andrelton Simmons of the outfield; a true game changer on nearly everything hit into grass beyond the infield. No Major League defender changed the outcome of more games with his defensive exploits last year than Kiermaier. His 5 defensive Wins Above Replacement outpaced every other MLB by more than 3 wins, while he also had more center field assists (15) and covered the largest range factor (3.26) as well. His 42 defensive runs saved were the most in the game, and he appropriately won both the Gold and Platinum Glove Awards.

While he is still developing as a hitter, the tools that make him such a dynamic outfielder also carried over to the plate as well. Kiermaier hit double digits in doubles (25), triples (12) and home runs (10), in addition to swiping 18 bases as well.

 

5. Adam Jones, Orioles (#3 in ’15)

2015: .269/.308/.474 27 HR, 82 RBI, 25 doubles, 74 runs scored, 3 stolen bases, .782 OPS

Last 3 Years: .279/.313/.479 30 HR, 95 RBI, 30 doubles, 87 runs scored, 8 stolen bases, .792 OPS

Jones’ has comfortably settled into become the top power hitting center fielder in the game, outside of the guy in Anaheim. 2015 marked the fifth year in a row that he has topped 25 home runs, and he had a chance at making it his third year north of 30. However, his remarkable streak of durability –he had played in at least 150 games for four straight years— was clipped due to a string of nagging injuries.

This led to five-year lows across the board for AJ 10, however even in a down year, Jones put up impressive overall numbers, making his fourth consecutive All-Star Game in the process. He is still an above-average defender and is just a year removed from winning three consecutive Gold Gloves. And while he is no longer a threat in the stolen base department (10 steals in 12 chances since 2014), he is a smart base runner that can still stretch the right hit for a tough extra base.

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4. Lorenzo Cain, Royals (#7 in ’15)

2015: .307/.361/.477 16 HR, 72 RBI, 34 doubles, 101 runs scored, 28 stolen bases, .838 OPS

Last 3 Years:  .289/.339/.419 8 HR, 57 RBI, 28 doubles, 70 runs scored, 23 stolen bases, .759 OPS

While he had long been most wide-ranging, dynamic center fielder in the American League, Cain made as unexpected of a jump into the overall impact class as any player in the game last season. He had a substantial uptick in power in 2015, which saw his OPS rise by 80 points and reach career highs in home runs, doubles, triples, hits and batting average as well. He fueled the Royals offensive attack by driving in 72 runs, while scoring an additional 101.

His 28 stolen bases remained steady from where his 2014 total was and was good enough for the second best total in the American League. Overall, he contributed an impressive 20.4 Power-Speed figure, which measures a combination of home runs x stolen bases, divided by stolen bases + home runs, and was good for third in the AL. Overall, he contributed a strong 7.2 overall WAR figure, good for fourth in the American League and solidified his third place finish in AL MVP voting.

 

3. A.J. Pollock, Diamondbacks (NR in ’15)

2015: .315/.367/.498 20 HR, 76 RBI, 39 doubles, 111 runs scored, 39 stolen bases, .865 OPS

Last 3 Years: .297/.349/.468 12 HR, 46 RBI, 29 doubles, 72 runs scored, 22 stolen bases, .817 OPS

Oh what a difference a full year makes. Staying both healthy and having a full time position were two elusive elements for Pollock throughout the first few years of his career. He gave a great sample sized look at his potential in 2014, but a broken right hand ended his season just as it was taking off after 75 games of posting a .302/.353/.498 split line.

It was a brief, yet clear indicator of what Pollock was capable of, but the question remained whether he could keep up that pace over a full year. And that is a question that no longer exists, as Pollock put on one of the best all-around assaults on the game a year ago. He became a five-tool star, finishing fifth in total bases with 303, which came on the heels of placing in the National League top 10 in doubles (4th), triples (8th), stolen bases (4th) and runs scored (2nd). Add in his (very legit) Gold Glove campaign as well, built on the back of having the top Total Zone runs saved number in the NL (20), and this is a proven quantity as one of the most well-rounded talents in the game.

 

2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates (#2 in ’15)

2015: .292/.401/.488 23 HR, 96 RBI, 36 doubles, 91 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, .889 OPS

Last 3 Years: .308/.405/.512 23 HR, 88 RBI, 37 doubles, 92 runs scored, 19 stolen bases, .917 OPS

One of the game’s truly elite talents, McCutchen continued his role as one of the game’s most pivotal players in 2015, and as a result, kept the Pittsburgh Pirates among the elite teams in the game. Cutch continued to put on display his plethora of baseball talents, besting a .290 average, 20 home runs, 80 RBI, 35 doubles, 85 runs scored and a .400 on-base percentage for the third straight year. And while his totals dipped some from previous years due to an injury-plagued start, his 2015 was still worthy of a top 5 MVP finish, a fourth straight Silver Slugger and a fifth consecutive All-Star Game. This was due in part the fact he hit .330, .337 and .348 in May, June and August, respectively.

Thus is the life of a perennial MVP candidate, as the 2013 winner of the NL’s top player prize has not left the top 5 in voting since 2012. This is as much of a result of his all-around excellence as it is the fact that it has fueled the Pirates to a regular spot in the postseason picture. Since McCutchen made his All-Star debut in 2011, the Pirates’ annual win total has risen steadily, with last year’s 98-win effort being the most for the Bucs since 1991.

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1. Mike Trout, Angels (#1 in ’15)

2015: .299/.402/.590 41 HR, 90 RBI, 32 doubles, 104 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, .991 OPS

Last 3 Years: .303/.404/.569 35 HR, 99 RBI, 37 doubles, 109 runs scored, 20 stolen bases, .973 OPS

What else can be said about Trout at this point? It is a moot point to state that he’s the best player in the game, because it goes without saying. At the age of 24, the conversation about how good he can be is done, rather it is about just how legendary he can become. He continued to push his own boundaries again last season, setting career highs in home runs and OPS last season, while also remaining in the AL top 10 in batting average, runs scored and leading the circuit in slugging percentage as well.

