In relation to corner outfielders, CF’s have to possess a little more defensive prowess. There is a very obvious reason why players like Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, and Bobby Abreu–just to use a few names from this current Free Agent market–are placed in left or right, rather than in center. They aren’t fast enough, they don’t take the correct path to the ball enough of the time, and if they did play the position, they would be terrible at it. The Top 5 CF’s are (Included is 2008 OPS+):
- Grady Sizemore: OPS+ 128: If I had to build a team around an individual player, Sizemore would probably be it. Granted, his age factors into that decision a great deal, but so doesn’t the fact that he plays an up-the-middle position and the fact that he is a very good hitter. Sizemore has begun his career with OPS’s of 123, 132, 122, 128, excluding his 43 game 2004 season. The reputation that Sizemore has defensively, actually exceeds his actual skill. Grady seems to be regarded as one of the best defenders in center, but from what I gather, and see in the +/-, is that Sizemore is overrated in this department. Capable? Yes. And Sizemore will probably improve his route-running as he continues to field balls, but right now there are a handful of CF’s that play better defense. By the way, Sizemore is a leadoff hitter, and a leadoff hitter with an OBP of between .370-.390 every season, while adding an abnormal slugging percentage from the first slot in the batting order, well, that helps his team win ballgames.
- Carlos Beltran: OPS+ 129: Carlos Beltran is just about as underrated as they come. Sure, Beltran has never been as great as he was in the 2004 postseason, where he slugged eight home runs, but all he does is produce great year after great year. And to be fair, Beltran’s postseason was about as great as they get, so there is no way he is going to hit like that for entire seasons. Because Beltran never says or implies much through even his body language, he is going to sneak up on everyone’s Hall of Fame ballots. Beltran is just about as good as they come as far as defense in CF. He actually has a strong case for number 1, as he has led ALL OF’s in Win Shares in two of the past three seasons. See, Beltran suffers from JD Drew-syndrome, which is the ability to do things, make them look easy, all while showing little-to-no emotion. Now Beltran is clearly better than Drew, and healthier, but the perception of each is similar. The only reason that Beltran is not number one is because I think very highly of Grady Sizemore. The two could very well be 1) and 1A) if it makes everyone feel better. And Beltran could even have the number one spot all by himself if you wish.
- Curtis Granderson: OPS+ 124: Granderson was banged up in 2008, but what people failed to notice is that he was actually quite good, I am sure that is due partially to him playing on a poor, underacheiving team. I am not sure, however, that Curtis will ever be as good as his 2007 year, but he is still a top of the line CF. The one thing that is scary is his strikeout totals, but each year they have decreased, meaning that he is putting the ball in play more often, at least giving himself a chance to reach base with the speed he has. A player like Pat Burrell may not want to increase his contact rate, because it may cost him in the power department, and increase the amount of double plays he grounds into. But Granderson can actually stay out of double plays, grounding into only 17 in over 500 games played. Granderson is above average in the fielding department, and is a better defender than Sizemore, but not as good as Beltran. But I think that three is a fair spot for CG.
- Josh Hamilton: OPS+ 136: Hamilton is actually getting statistically drilled by John Dewan’s +/- system. Last season, Hamilton was regarded as a below average CF, if one relies on this metric. But Hamilton drills a baseball the same way he has been drilled by defensive metrics. One thing that might concern me a lot is the way Hamilton hits at home in Arlington versus the way he hits on the road. But there may be something to that, so I am not going to look too much into his Home/Road splits just yet. Because as we know, because the media continually tells us, Josh Hamilton has a rough past. I could very well see where a player in his situation could feel overwhelmed on the road, given his what he has experienced. But if it keeps up through his career in Texas, then we could definitely make a case for his hitting being overrated because of the ballpark in which he calls home.
- BJ Upton: OPS+ 107: Upton is the real deal in the talent field, but there is a fine line, at least now, between he and the Top three CF’s. Upton killed the ball in the postseason last year, hitting seven home runs in 16 games. But what Upton has in talent, he lacks in the mental aspect of the game that we know of as baseball. How many times is he going to nonchalantly watch a ball sail over his head because he seems to want to look good making a play? I think he is a better defender than the next guy which would have been Nate Mclouth most likely, (better than the previous guy, too) and that is a large reason he is in this spot. But he does get on base a lot, his .383 OBP is good evidence of that. Upton seems like he may have a real breakout year in 2009 or 2010.
