1. Denard Span (Nationals) – Span put together an outstanding 2014 campaign in which he was tied for the National League lead in base hits (184), tied for 4th in doubles (39), was 5th in stolen bases (31), 5th in batting (.306), 5th in runs scored (94), 18th in OBP (.355), 29th in extra base hits (52), 20th in total bases (254), and finished 19th in MVP balloting. In two years with the Nationals, he’s averaged 150 games played with a slash line of .290/.341/.398 with 34 doubles, 10 triples, 84 runs scored, and 26 stolen bases. He doesn’t have Lagares’ glove, but it’s looking like a really good trade that Washington made in November 2012 for minor league pitcher Alex Meyer.
2. Juan Lagares (Mets) – Mr. Gold Glove is the best defensive outfielder in baseball. Period. I know I’m not alone in this… if a ball is hit anywhere in the outfield and if you see Lagares anywhere in the picture, you’re shocked if he doesn’t catch it. Mere mortals are fools to run on his arm. He is a difference maker in the outfield. His bat hasn’t caught up to his All-Universe Glove yet, but he’s holding his own. He improved his batting average to .281 in 2014 from .242 his rookie season. His OBP improved by 40 points. He showed late in the season he can steal bases. He should be good for 30+ doubles in 2015. For those detractors that say he doesn’t hit enough, he hit .356 at AAA, .303 in AA, and .306 in High-A ball. I expect his future offense to be at least on par and 2015 will bring more improvement over last season. Juan is a keeper.
3. Marcell Ozuna (Marlins) – The 24 year old Ozuna showed us how dangerous he can be with his own cannon when he single handedly beat the Mets last June 20th when he gunned down two Mets at home plate. In his first full MLB season, he hit .269 with 23 HR and 85 RBI and is part of a very young and very dangerous Marlins outfield that may be giving the Mets fits for years. He’s the least heralded of the Marlins outfield starters and he still has to show he can replicate his 2014 season, but he has the potential to be one of the good ones that will command a lot of cash when it comes time for Scott Boras to negotiate his contact.
4. Ben Revere (Phillies) – Revere was a former first round pick of the Minnesota Twins back in 2007 that was acquired prior to the 2013 season for Vance Worley and Trevor May. He doesn’t have any pop, with just two home runs 1,905 MLB at-bats and just five in 1,878 minor league at-bats. He is fast, with 145 stolen bases in 493 MLB games, including 49 swipes in 2014, which was 4th in all of MLB. He hit .306 last season and was tied for the National League lead in base hits with 184. He’s not much more than a singles hitter that can stretch his singles into doubles by stealing bases at an 86% success rate. 162 of his 184 hits were singles and he only walked 13 times, the fewest among the 146 players who qualified for the batting title.
5. B.J. Upton (Braves) – What in the world happened to this guy? He hasn’t batted above .250 in six full seasons, but he was particularly awful the last two. In two seasons since becoming a Brave, he’s averaged 134 games played while batting .198 with 10 HR, 30 RBI, and 162 strikeouts. His .208 batting average in 2014 was 145th out of the 146 players who qualified for the batting title in MLB. He’s still owed $46 million over the next three seasons, with the Braves on the hook for all of it in what may be the worst contract in the game for all players not named A-Rod.