8/18/2014 1:24 P.M. ET
There's more to Marlins' outfield than Stanton
As a group, Yelich, Ozuna proving they're just not the other guys
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
MIAMI -- Giancarlo Stanton's imposing stature and impressive home runs gain a majority of the attention. But when it comes to the Marlins' outfield as a unit, it is much more than a one-man show.
As the Major League leader in home runs (32) and the National League leader in RBIs (88), Stanton has become the face of the franchise. But left fielder Christian Yelich and center fielder Marcell Ozuna are not just the "other guys."
Collectively, their numbers stack up with any outfield in the Majors. According to FanGraphs.com, Stanton (5.1), Yelich (3.5) and Ozuna (2.1) have a combined Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 10.7. Only the Rays' threesome of Ben Zobrist (4.5), Desmond Jennings (3.4) and Kevin Kiermaier (3.1) bests Miami's 10.7.
In the NL, a number of MLB insiders have asked: Which outfield would you take -- the Marlins or Pirates?
Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen (on the 15-day disabled list) is the reigning NL MVP Award winner. Along with McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, the Pirates outfield's combined WAR is 7.9.
Top Outfields based on WAR
|1||Rays||Zobrist (4.5), Jennings (3.4), Kiermaier (3.1)||11|
|2||Marlins||Stanton (5.1), Yelich (3.5), Ozuna (2.1)||10.7|
|3||Angels||Trout (5.6), Calhoun (2.9), Cowgill (2.0)||10.5|
|4||Royals||Gordon (5.7), Cain (3.1), Aoki (1.6)||10.4|
|5||Orioles||Jones (4.0), Cruz (2.3), Markakis (2.2)||8.5|
|6||Braves||Heyward (4.4), J. Upton (3.6), B. Upton (0.0)||8|
|6||Brewers||Gomez (4.6), Davis (1.9), Braun (1.5)||8|
|8||Pirates||McCutchen (4.8), Marte (2.5), Polanco (0.6)||7.9|
|9||Blue Jays||Bautista (4.4), Cabrera (2.5), Rasmus (0.5)||7.4|
|10||Giants||Pence (4.2), Pagan (1.7), Morse (1.2)||7.1|
"Quite honestly, I don't think there is another group of outfielders I'd take over our three," Marlins general manager Dan Jennings said. "When you look at those guys offensively, I think their numbers speak for themselves."
Miami's outfield is the foundation of the franchise, not only this season, but moving forward for at least another year or two.
Stanton, 24, is building a case for the NL MVP Award, while Yelich (22) and Ozuna (23) are future All-Star-caliber players. Both opened 2013 at Double-A Jacksonville, but Yelich and Ozuna are now core players on a vastly improved Marlins squad that entered Monday's off-day at 62-62 and within striking distance in the NL Wild Card race.
"I definitely think, in another year or two years if they're still together, this group will be the best in the National League," said Andre Dawson, a Hall of Famer and a Marlins special assistant.
All three have game-changing talent.
"Those guys are special," manager Mike Redmond said. "To have three young, quality outfielders -- first of all -- is tough to get. We have them. These guys are still continuing to improve. You've already seen the impact they've had on our ballclub this year."
Here's five reasons why the Marlins feel their outfielders are as good as it gets.
Stanton is setting the tone
Healthy and happy, Stanton has accepted the role as team leader, making plays all over the place. His power speaks for itself, but his defense is vastly improved.
"Stanton is having an MVP-type year," Jennings said. "I think they complement each other, because they push each other so much. They challenge one another. The standards that they set are high."
No Marlins player has won an NL MVP Award or a home run title. Stanton could be the first to do both.
Yelich emerging at leadoff spot
The left-handed-hitting Yelich is a table-setter at the leadoff spot, and his 70 runs are second on the team to Stanton's 79. A main reason Stanton has already set a career high in RBIs this season is because Yelich has been on base.
"Yelich is one of those players you see from day to day how he is gradually starting to find his way here," Dawson said.
Ozuna's immense raw skills
The 23-year-old's skill set is similar to that of Dodgers sensation Yasiel Puig. Ozuna can run, throw and hit for power. He also can be reckless on the bases or overswing. Ozuna is also capable of driving a walk-off double into the gap like he did to the D-backs in the 10th inning last Thursday.
"In another year or two years, I think Ozuna will get better offensively," Dawson said.
Three complete players
In multiple ways, the three can make a difference. At spacious Marlins Park, it's crucial to be able to cover ground. Yelich lacks a strong throwing arm, but he makes plays with his feet, getting to balls that otherwise would drop. Ozuna and Stanton handle center and right field, respectively.
"You've got speed. You've got good arms," Dawson said. "You've got guys who can flat-out play defensively, no matter where you put them."
What they've done already is impressive. But there is still room for improvement, because you can see inconsistencies from all three.
"This experience for them down the road is going to be very important and huge for their development," Redmond said. "Stanton, his numbers are off the charts, and he's still improving, too. We feel very fortunate to have these guys as the backbone of this organization."