While many make light of the fact that his stolen base total declined down to 11 last year, it is far from a loss of a skill set. Rather, it just shows the unavoidable evolution of his game from an ultra-catalyst at the top of the order and into a multi-skilled middle of the lineup bat. Because while his stolen base total dropped, so did his strikeout rate, while his walk rate climbed. Simply put, he is getting better overall because for as much raw talent as he possesses, he is gaining maturity & discipline to go along with it, which is truly a frightening thought. Thus far in his career, Trout is yet to finish any lower than second in an MVP race and he has essentially become the measuring mark for whether another player is worthy of the award instead of him. Because that is what the best player in the game should do annually, and he has yet to fail to live up to his role.

 

Just A Bit Outside: Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays; Denard Span, Giants; Dexter Fowler, Cubs; Randal Grichuk, Cardinals.

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As it has for as long as the game has existed, center field is the home of some of the best-rounded talents in the game. It takes a blend of being able to do it all to be truly considered one of the elite players at the position, and currently there is an especially gifted group manning the position.

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In each of the past two seasons, a center fielder has won a league Most Valuable Player nod. And it would be fair to say that there are multiple favorites to bring yet another MVP to position this year. Due to this surplus of talent, ten spots are nowhere near enough to capture all of the significant players at the heart of the outfield. Even an All-Star from a year ago that had a downturn in the second half of the season failed to make his way onto the list. Thus is the nature of one of the game’s most competitive spots.

Yet with that being said, let us take a look at the players that did make the cut. Starting with a duo that most likely populates the top five of the best players in the game, regardless of position.

 

1. Mike Trout, Angels (#1 in 2014): He won his elusive MVP –or as elusive as one can be for a 22-year-old – a year ago, and did it by attacking the season in a completely different way than he had in his previous two years. Trout played the part of heart of the order producer instead of all-world table setter that he had in his first two seasons, and the results lead to yet another stunning display of complete dominance. He connected for a career-best 36 home runs and 111 RBI, while leading the AL in runs scored for the third consecutive year. When coupled with his 39 doubles, 9 triples, superb base running and solid outfield play, there is no wonder why he is now firmly entrenched as the game’s top talent.

2-year average: .305 average/.964 OPS/32 home runs/104 RBI/39 doubles/24 stolen bases/.994 Fld%

2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates (#2 in ’14): He followed up his MVP 2013 year with another comprehensively brilliant year. He led the NL in a varied platter of measures including on-base % (.410), on-base + slugging % (.952), total runs created (130), extra base hits (69) and offensive Wins Above Replacement level (7.8). Toss in the fearless range he shows defensively and the leadership model he puts on, and there is perhaps on one more complete player than him—maybe.

2-year average: .316 average/.931 OPS/23 home runs/84 RBI/38 doubles/22 stolen bases/.981 Fld%

3. Adam Jones, Orioles (#4 in ’14): Mr. Consistency was at his usual high standard again last season, right in the 30 home run, 100 RBI, .280 average neighborhood again (a true split of .281/29/96, to be exact), while playing to a third straight Gold Glove in the field as well. Jones is the understated MVP of the O’s, who drove them towards their American League East Title on the strength of his dependable everyday output.

2-year average: .283 average/.795 OPS/31 home runs/102 RBI/32 doubles/10 stolen bases/.989 Fld%

4. Carlos Gomez, Brewers (#7 in ’14): The ever-excitable Gomez has continued to round into one of the game’s top all-around talents, with a rare blend of power and speed that is unleashed at a moment’s notice. He topped 20 home runs for the second consecutive year, while swiping 30 bases for the third straight campaign. He remains on the short list of best defensive outfielders alive as well, capable of reaching any part of his mid-field terrain with the same ease.

2-year average: .284 average/.838 OPS/24 home runs/73 RBI/30 doubles/37 stolen bases/.987 Fld%

5. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers (#4 in Right Field in ’14): Puig made the shift over from right out of necessity last season, and for the time being he profiles to stay there. But with his freakish athletic gifts, there is really nothing he can’t do, as his diverse offering across the board showed last year. He turned in 37 doubles, 9 triples, 16 home runs and 11 stolen bases, as well as 15 total outfield assists with his cannon of an arm (8 from center). While the process of him finding harmony in using all of his gifts is a work in progress, the talent is undeniably tantalizing.

2-year average: .305 average/.888 OPS/18 home runs/56 RBI/29 doubles/11 stolen bases/.949 Fld%

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6. Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees (#3 in ’14): His first year in pinstripes did not necessarily live up to the lofty standards that his contract may have brought on, but at the same time it was far from a lost year as well. He played his usual lockdown center field, leading the AL in range factor at the position. Offensively, his batting average dropped to a personal full-season low, but he still swiped 39 bases, hit 16 home runs, which contributed to his AL-best power x speed ratio (most home runs multiplied by stolen bases).

2-year average: .285 average/.764 OPS/12 home runs/62 RBI/29 doubles/46 stolen bases/.994 Fld%

7. Lorenzo Cain, Royals (Not Ranked): Cain’s defensive contributions played a huge part in the overall success of the Royals, and he was mostly robbed of a Gold Glove by Jones’ reputation this past year. But he made his talents clearer than ever before, topping both .300 and 20 stolen bases for the first time in his career, then revving it up to a sensational .333 postseason average as well. A star may be being born.

