The AL East will now once again be home to Vernon Wells. This is equal parts hilarious and…well, hilarious. But it made us curious as to just how the AL East outfields shake down, with a lot of turnover and a couple of funny, schadenfruede-inducing names. Let’s have a look.
We’re pretty familiar with the Jays outfield at this point. Anchored by slugger Jose Bautista in right, the Jays also went out and grabbed Melky Cabrera for the opposite corner. In center is the polarizing Colby Rasmus, an average defender at worst but perhaps also an average hitter at best. Rajai Davis and Emilio Bonifacio provide some serious speed as bench depth, though their collective routes and arms leave something to be desired. Moises Sierra and Anthony Gose will head to Buffalo for organizational depth, providing replacement players at above a replacement level but perhaps not quite league average.
All of the jokes. Vernon Wells is in town to play left field, presumably, though Brennan Boesch will get opportunities to spell him and carve out a role. With Curtis Granderson on the disabled list, it solidifies speedy and entertaining Brett Gardner as the center man, while Ichiro Suzuki is once again assured of a full load of playing time. Juan Rivera is listed as a first baseman on the depth chart but could man a corner in a pinch, while Melky Mesa will either ride the pine or head to Triple-A as an emergency fill-in. Things look bleak (and old) on this depth chart, but when Granderson returns they’re at least good. Oh Vernon…thanks, J.A. Happ.
There has been a lot of turnover in Fenway’s awkward outfield, but it’s not nearly as ugly as in the Bronx. Jonny Gomes may see more time at the designated hitter spot while David Ortiz is out, but otherwise he’s a perfectly capable "Fenway left fielder," operating in a small amount of space. He’s also going to rake in that park, enough that I’ve tabbed him as a target late in deeper fantasy leagues. Jacoby Ellsbury is the incumbent in center, a terrific player but one who struggles to stay on the field. Things get thin fast if Ellsbury succumbs to injury again, especially with presumed fourth outfielder Ryan Kalish done for most of the season. Shane Victorino has been brought in to man right, and he’s still a productive hitter. The question is how he’ll play in right, having played primarily in left and center for his career, save for 2007. He was very solid in left last year and roughly average in center, so he should end up a plus right fielder. As for the bench, Jackie Bradley Jr. is the fourth man and probably the starter while Gomes DH’s, while Daniel Nava still exists as a fifth option.
The Rays are one of the lucky groups without much turnover in their outfield, bringing back a capable and flexible group. Matt Joyce can’t do much against lefties, but it’s no real bother since Joe Maddon is extremely creative with his lineups and flexing his players around. Speaking of flexibility, Ben Zobrist looks to be settled into right field for the time being, though I’d expect him to be summoned to the infield anytime aid is needed. Desmond Jennings impressed as a rookie and he’ll have the chance to replace B.J. Upton as the everyday man in the middle. He was a strong left fielder and should have ample ability to slide over. The bench will include The Legend of Sam Fuld and Ryan Roberts, who will, like most Rays, bounce around the field. This is a pretty solid group, both at the dish and with the glove.
The Orioles also have some stability, with stalwarts Nick Markakis and Adam Jones hanging around for Year 6 of their tag-team tenure (eight for Markakis). Nate McLouth, a late-season pick-up, returns to try and regain some of that late-season magic. He didn’t hit particularly well but did get it going on the basepaths, which we hadn’t seen from him since 2009. He could be a nice pseudo-addition and add some further stability, since the Orioles used 12 different left fielders last year (it’s true, look it up…it’s crazy). Nolan Reimold and Ryan Flaherty will pick up some of the other slack, but there isn’t a lot of extra playing time available thanks to Jones and Markakis.
Let’ See It
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So that’s how it breaks down. The Jays may not have the best outfield in the division (we can’t say for certain, I don’t think), but at least they don’t have Vernon Wells, right? So you’ve seen each team’s outfield depth chart – who has the best outfield in the division?