Comparing the A.L. East right fielders

Greg Fiume

Where does Nick Markakis rank among the right fielders in the A.L. East?

Right field has not been a primary area of concern for the Orioles since Nick Markakis made his debut in 2006. Last year, however, Markakis had his worst year at the plate in his career. Coupled with poor defense, Markakis was essentially a replacement level player by fWAR. While both projection systems Steamer and ZiPS expect him to bounce back, can he rival the other right fielders in the division?

1. Jose Bautista - Toronto Blue Jays

Season

G

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

Fld

WAR

2013

118

528

28

0.259

0.358

0.498

0.372

134

5.2

4.2

Career

1095

4303

211

0.254

0.361

0.487

0.367

126

-36.8

22.3

2014 Steamer

130

581

33

0.26

0.372

0.517

0.383

142

-1.7

4.2

2014 ZiPS

113

498

28

0.266

0.382

0.524

0.389

147

1.5

4.2

Bautista might have lost some of the spotlight to the duo of Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout since 2011, when he posted the fourth highest wRC+ in the last ten years, but he remains an elite bat. Last season, he had a wRC+ of 134, 34% above league average, and accumulated 4.2 WAR in just 118 games. While he will never have a high batting average due to his extreme fly ball approach, his ability to draw walks and to hit for power more than makes up for the deficiency. While you may think of him as a swing-and-miss slugger, he actually has a much lower strikeout rate than Mike Trout, which is rare among power hitters. His fielding in RF has steadily improved over the years by UZR. There are not many flaws in Bautista's game now, and he is clearly the best RF in the division.

2. Shane Victorino - Boston Red Sox

Season

G

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

Fld

WAR

2013

122

532

15

0.294

0.351

0.451

0.353

119

24

5.6

Career

1198

4827

105

0.277

0.342

0.432

0.34

106

62

30.4

2014 Steamer

118

532

12

0.274

0.335

0.427

0.334

107

8.8

2.8

2014 ZiPS

132

576

13

0.269

0.331

0.42

0.33

104

11.2

3.2

Victorino enjoyed a resurgent season with the Red Sox after signing a three-year $39 million deal that was widely criticized at the time of the signing. He had his second-best year at the plate in his career and enjoyed a huge defensive boost from his move from CF to RF. While we expect both his offensive and defensive numbers to regress, especially considering most of his success at the plate is BABIP-driven, Victorino still projects to be a three-win player, an above-average regular. Depending on your opinion on how much Myers will improve, you might prefer Myers to Victorino, but I'd rather have the reliable and versatile Victorino for 2014.

3. Wil Myers - Tampa Bay Rays

Season

G

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

Fld

WAR

2013

88

373

13

0.293

0.354

0.478

0.357

131

1.1

2.4

Career

88

373

13

0.293

0.354

0.478

0.357

131

1.1

2.4

2014 Steamer

146

625

23

0.257

0.326

0.439

0.333

114

0

2.6

2014 ZiPS

151

659

23

0.263

0.326

0.437

0.331

113

-0.9

2.6

On the surface, Myers is already a star player. He had a wRC+ of 131 in his rookie season and racked up 2.1 WAR in just 88 games. However, much of his success was driven by his BABIP of .362. Once you regress his BABIP, he becomes an above-average hitter instead of an elite one. He might become that elite hitter very soon, to the dismay of Royals fans, but he is not there yet. While Victorino adds value in the field, there is no evidence that Myers is anything special in RF. Myers, for now, is just a slightly above-average RF for the Rays.

4. Carlos Beltran - New York Yankees

Season

G

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

Fld

WAR

2013

145

600

24

0.296

0.339

0.491

0.359

132

-15.3

2

Career

2064

8949

358

0.283

0.359

0.496

0.365

122

42.1

64.1

2014 Steamer

138

609

26

0.28

0.345

0.484

0.357

124

-3.1

2.7

2014 ZiPS

133

548

26

0.267

0.327

0.479

0.346

116

-4.9

1.8

The Yankees signed Beltran to a three-year $45 million contract this offseason to serve as their primary RF and occasional DH. Whether Beltran is worth $45 million plus a draft pick is a question that is outside the scope of this article. Contract aside, Beltran is still a valuable player at the age of 36. Both his walk rate and strikeout rate decline dramatically last season, but his overall production output remains similar. UZR also rated him as a dreadful defensive RF last season, though defensive numbers have to be regressed significantly. His overall package suggests an average regular in RF for the Yankees.

5. Nick Markakis - Baltimore Orioles

Season

G

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

Fld

WAR

2013

160

700

10

0.271

0.329

0.356

0.304

87

-6.6

-0.1

Career

1210

5256

127

0.292

0.36

0.441

0.35

113

-11.4

20

2014 Steamer

130

581

12

0.281

0.347

0.414

0.335

108

-5

1.4

2014 ZiPS

144

639

12

0.276

0.336

0.395

0.322

99

-4.5

0.9

Markakis had his worst season of his career in 2013. At the plate, he had his lowest walk rate, lowest isolated slugging (ISO), and lowest BABIP of his career. The decline in power is by far the most alarming, as it dropped from .174 to .085. His lowest ISO before last season was .122. He only had 10 homeruns and 24 doubles in 700 PA in 2013, compared to 13 homeruns and 28 doubles in just 471 PA in 2012. On the field, UZR rated him as below average in RF for the fifth year consecutive, though he still won a gold glove in this span. Both Steamer and ZiPS expect a modest bounce-back, though he still projects to be a below-average regular. There was nothing the Orioles could have done to improve their RF situation given the money they have invested in Markakis this season. As a consequent, RF will be a position where the Orioles are at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the AL East.

Nick Markakis has been an essential part of the Orioles for eight years, but it's about time for the Orioles to move on when his contract comes off the books after this season, as he is no longer a viable starting RF on a team contending for the playoffs.

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