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Where does the Marlins' (healthy) outfield rank among the leagues’s best?

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When healthy, the Marlins trot out one of the best outfields in the game, but could they be the best?

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

There may not be a lot of optimism surrounding the Marlins right now as they continue to slip further and further away from a playoff spot, but there is still a little hope for this season, and plenty of hope for the future. While a lot of that hope leans on Jose Fernandez solidifying himself as an ace, there is also hope among the Marlins many young and talented position-players, especially the outfielders.

You may not have been able to to get a full look at the Marlins’ outfield this year with Marcell Ozuna’s second-half slump and Giancarlo Stanton’s injury, but, when healthy, the combination of Ozuna, Stanton, and Christian Yelich in the outfield is arguably one of the best outfields in baseball. To see where the Marlins young stars truly stack up against other outfield groups in Major League Baseball, I took a look at the stats.

The easiest way to look at these stats is to search in just the first half of the 2016 season. I know it is a small sample size, but that first half had a healthy Stanton and it showed how productive Ozuna can be, which is something you can’t say about the second half of the season. Only in the first half of the season were Yelich, Ozuna, and Stanton all playing together almost every day.

The easiest way to start is with the easiest stat to understand: batting average. In the first half of the season, the Marlins outfielders led all of baseball in batting average, hitting .292. Along with that great average came a great on-base percentage, which sat at .366 and also was number one in baseball before the all-star break. They were also hitting for power with 44 home runs and a slugging percentage of .480, good for second in the league. Those stats gave them an OPS (on-base plus slugging), of .846, just a tick behind the red-hot Red Sox outfield led by Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Mookie Betts for first in baseball.

The standard stats made the Marlins outfielders look great, and the advanced stats just padded their image. The Marlins were baseball leaders with a 127 wRC+, which is a great all-encompassing hitting stats which takes into effect the difference in ballparks and the different leagues and how they affect hitting stats. They also ranked first in baseball in other advanced stats like wOBA, which is one of the more accurate stats that combines all types of hitting, and WPA, which shows the total impact that the outfielders’ plate appearances have on the Marlins’ chances to win games. Here is a look at where the Marlins’ outfielders ranked in plenty of stat categories (standard and advanced) before the All-Star break.

Stat Numbers 2016 MLB first half rank
Batting Average .292 1st
Walk Percentage 10.0% 5th
WAR 7.6 3rd
Batting Value 41.3 2nd
OPS .846 2nd
BABIP .353 1st
wOBA .362 1st
wRC+ 127 1st
Hard Contact Percentage 35.8% 4th
WPA 5.58 1st

To make the argument for Miami having the best outfield group, however, you have to look at the other teams who are competing for that spot. The Boston Red Sox young outfield, which is led by Bradley and Betts, has definitely been the best in the American League in 2016. In the first half, they led the league in slugging percentage and OPS and were second-best in offensive value and WAR.

The Chicago Cubs can also make a strong case for best outfield. In the first half of 2016 they led the league in home runs and hits, but also in WAR, offensive value, runs above replacement, and weighted runs above average, among other advanced analytical statistics. Their outfield defense is also maybe the best in baseball, ranking number one in defensive value. The advanced stats love the Cubs, but they don’t have much of a set group of three outfielders. Jason Heyward and Dexter Fowler are in the outfield most days, but guys like Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant, and many others have also spent a good amount of time in the outfield.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are the other team in the discussion, although the stats from this season may not put them at the top. Their young outfield core of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Gregory Polanco will keep them in the discussion for many years to come. They were at the top in of the league in line drive percentage in the first half of 2016, and were near the top in many other categories mentioned earlier.

Overall, if you’re looking at purely three everyday outfielders, there is a great case to be made for the Miami Marlins having the best outfield in baseball. So even though they may be falling out of contention this season, this talented young outfield should keep the Marlins in the playoff mix for years to come.