2-year average: .278 average/.708 OPS/4 home runs/50 RBI/25 doubles/21 stolen bases/.996 Fld%

8. Marcell Ozuna, Marlins (Not Ranked): The middle portion of the Marlins dynamic young outfield had a powerful first full-season in 2014. He popped 23 home runs and drove in 85 runs, while playing a very solid defensive campaign as well. Ozuna contributed eight outfield assists, and while he is the least decorated of his outfield mates, his potential is just as exciting.

2-year average: .268 average/.746 OPS/13 home runs/58 RBI/22 doubles/4 stolen bases/.988 Fld%

9. Denard Span, Nationals (Not Ranked): The always steady leadoff man and uber-consistent defender had perhaps his most notable season to date a year ago. He turned in a .302 average and 31 stolen bases, as well as a career-best 39 doubles and .416 slugging %. In addition, he tied as the NL leader in hits with 184, although that was the lowest full-season league leading total since 1988.

2-year average: .290 average/.739 OPS/4 home runs/42 RBI/34 doubles/26 stolen bases/.995 Fld%

10. Juan Lagares, Mets (Not Ranked): He is the most exciting outfielder to watch in all of the game and perhaps since Jim Edmonds and Andruw Jones roamed MLB outfields a decade ago. Lagares can flat go get it and has one of the most impressive CF arms the game has seen in years, so the 25-year-old was correctly honored with his first Gold Glove a year ago. While his offensive output is still developing (his on-base% increased by 40 points last year), he is talented enough in his specialty to have made a 5.5 WAR figure based mostly on his defense alone.

2-year average: .262 average/.669 OPS/4 home runs/40 RBI/22 doubles/10 stolen bases/.983 Fld%

 

Runners Up: Charlie Blackmon, Adam Eaton, Jon Jay, A.J. Pollack

The boys came to play in the American League this summer. Plenty of strong cases were made for the league’s top honor, with a mixture of standard bearers, returns to form and breakout campaigns. But in the end It was the coming of age proved to be undeniable in deciding who was the top gun in the junior circuit. And when all things are considered, it really ended up not being that close. Because the unstoppable force simply refused to be denied any longer.

2014 American League Stan Musial Player of the Year—Mike Trout, Anaheim Angels

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The coming of age has come to be. The rise of Mike Trout has been far from a secret; he has been baseball’s hottest commodity for the past three summers. However, before this summer is that there has always been a caveat to his status as the prime property in the game. Whether it was Miguel Cabrera’s undeniable run at the plate or the struggles of the Angels in light of their expectation, there has consistently been something that has stood in the way of crowning the game’s most precociously best talent with its premier prize.

But the summer of 2014 saw the irresistible force breakthrough completely. What Trout has done most remarkably in his young career is answer the task that

His ever maturing game took another turn this year, as he embraced more of the run-producing element of his game this year. Trout muscled up and hit a career-best 36 home runs, the third best total in the AL this year. He added another career-high with 111 RBI, as well as total bases with 338, both ranking as the top totals in the AL. In addition, he paced the league in runs scored for a third straight year with 115 and finished in the top 10 in doubles with 39 and second with 9 triples.

Yet at the cost of power, some of the categories that he had previously dominated took a slight dip. His averaged finished at .287, the first time he posted a full-season total below .300 (although it still finished in the top 15 in the league) and his stolen bases clipped down to 16. Also, his strikeouts jumped up to a league-high 184.

Those factors could be seen as it being a down year of sorts for Trout. Or perhaps a return to the mean after an unbelievably overwhelming start to his career. However, there was still no more important player in all aspects of the game for his team than Trout, as while he dipped in some areas, he morphed his game into exact what the Angels needed most this year.

With Josh Hamilton out of the mix with injuries, the need for a middle of the lineup run producer was needed much more than a table-setting spark plug at the top of the lineup. So when call was made for help there, Trout answered and channeled his talents into fueling one the AL’s most potent offenses. He drove in 20 runs in three separate months and hit at least five home runs in each month. While his overall average slid some, he hit .321 in April and .361 in June.

Measuring him at the plate alone still limits the overall contributions he made. He is still the glue that holds together the Angels outfield, covering the confines of centerfield easily with some athleticism to burn. On the base paths, he puts pitchers on alert and eats extra bases for any ball that either finds a gap or a step too slow outfielder. That is why is he the visual explanation to the mystery of the Wins Above Replacement figure—which he has led the Majors in each full year of his career, including the 7.9 indispensable wins he created this time around—there is simply nothing that is outside of his reach.

He plays the game hard every time out, puts on a the full buffet of talents seemingly on-demand and for the first time, is playing it to win, as the Angels took home the AL’s best record at 98-64. When the most talented player in the game also does all of the small things more consistently than anyone else, there is not much that can be done to stop him. And that is what makes Trout so special.

And the best part about it all: it’s only beginning. Trout Version 3.0 is the MVP, just as Versions 1.0 and 2.0 laid legit claim to, albeit in completely different fashions. It is fairly certain that Version 4.0 will take the same path, but I am already looking forward to how he goes about it.

Runners Up

  1. Victor Martinez, Tigers: He was a hitting machine this year for the Tigers, often being the team’s top bat, which is saying a lot when Miguel Cabrera is a part of your lineup. He led the AL in on-base percentage (.409) and finished second with a .335 batting average, and connected for a career-best 32 home runs. He only struck out in 6% of his 641 plate appearances (42 times).
  2. Jose Altuve, Astros: Houston mighty mite posted the top average in the game at .341 and led the AL with 56 stolen bases. He also ran up a club record 225 hits while becoming the first Astro to win a batting title.
  3. Michael Brantley, Indians: It all came together for Brantley this year, as he posted one of most well-rounded campaigns in the game this year. His .327 average was third in the AL, while he also hit 20 home runs, 45 doubles, stole 23 bases and 200 total hits.
  4. Adam Jones, Orioles: Jones carried the weight both at the plate and in the field for the beat up, yet still division champion O’s. He hit 29 home runs and drove in 96, while playing perhaps the best defensive center field in the league.
  5. Josh Donaldson, Athletics: The intense leader of the A’s played his usual brilliant two-way game, driving in 98 runs and playing a far and away best third base in the game with the glove (2.7 dWAR).
  6. Nelson Cruz, Orioles: He led the AL with 40 home runs during his comeback season, and drove in 108 runs as well.
  7. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: Joey Bats health stayed faithful to him, and he got back to destroying baseball to the tone of 35 homers, 103 RBI and scored 101 runs scored.
  8. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: A “down year” for Miggy has basically become one where he doesn’t win at least a batting title, and while he did not reach that mark this year, he did lead the Majors with 52 doubles and crossed 100 RBI for the 11th straight year.
  9. Robinson Cano, Mariners: The home runs weren’t as high, but his Seattle debut was definitely a success. He hit .314 with 82 RBI while reviving competitive baseball in the northwest.

