Nick Swisher to free agency not only did the team lose a fan favorite (well until the end anyways), but it lost a decent bat and outfielder.
In one of the few moves I have agreed with GM Brian Cashman on in recent years, the team re-signed veteran outfielder and certain Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki.
In 67 games with the “Bombers” last season, Suzuki hit .322 including a torrid .385 during the stretch drive of September. Once manager Joe Girardi started playing him every day, he caught fire – just when the team needed him the most. In addition to being a “professional hitter”, he is a smart base runner. In 2012, Ichiro stole 29 bases in 36 attempts.
In spite of an advancing age (39), Ichiro has been a perfect fit for the team.
The key will be Girardi going against the book and realizing that Suzuki hits left handed pitchers just as well as he does right handers. For the season, the outfielder hit .284 against lefties, and .283 against righties. The man can just flat-out hit and doesn’t require a platoon partner. If the Yankees manager can pull himself away from his statistical analysis of situational hitting for Suzuki, and allow him to be the full-time right fielder, the team can only benefit from his presence in the lineup and the field.
Here is how the rest of the division will man right field:
Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista missed 70 games last season for the Blue Jays yet still hit 27 HR. After undergoing surgery on his wrist in September, he declared himself 100% after an aggressive off season rehab program. With that being the case, he is the heart of the Toronto lineup. In the two seasons prior to 2012 Bautista hit 97 HR and drove in 227 while carrying a solid .281 batting average. He is an average outfielder but his presence in the everyday lineup is essential for the Blue Jays to contend.
Baltimore Orioles: In spite of an injury shortened 2012 season, Nick Markakis managed to put up a solid season at the plate, hitting .298 with an .834 OPS. He is an above-average fielder (.992 fielding pct) and a career .295 hitter. Like Bautista of Toronto, the much of the Orioles success will hinge upon Markakis name being on the lineup card every day.
Tampa Bay Rays: Matt Joyce gives the Rays decent power and average fielding (.982 fielding pct) in the lineup. Last season he hit .241 with 17 HR in 124 games.
Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox will open the season with a new right fielder in 2013. Shane Victorino, who played for the Dodgers and Phillies in 2012 was signed to a 3-year $39 million contract this off season. Victorino brings with him a spirited, heart-filled style of play and is an above average outfielder. At the plate he is a career .275 hitter - with good speed on the base paths (he stole 39 bases last season). Is he worth the contract that Boston gave him? Probably not, but he still will give them solid play.
Here is how we rank the right fielders of the AL East:
Toronto – A healthy Jose Bautista is tough to beat. His power is unmatched.
New York – Ichiro will be steady in the field and at the plate giving the Yankees at least one player they can depend on – as long as Manager Joe Girardi allows it.
Baltimore – A full season from Nick Markakis will provide the O’s with one of the best right fielders in the game.
Boston – Shane Victorino will win Red Sox fans over with his play.
Tampa Bay – Matt Joyce gives them another power threat but needs to bump up his average to avoid a platoon situation (he hit just .209 against southpaws).
Let us know what you think!
--Steve Skinner, BYB Guest Writer
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