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New York Yankees: Carlos Beltran Takes Over Right Field

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COMMENTARY | After the 2004 season, Carlos Beltran was a free agent and the New York Yankees were at the top of his list of destinations.

The Yankees did not jump at the initial opportunity, despite an alleged discount and Beltran signed across town with the New York Mets. Nine years later, the two sides found a mutual desire to connect, agreeing to a three-year, $45 million contract. Beltran finally gets his wish and the Yankees hope to have a stable right fielder. Each side hopes the deal culminates with at least one World Series title.

The Yankees used 10 different players in right field in 2013 after Nick Swisher left for the Cleveland Indians, with Ichiro Suzuki making a majority of the starts (109). Suzuki is clearly on the downside of his career and the youngsters in the organization were not quite ready, so enter Beltran.

Beltran, a switch-hitter, still wields a potent bat as he enters his age-37 season. In 2013 Beltran posted a slash line of .296/.339/.491 with 30 doubles, three triples and 24 home runs in 600 plate appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals.

He was a much stronger hitter from the left side of the plate in 2013, recording an .871 OPS (.729 from the right side) and hit 17 of his homers against right-handers. It is uncertain if the OPS split is the beginning of a trend considering his career the gap slants in the other direction (.878 OPS as lefty versus righties and .847 as a righty versus southpaws). One thing seems certain: His home run power comes mostly from the left side where he has hit 252 of his 358 career home runs. This bodes well for his lefty at-bats in Yankee Stadium.

Beltran, an 8-time All-Star, is no longer a running threat, stealing just two bases in 2013. Beltran suffered through multiple knee injuries in the latter part of his time with the Mets and he began to be labeled as injury prone.

However, in his last three seasons he has played in at least 142 games, topping out at 151 games in 2012. His age would likely dictate that 145 games is what the Yankees hope for from Beltran and potentially more if they rest him as a designated hitter on occasion.

There is one glaring deficiency with Beltran and that's his fielding, according to defensive metrics. He posted a poor -18.7 UZR/150 in right field for the Cardinals last season. In 2012, his UZR/150 was a more respectable 4.2, but was -10.4 in 2011. Most of the problem has to do with his limited range. This may not be too big of an issue with Jacoby Ellsbury manning center field and potentially covering any ground Beltran cannot.

Along with his abilities on the field, Beltran is roundly considered a great teammate and a positive presence in the clubhouse. He works hard and wants to win.

Overall, assuming Beltran can reach 600 plate appearances, a line of .275/.345/.475 is a safe estimate in my opinion. Slotted somewhere in the middle of the Yankees lineup, I'd expect Beltran to put up 20-25 homers and drive in 80 or so runs.

Considering the Yankees received little production from the contingent manning right field in 2013 (combined .655 OPS, 13 HR and 52 RBIs), these numbers would be welcomed and be close to those Swisher put up in 2012 (.837 OPS, 24 HR and 93 RBI).

Should Beltran reach the measures above, it would surely help the Yankees' chances of returning to the postseason, where Beltran has shined but has failed to win a World Series title. He and the Yankees both hope his time in the Bronx features at least one World Series ring.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.

Please see the author's profile page for recent articles detailing what the Yankees can expect from their players in 2014 as part of an ongoing series.

Chris Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo. Besides his work as a New York Yankees contributor for Yahoo Sports, Chris created and maintains his own blog site, The Baseball Stance, which provides commentary about all of Major League Baseball. He is a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Connect with Chris on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
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