Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
A look at Nick Markakis, Ichiro Suzuki, Shane Victorino, Matt Joyce, and Jose Bautista
There has been a longer break between articles in this series than I intended, but being sick is just the worst, don't you know? The tiredness! But enough about me, let's talk about the right fielders in the American League East.
Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles -- Markakis had a good 2012. Unfortunately he missed two stretches of time with injuries to his hand that gave him his least games played in his major-league career at 104. The second, a broken thumb, kept him out of the playoffs. That made me sad, but probably not as sad as it made Nick.
Even when Nick isn't hitting well, one thing he always does is get on base at a good pace. Last year was no different as his .363 lead the team by a healthy margin. The good news for Nick in 2012 was that his SLG was .471, the highest that it's been since 2008. He hit 13 homers last year in 104 games compared to 15 in 160 games in 2011. If he'd had 55 or so more healthy games, who knows where it would have ended up.
Nick will be 29 for the entire 2013 season, and Bill James predicts that he'll hit .297/.369/.453 with 16 home runs and 40 doubles. That seems reasonable to me, and another season when he is a solid, but not spectacular player.
Ichiro Suzuki, New York Yankees -- In his brief time with the Yankees last year, Ichiro Suzuki had a bit of a renaissance at the plate. After almost two seasons of down production in Seattle, the Yankees hit the small sample size jackpot with Ichiro, who hit .322/.340/.454 in 67 games. His walk rate has deteriorated steadily over the last few years, but he's still got speed. And with Nick Swisher leaving New York for the bright lights of Cleveland, the Yankees are taking a chance that Ichiro will hold his own for another year.
Ichiro's real value of course is in his defense. He might be 39 years old, but he can still move out there and he measures positively in defensive measures.
Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox -- Remember that time the Red Sox traded away a bunch of high-priced veterans and we all thought, "Oh the Red Sox might be down, but they're going to rebuild the way that worked for them last time!" Well, then they started signing a billion people, Shane Victorino being one of them.
Victorino will be 32 years old during the 2013 season, so he's neither old nor young, and he has spent until now his entire baseball career in the National League. Victorino is generally known as a good OBP guy with a lot of speed, and some power but not really for home runs. He's a good outfielder and very good base runner, a guy who you can pencil in for >30 stolen bases with at least an 80% success rate.
Right field in Fenway Park is quirky and might take some adjusting for the longtime center fielder, but overall I don't think that'll be an issue for him. And we'll just have to wait and see how he adjust to A.L. pitching and if his dropped OBP in 2012 was just a down year or the beginning of a downward trend.
Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays -- Before talking about Joyce, it's hard to discuss the Rays outfield without mentioning Wil Myers. We don't know for sure if Myers will start the season in AAA and we don't know for sure what position he'll play. I went over to our sister site, DRaysBay.com and found a few article about Myers, all of which made me jealous. But the bottom line is that the belief is he'll start in the minors and when he does get called up. it's not set in stone which position he'll play. So until that time, Matt Joyce is the man in right field.
I like Matt Joyce, he's a guy that I think flies under the radar. He'd be a solid piece on almost any team and on the offensively challenged Rays he's one of their better hitters. Defensively, the numbers say that Joyce is just about OK. If Myers does take over RF whenever he's called up, Joyce will still be a useful player on the Rays in LF or at DH.
Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays -- Oh, Jose Bautista. He used to be an Oriole, you know! Bautista was limited to just 92 games in 2012 due to injury, which was one of many reasons that the Blue Jays were not a good baseball team last year. But even in a year when he didn't play 100 games, Bautista racked up a WAR of 3.2. This is because he's awesome. He walks a ton, leading to a great OBP, and he hits for a ton of power.
Bautista is adequate in the field, but that is an afterthought. He hits so much that they'd find a place for him to play no matter what. The only question about Bautista is if his surgically-repaired wrist will be ready to go when the season starts. And considering he had surgery in August and was given a six-month recovery time, it seems that he'll be fine.
Ranking time! Gotta go with Bautista in first place, followed by Victorino, Markakis, Joyce, and Ichiro. Thoughts?