Past CSP Votes

2013: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

2012: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

2011: Justin Verlander, Tigers

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics

There is no position in the history of the game that has more of an illustrious history than center field. Decked out with the likes of Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Ken Griffey Jr, Joe Dimaggio, Tris Speaker and Mickey Mantle, reaching up rungs of the middle of the outfield means nothing less than immortality.

And while the center fielders of today’s game still have quite a ways to go before they are to be mentioned in that class, it still remains perhaps the most impressive gathering of a talent pool of any in the game. To be in the top 5 of the position is to be among the 1% or so of the best players in the game. In the listing below, there is an impressive selection of both crowned, and in many people’s minds, uncrowned MVPs.

At this position, to be in the handful of the best of the best, “V” is better suited to stand for “versatile” than anything else, because to be among the best requires at least four of the 5 Tools of the complete ballplayer to be put to use, and with at least one being at an elite level.

But that’s enough of the posturing—here are the best of the best in the heart of the outfield today.

10. Coco Crisp, Athletics: He has long been one of the most effective runners in the game, stealing 35 bases on average since arriving in Oakland, as well as being charged with guarding the super spacious center field in the o.Co Coliseum. But he also added a power swing last summer, hitting 22 balls over the fence as well.

9. Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks: The best outfielder in the game with the glove, he’ll move back from right field this year to line up between Mark Trumbo and AJ Pollack. He was good for 4 defensive wins above replacement a year ago, and took home his second Gold Glove in three years.

8. Austin Jackson, Tigers: The multi-skilled Jackson has been one of the most active run scorers in the game (395 since 2010), reaching base in front of Miguel Cabrera’s historic run. He has twice led the AL in triples within the last three years, and cut his long-plaguing strike out total down to 129 last year.

7. Carlos Gomez, Brewers: He took his game to a new level a year ago, finishing with the highest WAR figure in the NL. This came on a combination of 61 extra base hits and 40 stolen bases, in addition to his nearly unequaled range and ability in the field.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Los Angeles Angels

6. Matt Kemp, Dodgers: Injuries sunk the former Triple Crown threat to career-low in games played a year ago, but he is far too talented to consider a “has been” yet. From 2011-12 when he at 100%-to-mostly healthy, his average effort was a .315/.387/.567 slash line, with 31 home runs, 98 RBI and 24 stolen bases. He’s just got to get out there and do it again.

5. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies: Moving over from left field this season, where he was among the best defenders in all of the game. He won his second consecutive Gold Glove in left, while reaching 26 home runs, 70 RBI and 21 stolen bases, despite having his season cut short to only only 110 games.

4. Adam Jones, Orioles: He has become one of the most impressive all-around players in either league, winning his third Gold Glove a year ago, while hitting a career-best 33 home runs, 108 RBI and 186 hits.

3. Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees: The most dangerous leadoff hitter in the game, he’s both a terror on the bases (52 steals per year in his last four full campaigns) and carries a consistent stick to the plate as well (career .297 hitter). With the generous right field fence in his new home in the Bronx, a return of his power stroke could also be in play.

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2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: The reigning National League MVP does some of everything, and does it all good. He spread his contributions around the board more in 2013 than in 2012, but within the past two seasons he has led the NL in hits once, took home a Gold Glove, two Silver Sluggers and stolen 47 bases—all while resurrecting the D.O.A. Pirates franchise.

1. Mike Trout, Angels: The game’s best all-around talent is easily the class of his position, and that’s saying a lot considering the level McCutchen is at. In his two full pro seasons, he has changed the course of 18.8 games by his impact alone. There was no sophomore slump for Trout, who in year two came within one double, one triple and three RBI of being the only player in history to post a 40 double/10 Triple/20 home run/100 run/30 stolen base season—all while hitting .323 at the reverent old age of 21 years.

Just A Bit Outside: Dexter Fowler, Chris Denorfia, Denard Span

For more on the rankings and the now near sprint to spring in real-time on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For more content, head to The Sports Fan Journal and I-70 Baseball.

Each award in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is named after a player that portrays the values best exemplified by the award. Appropriately, the Most Valuable Player in each league receives the Stan Musial Award for their exploits. Musial is easily within the conversation for greatest hitter of all-time; his not a pure power hitter, but still topped 400 home runs. He attacked in volume, topping over 3,600 hits and the second most total bases ever.

The current owner of best hitter in the game has all of these things in common with Musial, as well as a few more. He’s a multiple-time batting champ, that has power to burn, but wastes no at-bats by reaching for the home run only. The best approach to facing Musial, as described by Dodgers pitcher Preacher Roe was to “Throw him four wide and try to pick him off first base”. And judging by the success that AL pitchers have had against Miguel Cabrera over the last few years, this tactic may be one worth dusting off next summer.

