Comparing the AL East Outfielders Defensively

The American League East is one of the toughest and fastest paced divisions in Baseball. Almost all of these teams have the potential to be American League East Champions in order to advance to the newly complicated playoffs. But just like it is fast paced and complicated for the offense, it is also fast paced and complicated for the defense, mostly the outfield. As an outfielder, you can’t second guess yourself when taking a direct route to the ball. Chances are if you second guess yourself, the chances are that the ball will drop in the outfield. When it comes to the American League East, there are a lot of Gold Glove worthy contenders, but who has the best Outfield in the AL East?

Boston Red Sox

Carl Crawford, LF: Carl Crawford is a very talented left fielder for sure, but his fielding isn’t used to the fullest of his potential because of one little flaw in Fenway Park; The Green Monster. What would normally be a HR in Yankee Stadium for example would go off the high wall and end up a double, and because of the angle the Green Monster makes, it makes fielding more difficult for Crawford. In 2010 with the Rays he had 7 assists and 2 errors. In 2011 with the Red Sox, he had 1 assist and 3 errors. Different ballparks make a difference, don’t they?

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF: I don’t usually offer much praise to the Red Sox, but when Jacoby Ellsbury is in CF it is a complete delight to watch what he’s going to do next. Ellsbury is a Gold Glove contender for sure, after all in 2011 he had 6 assists, 3 Double Plays and no errors. Ellsbury is what makes the Red Sox have a good outfield. Without him, there wouldn’t even be consideration as to who would have the best outfield in the AL East.

Darnell McDonald, RF: Typically a center fielder, McDonald played everywhere in the 2011 season but he mostly played right field. While he was a right fielder, he only had 1 assist and 1 error which isn’t a bad number at all. McDonald for the Red Sox would have been more of a utility outfielder. He was good at fielding, but with Cody Ross now in the picture, McDonald’s playing time might soon be lessened.

Bottom Line: The Red Sox’s fielding abilities in left and center field are slightly diminished by the Green Monster. This problem won’t go away unless the Red Sox tear it down (which I am 100% sure they won’t do).

Tampa Bay Rays

Sam Fuld, LF: Sam Fuld, or as I like to call him “Superman Sam” because of the Superman catch he made in 2011. Fuld spent majority of his time in left field and although he is handy with the glove by having 5 assists, Fuld had 3 errors on the season. Fuld is a great player for sure and it would be great to see him getting more fielding time in 2012. Just for show, could he do the “Superman” catch again? That would give him extra brownie points.

B.J Upton, CF:  Another Gold Glove worthy contender in center field is none other than B.J Upton. Upton had a great 2011 fielding wise where he had 6 assists, made 3 Double Plays and had 3 errors in 151 games. Yes, it looks like B.J Upton is the Rays pride and joy in center field, as he almost never lets anything get by him. It also helps that he’s fast.

Matt Joyce, RF: Matt Joyce is primarily a DH, but the Rays used him as their right fielder in 2011. Joyce played a good right field for a DH having 8 assists and 3 errors in 126 starts. Joyce is sure a joy to watch I’m sure, but he just seems like your average right fielder, not that it’s a bad thing.

Bottom Line: The Rays don’t have an everyday left fielder or an every day right fielder. Fuld and Joyce were chosen because they played the most games in that position. Their only natural right fielder Ben Zobrist plays second base. I wonder if the Rays are just as confused as we are about who plays where everyday. Hopefully the addition of Luke Scott will clear everything in 2012.

Baltimore Orioles

Nolan Reimold, LF: Nolan Reimold played an okay left field for the Orioles in 2o11, having 5 assists and 3 errors but the one thing that the Orioles might want to do in 2012 is to get Reimold more playing time. Reimold only played 76 games last year for the Orioles so his sample numbers are pretty small, but I am almost sure if he had played almost a full year for the Orioles then he would have better numbers. Notice that I said I was almost sure.

Adam Jones, CF: Adam Jones is another center fielder that holds the glue together for the Orioles outfield but there was some inconsistencies with his numbers. The Good was that he had 16 assists, the bad was that he had 8 errors. He wasn’t a Gold Glove contender in 2011 obviously because of the errors, but if he can clean up his fielding in Spring Training, he could be a good piece of the outfield in 2012.

Nick Markakis, RF: Markakis had a great year at right field for the Orioles. He had 14 assists, had 3 double plays and committed no errors. Markakis was also one of the only players that actually played 160 games this season (although 3 of them were at 1st base). Nonetheless, Markakis is a liable piece for the Orioles, but we might not get a full glimpse of Markakis this Spring Training after he had abdominal surgery in January. But he says that he should be ready to go by Opening Day. Let’s hope that’s true Nick.

