ALDS Position Preview: Outfield
TEXAS RANGERS (88-74)
There is almost zero discussion that needs to be had on who will be manning the Rangers’ outfield this post season.
Delino DeShields is the center-fielder, Shin Soo Choo will be in right, and Josh Hamilton – with an occasional Mike Napoli appearance – will be in left. Period. DeShields, the former Rule 5 draft pick Jon Daniels plucked off of the Houston Astros’ roster, has been the table setter atop the Rangers’ lineup for the vast majority of the season. In case you have missed a game or 85 this year, DeShields is fast – real fast.
Choo has put his horrendous first half behind him, and is now first on the team in runs scored (94),fourth in RBI (82) and hits (153), third in doubles (32) and home runs (22), and since the All Star break – first in average (.343), on-base percentage (.455), and slugging percentage (.560). Yep, the Rangers are finally getting their money’s worth.
After battling a knee injury that required a scope, Hamilton returned to the lineup and does not appear to be hampered one bit. If the bullpen had not of blown a five-run lead in the ninth inning on Saturday, there would have been ESPN segment after ESPN segment on the resurgence of ‘The Great Hambino’, and how his two home runs led Texas back to the post season.
Instead, he settled for an RBI and run scored in the game on Sunday that did in fact clinch the AL West. He also proved on Thursday that he can still flash the leather, after he tracked down a hot shot into the corner and made an over-the-shoulder catch then slid into the left field wall.
Although he’s sometimes a liability in left field, Napoli will almost certainly continue to make appearances there when the Blue Jays rollout a left-handed starter, and as long as the Rangers are not throwing a fly-ball-heavy starter themselves. Even if he has to be pulled late in the game for a defensive replacement, there is no denying his big-game magic, or his .295-batting average and .513-slugging percentage since the break.
That leaves two spots to round out the Rangers 2015 ALDS roster, and they go to Will Venable and Drew Stubbs. Neither player is going to be asked to perform a miracle at the plate, but both will prove to be crucial-late-game substitutions and speedsters off of the bench.
Most importantly, adding both Stubbs and Venable will remove a player from the infield bench – i.e. Joseph Nicholas Gallo.
STARTERS: Hamilton/Napoli, DeShields, Choo
BENCH: Hamilton/Napoli, Venable, Stubbs
TORONTO BLUE JAYS (93-69)
Jose Batista will play right field and hit baseballs very, very hard. Sticking with Toronto’s favorite advanced metric, he is a plus-69 on the season, and a plus-37 since the All Star break. The right-handed slugger has 40 homers, 114 RBI, 108 runs scored, and a .536-slugging percentage on the season. Please, do not hang this guy a curveball.
26-year-old Kevin Pillar is having a career year, and will man center field for the Jays. His minus-27 ratio is one of the worst on the team, but he slots in the bottom third of Toronto’s batting order. Plus can really flash the leather in the field. Although he does not possess a plus arm, he has fantastic speed when tracking down balls in the gap, but almost inexplicably is not a great base-runner and not a real threat to steal any bases.
Acquired at the trade deadline, Ben Revere is to the Jays what DeShields is to the Rangers. Extremely fast, sure handed in the field, no real power threat or arm strength, and does not swing and miss often. He is hitting .319 since joining Toronto, and has a total of 31 stolen bags on 38 attempts on the season.
Ezequiel Carrera, 28, and Dalton Pompey, 22, are the two reserve outfielders for the Blue Jays. Pompey is your prototypical pinch runner, and has more than enough speed to swipe a bag or seven. The opening day starter was sent down after hitting well below the Mendoza Line, .193, and was a September call up to give Manager John Gibbons an option on the bases late in games.
Carrera has appeared in 91 games this season, but over a third of those were prior to the Revere trade. Much like Pompey, his sole purpose this post season will be to give Gibbons an option on the base paths. Both players can play all three outfield positions.
STARTERS: Revere, Pillar, Bautista
BENCH: Carrera, Pompey
Not by much, and maybe only because I have watched them play all season, but it is hard to imagine there being a hotter group of outfielders entering a post season. Choo is on fire and is far superior to Pillar, DeShields and Revere are near washes, and there is no way to disprove the notion that the Napoli-Hamilton combo could post the same .250-batting average, 40 home runs, and 100 runs batted that Bautista did across a full season of play.