Anything you can do…

Swisher-12-16-250.jpgWHO’S BETTER, WHO’S BEST?
As promised in yesterday’s entry, an “if-the-season-started-today” roster comparison of the five teams in the American League East. The goal: to see if the Yankees’ several moves thus far have tipped the balance of talent towards the Bronx. The method: a subjective one, but I will justify my rankings. The scoring is simple: The team whose player ranks first among the five teams receives five points. Having the second-best player is worth four points, and so on. The team with the most points wins.

FIRST BASE
1. Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis
2. Rays: Carlos Pena
3. Yankees: Nick Swisher
4. Blue Jays: Lyle Overbay
5. Orioles: The Great Pumpkin

The Red Sox could put Mark Teixeira here and the rankings would be the same, though the gap between one and two would simply grow larger. The high upside on a Swisher rebound is probably in the neighborhood of .270/.380/.490. That would be very good indeed, but not quite at the level of Youkilis/Teixeira or Pena, the halfway point of whose last two seasons is .264/.394/.560. Overbay hasn’t hit at an appropriate level for a first baseman in two seasons. We don’t know who the Orioles first baseman is going to be. Last season’s placeholder, Kevin Millar, is a free agent, and their pursuit of Teixeira seems unlikely to pay off. They could play DH Aubrey Huff here, which would vault them to fourth, or even third if Huff has another 2008 in him.

SCORE: Red Sox 5, Rays 4, Yankees 3, Jays 2, Orioles 1.

SECOND BASE
1. Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia
2. Orioles: Brian Roberts
3. Yankees: Robinson Cano
4. Blue Jays: Aaron Hill
5. Rays: Akinori Iwamura

As with the placement of Swisher above, this ranking is dependent on a rebound–which Cano should do. The laws of physics almost demand it. The problem is that the two guys ahead of him on this list will probably get on base more often even if he does. The placement of Hill is based on his age and where he seemed to be heading after 2007, a concussion having wiped out the majority of his 2008 season. Iwamura is good for a little offense and a little defense, but not enough of either. 

SCORE: Red Sox 10, Yankees 6, Rays 5, Orioles 5, Jays 4.

THIRD BASE
1. Yankees: Alex Rodriguez
2. Rays: Evan Longoria
3. Red Sox: Mike Lowell
4. Blue Jays: Scott Rolen
5. Orioles: Melvin Mora

What a strong group. Even consistency from A-Rod should keep him on top. The ranking of Longoria is speculative based on a full season and a mild improvement. If the Sox sign Teixeira and push Youkilis here, the ranking probably wouldn’t change–the thought here is that Youkilis backslides just slightly. Put Lowell, Rolen, and Mora in a bag and shake ’em up. Mora was actually better than Rolen this year, but Mora is unlikely to have another season like that in him at 37.

SCORE: Red Sox 13, Yankees 11, Rays 9, Orioles 6, Blue Jays 6.

SHORTSTOP
1. Yankees: Derek Jeter
2. Red Sox: Jed Lowrie
3. Rays: Jason Bartlett
4. Orioles: Cesar Izturis
5. Blue Jays: John McDonald

As weak a field after Jeter as the third base collection was strong. Jeter played hurt last year, declined, or both, but he’d have to fall a long way to sink past the glove-men here. The jury is still out on Lowrie, who isn’t a great glove and showed quite few holes in his rookie year, including Fenway-dependent hitting, an aversion to right-handed pitching, and an inability to adjust in September, when pitchers struck him out in about 30 percent of his at bats. The alternative is Julio Lugo, who seems to have come to the end of his abilities. Bartlett saved his season with a strong second half. The other two guys make Rabbit Maranville look like Babe Ruth.

SCORE: Red Sox 17, Yankees 16, Rays 12, Orioles 8, Blue Jays 7.

LEFT FIELD
1. Red Sox: Jason Bay
2. Rays: Carl Crawford
3. Yankees: Johnny Damon
4. Blue Jays: Adam Lind
5. Orioles: Luke Scott/Ryan Freel

The only thing I’m sure about here is that Bay belongs on top. I have the sense that Carl Crawford has a better year in him after hamstring and hand injuries wrecked his season. I feel strongly that Johnny Damon is going to give something back this season. Lind could finally hit like his minor league numbers suggest he should (.318/.379/.509 in the sticks) and if he doesn’t, the Jays could put Travis Snider in his place and get good production. Luke Scott is a good platoon guy and could pop enough home runs to move up a couple of spots.

SCORE: Red Sox 22, Yankees 19, Rays 16, Orioles 9, Blue Jays 9.

CENTER FIELD
1. Rays: B.J. Upton
2. Blue Jays: Vernon Wells
3. Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury
4. Orioles: Adam Jones
5. Yankees: Fred C. Dobbs, Duke Mantee, or Philip Francis Queeg

Among the wild cards here: Jones and if he adds power, as is expected; Ellsbury’s ability to hold on to the progress he made at the end of the season; Upton’s health and if the super-powerful version of him that showed up in the playoffs will reappear in April; and, of course, just who will play center for the Yankees. Mike Cameron would not change this ranking and could conceivably increase the gap between fourth and fifth place.

