The 2011 Preseason All NL Central Team: The Outfield

Three positions to go and that would be the outfielders. BRM took a different approach on our team versus the choices the other NL Central bloggers.

After some discussion with the NL Central bloggers, they decided after a few days of selecting its outfield as the voting for the All-Star Game: three outfielders regardless of which position he played. BRM went by position. I will reveal that team tomorrow.

For today, BRM’s selection’s for the outfield.

Left Field: Ryan Braun, Brewers

Braun received three of the four first place votes. The other first place vote went to Matt Holliday of the Cardinals. What surprised me was how convincing Braun won. I seriously thought we’d have to take this to you to determine the outcome. If you compare their numbers over the last two seasons, they are pretty hard to separate. Holliday had the better offensive season last year, Braun the year previous. In other words, both are consistent with the bat, year-in, year-out.

And the same can be said of their fielding. Last season, Holliday’s fielding percentage was .990 while Braun’s was .989. Holliday did have 8 assists compared to Braun’s 6. Both committed three errors. For 2009, Braun was ahead of Holliday in those three categories. Yes, they cannot be more alike, but Braun grabs our nod.

But we’re not completely alone here. ESPN’s Jayson Stark believes Braun is underrated.

For instance, if I were to ask you which NL hitter has led the league in multi-hit games in each of the last two seasons, how many guesses would it take before you got to the Brewers’ trusty left fielder? Maybe 20? Maybe 80? But Braun would be the answer, all right.

Thanks, Jayson. We concur.

Center Field: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

A couple things jump out at me here.

First, when my fellow bloggers were discussing McCutchen, someone mentioned that if we had gone with the “strictly by position” deal, McCutchen would have been the center fielder by default. In all due respect, I feel center field within the NL Central is a pretty deep position. Marlon Byrd in Chicago, Michael Bourn in Houston, Colby Rasmus in St. Louis and Drew Stubbs in Cincinnati are all nice center fielders.

The second aspect was our vote. McCutchen received three first place votes, but was not mentioned on one ballot. Maybe it’s because people believe that since he’s in Pittsburgh, he doesn’t get the notice he deserves. Personally, I think he’s one of the five best in all of baseball.

According to Stark (here he is again!), McCutchen is also underrated. Well, let Stark tell you.

No full-time center fielder in either league had a higher on-base percentage last year (i.e., Hamilton doesn’t count). No full-time center fielder in either league had more runs created. And McCutchen, Shane Victorino and Drew Stubbs were the only NL center fielders whose power/speed package produced more than 15 homers and 30 steals. No wonder McCutchen is a player who inspired one NL scout to say, “I think he’ll be an All-Star.”

Again, agreement from us, Jayson.

Right Field: Jay Bruce, Reds

They cries of homerism will be loud here. Bruce was the unanimous choice. Hard to imagine with the likes of Houston’s Hunter Pence and Milwaukee’s Corey Hart also receiving votes. From my point of view, I gave Bruce the nod due to his defense. Nothing more. Some have opined that Bruce should have received a Gold Glove this past season and not all of those words were originating from Cincinnati either. From View From the Bleachers:

Jay Bruce finished second only to Ichiro in the Fielding Bible Award voting, and he topped the league with 17 Runs Saved. If an NL right fielder deserved a Gold Glove, it should have been Bruce (despite his memorable playoff miscues).

By the way, Ichiro (aka Ichiro Suzuki) won his tenth straight Gold Glove last season.

This position was almost a no-lose situation. Any of three mentioned here would have been more than worthy of our esteemed honor. And nary a soul could complain of that.

To recap both the infield and the outfield…

C: Molina
1B: Pujols
2B: Weeks
3B: McGehee
SS: Castro
LF: Braun
CF: McCutchen
RF: Bruce

Next week, the pitching staff will be named. It will consist of five starters, one non-closing reliever and one closer. Yes, we’re done with our vote. It will be interesting to see what our NL fellow bloggers think. I know there will be differences of opinion there.

Tomorrow, we will also begin our week long series of previews for all the NL Central teams leading up to our Reds preview beginning on February 28th.