Bottom Line: The Orioles have a good outfield, but they have a left fielder that has rarely played, a center fielder that has made too many errors and…okay I can’t complain about right field. Numbers don’t lie. Just, don’t play sloppy guys. Come on.

Toronto Blue Jays

Eric Thames, LF: Eric Thames was the Blue Jays primary left fielder…at least he was for 75 games of the season. While he played left field (which was only 52 games), Thames had 1 assist and 1 error. Again it’s a small sample number, but the sample numbers shouldn’t be taken seriously. He was only a part time player after all.

Rajai Davis, CF: In 2011, Rajai Davis played of course…center field. And of course his numbers weren’t bad. In 2011, Davis had 2 assists and 2 errors. He wasn’t a Gold Glove center fielder but he was just what the Toronto Blue Jays needed, for now.

Jose Bautista, RF: A lot of talk had went around Jose Bautista about his bat but  right now we are just going to focus on his defense which of course was pretty good. In 2011, he had 13 assists and turned 5 double plays while racking up 6 errors on the season. He may have been almost perfect on offense, but on defense he showed that he was just an average player.

Bottom Line: The Blue Jays outfield is pretty solid especially since they have speed in such a big ball park. They just need to play their outfielders more. Other than that, they’re all right.

New York Yankees

Brett Gardner, LF: In The AL East, the glue that held the outfield was the center fielder…and while Gardner is technically a center fielder he held the glue while he was in left field. Gardner was easily one of baseball’s best outfielders and while he platooned with Andruw Jones in the beginning of the season, Gardner showed everyone that he was Gold Glove material. Sure, Gardner had 7 assists, made 5 double plays and comitted 3 errors but because of his speed he was able to save a lot of runs for the Yankees, while making stellar catches as he does it.

Curtis Granderson, CF: Oh the Grandy Man can! And by that I mean, oh the Grandy Man can do anything. He was great in center field having 11 assists, 2 errors and made 1 double play. Granderson is also fast (but not as fast as his left field teammate) but Granderson was known more by what he was able to bring to the table offensively. Grandy did shine after all…didn’t he?

Nick Swisher, RF: Nick Swisher had a good year in right field, considering that fans thought that Nick Swisher wasn’t as good defensively as he was offensively. Swisher had 9 assists, only committed 1 error and made 1 double play, but what I noticed about Swisher as time went on was when he was red hot at the plate, he was also red hot on the field. Swisher has shown us his confident side, something that he should bring to the table more often.

Bottom Line: All 3 Yankees are superstars when it comes to fielding the baseball. With their quickness, sharp skills & athleticism they have proven that a stellar defense is what turns you into an All-Star team.

So now that I listed all the AL East teams outfielders, it’s time for you to decide:

About Delia E.

Delia Enriquez is the managing editor of Yankees Fans Unite. She enjoys analyzing the New York Yankees whether it be their pitching, roster or their manager. You can follow her on twitter @dfiregirl4 for more tweets, analysis and opinion on the Yankees.

Posted on February 17, 2012, in Personal Opinion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Not really close is it?
    1. Yankees
    2. sox
    3. orioles
    4/5 Jays-Rays

  2. Wait..what?!? You have Fuld starting in left for the Rays? He DID play the majority of his games in left…but he was even in right when he made the catch you are referring to.

    Choosing Fuld b/c the Rays “don’t have an everyday LF” is just dishonest. You might be “confused” about who will be in LF, but it’s a stretch to think the Rays and/or Desmond Jennings might be.

    You picked Fuld and ignored Jennings…why?

  3. Calling Nick Swisher a defensive superstar is insane. Brett Gardner? Absolutely. But Swisher is barely even average defensively. Outfield assist are probably the single worst way to evaluate an outfielder’s defense. It amounts to less than 1% of the plays they make in a year.

    • Cowabunga – Agree with all your points. While UZR says Swisher was very good in 2011, I’d call him solidly average after watching him out there for 3 years. His range is slightly above average and I’d say his arm is average at best. He’s gotten better at throwing on a line and hitting cut-off men although I would not say he has a strong arm. He’s also aided by the cozy confines of RF in Yankee Stadium with no foul territory.

      I’m not a huge fan of UZR for infielders but I do think it’s a fairly decent metric for OFs – certainly much better than assists & errors.

      IMO, Brett Gardner is the best OF in baseball and the fact that Alex Gordon won the Gold Glove in LF based on his Assists is laughable when you consider he had a negative Range Factor and Brett led MLB in UZR by a HUGE margin.

  4. Also: Darnell McDonald probably won’t even make the Red Sox roster. Calling him their starting right fielder is disingenuous. Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ross are going to platoon there, and Sweeney is a terrific defensive outfielder.

    • I believe Cody Ross is slated to start in LF until Crawford comes back. And no one seems exactly sure when that will be. So I think at lease when the Red Sox season first starts you are mistaken in your assumption.

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