2013 American League Stan Musial Most Valuable Player: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Cabrera_Miguel_MVP

The Numbers: .348 avg, 44 HR, 137 RBI, 193 hits, 103 runs, 26 2B, 3 SB, 1.078 OPS, 7.2 WAR

For Miguel Cabrera, 2012 could have easily been the crown jewel of his career. He took home the first Triple Crown in 45 years, won his first MVP and reached another World Series as a capper. However, it was clear by mid-April that last season may have just been a warm up, because Cabrera arguably played better baseball than he ever had before. If not for a superhuman season from Chris Davis aligning with an annoying hip injury, he was running away with adding another Crown to his head.

And while this didn’t finish with a repeat of that rare feat, in 13 less games, Cabrera equaled his home run total from the previous year and came within two RBI and eight hits of his 2012 numbers. He hit an MLB-best .348 (18 points better than 2012) to win his third consecutive batting title. He hit over .360 in three separate months, and .356 in another. Led the AL in on-base and slugging percentage, while striking out only 94 times. He finished in the top two in the MLB in six separate categories.

He’s in the midst of one of the classic runs of excellence at the plate in MLB history, and it actually is tough to blame pitchers for challenging him, because they did it less this time around. He drew 24 more walks in 2013, but he responded by striking out less and making his hits matter more (a career best 1.078 on-base + slugging percentage). All in all, over the last three MLB seasons, his average season has been a .340 average, with 39 home runs, 38 doubles, 127 RBI and a batting title a season. And the way things are going, these ridiculous numbers are a substandard effort for what he’s really doing—and unfortunately for those cunning AL pitchers, there is no sign of any let up soon.

The Rest:

2. Chris Davis-Orioles: .286 avg, 53 HR, 138 RBI, 167 hits, 103 runs, 42 2B, 4 SB, 1.004 OPS, 6.4 WAR

It takes an extraordinary performance to reach the altitudes that Cabrera is living at now, and that is exactly the right word to sum up what Crush did this summer. He led the Majors in home runs, RBI and total bases, and became one of three players to ever hit 50 homers and 40 doubles in the same season.

3. Mike Trout-Angels: .323 avg, 27 HR, 97 RBI, 190 hits, 109 runs, 39 2B, 33 SB, .988 OPS, 9.2 WAR

The most talented player in the game put his buffet of skills on full display again, leading the AL in runs scored and walks, while topping .320 yet again. He set career highs in hits, doubles, RBI and on-base percentage…and continued to reach Wins Above Replacement levels that only that only a player that can do literally everything as well as him can find.

4. Robinson Cano-Yankees: .314 avg, 27 HR, 107 RBI, 190 hits, 81 runs, 41 2B, 7 SB, .899 OPS, 7.6 WAR

The Yankees were far from their usual form this year, but Cano decided not to include himself in that mix, as he put up yet another strong season. He finished in the top five in hits, doubles, average, RBI and played another superb year in the field.

5. Josh Donaldson-Athletics: .301 avg, 24 HR, 93 RBI, 174 hits, 89 runs, 37 2B, 5 SB, .883 OPS, 8.0 WAR

The leader of the Oakland ensemble became Donaldson, who in his first full season in the Majors proved to be a formidable presence in the Oakland lineup. He had 56 multi-hit games on the year and saved his best for last, winning AL Player of the Month honors in September, hitting .337 with 17 extra base hits while helping the A’s to close out another improbable AL West Championship.

6. David Ortiz-Red Sox: .309 avg, 30 HR, 103 RBI, 160 hits, 84 runs, 38 2B, 4 SB, .959 OPS, 4.4 WAR

7. Adrian Beltre-Rangers: .315 avg, 30 HR, 92 RBI, 199 hits, 88 runs, 32 2B, 1 SB, .880 OPS, 5.5 WAR

8. Evan Longoria-Rays: .269 avg, 32 HR, 88 RBI, 165 hits, 91 runs, 39 2B, 1 SB, .842 OPS, 6.3 WAR

9. Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox: .301 avg, 9 HR, 84 RBI, 193 hits, 91 runs, 42 2B, 17 SB, .787 OPS, 6.5 WAR

10. Adam Jones-Orioles: .285 avg, 33 HR, 108 RBI, 186 RBI, 100 runs, 35 2B, 14 SB, .811 OPS, 4.4 WAR

The Awards run is almost complete, but there are is still just a ways to go…and one final big splash with the National League Most Valuable Player to close things out.

November 6: NL/AL Goose Gossage Relief Pitcher of the YearKoji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel

November 7: NL/AL Willie Mays Rookie of the YearWil Myers and Jose Fernandez

November 8: AL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the YearMax Scherzer

November 11: NL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the YearClayton Kershaw

November 12: NL/AL Connie Mack Manager of the Year

November 13: NL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player

Robinson-Cano

The status quo was shattered in the American League East a year ago. After years of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays fighting for supremacy, the Baltimore Orioles burst out of the cellar and took the fight to them all. By the end of the summer, the Orioles had fought their way to the playoffs for the first time since 1997, while the rest of the division was uncharacteristically met with very uncertain winters ahead of them.

The Yankees won the division, but were faced with a bumpy offseason fueled by an ugly sweep out of the American League Championship Series, new steroid allegations around Alex Rodriguez and uncertain rehabs from both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. The Red Sox rebuild went into overdrive, with a new manager and a second restructuring the team in three years. The Rays were once again faced with cautious moves to rebuild from within, and the Blue Jays only had the most aggressive offseason in recent memory.

2012 FINISH (*Wild Card winner)

1. New York Yankees (95-67)

2. Baltimore Orioles (93-69)*

3. Tampa Bay Rays (90-72)

4. Boston Red Sox (73-89)

5. Toronto Blue Jays (69-93)

The scene that emerges from this all is what should be the most competitive division in baseball. It will be a division that features both Cy Young winners from last summer (David Price and R.A. Dickey), as well as some of the biggest prospects in the game, for each team. It will be a battle that sorts out if the cardiac Orioles can channel that same magic again from its maturing core of young stars, or if the all-in Blue Jays, at all costs winter will pay out. Meanwhile, can the Yankees push a bit more out of its roster that’s reached three of the last four ALCS?

