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The Miami Marlins outfield versus the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield

The Miami Marlins' outfield has arguably been the best crew of the season, while the Pittsburgh Pirates' outfield houses the reigning MVP and two of the brightest young players in the game. Who you got?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins have very little help from the infield, which has been quietly among the lowest rated in the majors in terms of Wins Above Replacement. But in the outfield, the talent pool explodes exponentially, as the Fish boast what is likely the best outfield in the majors this season. As Joe Frisaro of points out (with shiny Wins Above Replacement metrics!!!!), the Marlins are behind only the Tampa Bay Rays in total WAR, and that is only if you consider Ben Zobrist an outfielder (he has played 494 innings at second base versus 242 innings in outfield this season).

Rank Team Players Total 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

Down at seventh on that list is the Pirates, who got a late start from the outfield it currently boasts. While reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte have played most of this season, Gregory Polanco only arrived in June as the Pirates waited out his service clock to avoid Super Two arbitration. Since then, the crew has been good, with McCutchen playing his usual excellent self and Marte repeating his 2013 season. Polanco is struggling right now in the majors, but he has huge upside as one of the best prospects heading into this year.

So the question comes up: with these two young outfields, complete with two MVP candidates in 2014, which one is the better outfield? Mike Redmond knows his answer.

"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."

That might sound like a homer argument, but it turns out that he is not all that far off. Let's break down the candidates from each outfield and compare them.

Tale of the Tape

Giancarlo Stanton 540 .295 .398 .565 .408 5.1
Christian Yelich 482 .280 .357 .410 .345. 3.4
Marcell Ozuna 479 .255 .311 .421 .323 2.2

The Marlins have gotten great performances from their players, primarily because they have remained healthy. Stanton has not missed a single game this season after averaging about a month off in each of the last three seasons. Ozuna has remained healthy all year. Only Yelich has visited the disabled list so far this season.

Andrew McCutchen 489 .311 .411 .536 .409 4.8
Gregory Polanco 275 .245 .313 .355 .299. 0.2
Starling Marte 406 .271 .345 .421 .345 2.7

This year, the Pirates' outfield has had some issues with remaining healthy, as both McCutchen and Marte have missed time due to injury. That affects their win totals, as some of the Pirates' less deserving outfield candidates have had to replace them in the lineup. But the performances are not all that far off from each other aside from Polanco and playing time issues for the Pirates.

But when you compare the individual players against their counterparts, you can see that Miami likely has the edge both this season and going forward.

The MVP's

Stanton and McCutchen are on equal footing right now. Both players are entered the year as perennial All-Star players, are legitimate MVP candidates this year, and are currently anchoring their lineups. Both have almost identical batting lines, though they achieved these lines in different ways. For Stanton, it is all about his fantastic power and the fact that pitchers are clearly avoiding him at all costs. Pitchers are not avoiding McCutchen in the strike zone, but he is killing them by not striking out, walking a huge amount, and providing an excellent balanced batting line. On defense, there are questions as to how good both of these guys are, but it is probably even between the two.

The differences for them are in their future. McCutchen is at his absolute prime, as he is 27 years old and dominating. But Stanton has not even reached that prime yet presumably, as he is just 24 years old despite reaching the majors only a year after McCutchen. The fact that the two are so close right now only bodes well for the future of Stanton in the coming years.

To counter that, Stanton's contract situation is a negative for Miami. McCutchen, on the other hand, is a known commodity for the Pirates, as he is still signed for the next four years.

The Strikeout Prone

Ozuna and Marte share the profile of players who are athletic defenders in the outfield and swing-happy whiffers at the plate. For their careers, both guys have struck out a lot (25.2 percent of the time for Ozuna, 25.5 percent for Marte) and neither can draw walks. Ozuna has the smallest advantage in that department, but essentially those two are even in terms of less advanced plate approach.

Ozuna's game is predicated on power, as he launched 17 homers as of last night. Even with Marte's two-homer night, he still has only eight on the year and just 25 in 1154 plate appearances. Ozuna has a decent chance of reaching 25 for his career in just aroun 900 plate appearances. To offset that, Marte has excelled in batting average on balls in play, as he has an almost identical .360-plus mark compared to last year. It is difficult to tell if that is a pure skill, and chances are he will regress from that line, and that may pull the two players' batting lines closer together.

But once again, age is a differing factor. Both players are similar right now, but surprisingly, it is Marte who is the older player at 25 years of age. Ozuna is almost a full two years younger than Marte. He may not have been a better prospect going through the minors, but Ozuna has reached Marte's level at a younger age, just like Stanton versus McCutchen.

The Youngsters

The final comparison is no comparison at all right now. Last year, Polanco was still impressing folks with his breakout performance in High-A and his decent stint in Double-A. At the same time last year, Yelich dominated the Double-A level and came up in late July and played well in the big leagues. In 273 plate appearances, Yelich racked up almost 1.5 wins in the majors while Polanco was still getting his feet wet.

This year, it's Polanco's turn to get acclimated to the majors, and so far he has struggled. Meanwhile. Yelich is taking a balanced, above-average approach to quiet stardom in Miami. And age again comes into play. Yelich and Polanco are the same age, but Yelich is ahead in development like his two outfield mates.

It turns out the comparison, as of right now, is no contest. Miami has the best outfield in baseball, hands down, non-Mike Trout division.