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Thursday, January 16
Updated: March 13, 5:03 PM ET
Rating the best outfields

By Tim Kurkjian
ESPN The Magazine

How's this for an outfield? The 1925 Tigers had Harry Heilmann, who led the American League with a .393 average. They also had Ty Cobb, who hit .378, and Al Wingo, who batted .370. How about the outfield for the 1930 Cubs? Hack Wilson, Kiki Cuyler and Riggs Stephenson averaged batting .358 with 131 RBI. Obviously, we'll never see that type of production, not even during this explosive era. Still, there are some good outfields out there.

So, as we wonder how good the Yankees' Hideki Matsui will be, and as we watch who will emerge to play alongside Barry Bonds in San Francisco, here are the top 10 outfields in the majors. Limiting it to 10 was the hard part.

1. Cardinals

Top: Pujols, Edmonds
Bottom: Drew
LF: Albert Pujols; CF: Jim Edmonds; RF: J.D. Drew
Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and J.D. Drew last season combined for 92 home runs, most of any team in our top 10. Edmonds provides Gold Glove defense in center. Drew has great ability. It's a matter of time before he has a .320, 35-homer, 120-RBI season.

2. Braves

Top: C. Jones, A. Jones
Bottom: Sheffield
LF: Chipper Jones; CF: Andruw Jones; RF: Gary Sheffield
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 2002 Braves joined the 1956 Reds as the only teams in National League history with three outfielders with at least 25 home runs (each player with a minimum of 125 games played in the outfield). This year, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and Gary Sheffield could join the 1941 Yankees and 1963 Twins as the only teams in major league history to have three outfielders with 30 home runs.

3. Angels

Top: Anderson, Erstad
Bottom: Salmon
LF: Garret Anderson; CF: Darin Erstad; RF: Tim Salmon
Garret Anderson is the best left fielder in the American League. Center fielder Darin Erstad's determination is a big reason why the Angels won the World Series. Tim Salmon is a model pro who still has a lot of big hits left in him. Anaheim was the only AL team in our top 10 to have at least a .280 average from all three spots, and they averaged 103 RBI.

4. Reds

Top: Dunn, Griffey
Bottom: Kearns
LF: Adam Dunn; CF: Ken Griffey Jr.; RF: Austin Kearns
This one is based primarily on potential, and a return to greatness. Ken Griffey Jr. is due for another colossal season; what better time than in the year the Reds open their new park? Austin Kearns had a marvelous rookie season. Adam Dunn's future is as enormous as his size, assuming of course, he can adjust to the adjustments being made to him.

5. Twins

Top: Jones, Hunter
Bottom: Kielty, Mohr
LF: Jacque Jones; CF: Torii Hunter; RF: Bobby Kielty/Dustan Mohr/Mike Cuddyer
Their outfield hit 86 home runs last year, second most in our top 10. Jacque Jones gets better every year. Torii Hunter followed a breakthrough season in 2001 with an even better one in 2002. The right field contingent, led by Bobby Kielty and Dustan Mohr, combined for 23 homers and 85 RBI. But neither got much playing time during last year's postseason as Mike Cuddyer took over the spot. The outfield defense overall is terrific, led of course, by Hunter.

6. Diamondbacks

Top: Gonzalez, Finley
Bottom: Bautista
LF: Luis Gonzalez; CF: Steve Finley; RF: Danny Bautista
Left fielder Luis Gonzalez is only a year removed from a Musialian season. Steve Finley is the youngest 37-year-old on the face of the earth; he hit 25 homers and drove in 89 runs last year. The key is the return of right fielder Danny Bautista, who was really starting to hit when an injury cost him nearly three-quarters of last season.

7. Red Sox

Top: Ramirez, Damon
Bottom: Nixon
LF: Manny Ramirez; CF: Johnny Damon; RF: Trot Nixon
Manny Ramirez missed 42 games, and still hit 33 homers and knocked in 107 runs. Johnny Damon provides speed and some punch at the top of the lineup. Trot Nixon is due for bigger things, yet last season, Boston's right fielders did combine for 25 homers and 108 RBI.

8. Dodgers

Top: Jordan, Roberts
Bottom: Green
LF: Brian Jordan; CF: Dave Roberts; RF: Shawn Green
Brian Jordan will stay in L.A., and Shawn Green will stay in right field, not move to first base. Now it's up to center fielder Dave Roberts (45 stolen bases in 2002) to continue to progress. A replacement for Marquis Grissom, who was highly productive, must be found.

9. Mariners

Top: Winn, Cameron
Bottom: Ichiro
LF: Randy Winn; CF: Mike Cameron; RF: Ichiro
Randy Winn gives the M's an everyday left fielder (allowing Mark McLemore to move around more freely), assuming he hits (.298, 14 homers, 75 RBI) as he did last year with the Devil Rays. Mike Cameron needs a rebound season in center. Ichiro will win another batting title.

10. Cubs

Top: Alou, Patterson
Bottom: Sosa
LF: Moises Alou; CF: Corey Patterson; RF: Sammy Sosa
Their appearance on this list is predicated on the health of left fielder Moises Alou and the development of center fielder Corey Patterson, who doesn't have to be a great run producer with Sammy Sosa in right. Sosa is gunning for his ninth straight season of at least 100 RBI. Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Willie Stargell had nine 100-RBI seasons combined.

Tim Kurkjian is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a regular contributor to Baseball Tonight. E-mail tim.kurkjian@espnmag.com.

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