All Division Team

Catcher: Matt Wieters, Orioles

First Base: Mark Teixeira, Yankees

Second Base: Robinson Cano, Yankees

Third Base: Evan Longoria, Rays

Shortstop: Jose Reyes, Blue Jays

Left Field: Brett Gardner, Yankees

Center Field: Adam Jones, Orioles

Right Field: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz, Red Sox

Price went 20-5 and struck out 205 in route to his first Cy Young last year.

Price went 20-5 and struck out 205 in route to his first Cy Young.

Starting Pitcher: David Price, Rays

Starting Pitcher: CC Sabathia, Yankees

Starting Pitcher: RA Dickey, Blue Jays

Starting Pitcher: Josh Johnson, Blue Jays

Righty Relief: David Robertson, Yankees

Lefty Relief: Darren Oliver, Blue Jays

Closer: Mariano Rivera, Yankees

Top 10

  1. Robinson Cano, Yankees
  2. David Price, Rays
  3. Evan Longoria, Rays
  4. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
  5. CC Sabathia, Yankees
  6. Jose Reyes, Blue Jays
  7. Adam Jones, Orioles
  8. Mark Teixeira, Yankees
  9. Mariano Rivera, Yankees
  10. Curtis Granderson, Yankees

Lineup

  1. Blue Jays
  2. Yankees
  3. Orioles
  4. Red Sox
  5. Rays

The margin is close, but the Jays will take the edge over the Yankees due to both the questionable health of the Yankees in the immediate and long-term. The maturation of Brett Lawrie and the return to health of Jose Bautista makes T-Dot a gauntlet to get through. The Orioles will be greatly improved if both Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis are healthy at once, and the Rays will be a threat as well if Wil Myers makes his expected debut impact at some point.

Jones hit a career-best 32 home runs and drove in 82 for the surging O's in 2012.

Jones hit a career-best 32 home runs and drove in 82 for the surging O’s.

Heart of the Lineup

  1. Yankees (Cano/Teixeira/Granderson)
  2. Blue Jays (Bautista/Encarnacion/Rasmus)
  3. Orioles (Jones/Wieters/Davis)
  4. Rays (Zobrist/Longoria/Joyce)
  5. Red Sox (Ortiz/Napoli/Victorino)

There’s still no break going through the heart of the Yankee order. Cano, Granderson and Tex hit a total of 100 home runs and drove in 284 runs a year ago. Mike Napoli is a dead pull hitting terror that could own the Green Monster in Fenway. The support he provides alone makes the Sox far more dangerous. Chris Davis somehow hit a very quiet 33 home runs a year ago, and Adam Jones is just scratching his surface.

Table Setters

  1. Red Sox (Ellsbury/Pedroia)
  2. Blue Jays (Reyes/Cabrera)
  3. Yankees (Ichiro/Jeter)
  4. Rays (Jennings/Escobar)
  5. Orioles (McLouth/Hardy)

Health is always a reasonable concern, but the potential impact of Ellsbury and Pedroia atop the Boston order is devastating. Both could be good for 20 homers and at least 20 steals. However, in theory, both Melky Cabrera and Jose Reyes are former batting champs, and that’s a tremendous duo of base runners to put on in front of the big Toronto bats. Desmond Jennings has a chance to make an in-prime Carl Crawford like impact in Tampa this year.

Bench

  1. Orioles
  2. Rays
  3. Blue Jays
  4. Red Sox
  5. Yankees

The Orioles killed teams with the numbers game a year ago, and still have the AL’s deepest positional roster. Nate McLouth, Wilson Betemit, Danny Valencia and Reimold offer a ridiculous amount of versatility that Buck Showalter will use frequently. The Rays will have a rotational option of Kelly Johnson, Sean Rodriguez and Luke Scott available to fit into their very balanced approach as well.

Rotation

  1. Rays
  2. Blue Jays
  3. Yankees
  4. Orioles
  5. Red Sox

David Price is far from on his own without James Shields. By the summer’s end, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb will have much bigger names than they enter with. The Jays biggest focus was to add starting pitching and the additions of a brand new one through three to their rotation in Dickey, Johnson and Buerhle represents the most significant change to any staff in baseball. A healthy return of John Lackey could make the Red Sox very dangerous as well.

Dickey is the fourth reigning Cy Young winner to be traded after winning the honor (Cone, Martinez, Clemens).

Dickey is the fourth reigning Cy Young winner to be traded after winning the honor (Cone, Martinez, Clemens).

1-2 Punch

  1. Blue Jays (Dickey/Johnson)
  2. Rays (Price/Hellickson)
  3. Yankees (Sabathia/Kuroda)
  4. Red Sox (Lester/Dempster)
  5. Orioles (Hammel/Chen)

Hiroki Kuroda has been one of the most underrated hurlers in baseball over the last two years. He finished eighth in the AL in ERA last year, and finally gave the Yanks a viable #2 behind Sabathia. Speaking of ERA, in Price and Hellickson, the Rays anchor their rotation with two of the top six best in the category a year ago. Price’s 2.56 was tops in the league, while Hellickson came in sixth at 3.10.

Bullpen

  1. Orioles
  2. Red Sox
  3. Rays
  4. Yankees
  5. Blue Jays

The Orioles 29-9 record in one run games was anchored by a nearly impenetrable bullpen. Jim Johnson saved 51 of 54 games, and overall the secondary arms had five ERA’s under 3.00 and three winners of five or more games. The Red Sox have a potentially overwhelming pen, with both Joel Hanahran and Andrew Bailey being former All-Star closers. The Rays Fernando Rodney will look to follow up his breakthrough season, which with finished him 5th in the Cy Young vote.

