2010 NL East Rankings: Position Players

An annual tradition here is one that has been done twice, so let’s call this an annual tradition. I’ll do my best to rank each position for each team in the NL East, seeing who has the best pieces to their team. It’s quite simple – 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. Such is life. Starting with the position players:

CATCHER

1. Braves – Brian McCann
2. Marlins – John Baker/ Ronny Paulino
3. Phillies – Carlos Ruiz
4. Nationals – Ivan Rodriguez/ Jesus Flores
5. Mets – Rod Barajas

Obviously McCann is the class of this group and wins all offensive categories including beardiness, but I actually the potential platoon in Florida. How about this for career splits – Ronny Paulino has an OPS of .877 against lefties, John Baker’s is .814 vs. righties. Neither can hit from the other side, but with the buddy system, they won’t need to. I expect some sort of recovery for Ruiz, who isn’t a terrible hitter. As for the bottom of the group, who knows if and when Flores will hit, but we know he can. If he managed to get in 100 games (not likely) I might rank him as high as second. Barajas may get a slight hitting edge over Pudge, but not a defensive one, and the more Flores plays, the more the Nats catching tandem will beat out what the Mets have.

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

FIRST BASE

1. Phillies – Ryan Howard
2. Nationals – Adam Dunn
3. Braves – Troy Glaus
4. Mets – Daniel Murphy
5. Marlins – Gaby Sanchez

Howard will hit a few more homers than Dunn, thanks in part to the park, and walk less, but he can field his position much better. But for all you Dunn-haters, I still can’t see him being worse than 2nd on this list. Glaus still has some power, and I actually think he’s a bit of a sleeper. But he’s still probably going to be a dozen homers behind Dunn, if not more, and the glove probably isn’t enough to bring him up. As for the bottom of the list, well, it’s pretty bad. I thought first base was supposed to be for really good hitters?

SCORE: Braves(8), Phillies(8), Nationals(6), Marlins(5), Mets(3)

SECOND BASE

1. Phillies – Chase Utley
2. Marlins – Dan Uggla
3. Braves – Martin Prado
4. Mets – Luis Castillo
5. Nationals – Adam Kennedy

Utley is in the running for best player in baseball, and while Uggla is pretty good, Martin Prado is pretty good, too, and if you’re in to fantasy baseball (who isn’t?) you might be able to pick him up in a much later round than he deserves. I see #4 and 5 as pretty close, but despite being overpaid, Castillo is better than Kennedy. If Guzman plays here, I’m not convinced

SCORE: Phillies(13), Braves(11), Marlins(9), Nationals(7), Mets(5)

THIRD BASE

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

It’s not just cause I write a Nats’ blog that I put Zim first. Yes, there is a valid argument to be made that Wright may hit better, and I’m sure he’s going earlier in fantasy rounds. But even with a power resurgence from him (which I believe will happen) and a regression by Zimmerman, they’re very close. And Wright, despite some spectacular looking plays, doesn’t have spectacular fielding numbers. Zim does. Chipper is a close third at third, because he didn’t have a great year last year, possibly because he was 37, and his glove has gone even further away. I’d take Cantu’s bat and Polanco’s glove, but since I can’t do both, I think the difference is smaller at hitting, so I’ll give Placido the edge. Every day that the Marlins use Bonifacio (unless they’re playing the Nats) helps keep them at the bottom of the list.

SCORE: Phillies(15), Braves(14), Nationals(12), Marlins(10), Mets(9)

SHORTSTOP

1. Marlins – Hanley Ramirez
2. Mets – Jose Reyes
3. Phillies – Jimmy Rollins
4. Braves – Yunel Escobar
5. Nationals – Cristian Guzman/Ian Desmond

Hanley is easily one of the best players in the league, he’s a no brainer. This position is pretty stacked across the league, especially if you’re someone who likes Guzman. For me, let’s say 4 of them are very good. Reyes is great, but he’s gotta get on the field, and could end up falling down this list. I hope for his sake and the sanity of Mets fans the thyroid issue doesn’t keep him out too long, but with what happened to them in 2009, I wouldn’t be surprised. Rollins is still pretty good, although last year was bad. Maybe Escobar doesn’t deserve to be only fourth – it belies how good he really is. He’s a budding star, but for now, I’m keeping him down here. Going back to the fantasy baseball conversation, you could grab the Braves middle infield in the late rounds and have an effective starting combo. Guzman, meanwhile, is playing his last season for the Nats and if Desmond ends up at SS, he won’t surpass any of the other guys on this list, at least not in 2010.

SCORE: Phillies(18), Braves(16), Marlins(15), Mets(13), Nationals(13)

LEFT FIELD

1. Mets – Jason Bay
2. Nationals – Josh Willingham
3. Phillies – Raul Ibanez
4. Marlins – Chris Coughlin
5. Braves – Melky Cabrera

Bay is the winner here, although you never know, the giant park may go to his head like it apparently did to Wright in 2009. Willingham will probably have another very good season playing full time. I like Ibanez to have another productive year, just not as good as last year (which didn’t end well), and Coughlin is nice, but I think what we saw in 2009 is the best he can bring. The Melkman delivers himself to the bottom of this list.

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

CENTER FIELD

1. Mets – Carlos Beltran
2. Phillies – Shane Victorino
3. Nationals – Nyjer Morgan
4. Braves – Nate McLouth
5. Marlins – Cameron Maybin

If Beltran is healthy, he’s great, and Victorino has proved his value time and time again. Morgan’s bat just doesn’t compare to the guys above, but I put McLouth below him, because I’ve gotta give some points to Morgan for the glove (Best in the league) and what his fielding has done for this team. Plus, I am still just not sold on McLouth, who isn’t the best fielder out there. Eventually, Cameron Maybin should be amazing. Just not yet.

SCORE: Phillies(25), Mets(23), Nationals(20), Braves(19), Marlins(18)

RIGHT FIELD

1. Phillies – Jayson Werth
2. Marlins – Cody Ross
3. Braves – Jason Heyward
4. Nationals – Willie Harris/ Mike Morse/ et al
5. Mets – Jeff Francouer

I expect a bit of a regression from Werth, but I’m still putting him at the top of the list. Cody Ross is a good player in some ways but an OBP south of .320 is a little scary. Cody Ross has shown himself to be a decent hitter although nothing special, but that puts him second in a weak field. I, like everyone else, think Heyward will be great, but rookies that hit superbly in their first major league stint, at age 20, are beyond rare. I believe Harris is going to start the season as the Nats’ RF, and he’ll produce somewhat so he’ll probably get plenty of time here. Mike Morse and Justin Maxwell probably end up with some playing time as well. Regardless, I’ll put them all above Francouer, who can’t walk and now is playing in a huge park.

SCORE: Phillies(30), Mets(24), Braves(22), Marlins(22), Nationals(22)

In terms of lineups, the Phillies are really leading the pack. The Nats are in a three way tie for third and look to be in pretty good shape as you compare player by player. Unfortunately for them, tomorrow we look at pitchers…

One last time, here’s the halftime score:

1. Phillies – 30
2. Mets – 24
3. Braves – 22
3. Marlins – 22
3. Nationals – 22

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