Ranking the NL East: Outfielders
April 19, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder B.J. Upton (2) in ready position as ducks walk across the outfield against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 6-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
5. Atlanta Braves
It’s no secret that the Braves have entered a sort of rebuilding phase, an effort that was most evident in the outfield. Jason Heyward was shipped off to St. Louis. Justin Upton wound up in San Diego a month later, and, in mid-January, the Braves exchanged Evan Gattis for a couple of Houston prospects.
As of right now, the Braves’ outfield situation is cloudy at best. They’ve still got BJ Upton and 25-year-old Zoilo Almonte. Plus, they went out and added Nick Markakis and Jonny Gomes in free agency. How they’ll fit those puzzle pieces together is anyone’s guess, which is a big part of the reason they end up ranked fifth on this list.
The other part of that is actual production. BJ Upton is likely the team’s center fielder and that doesn’t really bode well. Upton will be 30 in 2015 and his best years may already be behind him, which is sad considering he’s been poor at best over the last two seasons.
Markakis is likely the guy that will have to account for most of the outfield’s offensive production. He slumped in 2013, but other than that, his OPS numbers are above average. He should still be good for 10+ homers and 50 RBIs. The biggest concern with Markakis will likely be his defense. All of his defensive sabermetrics paint him as a blatant defensive liability.
It’s possible the Braves will platoon Gomes and Almonte, or rotate one or the other, and hope that Almonte has a breakout season. At 25, Zoilo has a mere 47 games under his belt and the results have been less than impressive.
Gomes may still have a good season or two left in the tank. The 34-year-old outfielder, who spent 43 games with the Nationals in 2011, has still managed to get on base. However, his power numbers and average are both sliding.
Overall, the Braves have more questions than answers in their outfield, which is why rank 5th in our NL East rankings.
Next: Number Four?