Right field is the final offensive position we'll be tackling in our TOC Top Ten series before venturing to the pitchers mound on Thursday and Friday. The position is pretty loaded, even with injuries leading to disappointing seasons from Justin Upton, Jose Bautista, and Nick Markakis, among others. There's a lot of young talent in right field as well, putting both corners in good positions for the future.
Remember: this list (and all of the lists we'll be rolling out this week) reflect the order I'd prefer to have the players for the 2013 season. I don't care about 2016, I don't care about 2010, I care about 2013. Got it? Good.
10. Jay Bruce, Reds
I'm not a huge Jay Bruce guy, but there's a lot to like about him. He'll be 26 in April, and already has 134 career homers in five seasons in the majors. Bruce has clearly improved as a player over his career, increasing his walk rate and hitting for more power. But yet, even after a five win season in 2010, I feel like he should be better. That 2010 season is looking like an outlier in regards to Bruce's defense in right field, and his strikeout rate has continued to tick up each year. Bruce is still young enough where he can make dramatic improvements in his game, but I don't think he's ever going to be the superstar the Reds thought he would be.
9. Carlos Beltran, Cardinals
Beltran's best days are behind him, but he's still a damn good player. Last year was his first 30 homer season since 2007, but he also struck out at a 20% rate for the first time in his career. 2012 was just Beltran's second year playing in right field, and his defense took a step forward after a bit of a shaky 2011 with the Mets and Giants. But Beltran's once vaunted speed looks done, as his 68% success rate on the basepaths was the worst of his career. Beltran will be 36 in April, and is entering the twilight of his career. I think that 2011 was the last great year of his career, and even as a member of an awesome Cardinals lineup, that he'll continue to see his performance decline in 2013 and beyond.
8. Alex Rios, White Sox
Alex Rios is an infuriating player to have on your team. He had back to back five win seasons for the Blue Jays in 2007 and 2008, and then followed it up by being worth barely above replacement level and being given to the White Sox for (literally) nothing. In 2010, Rios responded with a 20/30 season for the White Sox, and followed *that* up with a sub-replacement level year in 2011. Of course, in 2012, Rios hit .300 and went 20/20 again, amassing four wins above replacement and putting people at ease…for at least another year. You can't even really blame injuries for Rios' struggles over his career, as he hasn't missed 20 games in a year since 2006. Rios is so talented, so good at baseball…and he'll drive you absolutely nuts if you have to watch him during one of his down stretches.
7. Torii Hunter, Tigers
Hunter had a great year in 2012 with the Angels, and cashed in early this offseason with a two-year deal from the Tigers. But I really think that 2012 was the last gasp in Hunter's career being great. The 5.2 fWAR he accrued was a career best, coming in his age 36 season, and was largely fueled by an ungodly .389 BABIP. Hunter also failed to hit 20 homers for the first time since 2005 (when he played just 98 games), and he posted the worst walk to strikeout ratio since 2001. Now, while Hunter might not be great offensively in 2013, he'll likely still be a good defender in right field, where he moved before the 2011 season with the Angels due to the presence of Peter Bourjos. I think expecting a five win season is total lunacy, but three wins might be a better ceiling for Hunter in 2013.
6. Josh Reddick Athletics
Reddick isn't a perfect player by any stretch of the imagination. He only hit .242 last year with a .305 OBP, but a 30 point boost in BABIP can fix that pretty easily (Reddick's 2012 BABIP was just .269). But the guy's got power, and the guy is a damn good fielder too. Reddick bashed 32 homers for the AL West champion A's in 2012, and he won a deserved Gold Glove as well. Reddick ran out of gas over the season's final two months, and that helped lead to the overall decline in his numbers. He'll turn 26 in February, and 2013 will be just his second full year in the majors. Based on the 2012 season he had, Reddick can definitely see his numbers take a step forward in 2013, and while he might not have as complete of a skillset as the players ranked higher than him on the list, he's certainly a solid player.
5. Josh Hamilton, Angels
Hamilton heads to a new team in the Angels, and will be playing right field for the first time in his career on a full-time basis. Hamilton's 2012 with the Rangers was his healthiest since his first season in Texas (2008), and Hamilton also set a career-high wtih 43 homers. However, Hamilton's strikeout rate jumped all the way up to 25.5%, and he sleepwalked through June and July before getting his production back to up an appropriate level to close out the year. It'll be interesting to see how Hamilton, 32 in May, will fare with his new club after some potentially turbulent times with the Rangers. Hamilton won't be counted on to be "the guy" with the Angels, and that will likely take a ton of pressure off of him and allow him to just go with the flow and smash the hell out of the ball. However, considering his nine figure contract, there will likely be more pressure on him to produce at a high level in Anaheim.
4. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
In 2010 and 2011, Bautista was one of the best players in the AL, and no one really seemed to notice. The dude hit 97 homers over those two years for God's sake, and walked 232 times as well. However, wrist inflammation essentially ended his season in July, and it's a shame too, because he was just getting hot after a slow April. After homering just three times in April, Bautista smashed 23 homers in 55 games over May and June before falling back to just one homer in July before his season ended. If his wrist his healthy, Bautista is a lethal weapon in a Toronto lineup that features a suddenly power hitting Edwin Encarnacion as his protection, with Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera as table setters. Bautista's 2013 could be legendary if he's ready to go for Opening Day and gets off to a solid start.
3. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
Upton is currentl a Diamondback, but who knows if that's going to be true when pitchers and catchers report. Kevin Towers seems determined to trade him as he hoards overpaid, inferior outfielders, and several teams would love to have him. When healthy, Upton is a six win player with 30 homer pop and 20 steal speed while also possessing excellent plate discipline and the ability to hit .300. But erratic years in 2010 and 2012 (sandwiched around excellent years in 2009 and 2011) have given a lot of people pause in rating Upton's abilities, and they seem to be forgetting that he's a really well-rounded player that would almost be a prototype for what you want a baseball player to be.
2. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
Stanton has 93 homers in less than 1500 career plate appearances, and he just turned 23 in November. That is just sheer lunacy. But Stanton isn't exactly Kevin Maas out there. His triple slash has increased in his each of his three career seasons, and while Stanton's career 28.8% strikeout rate is way too high, he's balancing it out by walking at a 10% rate for his career. Stanton is also very athletic and an above average defender in right field, so it's not as if we're dealing with some sort of one dimensional player. However, I think that the three-ring circus in Miami could hurt Stanton's production in 2013, and he could possibly get traded by a front office that seems intent on pissing off their fanbase as much as possible.
1. Jason Heyward, Braves
Despite a disappointing 2011 season that was exacerbated by a shoudler injury, Heyward still had a bright future heading into 2012. All he did last year was hit 27 homers, steal 21 bases, and win a Gold Glove while continually getting overlooked and underappreciated across the game. He turned 23 in August, and has amassed 13.7 fWAR over his career. If Heyward hits with the power he did in 2012 while showing the plate discipline he did in 2010, he could be an eight win player at age 23. While players like Stanton and Upton are ridiculously good, no right fielder in baseball has the complete package like Heyward does, and he's on the road to having a special career.