As most people have noticed over the years, talent ebbs and flows between positions. The AL had four terrific offensive shortstops back at the beginning of the decade, but now, it’s a wasteland of mediocrities. We’ve seen a surge of terrific catching enter the NL in the last few years, filling what was a pretty enormous hole for the league.
Somewhat under the radar, we’ve seen another strong talent push – have you noticed how good the crop of American League right fielders are right now?
Nick Markakis – 2.86 WPA/LI
J.D. Drew – 2.70 WPA/LI
Jermaine Dye – 2.28 WPA/LI
Shin-Soo Choo – 1.83 WPA/LI
Bobby Abreu – 1.73 WPA/LI
Magglio Ordonez – 1.27 WPA/LI
Vladimir Guerrero – 0.94 WPA/LI
Denard Span – 0.84 WPA/LI
Alex Rios – 0.50 WPA/LI
Gabe Gross – 0.46 WPA/LI
Ichiro Suzuki – 0.09 WPA/LI
Ichiro and Rios have supplemented their slightly above average hitting with excellent defense, which isn’t represented in WPA/LI, so they’re both quite a bit more valuable than this list shows. Span, meanwhile, has racked up his value in half a season – when you include defense, he’s been better than everyone but Markakis on a per game basis.
If we were just looking at a per-game basis, we could argue that Vladimir Guerrero has been something like the 8th or 9th best right fielder in the AL this year. Even though it’s a down year for Vlad, that’s remarkable – in most seasons, you can’t find seven or eight guys at any position in either league that are better than him on a per at-bat basis.
It’s really a pretty remarkable crop of talent. Markakis gets lost in the shuffle sometimes, thanks to the presence of bigger names like Guerrero and Ordonez, but he’s been the best of the bunch this year, and at 24 years of age, may have established himself as one of the game’s young stars. With other talented youngsters like Span and Choo also showing some real value, the position looks strong for years to come.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.