Defense

  1. Orioles
  2. Rays
  3. Yankees
  4. Red Sox
  5. Blue Jays

JJ Hardy, Wieters, Jones and Markakis are all owners of Gold Gloves for the O’s, and Manny Machado is a third baseman playing with shortstop range. The Rays aren’t far behind, with Longoria, Loney, Escobar and Zobrist comprising a formidable unit behind their strong pitching staff.

Speed

  1. Blue Jays
  2. Orioles
  3. Red Sox
  4. Rays
  5. Yankees

With Rajai Davis, Reyes, Lawrie, Rasmus and Bonafacio all on the bases for the Jays, they won’t be afraid to push for the extra base. Both Reyes and Bonaficio could push for 40+ steals, hitting back-to-back in the lineup. The Yankees have become the ultimate station to station lineup in baseball, although the return of Brett Gardner (96 steals from 2010-11) will finally provide them with a legit stolen base threat again.

Manager

  1. Joe Maddon,
  2. Buck Showalter
  3. Joe Girardi
  4. John Farrell
  5. John Gibbons

While Showalter deservedly won the AL Manager of the Year for the 24 game improvement his Orioles took on a year ago, but Maddon is still tops. He’s kept the Rays in the mix of the division every year despite a nearly annual major loss to his limited budget roster. John Farrell was traded for from the Blue Jays to steady the rebuilding effort for the Red Sox.

Farrell returns to Boston, where he was pitching coach from 2007-10, to straighten out a house in ruins.

Farrell returns to Boston, where he was pitching coach from 2007-10, to straighten out a house in ruins.

Finances

  1. Yankees
  2. Red Sox
  3. Orioles
  4. Blue Jays
  5. Rays

The Yankees are kings of baseball’s financial hill, but they are in both a push to cut payroll to avoid a pending luxury tax and to have the funds need to keep Cano in pinstripes after this season. Boston has been strategic in rebuilding their roster, while the Jays took on $146 million in salary with their trade with the Marlins.

Impact Additions

  1. RA Dickey (Blue Jays from Mets)
  2. Jose Reyes (Blue Jays from Marlins)
  3. Josh Johnson (Blue Jays from Marlins)
  4. Joel Hanahran (Red Sox from Pirates)
  5. Mike Napoli (Red Sox from Rangers)

Notice a trend? The core of the changes to the division as a whole really is due to the Jays aggressive restructuring of their roster. They sacrificed both prospects and payroll to reinvent themselves with two deals to land Dickey and the majority of the Marlins core a year ago. Boston also will open with five new everyday players and five new pitchers as well.

Leap Forward Candidates

  1. Matt Moore, Rays
  2. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays
  3. Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox
  4. Manny Machado, Orioles
  5. Desmond Jennings, Rays

Once again, the Rays have another function youth movement on the verge of carrying them ahead. Moore and Hellickson are the future of the team’s greatest asset, it’s pitching. The Orioles brought up Machado the third overall pick in the 2010 draft just before his 20th birthday, and he responded by hitting .262 with seven homers in his first 51 games.

Rookies/Prospects to Watch

  1. Dylan Bundy (Pitcher, Orioles—AAA)
  2. Wil Myers (Right field, Rays—AAA)
  3. Xander Bogearts (Shortstop, Red Sox—AA)
  4. Gary Sanchez (Catcher, Yankees—AA)
  5. Chris Archer (Pitcher, Rays—AAA)

Prospect list in the AL East looks like a who’s who of everybody’s Top 100 list. Bundy, Myers and Bogearts are Top 5 prospects in the game that could make impacts on the MLB level this year. Bundy began the season in Single-A, but reached the Majors by September of last year. Myers was the center of one of the biggest trades of the offseason, and profiles to be a major part of the Tampa effort by mid-summer.

2013 PREDICTIONS

  1. Orioles
  2. Blue Jays
  3. Yankees
  4. Rays
  5. Red Sox

There’s a lot of reason to believe that last year was a fluke for the Orioles. If you look at their amazing results in close games, as well as the comet-like rise they took last season, it would seem that there would have to be some return to reality this year. But that’s the glass half empty approach, and there’s more to it than that. The O’s have a roster that hasn’t peaked, and has a chance to be even healthier this season. Adding experience to the resolve and talent they showed last year will make them a more formidable group this year.

Make no mistake, this doesn’t mean the Blue Jays efforts were a failure. They will be a much improved team on all fronts, and will make a push for October. However, they are still a club of peaks and valleys. For as strong as their rotation should be, the bullpen still is far from a certain proposition. And defensively, they could be very limited in support behind the staff. The “out hit em” approach is possible, but we’ve seen that not work many other places.

Overall, this was a division that had a whopping three teams win 90 games a year ago, and there’s good reason to believe it does that again. it’s going to be a very strong division, which should end up with a separation from first to last of as few as five games. Don’t count the Yankees out, as they have a lot of offensive to lean on, and they will get healthier as the year goes on. The Red Sox aren’t a prototypical last place team either, but somebody has to end up there. And as for the Rays: they’re a sleeper pick to flip this entire scenario around. If you can pitch, you always have a chance, and they can do that. The division will send two teams to the postseason as usual, and the fight for who it will be could take all summer to sort out.

For more on the previews and the men that are bringing them to reality, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Let’s start off with the facts; the Baltimore Orioles have been in some tough times. A mixture of bad signings, both too old and too young teams and the misfortune of being in the toughest division in all of professional sports, the AL East, have doomed them to three consecutive last place finishes. Before that streak started up, they were only slightly “better”, with three straight next to last finishes. All in all, the Orioles haven’t had a winning record since 1997, those are the facts. However, they have also finally received the one thing that comes from all long-term struggles, a high level of young talent that is reaching impact level in the Majors. To speed up these youngsters development, they lured Buck Showalter out of the air conditioned comfort of an ESPN analyst chair for the first time in four years. He responded by pulling the club to a 34-23 record to finish out the season, the best finish of any AL East squad. So there is some promise in B-More that wasn’t seen previously.

