The Pro Bowl was less of a disaster than last year, although Peyton Manning’s speech to take the game seriously did not seem to work for the AFC, as they got trounced 62-35 by the NFC. I think the Pro Bowl can be saved by:
A) always having it in Hawaii (so guys want to come) B) making it the week after the Super Bowl so more guys can participate (how much fun would it be to have Ray Lewis play in one last Pro Bowl after the Super Bowl before he retires?) and C) add a skills competition of sorts (NFL players are among the most physically gifted athletes in the world, lets highlight those abilities for everyone to see!).
The NHL season continues, as the Rangers seem to be getting into form. The Knicks won a nail-biter versus the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday behind Melo’s 42 point performance (including 9 3-pointers, tying a NYK franchise record). Amar’e seems to be getting back into game shape, and the Knicks as a whole are getting healthier.
Without football to focus on this weekend, my mind started to wander to the upcoming MLB season. With the trade from the Diamondbacks to the Braves, the Upton brothers will be playing on the same team next season. The combination B.J Upton, Justin Upton, and Jason Heyward have people wondering how this Braves OF stacks up against the rest of the majors. Without further ado, a ranking of my top 10 outfields going into the 2013 MLB season (for shits-and-giggles, here’s how the analysts ranked-em’, obviously lots of similarities but also some differences):
1) LA Angels: Not much of an argument here, when your outfield consists of Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, and Mark Trumbo. This outfield has 3 legitimate MVP candidates, and should combine for 100+ HRs, 300+ RBIs and close to 300 runs. All three have above average arms, and Trout and Hamilton are both above average fielders. No other OF can compare to the Angels. (If they decide the go with Peter Bourjois for defense and put Trumbo at DH, they still have the best OF in MLB in my opinion).
2) Atlanta Braves: Wow, this outfield is currently number 2 and has a chance to be a top 3 outfield for the next 10 years if they can keep the talent they now have healthy. The Upton brothers are both 5 tool players, although Justin has showed a higher ceiling than B.J. thus far in their respective careers. Jason Heyward is another 5 tool player, who had a bounce back year last year after a prodigious sophomore slump. I look for Justin to get back to his MVP-caliber 2011 form, Jason to continue to progress into a perennial All-Star, and B.J. to have a career year as a part of this tandem. When I think of this groups potential (90+ HR, 300+ RBI, 300+ runs, 90+ SBs), I cannot think of any other OF ever to put 3 legitimate 5 tool outfielders together in the primes of their careers like this (doesn’t mean it’s never happened, I just can’t think of a comparable OF, can you?).
3) LA Dodgers: Oh boy, it’s an arms race in L.A., with the focus on big OF bats. The combination of Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford makes this a top 10 OF itself. Add in Andre Etheir, a career .290 hitter who will benefit from a stronger supporting cast this season, and you got the number 3 OF in the league.
4) St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Holiday is a stud OF, who can hit for power and average. Carlos Beltran had a comeback year last year which should carry over into the upcoming season. John Jay is not as much of a household name as the other two guys, but despite injuries this kid had a great 2012 campaign which he is sure to roll-over into 2013.
5) New York Yankees: I may be accused of being a homer ranking the Yanks this high, and that may be a fair accusation. Here’s why I am so high on the Yanks OF this year (and really their whole lineup); it features a great balance of power, speed, and contact hitting. Granderson will hit 40+ HRs and should steal 20+ bases (while probably hitting .230-.260, his “Achilles heel” as a hitter is strikeouts/batting average). Ichiro hit well over .300 after coming to the Yanks, while showing both power and speed. Brett Gardner is coming back from injury and should be healthy. If he play a full year he is a lock for 50+ steals, and I believe he will finally play up to his potential and hit over .300. The Yankees outfield may not have as much power as other years, but they can all play very well both offensively and defensively. If you doubt this prediction, just wait and see.
6) Toronto Blue Jays: It is well documented that I have been “High on [the] Jays” this whole offseason, and why not with the acquisitions they have made. Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista will be among the league leaders in HRs again this year. Rajai Davis provides a spark with his speed, which should work nicely with Reyes’ speed and ability to get on base as well. The wildcard in this group is Melky Cabrera; the guy almost had a batting title before testing positive for PEDs last season. While he may not be “batting title good”, Melky is still an above average hitter and fielder in the prime of his career. The Blue Jays are no joke this year, and neither is their outfield.
7) Oakland Athletics: A surprise team from last year, whose success I expect to carry over into the upcoming season. Josh Reddick matured into one of the premier power hitters in the game last season. Yoenis Cespedis, a Cuban defect, rewarded the A’s confidence in him by producing in a big way (particularly after the All-Star break). Coco Crisp was very good for the A’s down the stretch, although it remains to see how they juggle both Crisp and the newly acquired Chris Young. Having too many good OFs to start at once, however, will not cost you a spot on this list.
8) Baltimore Orioles: Another surprise team from last year that should be as good in the upcoming season. Adam Jones has developed into a top 10 OF (arguably top 5) with 5 tool talent. Nick Markakis and Nate McClouth are both similar players. Neither one will wow you with eye-popping offensive numbers, but both will hit for a high average, have respectable power numbers, display excellent base-running skills and play great defense. The overall talent of the Orioles OF earns them a spot on this list.
9) Cincinnati Reds: The Reds did their best “Big Red Machine” impression last year, and seem likely to make another playoff run this year. The addition of Shin-Soo-Choo will bolster an OF already featuring Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick. Bruce is a premiere power hitter (hitting 30+ hrs each of his last 2 years and 20+ each of his first 5 seasons, it is hard to believe this guy will only be 26 years old this season). Ludwick was a pleasant surprise for the Reds, clubbing 26 HRs in a nice bounce-back season for the vet. When your OF has 100 HR potential, (although anything over 90 would surprise me), your OF gets on this list.
10) Milwaukee Brewers: The Brew-Crew finish-out this top 10 list. First and foremost, Ryan Braun has established himself as one of the premiere OFs in the league. The guy can do it all, and is a perennial MVP candidate. The PED scandal did not seem to slow him down at all last season–Braun is primed for another huge year. Carlos Gomez is one of the fastest guys in the league, and last year showed some of the “pop” that was missing in his swing (hitting a career high 19 HR last season, with 14(!) coming in the second half). Norichika Aoki showed the ability to get on base and steal with regularity, and should have a full time gig given the ineffectiveness of Nyger Morgan last season.
Honorable Mention: Nationals, Marlins, Rangers, Tigers, Red Sox, Rockies
This is certainly a topic which is open for discussion / debate. If you disagree with my rankings, be sure to let me know how you would ranks these teams in the comment section. If anyone would like me to explain any of the “honorable mentions” in more detail, be sure to ask.