Melk! It’s Good For Your Outfield: Where Does Toronto’s New Outfield Stand?

 

Thursday, November 22nd, 2013

Photo Courtesy of bleacherreport.com

Alex Mednick (Baseball Writer and Analyst)

Since the Blue Jays and Marlins blockbuster trade, there has been a lot of discussion about Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.  Jose Reyes is going to have an amazing presence at the top of the lineup, getting on base, steal bases and playing beautiful shortstop on the left side of the infield with Brett Lawrie for the Blue Jays ground ball pitchers. Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle immediately make the Blue Jays rotation a top rotation in all of baseball by being inserted in. Effectively, they got two top of the line starters to create an elite rotation that makes them serious contenders.

There have been some discussions about a man named Melky Cabrera that signed with the Blue Jays to play left field…mostly discussing his use of PEDs and whether his production will drop off without the drugs.  They don’t realize that his rate of contact was more or less the same as his career numbers, just that in 2012 his BABIP took a .30 point spike,  They don’t mention the fact that he plays stellar defense in left field, has a cannon arm, gets on base, hits for contact and can steal a lot of bags.  They don’t talk about the fact that adding him to a nucleus of Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista, effectively, gives the Toronto Blue Jays a top 5 outfield in all of baseball.

Last year, the Blue Jays used a variety of players in left field.  Rajai Davis, who is now considered by the team as a 4th outfielder (as he should be) and an amazing pinch runner, was one of them.  Travis Snider, the 24-year-old prospect that was nicknamed “The Franchise” didn’t pan out and was traded for fellow first rounder Brad Lincoln…everybody in Toronto expected that the next coming of glory for their team would be led by one Travis Snider.  Alex Anthopoulos nixed this plan during the summer when he surprised the Toronto fan base in the midst of a disappointing season by trading their favorite player.

Alex Anthopolous made a calculated decision to trade fan favorite Travis Snider during the midst of a tragic season in 2012. Travis was promoted as the “future of the franchise” and the left fielder of the future. This brought forth a lot of animosity from Blue Jay fans and questions began to arise about the GM’s vision. Who would be their left fielder of the future? Anthopolous answered this question: Got Melk?

He had different plans, and he knew it…that is the difference between Anthopoulos and Ricciardi.  Ricciardi had a sinking ship on his hands and chose to expose Travis Snider to the big leagues early to take the attention away from the front office…he also fired John Gibbons to take heat away from the GM position as well.  Alex Anthopoulos, however, made a calculated and prudent call that would also be unpopular, when he chose to trade the former blue chip prospect for a quality reliever that was cheap and controllable for years to come.  Snider had never produced consistently at the big league level, and was out of option after the season ended.

Anyways, getting back to the Blue Jays outfield.  Melky Cabrera replaces a platoon that consisted of Rajai Davis, Travis Snider, Moises Sierra and Eric Thames.  His 2-year, $16 million contract answers the question that fans had about who was going to man left field for the near future.  It puts a quality player in the lineup for the next two years when the core of this Blue Jays team is still intact (Morrow, Romero, Buehrle, Encarnacion, Baustista, Rasmus/Gose, Lawrie, Reyes, Arencibia).  It gives the Blue Jays, a team that has clearly taken steps to demonstrate that they are intending to be a winner in the here and now…it gives them a top-tier outfield to compliment their rotation, their infield, and their re-worked bullpen.

And it does this not only on just an offensive level, but also defensively.  Looking across the outfield, from left to right, the range covered by Cabrera, Rasmus and Bautista is extremely impressive.  Just as the Blue Jays benefit from having fast runners on their turf, they also benefit from having superior range in the outfield to cut down on extra base hits from opposing teams.  These guys all field their positions really well and cover a lot of ground gracefully.  Not to mention, Bautista and Cabrera have rocket launchers attached to their arms.  Both are consistently in the top ten for most assists throughout the league.

I have assembled some statistics from what I expect (at least on paper) to be the most productive outfield trio’s in the major leagues this coming season (2013).  These numbers have been accumulated based on these players 2012 campaigns.  Several of them were hurt for significant periods of time, and several of them were part of different lineups.  Take a shot of tequila and add some salt before you go off on me about inaccuracies in the comments section.

