Perhaps no outfielder has been much of revelation this season—at least offensively—as San Francisco left fielder Melky Cabrera. Acquired from Kansas City in the offseason, Cabrera has been good for solid defense—usually as a centerfielders—and showing stretches of being able to hit for average with some consistency. He’s given a desperate Giants’ offense much more, posting an on-base percentage/slugging percentage stat line of .393/.520, hitting seven home runs and driving the ball in the gaps with consistency.
Cabrera is only 27 years old, so it’s quite possible that uptick in his slugging percentage might be legit, as he rounds into form physically. He came to the majors in 2006 and spent four years with the New York Yankees. After a promising first year where he hit .280 and had an OPB eighty points higher, his offensive numbers tailed off, though he continued to play good defense and on a team stacked with hitters that was enough. After the team won the World Series in 2009 he was traded to Atlanta and when his production promptly tanked, I wrote him off. That proved to be a mistake. He found his bat in Kansas City last season and with 18 home runs showed the first flashes of the power he’s demonstrating again in 2012. Whether you think he should be an All-Star starter or not, he’s earned a place in the conversation and is part of a group of nine corner outfielders posting numbers worthy of a trip to Kansas City for the All-Star Game on July 10.
TheSportsNotebook’s All-Star outfield focus started with centerfielders, since I’m going to ensure any outfield trio has at least one person who can play a credible center. Obviously that’s not a ballot requirement, but for the sake of clarity and covering all players, the next phase of evaluation throws all the corner men into the same pot. Here are the eight additional players worthy of a serious look…
Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado): His offensive production is dazzling, even allowing for the Coors effect, because the lineup around him is struggling. Gonzalez is slugging .603 thanks to 17 home runs and has an OBP of .386, and he’s 50-plus in both runs scored and RBIs. You name it, he does it.
Ryan Braun (Milwaukee): Braun has been even better than his MVP season of ’11, with a .311 batting average and 20 home runs in a lineup stripped of Prince Fielder in free agency and then almost everyone else via injury or underperformance.
Giancarlo Stanton (Miami): After a slow start, the numbers have caught back up, as Stanton has hit 17 home runs. His on-base percentage of .355 is solid, although relatively low when you compare him to other members of this upper crust.
Jason Heyward (Atlanta): He joins Stanton as the only ones is this first group of nine with an OBP under .370, but with a .510 slugging percentage, Heyward has shown that 2011’s troubles were just a sophomore jinx.
Jason Kubel (Arizona): Over from the Minnesota, Kubel has adjusted nicely to being in the desert with a .371/.518 line and made up for a loss of power by Justin Upton on the other corner.
Who deserves to go to Kansas City? When I log on to MLB.com and vote this week, I’ll only choose one of these players, as I’m going to give votes to both Andrew McCutchen and Matt Kemp, covered in the centerfield post. That one player would be Braun. If we follow the centerfield/corner outfield format to a tee, I would add Gonzalez to the list.
Twelve more corner outfielders having a season worthy of a mention are the following…
*Martin Prado (Atlanta), Bryce Harper (Washington) and Hunter Pence (Phi) have the kind of OBP/Slugging balance that could enable them to make a run at the top tier with a hot second half and TheSportsNotebook will revisit this and all other positions again in September. Harper, in particularly, with his .357/.480 line is close to All-Star caliber and just needs to close the playing time gap after a call up that was relatively late for a June evaluation. Pence had been making a good case for himself before a recent slump pulled him down to ..343/.466.
*Jay Bruce (17 home runs for Cincinnati), Alfonso Soriano (14, Chicago), Michael Cuddyer (11, Colorado) and Corey Hart (15, Milwaukee) are hitting the long ball, but all four need to radically increase their consistency in getting on base. With Soriano, that’s a lost cause at this stage of his career, but Bruce needs to improve and become a more complete offensive player.
*David DeJesus (.361 OBP for Chicago), Justin Upton (.352, Arizona), Gregor Blanco (.350, San Francisco), Juan Pierre (.356, Philadelphia) and Bobby Abreu (.368, Los Angeles) can get on base, even if they don’t hit for power. With Abreu, he’s only got 146 at-bats and we’ll see if he can stay healthy playing the field every day. And Upton, as mentioned further up, is someone that Arizona counts on for more than casual mention for one-dimensional success.
And for the sake of due diligence, here are the remaining corner outfielders who have gotten enough playing time to be considered regular starters…
*Will Venable (SD)—His .331/.445 stat line isn’t bad, considering he hits in Petco
*Lucas Duda (NYM)—With a .345 OBP and 11 home runs, Duda’s got potential to move up the list.
*Ryan Ludwick (Cin)—With nine home runs, he’s said to be rounding into form. It’s only been four years in the waiting.
*Garrett Jones (Pit)—Nine home runs can’t make up for an atrocious .271 on-base percentage
*J.D. Martinez (Houston): Similar to Jones, he’s got 10 home runs, but low OBP. But he’s still 50 points higher than Jones in on-base percentage and young enough to think this might be the start of something good.
*Carlos Quentin (SD)—He just got back from knee surgery and is tearing it up, hitting .452 with six home runs in his first 23 games. Quentin could be playing himself into a deadline trade to a contender.
*Logan Morrison (Mia), Brian Bogusevic (Hou) and Jose Tabata (Pit) are all terrible.