In his position rankings ESPN’s Buster Olney ranked the St. Louis Cardinals outfield as a whole the sixth best in Major League Baseball. Here we are going to break in down a bit further. Today we take start taking a look at the National League Central position by position and where each player ranks amongst his NL Central peers. We’ll be profiling one position a week leading up to that glorious time when pitchers and catchers finally report.
Our first look will take on Right Field. A position of both great depth and turnover within the division, especially within the St. Louis Cardinals. There’s no denying the Cardinals have tremendous offensive potential with its outfield in 2012; Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in OPS among all outfielders.
However the Cardinals do have injury questions, starting with Allen Craig, who will open the 2012 season after having knee surgery. Beltran played 142 games last year, and Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that despite the concern over Beltran’s knees, they were never a problem as Bochy filled out his lineup card in the last two months of the season. Holliday, who turns 32 next month, played in 124 games last season because of a variety of injuries. Jon Jay, the center fielder, who hit .297 last year will also be in the mix should new manager Mike Matheny desire to channel his inner Tony LaRussa.
The Chicago Cubs have a new right fielder in David DeJesus. DeJesus has averaged 33 doubles, eight triples, 11 home runs and 70 RBIs per 162 games in his career, playing for the Royals (2003-10) and Athletics (2011). After a down year in 2011, he’ll be looking to get his career back on track in the Windy City.
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce slugged 32 homers in 2011, to go along with 97 RBIs, 84 runs scored, eight steals and a .256 batting average. Bruce hit .342 with 12 homers in May. But, the right fielder didn’t hit over .256 in any other month and averaged just four homers per month outside of May. At age 24, Bruce has plenty of time to find the necessary consistency for a huge season.
After trading Hunter Pence, Bogusevic became the starter in right field. The Houston Astros should give Bogusevic every chance to show that he can be part of their 2012 plans. As a rookie he put up solid numbers albeit with a small sample size to 2012 will be a test if he can do it on an everyday level. If not look for Houston to platoon Bogusevic with some of their other young talent.
Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Corey Hart wrapped up 2011 with 26 dingers, seven base swipes, 63 RBIs, 80 runs scored and a .285 batting average. Hart started the season on the DL but once he got into the lineup he started to rake. The 29-year-old power hitter was miscast as the team’s leadoff hitter in the second half but did well in the role, scoring 49 runs after the break. With Braun most likely out for quite some time and Price gone Hart should see himself in a more traditional power spot in the order.
Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata started the 2011 season slowly, hitting under .260 in April and May and then dealt with injuries in July and September. At age 23, there is still plenty of time for Tabata to improve his skills at the dish and produce bigger numbers. Health will continue to be key for Tabata, who also missed time in 2011 because of hamstring tightness and a quadriceps strain. Altogether, the injuries limited Tabata to 91 games in his first full season in the big leagues. After batting .299 in his rookie season, Tabata hit .266 with 18 doubles, four homers, 53 runs scored and 16 stolen bases in 2011.
A switch-hitting outfielder, Beltran has one of baseball’s most well-rounded offensive games. He is a lifetime .283 hitter with both on-base ability (a career .361 average) and power (.496 slugging percentage). He’s one of the most efficient base-stealers in Major League history, with 293 steals in 334 attempts for an 87.7 percent success rate. In 2011, he put up a combined .300/.385/.525 line in 142 games with the Mets and Giants. He will start while Allen Craig is out due to his own offseason knee operation. Once Craig comes back, Beltran would probably still play plenty of right field. But he also could get more time in center field, spelling Jon Jay against left-handed pitchers and allowing new manager Mike Matheny a great deal of flexibility in making out his lineup.
After taking a look back on 2011 and going on past performance and their career trends here is how I see them stacking up in 2012.
- Carlos Beltran
- Corey Hart
- Jay Bruce
- Jose Tabata
- David DeJesus
- Brian Bogusevic
Look for a healthy Beltran to do well with Matheny spelling him from time to time, keeping him fresh. He won’t play 162 but 140+ is within expectations and his numbers will reflect that. Hart and Bruce both look to rebound from down years and Hart will benefit tremendously from moving back down in the order. Tabata is a legit talent but has missed major parts of two season already due to injury and if he is not performing the Pirates do have Garrett Jones waiting in the wings. With DeJesus and Bogusevic you have two unknowns, one a former platoon guy now taking a full time role and the other a second year player looking to do the same. Look for the daily grind to wear on both a bit and affect their performance.