At Home Plate: Braves’ outfield rivals Angels as tops

With the blockbuster trade that landed Justin Upton on the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have some competition for which team has the best outfield in baseball.

Justin Upton joins his brother and recent Braves signee B.J. Upton and five-tool player Jason Heyward in Atlanta’s outfield this year. As it stands, the Angels outfield will be comprised of last year’s rookie sensation Mike Trout, recent signee Josh Hamilton and speedster Peter Bourjos.

Offensively, the Angels may have the advantage. Assuming Trout does not experience a sophomore slump, he and Hamilton together will be dangerous. Plus, they will both benefit from a having a force like Albert Pujols in the lineup.

Justin Upton (Photo by SD Dirk, used under Creative Commons License)

Justin Upton (Photo by SD Dirk, used under Creative Commons License)

Bourjos gives the team a dimension of speed, most likely at the bottom of the batting order.

For the Braves, Heyward is coming off an injury-free, consistent season. The Uptons both had solid years offensively as well.

B.J. set a career high with 28 home runs, but he also managed a career-high 169 strikeouts. Justin maybe didn’t put up the numbers he’s accustomed to, but a .280/17 home run/67 RBI/18 stolen base line is still a good overall year.

Without Chipper Jones, the Braves’ lineup will have a huge void that the Uptons will try to fill. Justin will bat third and B.J. fifth or sixth.

As far as defensively, the Braves may hold the advantage here collectively, and the issue is Hamilton.

Trout of course is a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, but despite his highlight-reel catches in center field, he’ll be moving to left field. Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia took some heat for this decision, but he claims that Bourjos is actually a better center fielder.

Thus, Hamilton will play right field this season in Anaheim. He’s only played 70 career games there, and his range is not what it once was.

Sure, Trout and Bourjos will make up for Hamilton’s lack of range, but looking at defense on the whole, that’s where the Braves can thrive.

Heyward and the Uptons are all above-average defensive outfielders. Heyward is coming off a year in which he won a Gold Glove in the NL, while the Uptons combined for 16 outfield assists in 2012.

The power alleys at Turner Field are deep, so the Braves’ outfield can certainly save runs with their new-look outfielders. In a tough division with the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies, every run saved will matter.

While the Angels outfield will provide plenty of offensive spark, defense wins games, and the Braves’ outfield tops the charts defensively.

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