In his debut, Showalter worked minor short-term miracles last September, but what does his first full season hold?

THREE UP

1. Time is Now: The primary strength of the Orioles rebuilding effort has been based in their pitching, and now those ex-prospects are at the head of the big league rotation. Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta are all written into the mix here, with some major responsibility to continue their development towards being one of the best young rotations in baseball. They have the talent, but they also have to develop it against the most brutal lineups in baseball featured by the Yankees and Red Sox (and a powerful Blue Jay lineup as well). How they handle and bounce back from the definite setbacks they will catch while facing those teams will determine how good the Orioles can really be.

2. King in Waiting: Of all the young position players in the game, Adam Jones has the most talent overall talent of them all, in my opinion. However, after a 2009 breakout that included an All-Star debut and a Gold Glove, he battled inconsistency for much of last year. Despite their much improved lineup, Jones is still the best player on the O’s and if he takes the next step in realizing his considerable potential this year across the board, it could propel the entire club up the standings.

A leap in production by Jones would tie into a direct jump in the standings as well.

 

3. Slow Money, Smart Money: Baltimore was aggressive in pursuing many of the premier free agents on the market this winter, but lost out on the Adrian Beltre, Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn races. So they let the market sort itself out and instead pursued the short contract veterans with one year deals. In the end, the landed both Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee to add much-needed experience to their talented, but young lineup. With 11 All-Star births between them, the impact they make with their presence and knowledge in the long-term will be just as useful as what they contribute with their bats on the short-term.

THREE DOWN

1. Steady Goes It: For all the talent they have with their young pitchers, there are still are big questions about the durability and consistency of the vets of their rotation. Justin Duchscherer was signed as veteran arm to balance out the rotation, but he has only pitched 28 innings over the past two years due to mixture of injuries and depression based time on the DL. Not exactly the pillar of strength that young pitchers can see throwing and learn from. Jeremy Guthrie rebounded nicely from a terrible 2009, and dropped his ERA by over a run in 2010, but still took 14 losses last year.

2. Trouble at the Top: No matter how bad they got over the past few years, second baseman Brian Roberts was always there putting in his work regardless. Well, the O’s even lost that last year, when Roberts could only stay healthy enough to play in 59 games after averaging 157 from 2007-09. When healthy, the two-time All-Star is one of the best leadoff hitters in the game, and if the Orioles are to continue their climb up the ladder from Afterthoughtville, he has to be back on the field and at the top of the lineup consistently.

Roberts has to be up and moving fro Opening Day on for Baltimore to pull of any surprises this year.

 

3. Where is the Real Wieters? Coming into the 2009 season, catcher Matt Wieters was being hailed as being a surefire next Johnny Bench. Well after two years that have shown a total of 20 home runs and a .328 on-base percentage, it’s safe to say those comparisons have been put to bed. However, it’s too early to write him off to Alex Gordon status either. The guy is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball already, and with a lowered responsibility in the lineup due to all of the new additions, he may be able to find his swing now as well. Regardless of who is on board currently, Wieters is as big of a part of the long-term picture as anybody and they need him to come into his own.

LINEUP/PITCHING: 2010 stats/info (Biggest Difference Maker in BOLD)

  1. Brian Roberts-2B: .278 avg/4 HR/15 RBI/12 steals in 59 games
  2. Adam Jones-CF: .284 avg/19 HR/69 RBI/ 7 steals
  3. Nick Markakis-RF: .297 avg/12 HR/60 RBI/45 doubles
  4. Vladimir Guerrero-DH: .300 avg/29 HR/115 RBI
  5. Derrek Lee-1B: .260 avg/19 HR/80 RBI/35 doubles
  6. Luke Scott-LF: .284 avg/27 HR/72 RBI
  7. 7. Mark Reynolds-3B: An underrated addition from Arizona, who will be much lower risk using his all or nothing (.198 average & 211 strikeouts, but 32 home runs) approach at the bottom of the lineup.
  8. Matt Wieters-C: .249 avg/11 HR/55 RBI/only 5 errors & 2 passed balls in 2010
  9. J.J. Hardy-SS: .268 avg/ 6 HR/38 RBI
  1. Jeremy Guthrie-RH: 11-14, 3.83 ERA, 119 K’s, 209.1 innings
  2. Brian Matsuz-RH: 10-12, 4.30 ERA, 143 K’s
  3. Justin Duchscherer-RH: 2-1, 2.86 ERA, 18 K’s in 5 games
  4. Brad Bergesen-RH: 8-12, 4.98 ERA, 81 K’s
  5. Jake Arrieta-RH: 6-6, 4.66 ERA, 52 K’s

Closer: Koji Uehara-RH: 13 Saves, 2.86 ERA, 55 K’s

Closer: Kevin Gregg-RH: 37 Saves, 3.51 ERA, 58 K’s

Rundown: Are they getting better? Definitely they are. Although they have been bad in result over the last few years, many of those losses have come at the hands of being greatly overmatched by the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays not only in talent, but in experience as well. With their approach to better their roster this winter, they helped narrow the gap in the experience department. Despite some quality veteran additions, this is still at its core a very young team at many crucial areas. However, the impact of having Showalter on board for a full offseason and spring training should not be underestimated in being able to continue the development of the Baltimore youth, and while I don’t expect them to repeat what they did for him at the end of 2010 for a full season, they will be a much better team, even if not on par with the usual standard bearers of the East.