As I said in my full preseason predictions post, I'm going to be more specific in these follow-up pieces. The initial post featured the raw results of my mathematical pre-ranking system, with projected regular season standings and playoff outcomes. Here, I'll talk about the top five outfield trios, based on that same system.
5-Baltimore Orioles: RF-Nick Markakis, CF-Adam Jones, LF-Luke Scott
This one may be a little surprising to some fans, but Markakis and Jones represent one of the best, young outfield duos in the game. Markakis is unorthodox mechanically at the plate, but he produces and plays fine defensive outfield in right. He ranks second at his position, just barely behind Vladimir Guerrero for the top spot.
Jones is one of the league's most exciting youngsters, and he reminds me of B.J. Upton in the box. Jones is rangy in center, and the sky's the limit for this kid.
Scott has good power from the left field spot, but if he loses the starting job to Felix Pie, the Orioles' ranking will drop. Scott is a far superior player to Pie.
4-St. Louis Cardinals: RF-Ryan Ludwick, CF-Rick Ankiel, LF-Skip Schumaker
Undoubtedly, I'd have to categorize this as a "sleeper" group. People seem to be skeptical about Ludwick after his surprising breakout season in '08, but I like his strength and approach to hitting. After bouncing around the league a bit, I think Ludwick's finally found a home, and comfort zone, in St. Louis.
Ankiel has significant holes in his swing, but his pop is undeniable. He's an outstanding defensive center fielder, particularly because of his ridiculously powerful and accurate arm. Of course, Ankiel is a former starting pitcher. The accuracy wasn't quite there, though...
Schumaker was quietly one of the most valuable players in the National League last year. He's a solid gap-to-gap hitter, strong statistically in OBP, walks, runs scored, and doubles.
3-Boston Red Sox: RF-J.D. Drew, CF-Jacoby Ellsbury, LF-Jason Bay
This group has excellent balance. All three are fast and cover ground well at their respective positions, and they are astute baserunners as well. Drew's injury history is a slight concern, but when he's out there he's smooth, athletic, and immensely talented. He really seemed to settle in during his second year in Boston.
I'm certainly not sold on Ellsbury as a hitter, but he's probably the most dangerous baserunner in the American League. He's a stud in the outfield, but again, needs to sharpen up his approach and increase his strength at the dish.
I'm expecting a huge year from Bay in left. The guy was always a fine hitter in Pittsburgh, and now he'll reap the benefits of Fenway Park -- for a full season -- for the first time in his career. Bay covers the plate well and has impressive power.
2-Detroit Tigers: RF-Magglio Ordonez, CF-Curtis Granderson, LF-Carlos Guillen
Guillen's obviously a defensive concern in left (it's his first season out there), but he's a skilled switch hitter. Granderson has unlimited range in center field, and he'll assist Guillen when he's in trouble. Curtis ranks fifth at his position, behind Carlos Beltran, Grady Sizemore, B.J. Upton, and Josh Hamilton.
Magglio has been one of the league's quiet superstars for years now. A "professional hitter," seemingly always in the .300-330 range. Has sneaky pop, too. Fourth in right field, behind Guerrero, Markakis, and Ichiro.
And the top spot goes to...
1-Anaheim Angels: RF-Vladimir Guerrero, CF-Torii Hunter, LF-Bobby Abreu
Clearly this is a veteran group, dare I say "old"?
Regardless, all three rank in the top ten at their positions, and the Abreu addition really improves a trio that would have included the enigmatic Gary Matthews Jr.
Guerrero and Abreu are slowly moving toward the downside of their careers, but they should have plenty left in the tank to combine with Hunter as the most productive outfield in 2009.
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