Feb. 24, 2013; Mesa, AZ, USA; Schierholtz grounds out to first during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Hohokam Park. The Cubs won 4-3. (Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

Ranking the NLC Right Fielders: Bruuuuuuuce!


Today we arrive at the last of the position players for BRM’s ranking of the National League Central players. Today, the right fielders take the spotlight.

In ranking these five, there were some questions, but not as they pertained to where they would land, but who would land. A couple of teams appear – on paper – to be set on possibly installing platoon situations. That usually produces some conjecture by the varying team websites and other sites which “predict” who the #1 guy is.

Feb 16, 2013; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Bruce poses for a photo during photo day at the Reds Spring Training Facility. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

1. Jay Bruce – Cincinnati Reds

Hard to imagine that Bruce is entering his sixth MLB season. And he won’t turn 26 until April 3. Suffice to say, Bruce can now be termed as one of the Reds veterans – and that still seems odd to write.

2013 saw Bruce capture his second consecutive All-Star Game selection and his first Silver Slugger Award. He also set career highs in doubles (35), runs scored (89, which also led the team), triples (5), home runs (34), RBI (99), stolen bases (9), slugging (.514), OPS (.841) and total bases (288).

Bruce is also coming off his second straight season where he was a finalist for the Gold Glove. He may eventually won one of those. There’s a lot for Bruce to build from for the upcoming season.

Question for 2013:
1. Can Bruce find that ever elusive consistency in his offensive game? It’s no secret that he can be streaky at the plate, but when Bruce is in that mode…
2. Will Bruce acquire more of a leadership role this season? The timing may be right on this with the departures of Scott Rolen and Miguel Cairo.

AB AVG OBP SLG HR R RBI SB BB SO
2012 560 .252 .327 .514 34 89 99 9 62 155
3-YR 551 .262 .340 .493 30 84 89 7 64 150
PROJ 550 .263 .343 .511 34 88 99 8 65 146

Projected WAR: 3.9

Oct 22, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Beltran hits a base hit against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning of game seven of the 2012 NLCS at AT&T Park. (Kelley L. Cox – USA TODAY Sports)

2. Carlos Beltran – St. Louis Cardinals

As hard as it is to believe that Bruce is entering his sixth season, has Beltran been in the bigs since 1998? While he didn’t play in a lot of games for the Kansas City Royals that season, in 1999, he won the AL Rookie of the Year. And he has produced ever since. There were the years in New York where he battled injuries and was less productive, but Beltran is usually a safe bet for 20+HR, roughly 80 RBI and hit around .275.

Imagine if Beltran had produced the same offense for the second half of the 2012 season that he crafted during the first half. There were even a few whispers of him in the NL MVP conversation at the All-Star break. Then, the second half of the season arrived. Still, even with that little nagging injury here and there, Beltran still had a season that rivaled Bruce’s 2012 as far as overall numbers.

Questions for 2013:
1. Can Beltran stay healthy? Despite playing in 151 games last season, 135 of those games were starts.
2. Can he produce for the entire season the way he did for the first half of 2012? If so, the rest of he league is in trouble. If not, the Cards have a means to overcome that as they proved last season.

AB AVG OBP SLG HR R RBI SB BB SO
2012 547 .269 .346 .495 32 83 97 13 65 124
3-YR 429 .279 .361 .496 20 61 69 7 55 84
PROJ 471 .269 .352 .467 20 67 73 8 60 97

Projected WAR: 2.7

Sept 16, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Aoki during the game against the New York Mets at Miller Park. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

3. Norichika Aoki – Milwaukee Brewers

When the Brewers signed Aoki prior to the start of last season, it went a little unnoticed. Once Aoki became acclimated, he was arguably one of the Brewers top players. He helped solve the question in right field (maybe better put is that he took the position) which allowed Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke to move Corey Hart to first base. And we know that’s another matter now…

Aoki finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting and deservedly so. Not only did he play all three outfield positions (but mostly in right), Aoki led all NL rookies in stolen bases with 30. That was also good enough to tie for ninth in the NL. He was also 3rd among NL rookies in BA (.288), 2nd in OBP (.355), and 2nd in runs scored (81). And his defense isn’t too shabby either. He amassed 8 assists last season, 7 in right.