No one is completely “untouchable…”
People keep speaking words that revolve around the Mets trading away some of the core that helped them win a bunch of games this season. A core that consisted of three of the better players in baseball…and a good first baseman. Not including Santana; Beltran, Wright, Reyes, and Delgado are apparently not good enough for some fans. But where would the New York Mets be without these four players? They are not magically winning games with zero talent. They aren’t magically winning games with a great pitching staff, solid enough, but not great. They do play defense, I will give them that. But who exactly plays good defense for them? Carlos Beltran, David Wright, and Jose Reyes are the Mets three best and most important defenders on the pitchers side of the catcher. Would this defense exist without these three players? No, it would not.
The Mets traded away some young, but somewhat expendable talent to acquire Johan Santana. So I think it is safe to say that they have a “win now” mentality. Johan should be an above average pitcher for several more seasons, but he is great right now!
Carlos Delgado is 36 years old. Apparently he has one more year on his contract at $16 million. Please let me know if this is incorrect, but my “sources” say this is true. I would find little negative if they could unload that final year of Delgado’s contract and get something decent back in return. However, it is unlikely that they will find any takers to pay Delgado, who is in his late thirties, $16 million. Delgado gave all fans a scare this season when he was miserable for the first two months of the year, then seemingly pulled his bat speed out of a hat. It is safe to say that it will be difficult for Delgado to duplicate the numbers he posted in 2008 next season. It is far from impossible, but not all that likely either. Delgado is expendable, but could still help some next season.
Carlos Beltran is a great player. Great! We all know that Adam Wainwright made him look like an unpassionate, indifferent, five-tool primadonna (Ok, maybe I am exaggerating how Mets fans seemed to have felt/and feel). But that pitch should not sum up Carlos Beltran. He is a very good defender at an up-the-middle position. CB was easily the best all around CF in the National League, great defender, and he helped “create” more runs than any of the other bodies patrolling the middle of the outfield. But that actually kind of hurts Beltran’s case a little, comparing him simply to CF’s. Beltran was one of the five best position players in the entire league this year. If they are built to win the next few seasons, then there are few better players to have than Carlos Beltran.
No one is completely “untouchable…”
…But here are the near untouchables…
Jose Reyes is one of the four best SS’s in the game of baseball. A pretty solid defender at a very important position. And a truly great hitter as far as SS’s go. The mental lapses are there, and they may always be there…but he is 25 years of age. 25! Reyes is still learning the game of baseball. Are there other 25 year old players that have been further along in their development? Definitely. But Reyes is a great talent, one that any franchise should hold onto, hoping that he can grasp the mental part of the game. But everyone knows he will produce, and produce well. How well depends on his focus, and determination to improve as a player.
And then we come to the the third baseman. With Chipper Jones oft-injured…at all times, David Wright is the second best 3B in the game of baseball today. Wright is a strong defender, and is a very good hitter. Any team would love to have him, especially because he is young, and reasonably priced. It is safe to say that David Wright is the least expendable player on the New York Mets. A true team player, and even though the fans tend to focus on some of his negatives because he plays in New York, he, like Reyes, is still learning. He is 25 years old, and already great.
Teams, No, franchises (fan bases included), should embrace these players. They should understand what they mean to the franchise. Games are not won without talent, and these players, the last three mentioned especially, are great talents. They don’t need to trade Beltran. They don’t need to trade Reyes, they need to get someone in there to keep him on his toes. They don’t need to trade David Wright, he has Hall of Fame talent. They simply need to make better moves to improve upon the team that surrounds these talents. Easier said then done, one might say. But the Mets have money. Lots and lots of money! Go out and find a corner outfielder. Go out and sign a few pitchers. Try to win with the awesome talent that you, the Mets, came across, however you did. They don’t need to do much, when compared to other teams, to win 90 games next season. And that should be plenty of motivation to keep the GREAT core that they have right now.
Saw this on Rob Neyer’s blog: