2011 NL East Rankings: Position Players

A tradition that has I’ll rank each position for each team in the NL East, seeing who has the best pieces to their team. There are 5 teams in the division, so if someone has the #1 player at a position, they get 5 points for it. If they have the worst, they get 1 point. At some point I have to make judgments about who is there, and playing time, on top of assessing their abilities. Starting with the position players:

CATCHER

1. Braves – Brian McCann
2. Phillies – Carlos Ruiz
3. Mets – Josh Thole
4. Nationals – Wilson Ramos/Ivan Rodriguez/Jesus Flores
5. Marlins – John Buck/John Baker

McCann is not just the best catcher in the group, he’s one of the best in the game, and is generally highly underrated as an altogether great player. Ruiz, now 31, has developed the patience to make him a good hitter, even though he won’t hit .300 again this year. Thole is a youngster who has proven he can get on base. The trio in DC may have to drop down if Flores doesn’t recover, Pudge gets too many ABs, and Ramos doesn’t mature. But I think enough will happen on the other side to allow them to surpass the Marlins catching tandem, with once decent hitting John Baker struggling to even make the team.

SCORE: Braves (5), Phillies (4), Mets (3), Nationals (2), Marlins (1)

FIRST BASE

1. Phillies – Ryan Howard
2. Nationals – Adam LaRoche
3. Mets – Ike Davis
4. Marlins – Gaby Sanchez
5. Braves – Freddie Freeman

Howard is the obvious leader of this group, with his bat outweighing the rest by a substantial amount. As for the others, the middle three can be argued about for sure. To me, Davis had the best year in 2010, but he might not be realistically expected to repeat that, and LaRoche still probably had more power. Sanchez could end up being the best of the bunch, if he gets on base enough, but he’s probably got the least pop of the three. Freeman will be a good player – he’s only 21 and he’s gonna start – but this year I expect low OBP and relative low power.

SCORE: Phillies (9), Braves (6),  Mets (6), Nationals (6), Marlins (3)

SECOND BASE

1. Phillies – Chase Utley
2. Braves – Dan Uggla
3. Nationals – Danny Espinosa
4. Marlins – Omar Infante
5. Mets – Luis Hernandez

Utley is probably the best position player on the best team, although he’s gotta play. Uggla remains second best at second base, just for a different team this time, and if Utley isn’t healthy he’d top the list. His fielding is slipping, but as long as he hits 30+ HRs every season it might not matter much. Omar Infante is a good player, but his OBP isn’t all that high and he has no power. Espinosa will be lucky to have Infante’s OBP, but should have significantly more power, enough to make up for the difference and then some. As for the Mets, Hernandez hasn’t won the job, it could go to Castillo, it wouldn’t change the ranking.

SCORE: Phillies (14), Braves (10), Nationals (9), Mets (7),  Marlins (5)

SHORTSTOP

1. Marlins – Hanley Ramirez
2. Phillies – Jimmy Rollins
3. Mets – Jose Reyes
4. Nationals – Ian Desmond
5. Braves – Alex Gonzalez

It’s easy to forget just how good Hanley is – last year might have been his worst so far, since he only hit .300/.378/.475 with 21 HRs and 32 SBs. He’s still the class of the division, though. There are people that will argue with my #2 and 3 placement, but I think Rollins has a more power, and Reyes will get on base and steal more. But there are more question marks on Reyes’ ability after the 2009 injury and the 2010 poor season. Neither are the superstars they once were, at least by the numbers, even if the personalities are still there. I’ll take a maturing Desmond next, who will probably put Alex Gonzalez to shame with his ability to take a walk, which doesn’t indicated that Desmond walks, just that Gonzalez doesn’t do it at all. I don’t expect Gonzalez to have the kind of power he showed before the trade to the Braves, either.

SCORE: Phillies (18), Braves (11), Nationals (11), Mets (10),  Marlins (10)

THIRD BASE

1. Nationals – Ryan Zimmerman
2. Mets – David Wright
3. Braves – Chipper Jones
4. Phillies – Placido Polanco
5. Marlins – Matt Dominguez

Zimmerman makes the top of this list, and not just because this is a Nats blog. He has hit better than Wright over the last two years, and that includes adjustment for the park effects, according to OPS+. He’s also a better fielder than Wright, although Wright has made some beautiful defensive plays in his past, he doesn’t have the range that Zim does. Chipper gets stuck being third in this stacked competition, although I believe he’ll hit just like he always has. But his fading defense and his fragility makes it easy to rank him just below the other two guys. Polanco will continue to hit a powerless .300, pretty unacceptable for a 3B, but it will still edge out the Marlins very young defensive third baseman.

SCORE: Phillies (20), Nationals (16), Braves (14), Mets (14),  Marlins (11)

LEFT FIELD

1. Mets – Jason Bay
2. Braves – Martin Prado
3. Marlins – Logan Morrison
4. Phillies – Raul Ibanez
5. Nationals – Mike Morse

This may have been the hardest position to rank, I could see an argument for almost anyone here to be at the top. I still think Bay has the highest potential out of any of these guys, and chances are he won’t be as bad as last year. Martin Prado isn’t exactly a power hitting left fielder, but he gets on base alot and will have a decent slugging to go along with it. Logan Morrison, everyone’s favorite Twitter-er, is young and getting better, off of a promising rookie career. I am tempted to move Morse up one spot after his spring so far, but Ibanez was good enough to suggest despite his defense, he still has some value. I could see Morse leading this entire category in OPS at the end of the year, though, and flipping the rankings. But there’s more uncertainty with him than anyone,  so I have reluctantly put him at the bottom of a very tight field.

SCORE: Phillies (21), Braves (18), Mets (19),  Nationals (17), Marlins (14)

CENTER FIELD

1. Phillies – Shane Victorino
2. Marlins – Chris Coughlin
3. Mets – Angel Pagan
4. Nationals – Nyjer Morgan/Roger Bernadina/Rick Ankiel
5. Braves – Nate McLouth

Victorino is still the leader in this section. Coughlin and Pagan can both hold their own, and while neither have alot of power, Coughlin has the OBP to hit leadoff. The Nats have total confusion – Bernadina has the most potential of the Nats’ group, Morgan has the most recent good season (2009), and reports say Ankiel may be the starter. Ankiel simply cannot hit lefties, but if he plays most of the time against righties, he might hit 15 HRs. Bernie could still work his way into starting, and Morgan could always recover. I think eventually Bernadina will take the spot, at some point in the season. McLouth, meanwhile, hasn’t shown he’s been able to hit in a while, just got a cortizone shot, and doesn’t field his position well.

SCORE: Phillies (26), Mets (22), Braves (19),  Nationals (19), Marlins (18)

RIGHT FIELD

1. Nationals – Jayson Werth
2. Braves – Jason Heyward
3. Marlins – Mike Stanton
4. Mets – Carlos Beltran
5. Phillies – Domonic Brown

Jayson Werth is probably the best right fielder of the bunch, but it might not be many years until Jason Heyward passes him. Mike Stanton and Dominic Brown are also potential superstars – this division will be crowded with great right fielders in a couple of seasons. We all saw what Heyward can do last year, meanwhile PECOTA predicts Stanton will hit 34 HRs next season. Beltran is probably more valuable now than Brown, especially since Brown will be out early in the year for sure, while Beltran has the possibility of playing.

SCORE: Phillies (27), Mets (24), Nationals (24), Braves (23), Marlins (21)

After going through the positions, some interesting things come out. First, despite all the doubts about their hitting, the Phillies are still the leaders here. But it isn’t the lead they had last year, when they were 6 points ahead of their closest competitors. The Nats have fared well in this, and the Marlins are hurtin for certain.

Next, we’ll take a look at the pitchers…

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