MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Top 10 outfields: Pirates' trio has no peers

Marte, McCutchen, Polanco combine above-average speed, power and defense

Top 10 outfields: Pirates' trio has no peers

DENVER -- Andrew McCutchen is the face of the Pirates. He's a five-time All-Star who has finished among the top five in the National League MVP Award voting the past four seasons -- including winning the award in 2013 -- and he has a Gold Glove Award and four Silver Slugger Awards on his resume, as well.

McCutchen is also is in the middle of an outfield that stands out from all of the rest in baseball.

There are individuals who draw more attention, like Bryce Harper with the Nationals or Mike Trout with the Angels. But from left to right, the Pirates' crew is at the top of the list among Major League outfields.

Here are the Top 10 outfields to tout:

1. Pirates
McCutchen is in center, with Starling Marte on his left and Gregory Polanco on his right. And, truth be told, any of the three could play center field. Eventually, Marte figures to move into that spot, with McCutchen moving to left, but that's down the road. Marte and Polanco both have plus arms to go with their range.

And all three are offensive factors. McCutchen was moved from the No. 3 slot to second in the order this year, with Marte hitting cleanup and Polanco sixth. They have the pop to drive the ball out of the ballpark, but each is also a threat on the bases.

Marte cuts down Parra

2. Royals
The trio of Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson, from left to center, is the ultimate symbol of what the Royals are all about. There's no lights-out superstar, but it is a trio of outfielders who fit so well together. They all have plus range, plus arms and a good field awareness that keeps them from getting in each other's way.

There is no traditional middle-of-the-lineup impact bat here, but the skill set of the three works perfectly into Kansas City's lineup, with Cain hitting third, Gordon back into the No. 6 slot this year after hitting eighth in the World Series last October, and Dyson giving the Royals that double-leadoff option out of the No. 9 slot.

Statcast: Gordon flashes leather

3. Cubs
The signing of free agent Jason Heyward, along with the unexpected ability to retain Dexter Fowler when the free-agent market never materialized for him, gave the Cubs an edge over most other outfields. Fowler's return to center field meant Heyward could remain in right field, where he has proven his abilities, instead of trying to make the transition to the middle of the outfield.

Fowler and Heyward are a unique 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup. They each have the desired basestealing speed, but each also has the ability to unload a ball in the bleachers. Young left fielder Jorge Soler is continuing to adapt, but he is already a definite power threat in the lower part of the order.

Heyward's four-hit game

4. Rockies
With the vast open spaces in the Coors Field outfield, it is incumbent for the Rockies to have three outfielders with center-field range, and they have that with the offseason addition of Gerardo Parra to go along with holdovers Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez. Parra's signing was critical, because left field in Denver is the most spacious in baseball, and it was a challenge for Corey Dickerson when he was with Colorado. Parra also moved flawlessly into center field when Blackmon was disabled because of turf toe.

The fact all three are left-handed hitters can be a problem, but the Rockies have two right-handed-hitting outfielders backing them up in Brandon Barnes and Ryan Raburn. Raburn is the bat, and Barnes is a tools guy who can drive a ball out of the park, drop down a bunt and cover plenty of ground in the outfield with a plus arm.

CarGo's diving catch

5. Astros
It's not that Minute Maid Park is a cavernous facility, but there's a lot of ground in right field, and the uniqueness of Tal's Hill in center field that puts a premium on outfielders with field awareness. The Astros also realize that tailoring a team to its ballpark has some benefits, but when it comes to defense, there is a need to make sure the outfielders are not overmatched when they get into bigger parks.

That's not a worry for Houston, with the alignment of Colby Rasmus, Carlos Gomez and George Springer, who line up in left, center and right field. All three are capable in center, and they each add run production to the lineup.

Statcast: Rasmus slams Red Sox

6. Mariners
Another team that has to construct an outfield that can not only handle the spacious dimensions at Safeco Field, but also deal with the fact that ball doesn't carry that well, leading to more chances for outfielders. That's why the new regime signed Norichika Aoki, who is a slap hitter with speed but covers the real state in left field as good as any, and traded for Leonys Martin to handle center field as part of an offseason makeover.

Nelson Cruz is adequate in right field, and he feels more comfortable about his offensive ability if he gets to play defense instead of DHing, so he is getting his share of playing time, although Seth Smith is a stronger overall fit in right field.

Aoki's diving catch

7. Mets
With an alignment of Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson, there is definite thunder in the bats and physical talent in the field. Consistency, however, is a problem. Cespedes is one of those highlight-film outfielders, but there is a tendency for those highlights to come as he scampers to compensate after misjudging a ball.

Conforto swung his way to the big leagues a year ago, and he figures to be a mainstay in left field for the Mets for some time to come. Granderson is a solid player offensively and defensively, and he has the range to help protect in case of a misplay in center field.

Statcast: Cespedes' laser throw

8. Dodgers
There is a lot of flash at Dodger Stadium with the alignment of Enrique Hernandez, who has taken advantage of injuries to the older veterans and stepped into left field, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig. Based off pure physical abilities, this group would be higher on the list. But for all they can do, there is just too much inconsistency with this trio.

Pederson is either hot or cold with the bat. There aren't a lot of simple, quality at-bats without a lot of fanfare. And Puig is so eye-popping with his speed and raw power that little attention if paid to his defensive uncertainties, which were underlined in an early season trip to Coors Field. Early in the game, he unleashed a throw from nearly the warning track to retire Trevor Story on an attempt for a triple. Little, however, was made of the fact the Rockies' game-tying run came courtesy of Puig being unable to make a routine throw to the plate.

Statcast: Puig nabs Story

9. Marlins
Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna have speed that allows them to expand their coverage area, and Giancarlo Stanton has that rifle teams beg for out of a right fielder. They can limit the extra bases for opposing teams, and they are strong enough defensively that Ozuna's below-average offense doesn't take away from what the trio can accomplish.

Ozuna has assumed the No. 2 spot in the lineup, ahead of Yelich and Stanton, who -- given the speed of leadoff hitter Dee Gordon -- are in prime position to pick up easy RBIs. They are both legitimate big league bats, with Stanton having arguably the most pure power of any player in the game right now.

Yelich cuts down Pagan

10. Giants
Life is different for outfielders at AT&T Park. The air is heavy -- limiting how well the ball carries -- and the playing field is expansive, which means there is a definite emphasis on ability to cover ground in the outfield. The alignment of Angel Pagan, Denard Span and Hunter Pence, with Gregor Blanco in reserve, gives the Giants the defense necessary to benefit their pitching staff.

The outfield alignment doesn't provide as much of an impact offensively as some other teams, but Span has fit in well at the top of the lineup, and Pence does a good job of staying within his offensive game and ignoring the temptation to try to be more than he is.

Pence's sliding catch robs Kemp

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.