How would you rank these outfield groups based on the production you see here? These are the top 5 outfields in baseball as rosters sit right now.  

Group E is undeniably the weakest of the 5.  

Group D has really great doubles production and put up mammoth numbers when it came to batting in runs.  

Group C also had great doubles production, miserable HR production, the worst RBI production and then lots of SB’s and a great BA at .370.  

Group B slacked on SB’s, but batted to a tune of .371 with over 200 RBI’s while putting up respectable HR/2B numbers.  

Group A demonstrated the most home run power but is relatively weak in the remaining 4 categories.

Hopefully you have now picked which groups you would pick based on these numbers.  Assume that all groups provide equal defense as this is supposed to be only evaluating outfields on these core offensive statistics.  This should help us eliminate pre-notions of star power and media bias when consider which outfield we would be happiest with out team having.  It would be great if you would enter into the comments section how you rank these outfields, and especially if you did it now, before I reveal who they are made up of.

So who are these outfield teams?  Here they are with their 2012 statistics:

Group A is the Los Angeles Angels. Group B is the Toronto Blue Jays. Group C is the Atlanta Braves. Group D is the St. Louis Cardinals. Group E is the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Which one of these outfields is truly the best and most productive is actually pretty arbitrary.  They all put up great production and are all outfields that any manager would love to have…especially if you are John Farrell and you are stuck managing a last place team!

The point being made is that not only have the Blue Jays dramatically revamped their starting rotation and infield with these two huge transactions this week, but Melky Cabrera completely changes the dynamic of their lineup and outfield.  In the late 80s the Blue Jays had a stellar outfield (Bell, Barfield, Moseby), and respectable pitching, but they were pretty ho-hum on the infield. In the early 90s, the Blue Jays had it all.  They had starting pitching, a bullpen, and infield and an outfield that had Devon White in Center, Joe Carter in Right, and a rental in the shape of either Dave Winfield or Rickey Henderson in Left (also, please note that the 92/93 Blue Jays had Candy Maldonado and a 3-way-platoon until the playoffs during those years, respectively.  Henderson and Winfield were late summer acquisitions.  If the 2013 Blue Jays are in a playoff race, maybe they will go out and pickup another elite outfield/first base/DH rental to add some pop to their lineup).

Before the Melky Cabrera trade happened every one was still enamored by the colossal trade that had taken place just two days before.  The trade that re-shaped the infield and rotation.  Well, Melky Cabrera might have been that two-year rental, much like Winfield/Henderson, that supplemented their graceful center fielder and slugging right fielder.  Melky Cabrera is by no means Dave Winfield or Rickey Henderson by and stretch of the imagination.  But he just completed the outfield for a team that is already looking pretty comfortable in all other aspects of their game.

The bottom two rows show two great Blue Jays outfields of the past. Where does the top row fit in regard to Blue Jays history? Will the trio of Cabrera-Rasmus-Bautista create a legacy as the new generation of Toronto outfielders that brought a world championship to the city?

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com ***

Alex Mednick is a Baseball Writer and Analyst with MLB Reports.  He has both played and followed the game extensively his entire life.  Alex grew up in New Haven, Connecticut—right in the crossroads of Red Sox Nation and The Yankee Empire.  Somehow, he dodged the bullet of joining the war between these two teams, and a love affair between the Toronto Blue Jays and Alex formed.  Growing up in Connecticut, Alex Mednick idolized Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar When he was 19 he moved to Saint Petersburg, Florida.  Here he attended Eckerd College and continued fulfilling his love for baseball.  Tropicana Field was 5 minutes from his apartment, and there were 5 spring training camps within an hour drive.  Alex graduated from Eckerd in 2010 with a B.S. in International Business and dual minors in Spanish and Management.  Most importantly, he met his amazing wife in college, and the two now reside in Stuart, Florida.

Please e-mail us at: mlbreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.  To subscribe to our website and have the Daily Reports sent directly to your inbox, click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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Posted on November 22, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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