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Posted at 12:21 PM ET, 03/10/2011

NL East position rankings: left field

By Ryan Korby

It’s a shocking edition of the NL East position rankings today. Are you ready for this? I think the Nationals have a shot to have the best left field play in 2011; however, it would take some very specific personnel decisions that I’m not convinced yet will actually happen. Here’s how it shakes out.

1. Michael Morse, Nationals (with a little bit of help from Roger Bernadina) - Whether the Nationals front office believes it or not, Michael Morse deserves to be the full-time starting leftfielder. Another good option for the Nationals would be to platoon Morse with Roger Bernadina. What probably will happen is Rick Ankiel will see a good amount of time there, too, because he signed a major league contract. Morse doesn’t match the Nationals desired profile of being a good defender and for some reason the Nationals incorrectly believe he can’t hit righties. I think a lot of teams would take his .806 OPS against righties last year. Maybe it’s because he was so good against lefties (.999 OPS in 2010) that he just looks bad against right-handers. Morse has never played more than the 98 games that he did last season. If he had played a full season, a good comp for him would have been Vernon Wells (the good version from last year). Although Wells isn’t a great defender, he produced 2.5 more wins than Morse, according to WAR, because of a full season with similar stats at the plate. If any games should be taken away from Morse it should be to give them to Roger Bernadina, who is coming into his own as a player. Bernadina had the best UZR rating of any returning NL East left fielder and is having a good spring training, hitting .316/.381/.474. Unfortunately, both of these high potential guys will have some games taken away from Ankiel who has never been a high on-base guy and doesn’t seem to have any power anymore, either. Last year, he had a higher groundball percentage than Nyjer Morgan.

2. Logan Morrison, Marlins - I’m sticking my neck out with another prediction in saying that Morrison will outperform known commodities Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez. In 62 games last season, Morrison compiled an outstanding .390 on-base percentage. What really impresses me is his patience at the plate. He has a walk rate of 14 percent and a strikeout rate of 21 percent, both far better than Bay.

3. Jason Bay, Mets - I think Bay will have a bounce-back year, but won’t ever be the huge power hitter he was before he arrived in Queens. He had a huge drop off in OPS last season to .749. The only other year his OPS wasn’t .900 or close to it was 2007. His concussion/whiplash aren’t to blame as his low power numbers were already firmly in place before he got hurt. Unfortunately, Bay is a pure pull hitter and Citi Field may be the toughest park on righty hitters of his ilk. He has to get closer to his career power numbers, though. Doesn’t he?

4. Martin Prado, Braves - He had a fine year at the plate last year, but not better than Morrison and only slightly better than Ibanez. I’d be prepared to see some mediocre defense from him. He’s played three games there in his career and he’s not a fast guy, so I think you’ll see a lot of balls falling between him and Nate McLouth/Jordan Schafer.

5. Raul Ibanez, Phillies - At some point this season, the streaky hitter will look like the best left fielder in the NL East, but he probably won’t do it often. Ibanez turns 39 this season and for his above average on-base percentage and hot streaks that sometimes carry his season numbers he’s really just been an average player for his career. He averages about 1.5 Wins Above Replacement a season. Take away his two best seasons (two and five years ago, respectively) and that number slips to just one win above a player you could promote from the minor leagues.

By Ryan Korby  | March 10, 2011; 12:21 PM ET
Categories:  Nationals, Ryan Korby  | Tags:  Nationals, Ryan Korby  
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Comments

Are you serious with this article? The best LF in the NL East is a player that hasn't even earned a starting job on the lowly Nationals? Over proven vets Bay, Ibanez, and Prado? I know you write for the Washington Post but c'mon, how blatantly biased can you be?

Posted by: mikegoldman87 | March 10, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse

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