Braves or Nats : Whose OF is better?

The Braves.  OK see you tomorrow!

OK, ok. I guess I should explain.  The Braves and Nats both had very good OFs last year and yet both overhauled them over the offseason. The Nats shunted the poor fielding Michael Morse off, shifted Bryce Harper, who held his own in center field, to left, and brought in Denard Span. The Braves let Michael Bourn walk and brought in BJ Upton to replace him.  They then traded the underrated Martin Prado for Justin Upton. The question then arose who had the better OF?


Here are the OPS+ for each player over the past 3 years and ages for 2013
Justin Upton (25) : 110 141 107
BJ Upton (28) : 106 114 104
Jason Heyward (23) : 131 93 117

Bryce Harper (20) : 119
Denard Span (29) : 88 90 105
Jayson Werth (33) : 144 97 125

Let's pull out the two consistent guys.  Denard Span is an average hitter.  BJ Upton is slightly better than average. So the Braves start with an slight edge.  After this we're faced with a bunch of questions. Anyone of the remaining players could have a superstar like year in 2013 and it wouldn't be a shock.  So why do I like the Braves better here? Two completely opposite things that work against the Nats.

Bryce Harper, while blessed with all the talent in the world, is the only one here who hasn't yet had that big year in the majors.  Do we all think he could do it? Yes. But does it have to be in 2013? No, it doesn't. On the other hand Werth is older for a baseball player.  He's in the decline years of your average player. It doesn't mean that he has to decline, but it does mean at this point his body is really working against him. So while it's wide open on what could happen, I have to give the edge to the Braves here just because it's slightly more likely that it works out for them than the Nats.


Here is each players Spd number (which takes into account stuff like 1st to 3rd) from last year :
Justin Upton (25) : 6.0
BJ Upton (28) : 6.2
Jason Heyward (23) : 6.2

Bryce Harper (20) : 7.4
Denard Span (29) : 5.6
Jayson Werth (33) : 5.3

The short of it is, while Bryce Harper's gambling ways and young legs makes him  the biggest threat the whole rest of the Braves OF is arguably better than the Nats OF.  If we look at more years - Span looks more favorable, he's the equal of any of the Braves guys, but he's also older. Werth had a good year last year, but in general would look LESS favorable looking at multiple years.  It's not that he's slow or a bad baserunner or anything like that, just in comparison to the rest of these very talented guys he's clearly #6. 

I kind of feel again, ever so slight an edge for the Braves.


3 years of fangraphs FLD stat (another combo stat taking into account arm and range, etc.) coming up :

Justin Upton (25) : 5.5  7.7  -2.1
BJ Upton (28) : 1.4  1.4  -2.4
Jason Heyward (23) : 4.2  8.6  21.5

Bryce Harper (20) : 9.9
Denard Span (29) : 4.4  9.0  8.5
Jayson Werth (33) : -7.5  1.4  -12.6

Unlike with the hitting, where you are looking at three years for trends and historical notes, here you kind of have to look at 3 just to get a clear picture of a fielder.  Anyone can have a great single year because fo the vagaries of what goes into these stats (Adam Dunn was supposedly great at first base for the Nats one year).  Three tends to give a clearer picture of actual skills.  Here I tend to push the two teams for right now.  Bryce will be great where ever the Nats put him and Span is a very good CF and that's the most important position.  He's no Bourn, but the Braves don't have Bourn anymore they have BJ Upton who is merely doing the bare minimum in CF. Justin Upton is good in LF, Heyward is great in RF, but CF matters most.

Unfortunately for the Nats Jayson Werth hasn't played a good RF in years. Around 2007/2008 he was great but since then we've seen a slow decline. No matter what stat you look at UZR, Range Factor, the stats show he's not getting to the balls that he should anymore. That's an issue.  Span will help with that more than Bryce probably did simply by having experience covering for others but fielding isn't something that you just get back. For one year he might be ok, but it's more likely he won't.

Now if the Nats do what I think they should and move Werth to LF, shade Span in that direction and let Bryce's cannon sit in RF cutting down those 1st to 3rd guys I might move it over to giving the Nats a slight edge, but let's see them do it first.


If you push in one category and have the slight edge in two others, well you win. So the Braves win.  But don't take that to be a slam dunk or anything.  It's just slightly more likely that the combination of the Braves 3 OF will put up a slightly more worthwhile year than the combination of the Nats 3.  And even then the most likely scneario puts them at what? A half-game better? It's nothing influential, just bragging rights.  The Nats, with that killer rotation from top to bottom and no holes (well...maybe catcher), are still the better team and the favorites to win the East.

Also A LOT will come down to Bryce and Justin. While Werth had some big years, his usual ones were just a step below superstar.  Can he even get back to that for a whole season should be the thought, not if he can have a team carrying year. Heyward looked to have that big potential at the start, and is young enough to still pull it off, but it seems most likely that he'll be limited by striking out to a place just below the best hitters. Bryce and Justin though, feel like far more real threats to put up that .290 30+ homer year. If one of them does it while the other one doesn't that pretty much makes the team with the guy that did it the winner.

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