We continue with our normal series, but we add in an extra twist as we move to the outfield. Position switches occur more routinely with the outfield, so players move around within the index. Mike Trout is being moved to left field (among others that fall outside the top ten) while Josh Hamilton is being moved to right field. So, those two players will be switched even though Hamilton should be included among last year’s left fielders.
1) Mike Trout– Los Angeles Angels
Miguel Cabrera may have been the AL MVP, but Mike Trout was the unquestioned best player in baseball last season. At least, it is unquestioned by those that pay attention to fielding and base running in addition to hitting. The Angels are in the middle of a dilemma. Moving Trout out of center field will undoubtedly hurt his defensive value some, but Peter Bourjos is arguably better in center field than Trout.
The alternative is playing Trout in center and Vernon Wells in left field. Wells is neutral in terms of defense and slightly below average overall. Bourjos was well below average offensively last season, so it is likely that the lineup will be jumbled a lot in 2013 as the Angels try to find the best configuration.
2) Ryan Braun– Milwaukee Brewers
You could argue that Ryan Braun was the most valuable player in the National League last season. He was slightly better than Buster Posey according to total run index, but a part of value is the separation between the best player at a position and the next best player. The distance between Buster Posey and the second best catcher was greater than the distance between Braun and the next best left fielder.
3) Alex Gordon– Kansas City Royals
Alex Gordon burst on the scene last year as a left fielder after nearly a half decade masquerading as a third baseman. The biggest part of the value has been his surprising performance as a fielder. However, one cannot deny the production he has brought to the table offensively. The two factors in concert make him perhaps the most underrated outfielder in baseball.
4) Melky Cabrera– San Francisco Giants
One of the peculiar notions in sports is how some governing bodies (NCAA in particular) want to punish players or teams by removing their accomplishments. It’s as if the move would erase the performance from our memory. Cabrera was likely cheating all season and missed the last two months. People can try to erase that from the record, but that performance was integral in keeping the Giants in the hunt. You can try to make the numbers illegitimate, but you can’t get that toothpaste back in the tube after it is out.
5) Josh Willingham– Minnesota Twins
It might seem like the Twins were unwise investing so much money in an outfielder when their rotation was in shambles. That is a resource allocation problem. The money spent on Willingham was well spent in terms of what they got for their investment. Whether it is what the team needed is another question. If Justin Morneau returns to his pre-concussion form, the Twins could become a contender again.
6) Matt Holliday– St. Louis Cardinals
Holliday’s deficiencies are becoming more and more glaring with each passing year. That being said, he is still one of the better hitters in baseball. However, his fielding problems reared their ugly head the first season in the playoffs. The Cardinals will gladly take the bad with the good considering Albert Pujols’ departure.
7) Martin Prado– Atlanta Braves
Numerous pundits have come out against the Dbacks in the recent Justin Upton deal. The Braves traded Martin Prado and a group of prospects for Upton and Chris Johnson. Arguably, Martin Prado was better by himself last season. Whether he can continue to field as he did in left field at third base is anyone’s best guess. However, even you consider him a neutral fielder, he would still finish among the top ten third basemen if he performs like he did last season with the bat.
8) Yoenis Cespedes– Oakland Athletics
Cespedes was a breath of fresh air in his first season in the big leagues. The only exception would be his performance in center field. He was terrible and was thus moved to left field. With an entire season in left field he should be even more valuable next season. The Athletics spent a lot of money for them to get Cespedes and that investment ended up panning out.
9) Alfonso Soriano– Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have been trying to deal Alfonso Soriano for years. His value had been declining with the bat and with the glove. No one wanted his contract, but Soriano ended up turning things around on both fronts to the point where he was in demand again. The funny thing is that after he turned things around, the Cubs were not as interested in dealing him. Sure, if the right deal comes along they will take it, but if Soriano keeps performing like this, the Cubs could be contenders.
10) Ryan Ludwick– Cincinnati Reds
Ludwick is one of those players that every championship team needs. He isn’t an all-star in the real sense, but he helps give a team depth. The Reds have several hitters that are superior to Ludwick, but having him lower in the order helps create match up problems for opposing pitchers.
Filed under: SABR