Questions for 2013:
1. Now that the league is well aware of Aoki’s talents, how will he adjust to their adjustments? Weird wording, I know, but if Aoki can make these adjustments (and there is nothing to indicate he can’t or won’t), he could help fill a slight bit of the void left while the Brewers still search for that first baseman while Hart is out.
2. Can Aoki be the next Ichiro? Easy now. It’s only one season. Let’s not get carried way, but there are some similarities.

AB AVG OBP SLG HR R RBI SB BB SO
2012 520 .288 .355 .433 10 81 50 30 43 55
PROJ 536 .288 .355 .416 10 78 55 20 45 58

Projected WAR: 2.2

August 10, 2012: Pittsburgh, PA, USA: Snider rounds the bases after hitting a three run home run against the San Diego Padres during the fourth inning at PNC Park. (Vincent Pugliese-USA TODAY Sports)

4. Travis Snider – Pittsburgh Pirates

This is one of those situations I mentioned earlier about a platoon situation. There is a chance that Snider will fit that bill, but being a lefty bat, he may well garner more playing time. Some projections don’t see it that way, but both the Pirates website and MLB Depth Charts list Snider as the top guy here.

Snider arrived in Pittsburgh in late July last season as a result of a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Brad Lincoln. Snider never truly “caught on” with Toronto and this is an opportunity he should relish. He’ll only be 25 at the start of the season and there well could be other chances for him. If he stocks and produces, the Pirates have the makings of a nice outfield along with Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte.

Questions for 2013:
1. What if Snider doesn’t produce? Jose Tabata is there and don’t rule out a Garrett Jones sighting in this position every once in a while should Snider not perform. Add that there’s still a chance Tabata could win the starting nod over Snider makes this compelling.

AB AVG OBP SLG HR R RBI SB BB SO
2012 164 .250 .319 .378 4 23 17 2 17 48
3-YR 216 .245 .298 .408 7 27 26 6 16 61
PROJ 409 .266 .331 .443 14 51 53 8 35 93

Projected WAR: 0.9

5. Nate Schierholtz – Chicago Cubs

Again with the platoon theme. The Cubs also signed free agent Scott Hairston, so if Shierholtz can’t deliver, the Cubbies have a backup plan. With Schierholtz being a lefty bat, like Snider, he could see more playing time than Hairston. And we could see Hairston also win the starting nod, too.

Schierholtz hasn’t been overly productive at the plate. In the four seasons where he has played 100+ games, he has only once had an OPS over .750 (.756 in ’11). He’s not a power threat (career high of nine homers), he won’t steal a base (7 is the most he’s ever posted in a season), but his defense goes a little unnoticed. He owns a career DRS of 12 and only once has posted a year in the negative (-6 in ’09).

Questions for 2013:
1. How long will Dale Sveum stick with Schierholtz? Let’s not assume the position is his. The Phillies elected not to re-sign him and look at the dilemma they face as far as their outfield is concerned. Of course, I think Darin Ruf may have had a say in that.

AB AVG OBP SLG HR R RBI SB BB SO
2012 241 .257 .321 .407 6 20 21 3 23 46
3-YR 268 .262 .320 .405 6 32 26 5 21 48
PROJ 312 .264 .325 .425 9 40 37 5 26 59

Projected WAR: 1.0

Recap:

1. Bruce
2. Beltran
3. Aoki
4. Snider
5. Schierholtz

I will repeat, this was a natural flow for selecting this order, but I would not rule out some switches throughout the season. Bruce is the top dog here, but it’s what’s in the rear view. If Beltran should once again have injury battles/concerns, Aoki could well move up come the end of the season. If Snider can take the opportunity he has been presented and run with it. this position has much better depth than anticipated.

If you have missed any of the other rankings, please refer to the page “2013 Previews” for a complete listing of those covered to date as well as upcoming posts.

Tags: MLB NL Central Spring Training