Saturday, April 4, 2009

NL East Preview Week 8: Right Field

Right field in the NL East is mostly filled with young up and coming players, and could be a spot of feast or famine in 2009.

Jayson Werth had a breakout season for the Phillies in 2008, was an integral part of their championship run, and will be crucial to the balance of the 2009 lineup. Much to my surprise though, he is actually the best right fielder in the division. Some players have potential to be better than him, that’s for sure, but with the inconsistency of some and what Werth did last season, he deserves the number one spot. Werth hit .273 with 24 home runs and 67 driven in. He swiped 20 bags and was caught only once, and he started to hit right handed pitching toward the end of the season much better than he had previously. He excelled in the field as well, posting a .992 fielding percentage. Werth needs to drive the ball in the gaps better in 2009, as someone with his speed and power should have more than his 16 doubles last season. Werth really did it all for the Phils in 2008, and he has the opportunity to drive in more runs this season. He typically hit second, sixth or seventh in the lineup last year, but will find himself in the five or six hole most of 2009, and should find a higher RBI total this season. Also, hitting behind Ibanez should benefit Werth, as Ibanez will get on base more than Pat Burrell did, giving Werth another runner to drive home. The Phillies currently lack depth behind Werth, but they are looking for another outfielder and will likely find one before the season starts. Matt Stairs is listed as back-up, but in no way is he on the team to play the field.

For some reason, unbeknownst to me, Jeff Francoeur is getting the benefit of the doubt and placing second. With all the potential in the world, Francoeur has been extremely inconsistent throughout his short career. In 2006, his first full season with Atlanta, Francoeur hit .260 with 29 homers and 103 RBI. He also has a cannon of an arm, and is one of the best in the business at throwing out base runners. Francoeur struggled in 2007, getting off to a terrible start but ended up with solid numbers at the end of the season. He finished with a .293 average and 19 home runs with 105 driven in. 2008, however, was a horrendous year for Francoeur. He hit just .239 and ended up being sent to the minors. It is difficult to predict just how Francoeur will perform in 2009, but reports are he has finally lost his stubbornness and is willing to make changes at the plate. He is hitting .317 this spring, and appears as though he could be back on track to developing into a middle of the lineup force for the Braves. He has the potential for 30,100 seasons, but needs to find consistency. Some plate discipline would do wonders for Francoeur, as he doesn’t know the meaning of bases on balls. The highest total of walks his amassed in his career was 42 in 2007, in 642 at bats. Francoeur has the ability to be a tremendous player, and he may just find his stroke in 2009. Atlanta is fairly weak behind Francoeur, with a few kids possessing little experience. Atlanta absolutely needs Francoeur to contribute this season.

Florida found themselves a nice player in Cody Ross, whose power surge last season earned him the starting job headed into 2009. He hit .260 last year, and slugged 22 long balls while driving in 73. He also hit 29 doubles; and believe it or not, had a .997 fielding percentage. Yes, that’s right, a Florida Marlin had a .997 fielding percentage. Ross had by far the most at bats of his career last season, and is not proven as an everyday player over a long stretch. He does appear capable of holding the spot, and his power stroke should help Florida score runs. Ross is strong in the field, had a knack for delivering in the clutch in 2008, and should hit 20-25 home runs for the Marlins in 2009. Ross is backed up by, surprise, surprise, a few inexperienced players. Ross needs to have a season like he did in 2008 for Florida to maintain their lineup balance.

The Mets’ Ryan Church is a good outfielder, and has been consistent at the plate throughout his career. He’s either hit .272 or .276 each of the last three seasons, and he’s good for 10-15 homers a season. He will likely drive in 60-75 runs for New York as well. Church is nothing spectacular, just a good, solid player. He is another talented left handed batter for the Mets to insert in their lineup, and should produce for them in 2009. The Mets haven’t yet rectified their outfield situation, and Church’s back up remains to be seen.

Washington has a young, potential future star in Elijah Dukes. He has struggled to start his career though, batting just .235 over his first two seasons. He does have a bit of power; he’s hit at least ten home runs in each of his two big league seasons in limited at bats. His fielding percentage last season was just .965, a terrible percentage for an outfielder. Dukes is young and inconsistent, but he has a nice mix of power and speed, and could develop into a nice player for the Nationals. Austin Kearns fills in very nicely behind Dukes, and he will likely see some time in right field too.

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