It's pretty clear that Toronto has the best right fielder in the division heading into 2015. However, everything else gets a lot murkier after that. Boston and Tampa have a pair of talented youngsters who are tough to judge at this point. Meanwhile, New York has one of the oldest players in baseball playing right for them. And who the heck even is the starter for the Orioles?
We continue on in our series covering the positions across the American League East. We have now covered all of the hitters. Check back later in the week for our assessment of the division's pitching staffs.
The list below is my ranking, from worst to best, of the starting right fielders of each team in the AL East. Yes, I'm probably wrong. So, please tell me about it in the comments and vote in the poll following the piece.
Steve Souza Jr.
Age: 25 years old (5/24/1989)
ML Experience: 21 games
Salary: $507,500 in 2015 (league minimum)
He's here because of his inexperience; only 21 games so far and they were not pretty with the Nationals last year. Souza was Washington's 10th best prospect in 2013, according to Baseball America, before an off-season trade brought him to Tampa.
The right-handed hitter slashed .260/.354/.440, hit 93 home runs and stole over 150 bases over his eight years in the minors and was named International League MVP in 2014, overcoming a 50-game suspension for using a banned substance back in 2010
A 2014 scouting report from BA refers to him as "a solid-average defender out there with a plus arm", but doesn't expect his base stealing to translate to the MLB as he possesses only "average speed."
Part of the reason he never got a chance in Washington is because the corner outfield spots are covered with Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper. That won't be an issue in Tampa where the Rays are expected to endure some rough patches.
Age: 37 years old (4/24/1977)
He's here because of his experience. The guy is gonna be 38 in a few weeks, yet the Yankee's website still has him as the starting right fielder come Opening Day.
I realize we already examined him as the Bomber's DH a few days ago, but I'm just not sure who else they are going to throw out into right field. I have no clue who that was in Chris Young's body after he arrived in August but don't expect him to repeat his .282/.354/.521 line again. And Garret Jones has a nice bat, but he may find himself between first and DH as well. It has to be Beltran in right.
The switch-hitter is coming off a surgery to remove bone spurs in his right elbow, and still has two years and $30 million left on his contract. He was an All-Star in 2013, but it seems like a distant memory now.
Age: 27 years old (2/2/1988)
ML Experience: 4 seasons
Salary: $2,100,000 in 2015
Age: 31 years old (4/13/1983)
ML Experience: 5 seasons
Salary: $3,700,000 in 2015
No more Nick Markakis *sigh*. It's anyone's guess as to who will actually spend the most time in right field for the Orioles in 2015. The team's website has Snider sitting atop the depth chart with Pearce as the DH, but i would surmise to say that they both see some time there; even though Pearce is likely the Opening Day first baseman with Chris Davis serving the final game of his suspension. And even Davis has seen time in right during the spring. Clearly, it's pretty confusing. Anyway...
I suppose I shouldn't be quite as surprised by Pearce's ZiPS projection as the man did just break out as a 31-year-old. That's not typical, but to have him playing in just 84 games? I'm not so sure I see that as he is pretty versatile, being able to play first, left and right in addition to DH. Not to mention, he is having a nice spring.
Snider doesn't resemble the mold of a modern Oriole much. He's poor in the field, and he is OK at the plate. Plus, his splits don't show any obvious advantage to playing him against lefties or righties. He is likely to be part of a rotation to keep the hot hitter in the lineup.
The pair could be an example of "the sum is greater than the parts". Buck likes to mix and match. Snider will play if he is hitting. If not, they will move things around. However, the lack of a clear cut starter and the uncertainty of how good Pearce really is forces me to put them middle of the road in the division.
OK, I'm straying away from what the Red Sox depth chart says online here. Sure, Shane Victorino may be the Opening Day right fielder, but it will be the Cuban rookie who gets more time there throughout the season.
In his cameo with the big club last year, Castillo was exclusively in center field, but Mookie Betts likely has that locked down now after an impressive showing to end 2014. However, Victorino's name has been widely discussed in trade talks this spring, and he doesn't have the upside that Castillo offers.
The 27-year-old has more raw power than scouts expected him to when he first came out of Cuba. He tips the scales at just over 200 lbs now versus the 185 he was listed at a few years ago. It's hard to see Boston sending that type of talent to Pawtucket and preferring a 34-year-old Victorino
Having Castillo ranked second in the division may be seen as ambitious. I realize he is unproven in the MLB, but he has all the skills to be a top-tier player immediately. I would expect his name to be in the discussion of AL Rookie of the Year throughout the season.
Age: 34 years old (10/19/1980)
ML Experience: 9 seasons
Salary: $14,000,000 in 2015
Who is the beast of the east is pretty easy in this position battle. The former Oriole (for 16 games) earned his fifth straight All-Star selection last year, the third Silver Slugger of his career and came in sixth in the voting for the MVP award.
Bautista doesn't look like a 34-year-old in the field. He has a rocket for an arm and has the ability to play center field as well as the corner infield positions if he was asked to.
Really, there is not much else to say about him. We know how good he is and it still annoys some of us that he once donned the black and orange. But fret not, as the Royals, Pirates and Rays all gave up on him a bit early as well.
There you have it. The O's are going to lose some fielding ability in right field with the loss of Markakis, but they should gain some pop, depending on who is playing.
Outside of Baltimore, Bautista once again reigns supreme while Castillo could be an exciting player to watch. I just wish he wasn't wearing a Red Sox uniform.
Now it's time for us to hear from you. Where do the Orioles rank in your mind? Who is the best right fielder in the division? Comment and vote down below.