Wednesday, March 25, 2009

NL East Preview Week 6: Left Field

Left Field should be an interesting position in the NL East this season, with a few familiar faces and a few new ones looking to make an impact.

This was a difficult decision to make, but the Phils just may have the best left fielder in Raul Ibanez. A solid all around player, Ibanez should fill Pat Burrell’s shoes nicely, as a better all inclusive player. He has a career average just under .290, averaged 26 home runs and drove in more than 100 runs each of the last three seasons, and is a better defensive player. Ibanez is just the best overall, all around player at his position in the division. His adjustment to a new team and to the NL could change things, but Ibanez is a veteran and true class act and should adjust nicely. His back-up could be anyone from Geoff Jenkins, Matt Stairs, John Mayberry or Eric Bruntlett. However it unfolds, the Phils are in good shape.

Washington finally has a true power hitter to anchor the middle of that lineup in Adam Dunn. Dunn can hit the ball to the moon and back, but is your “typical power hitter.” He is a 40 home run hitter each of the last six years, and is good for about 100 RBI as well. Dunn’s career average is just .247 and his strikeout total will end up around 170-200 each season. He is not athletic overall, and ranks below average in the field. Dunn has the ability to carry a team on his back during stretches though, and should provide some thunder in our Nation’s capitol. Former Marlin Josh Willingham fills in very nicely as Dunn’s back-up, and will see some time in the Nationals’ outfield throughout the season.

The Braves made a great pick-up in the offseason, acquiring veteran outfielder Garrett Anderson from the Los Angeles Angels. His power numbers have declined since early in the decade when he was slugging about 30 a season, he’s good for about 15-17 now; but he still hits around .300 and can spray the ball to all fields. Anderson has an incredible .989 career fielding percentage, and will be a major upgrade in several ways for Atlanta. They picked up a great clubhouse veteran, and very strong player in all facets of the game.

Florida’s Jeremy Hermida is a difficult player to figure out. The only thing putting him in fourth place is New York’s Daniel Murphy's lack of experience. After two average seasons in the big leagues, Hermida exploded in 2007, hitting .296 with 18 home runs and 63 runs batted in. He followed in 2008 by hitting just .249 and increasing his strikeout total. As many Marlins are, Hermida is a below average defensive player. Hermida has the ability and potential to be a good player, but inconsistency has plagued him throughout his short career. How he adjusts to playing left instead of right field remains to be seen. Rookie John Raynor backs Hermida up at the moment, giving Florida no depth whatsoever.

New York could easily be ranked ahead of Florida, because Murphy will likely be a better player and the Mets are deeper at the position. With just 131 career at bats, Murphy hit .313 with two home runs and 17 driven in last year. Murphy could develop into a star player for the Mets, but ranking him based almost strictly on potential is difficult. The revived Fernando Tatis is second on the depth chart, and can step in to hit some long balls when needed. If Murphy struggles through stretches, the Mets feel confident letting Tatis step into the starting lineup.

The Phillies, Nationals and Braves all have solid veteran players in left field that can help the team in several ways; while the Marlins and Mets are banking on young guns to come around and contribute on a daily basis. It should be interesting to see how the veterans hold up, and how the kids develop.

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