As depressing as comparing the AL East infielders was, that's how fun comparing the outfielders is. I had a hard time deciding between Adam Jones and B.J. Upton for the top spot, but when I saw that Joe Posnanski thinks Adam Jones is the best CF in the AL East I figured what the hell. I think that it'll be fun debating which is better over the next five plus years even with Upton's disappointing 2009.
1. Adam Jones (Orioles) - Jonesy started 2009 like a man possessed, hitting .344/.398/.607 with 13 2B and 11 HR over the first two months of the season. It earned him a place on the All Star team and had all of Birdland giddy over his performance. He dropped off significantly in the second half as he slumped offensively and struggled with injury, being shut down for the season at the beginning of September. If Adam Jones can stay healthy for the entire season and work on that little problem he has with chasing awful pitches, the sky is the limit for our guy.
2. B.J. Upton (Rays) - After an amazing 2007 where he hit .300/.386/.508 with 24 HR, Upton looked like a superstar in the making. His numbers came back to earth in 2008 as he hit .273/.383/.401 with just 9 HR, but those numbers combined with his outstanding defense still made him one of the most valuable outfielders in baseball that year. After the 2008 season, though, Upton underwent shoulder surgery and spent most of 2009 getting himself back up to full strength. He was never able to get himself together offensively and finished the year with a disappointing .686 OPS. It's hard to say how Upton will do in 2010 but personally I think he'll be just fine. If he gets himself back to even his 2008 offensive numbers he'll on the list of elite outfielders.
3. Curtis Granderson (Yankees) - I was bummed when Curtis Granderson got traded to the Tigers because I love Curtis Granderson. He's been at the top of my favorite non-Orioles list for years now. I still like him but now I don't feel so great about it. To paraphrase a quote once made about Brooks Robinson, Granderson is a good baseball player but more importantly a good man. He's very involved in giving back to the community, he served as an ambassador for Major League Baseball in other countries, he's an all around classy dude, AND he's a guest blogger at Big League Stew. What's not to like? But now Granderson is a Yankee and will be patrolling CF for the most storied team in the history of teams, and it's going to be kind of weird. He's a superior outfielder and offensively has made a career out of hitting for enough power to have a HR total in the low twenties and having enough speed to leg out double digit triples. Making the move to Yankee Stadium will surely lower the triples total but probably give the left handed hitter a boost in home runs.
4. Mike Cameron (Red Sox) - The oldest player on this list, Mike Cameron will start the 2010 season at 37 years old. When he was drafted in 1991 the three players above him on this list were in grammar school. That being said, Cameron is still an outstanding defensive centerfielder. He'll fit in nicely with the Red Sox focus on defense this year and he'll probably be just fine with the bat as well. Cameron has been in the NL since 2004 and might see his numbers drop a bit with a move to the AL East but he can probably be counted on to hit about 20 HR with an OPS of about .800.
5. Vernon Wells (Blue Jays) - In the winter before the 2007 season the Jays signed Wells to a 7 year, $126M extension (to start in 2008) and they've been regretting it pretty much ever since. Wells was 27 years old and coming off of a fine year where he hit .303/.357/.542 with 32 HR and 40 2B. He celebrated his new contract in 2007 by hitting just .245/.304/.402, in 2008 by missing a bunch of time with a broken wrist and then a sprained hamstring, and in 2009 by just plain sucking. To top it off, Wells is hardly a gem in center field. In 1200 career games he has a UZR/150 in CF of -5.7 and he's posted negative numbers in fielding runs above average the past two years. The Blue Jays have to just suck it up and hope he figures things out, though, because they owe him $98.5M over the next five years.