05/24/11 8:00 AM ET
Votebook: Resurgent sluggers lead outfielders
Berkman, Granderson among top performers -- after Bautista
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
"I think to this point, they've just happened to be getting out a little bit earlier than they have in the past," Granderson said. "There's really no rhyme or reason to what's going on."Milwaukee's Ryan Braun had one of the more scorching starts to the season and has a .302 average, 12 homers, 37 RBIs and a .962 OPS. Sticking with the power guys, the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano (11 homers), the Reds' Jay Bruce (12), the Dodgers' Matt Kemp (11) and the Marlins' Mike Stanton (10) have all provided pop in the early going. Among those players, Kemp has been the most consistent, all-around threat, batting .315 with a .396 on-base percentage and .547 slugging percentage. He has 13 stolen bases. Kemp's teammate in the Dodgers outfield, Andre Ethier, was a model of consistency until just recently. Having began the season with a 30-game hitting streak, he's batting .311 with an .813 OPS. Grady Sizemore seemed to have returned to his All-Star status of years past when he came back from knee surgery and hit .282 with six homers and a .974 OPS in 18 games for the Indians. But another knee injury landed him on the disabled list and allowed Michael Brantley (.294 average, four homers, 23 RBIs) to return to center field and the leadoff spot. While Carlos Gonzalez's MVP-type performance opened many eyes last year, the Rockies' most consistent outfielder thus far has been Seth Smith, who has a .301 average, four homers, 20 RBIs and an .881 OPS. Some other names to note in the NL: Hunter Pence is batting .298 with six homers and 36 RBIs for the Astros. Shane Victorino has a .284 average, six homers and 19 RBIs for the Phillies. Andrew McCutchen has eight homers, 24 RBIs and seven steals for the Pirates. And in the AL: Jeff Francoeur has re-emerged with the Royals, batting .282 with nine homers and 28 RBIs. His teammate Alex Gordon found the stroke that once made him a No. 2 overall Draft pick and is batting .280 with four homers and 25 RBIs. Carlos Quentin has nine homers and 26 RBIs for the White Sox. Jason Kubel has a .309 average for the Twins. The above is admittedly incomplete, as the sheer number of options for the six starting outfield spots presents plenty of fodder for debate. And let's not forget two regulars in the AL starting outfield who have not yet been mentioned -- Ichiro Suzuki and Josh Hamilton. Ichiro has been voted to the AL starting lineup nine of the past 10 years, and his popularity could push him to a 10th. Still, he hasn't quite been his usual self, batting .292 with a .684 OPS. And Hamilton, who has been in the starting lineup in each of the past three All-Star Games, just returned on Monday to the Rangers' lineup after missing nearly six weeks with a non-displaced hairline fracture in his right humerus, suffered on a headfirst slide into home plate. Now that the reigning AL Most Valuable Player is back, the outfield conversation, which begins with Bautista, could get more interesting.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.