Matt Kemp is optimistic about the San Diego Padres’ outfield. From Lyle Spencer at MLB.com:
“Who,” he said, “do you think has the best outfield in the game now?”
The visitor gave it some thought before nominating the American League champion Royals for defensive purposes and the Pirates or Marlins for all-around excellence.
Kemp shook his head. “No,” he said, firmly. “It’s right here. Right here in San Diego. You can write it down — and print it.”
Optimism is good. As is the offensive potential of Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp.
Earlier in his career Upton showed flashes of an MVP-caliber bat and, even if he hasn’t lived up to that, he is a dangerous hitter and serious power threat. Myers was off last year but is just a year removed from a Rookie of the Year campaign and extreme promise as a prospect. Kemp, of course, needs no introduction. He easily could’ve and maybe should’ve been the MVP a few years ago and, after getting healthy last year, put up a second half which quieted a lot of people who said he had fallen off. If all of thee of these guys hit to their potential, it could be an amazing group at the plate.
Of course, offense is only one part of the equation and forgetting that outfields play defense as well as hit is kind of a problem for the purposes of this exercise.
Kemp’s hips and legs are his weakness and he is now a far below-average defensive outfielder, coming in at -23 in Defensive Runs Saved last year. Myers was at -7 and has very little experience as a center fielder, having spent most time in right. Upton, though statistically the best of the three at 0.0 in Defensive Runs Saved, has never been all that good himself with the leather. It’s also worth noting that Petco Park has a LOT of ground to cover.
So, the best outfield in baseball? I’d have to say no, because running down fly balls and cutting balls off in the gap to hold batters to singles instead of doubles is a pretty big damn part of the game. Especially in a pitchers’ park. Especially in a run-starved era. For that reason I’d take the Marlins, Nationals or Pirates outfield over San Diego’s. And I’d even go so far to say that, if I were a betting man, I’d bet that we’ll see more commentary this summer about the problem of the Padres’ defense than we will see about the Padres’ outfield driving San Diego towards greatness.