SCORE: Red Sox 25, Rays 21, Yankees 20, Jays 13, Orioles 11.

RIGHT FIELD
1. Orioles: Nick Markakis
2. Red Sox: J.D. Drew
3. Blue Jays: Alexis Rios
4. Yankees: Xavier Nady
5. Rays: Matt Joyce

I suspect this ranking will lead to some argument. Drew is the best all-around hitter here, but you never know if he’ll be in the lineup. Somehow Markakis has yet to make an All-Star team. He will this year. He’s just 25, has improved each season of his career, and is the best all-around player in the group. Rios does a lot of things well without quite reaching the level of production you expect from a right fielder. Joyce is unproven, but he’s a strong glove who should give the Rays some pop from the left side. An unorthodox platoon pairing with switch-hitters Fernando Perez or Ben Zobrist could be reasonably productive and defensively sound. That leaves Nady, who will almost certainly return to his career rates of performance next season. That makes him fourth in this group, fifth if Joyce hits and fields as expected.

SCORE: Red Sox 29, Rays 22, Yankees 22, Orioles 16, Jays 16.

CATCHER
Orioles: Matt Wieters
Yankees: Jorge Posada
Rays: Dioner Navarro
Red Sox: Batman
Blue Jays: Rod Barajas

Some rankings on faith here. Wieters is perhaps the best prospect in baseball, and is presumed to have the Orioles job (Ramon Hernandez was traded for Ryan Freel in anticipation of Wieters’ arrival). Bat-wise, he looks like Mike Piazza II. If Posada can catch regularly and hit anything like old school Jorge, the Yankees will be in very good shape. If not, they’re off-the-charts hopeless, as they were this year. Navarro is an average-driven hitter who holds his own. Boston’s catcher, is, of course, fictional, but we don’t know if Theo Epstein will break down and bring back Jason Varitek, make a deal with the Rangers for one of their extra backstops, or pursue some other option that isn’t yet apparent. It takes some faith to rank a complete unknown ahead of Rod Barajas, but I’m certain that whichever catcher the Red Sox ultimately acquire he will be capable of at least a .300 on-base percentage.

SCORE: Red Sox 31, Yankees 26, Rays 25, Orioles 21, Jays 17.

We will continue in our next entry with designated hitter, starting pitching, closers, and middle relief.

MORE FROM ME…
…As always, at Wholesome Reading, to be updated with Internal Improvements III this evening.

 

4 Comments

I always knew the Red Sox were better then the Yankees!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

This rating isn’t really based on empirical evidence, but it raises some very interesting questions about the Yankees as well as other teams in the AL east. This assesment made me realize the Yankee outfield is in desperate need of a makeover seeing as based on this system of rating they score the worst with a six, and the Red Sox have the best with a rating of 12. Its clear the Yankees really need to address the outfield. I cannot understand the Swisher trade, he has a career AVG of .240 and career OBP of .354, he gets on base as much as Damon, but doesn’t hit as much. I just can’t view him as more than you’re average body in the outfield. The only bonus is the versatility of bouncing between the outfield and first base. After last season I want the Yankees to spend money on the best team they can put out there, that means going hard after Teixeira. Signing him would give them the best first basemen in the game according to Elias rankings, he would help offset the the outfield’s numbers, and the other advantage is they keep him away from the Red Sox. I’d rather have Tex over Manny any day. If there’s any chance at all the Yankees would resign Abreu for two years I’d back that even though his walk totals have been in a downward trend since the end of the 2006 season; he still has a solid OBP and is hitting for good AVG.

Looking forward to the rest of the assessment coming up soon, especially the pitching.

While looking through these orders the yankees dont really have any top players in those groups. Why arent they or When are they going to get some one who can help out arod and which i think is why dont they go after some BIG name HITTERS and who is not old but is more younger. I hate to say it Damon, no center field, and Nady is not going to cut it out in that outfield for hitting. So what you think about that.

Hey steve,

I really like these rankings you have done with the AL east. However, there are a lot of questions that can be raised in regards to the prospects of a dominating, unified lineup we saw during the championship years. Even when you look back the early 2000’s, the Yankees’ lineup was extremely intimidating with the likes of Jeter, A-Rod Sheffield Posada Giambi etc., their run production was some of the best in the league. Now, the likes of Jeter and A-Rod are aging and there are most certainly some question marks. Who is going to be the next saviour offensively for these guys? We have Joba, Phil and now CC and AJ pitching wise, but who will be the next homegrown offensive talent? Is it mandatory that 2 or 3 years down the road the team must give up prospects and pick up a bat? Or can Austin Jackson, Jesus Montero and Austin Romine pick up the slack in order for championships to reign down from the heavens the way it should be for the Yankees? I am currently on a division one baseball team and I understand the concept of rebuilding, but what does this concept look like for the Yankees in their attempt to once again develop a murderers row?

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