Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Left Field in the NL East

Out into the outfield now, with left field...

Atlanta Braves- Matt Diaz

Diaz has found at home in Atlanta after kicking around baseball's netherworld (Kansas City and the still terrible Devil Rays) during the early stages of his career. He won't play every single day, but is good for 12-135 games a year and doesn't kill you. He's a career .310 hitter, he posts decent power numbers, and even stole 12 bases in '09, and apparently has lost a lot of weight and is in great shape coming into 2010. With all of that being said, he's still Matt Diaz, is now 32 years old, and is likely to remain what he is, which is a solid Major Leaguer, but not a star and not close to it.

Offense- 3... mildly above average
Defense- 2.5... absolutely average

Florida Marlins- Chris Coghlan

Coghlan surprised many throughout the baseball world with his performance in 2009, which saw him hit .321 and take home NL Rookie of the Year honors. I honestly don't know what to think of Coghlan. He hit against everyone he played last year, and actually got stronger as the season wore on, hitting .385 in August and .390 in September/October. He hit nine home runs and stole eight bases, neither of which stands out, but I think Coghlan will continue to hit. He posted a .390 OBP for the Fish in '09, and anything near that will work for the presumed leadoff man of the future. He's pretty average in left field, but that's every left fielder, no?

Offense- 4... high average, I'd like to see more power or speed... hits are hits though, especially for a leadoff man
Defense- 2.5... not great, doesn't hurt you

New York Mets- Jason Bay

Has there ever been a more peculiar match of a marquee free agent and a team? When Bay's four year deal with the Mets was announced in December, many baseball people were left scratching their heads. The Mets? In Citi Field? With his injury concerns? Bay is a very good player, and he put up great numbers in 2009, his free agent walk year. However, a right handed power hitter can't be thrilled with the prospect of playing in cavernous Citi Field, and a left fielder with limited range especially can't be thrilled about having to patrol that much real estate, particularly while Carlos Beltran is on the mend. Boston was concerned enough about Bay's long-term injury potential so as to have only tepid interest in retaining him, even with as productive as he was in the Red Sox. I think Bay will be fine in New York, but I'd surprised if he put up numbers befitting a $16.5 million per year player.

Offense- 3.5... he's a 4 in Boston's lineup playing at Fenway, but as a vital cog in an anemic offense in a big park, not so much
Defense- 2... below average range

Philadelphia Phillies- Raul Ibanez

Ibanez enjoyed a successful first season in Philadelphia, posting 34 home runs and 93 RBI along with a career-high .899 OPS, and earning a trip to his first All-Star game. However, his first half was much better than his second half in 2009 (as in, 70 points of average and 10 home runs better in the first half). Was the drop off due to the sports hernia that he had corrected in the offseason? Or was age starting to catch up to the 37 year old? Ibanez did hit over .300 in two of the Phillies' three playoff series, and also landed a crushing home run off of George Sherrill in Game One of the NLCS. However, his under .100 performance with only one home run in 2010's spring training has not allayed many fears about his health, age, or both. One thing Ibanez has proven is that he's much better defensively than many American League experts predicted. However, this could be only a result of watching Pat Burrell and his total lack of range in left for the previous eight seasons. Ibanez catches what he gets to and shows a good arm, which is good enough for a left fielder, particularly if Shane Victorino can help make up ground in left-center.

Offense- 3... I honestly have no idea what to expect this year... could be a 4, could be a 2
Defense- 2... good enough 

Washington Nationals- Josh Willingham

Willingham turned into a solid contributor to the Nats' attack in his first season in Washington in 2009. Willingham slugged 24 home runs and posted a very good OBP of .367. The fact that he only had 61 RBI to show for his 24 home runs suggests that a) the Nats still had too many automatic outs in the lineup and/or b) Adam Dunn cleared the bases before him with a home run or an inning ending strikeout. In any case, even though his numbers weren't necessarily career highs in anything, Willingham looked better in '09, and seems to have finally found a home after being shifted all over the diamond by the Marlins. He's a solid bet to put up another good year of a .260 something average and 25-35 home runs depending on how much he plays. He, and Nats fans, hope that the RBI totals spike a bit with steady lines in his other categories. Repeating the theme for leftfielders, Willingham can catch the balls he gets to, and that's good enough. Generally guys who play other positions are asked to do so because they have an innate athletic ability, however, Willingham hasn't played any other defensive position particularly well, so I think it just means teams want his power stick in the lineup.

Offense- 3.5... gets on base and hits the ball out of the park... righthanded power is hard to come by... might be Jason Bay without the trip to Boston and the contract
Defense- 2... if half of life is showing up, Willingham (and the rest of NL East LF) are just fine

Left Field Wrap Up

Best Leftfielder- Jason Bay
Best Offensively- Bay
Best Defensively- is there REALLY a tallest midget in the circus?
Could Be Great, Might Just Be old- Raul Ibanez
Just a Guy- Matt Diaz
Best in Five Years- Chris Coghlan

Up next, we shift to center...

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