JAYS FROM THE COUCH COMPARES TORONTO BLUE JAYS’ RF JOSE BAUTISTA, TO HIS AL EAST COUNTERPARTS TO SEE IF HE’S STILL GOT IT
Right field. That place in Little League and up in to high school where the team’s worst fielder goes, and often the worst hitter. Back then it was an insult, a place to stash the awkward lefty or the stone-gloved kid who wasn’t tall enough to play first base. Of course, at the highest level in this great game, this is absolutely not the case. Some of the best players in the game right now roam the many intricate corners of MLB outfields – just take a look at some of the talent playing right now in the World Baseball Classic.
The AL East, as expected, is no exception. The Blue Jays’ own Jose Bautista is a perennial 40-HR threat. Mookie Betts, in Boston, looks to fight the annual dogfight with Mike Trout for the league’s MVP honors, and a youth movement in Tampa Bay and New York featuring Steven Souza Jr. and Aaron Judge is underway. Even the Orioles have stepped up their RF game, adding veteran RF Seth Smith to the fold in 2017.
In short, there’s plenty of skill in this division. Let’s see how they stack up.
|Steven Souza Jr.||17||49||.714||94||7||2.4||1.3|
*statistics posted for Aaron Judge are his Depth Charts projections for 2017. His 27 game sample size was not enough for the author.
There’s no shortage of power in the AL East considering both the small ballparks and plethora of talent. Mookie Betts burst into MVP-mode in 2016, blasting 31 HR to Bautista’s 22 while driving in 113 runs. He also left his mark on the base paths and easily takes the crown in that facet here, swiping 26 bags (more than the other four combined) and earning a 9.8 BsR rating at Fangraphs. In a normal, non-injured year Bautista tops the HR and RBI output, but Betts’ advantage on the base paths provides for plenty of value which Bautista and the rest of the AL East OFs just cannot touch.
Surprisingly, Steven Souza, the Rays’ haul in the Wil Myers–Joe Ross–Trea Turner Trade (sorry, but, HAHAHAHA RAYS) has yet to do much of anything but strike out and get hurt. Over three seasons he’s yet to play more than 120 games, and with very good speed has stolen just 19 bases while getting caught 12 times. His 310 Ks has resulted in a…robust 33.7 K%. He was the only one in this list to post a wRC+ under 100 in 2016, with 94.
Seth Smith is the newcomer, and he’s certainly not afraid of any of the right-handers in the division. While mostly a platoon-type player, he’ll probably see plenty of extraneous playing time for the Orioles this season, similar to the Blue Jays’ own left field situation. Still, his wRC+ of 110 is above-average, and he’ll almost certainly see a boost in power numbers from 16 HR and 63 RBI from last season playing in the AL East bandboxes with their signature right-field short porches.
As for the Yankees, the departure of Carlos Beltran has opened the door – hopefully a large one – for Aaron Judge. His limited 27-game sample from 2016 isn’t much to base a bold prediction upon, but – well, just watch this:
The power is real, and it’s big.
|Steven Souza Jr.||4||.984||.909||-0.8||-0.4||-2.4|
So while Betts and Bautista are clearly atop the offensive categories for this bunch, it’s still worth talking about the defense a bit as well. Unfortunately for the Jays and Bautista, though, that separates the two even more. Betts provided an excellent 17.2 UZR/150, the only positive rating of the entire class. Souza Jr. was the closest, if you could say that, with a -2.4, and Bautista followed with a poor -9.3. Seth Smith, though, offered the worst rating, -16.6, and he’ll do it in a more difficult OF to play in.
One might think Bautista could retain some value here with his once-heralded arm strength, but after over exerting his shoulder in an Orioles game in 2015, his ARM (outfield arm runs above average) now sits in the negative values at -0.8, again falling well behind Mookie Betts’ 6.9. This number of course is due for regression with Betts as the league has hopefully learned to not challenge his throwing abilities.
And for the rest: the remaining three all posted negative arm values, negative UZR, negative UZR/150 and Fielding % below Betts. The cold honesty here is that Betts is far and away the best, and it’s not even close right now.
It would be naive and even irresponsible to say here that there’s any competition for best AL East RF aside from Mookie Betts. That being said, the competition for this made-up title will be significantly closer in 2017 should all players involved remain healthy and competitive. Bautista is due to rebound from a terrible (by his standards) 2016 season, and some regression in Betts’ game is certainly possible. The dark horse in this race is Aaron Judge, the monstrous (6’7″, 275) slugger in the Bronx who has pounded out 56 HR and 215 RBI in just three minor-league seasons. While his contributions in RF and on the bases will likely be minimal, he’s poised to be an offensive force in this division for a long time.
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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