In recent years, the left field position has been a blend of what makes the other two spots across the outfield significant. It is home a variety of legit corner outfield power threats, but also features a stash of defensively significant, speed based threats as well.
This year is no different, as the position is home to a grouping of diversely talent players capable of changing the game at any part of it. There are standard bearers who change the game defensively first, to an extent that is shockingly impactful from the spot. There is also a blend of true power conduits, who’s first and foremost goal is to punish the seats beyond the wall. There are also extents of true Five-Tool players, who do a little bit –as well as a lot— of everything across all nine innings.
This all adds up to say there are a lot of ways to make it among the elite at a position that calls upon so many different types of players to make their mark for their respective clubs. But it is also a spot that calls for much from its top-tier producers to stand out amongst each other. So with that, let’s have a look at the best of the best at the very diverse position.
To see last year’s rankings of the position, click here.
10. Kyle Schwarber, Cubs (Not Ranked in 2015)
2015: .246/.355/.487, 16 HR, 43 RBI, 6 doubles, 52 runs scored, 3 stolen bases, .842 OPS
He made as big of a late season impact as any rookie in the game. After his late season promotion to Chicago, Schwarber made a habit of launching tape measure shots, launching 13 bombs over the final two months of the season. While he did have some adjustment difficulties once the league got a look at him, hitting .143 versus lefties and .214 over the final two months, his ability to change the game instantly was invaluable.
He played his best ball in the postseason, as he hit .333 and connected for 5 home runs, becoming the Cubs’ all-time postseason leader in the process (dwell on that). And as the currently converted catcher continues to get comfortable in left field, he should embark on the currently carved course of becoming one of the most feared power threats in the National League.
9. Matt Holliday, Cardinals (#7 in ’15)
2015: .279/.394/.410, 4 HR, 35 RBI, 16 doubles, 24 runs scored, 2 stolen bases, .804 OPS
Last 3 Years: .284/.382/.455 15 HR, 73 RBI, 28 doubles, 70 runs scored, 4 stolen bases, .837 OPS
Injuries severely limited Holliday a year ago, as he twice was sent to the disabled list with a quadriceps that limited him to 73 games. And even before the injury hit, his power numbers were drastically down and stayed low on the other side of his late season return, as hit connected for a career-low four home runs at
What did remain elite for Holliday was his on-base percentage however. He had a very strong first half in that regard before his first injury took him out. He posted a .394 mark on the year, which was fueled by his National League-record setting 45 game streak. If Holliday can re-emerge with a strengthened lower body again, he could remain a solid lower middle of the order presence, even if his elite power days are permanently behind him.
8. Christian Yelich, Marlins (#10 in ’15)
2015: .300/.366/.416, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 30 doubles, 63 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, .782 OPS
Last 3 Years: .290/.365/.406 7 HR, 38 RBI, 24 doubles, 64 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, .771 OPS
He overcame a very slow start to 2015 to post improvements across the board for a third consecutive year. This included career best in batting average and on-base percentage, while keeping his extra base hit, stolen base and runs scored levels consistent. He is rounding into becoming one of the more talented top of the lineup hitters in the National League, while continuing to play one of the best defensive left fields in the game.
A player that is entering his age-24 season and has continued to increase his power ratios, while not sacrificing his speed and continuing to increase his contact rate and batting average is a dangerously complete player. He matched his Wins Above Replacement level from his strong 2014 in 18 fewer games a year ago.
7. David Peralta, Diamondbacks (Not ranked in ’15)
2015: .312/.371/.522, 17 HR, 78 RBI, 26 doubles, 61 runs scored, 9 stolen bases, .893 OPS
Last 2 Years: .301/.351/.492, 12 HR, 57 RBI, 50 runs scored, 8 stolen bases, .842 OPS
Peralta made an understated impact at the core of the Diamondback lineup and played a major part in why they became one of the biggest sleeper successes in baseball a year ago. Peralta took full advantage of his first opportunity as a full-time starter, totaling 53 extra base hits, good enough to finish in the NL top 10 for slugging percentage and on-base + slugging. Add in the fact that he also led the circuit in triples as well, and the sudden intrigue that is Peralta is complete—almost.
Peralta’s late emergence as a hitter is due to the fact that he spent most of his early career as pitcher before converting to an everyday outfielder. With A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt hitting ahead of him, Peralta should continue to be fed plenty of at-bats with ducks on the pond to knock in.
6. Ryan Braun, Brewers (#7 in right field in ’15)
2015: .285/.356/.498 25 HR, 84 RBI, 27 doubles, 87 runs scored, 24 stolen bases, .854 OPS
Last 3 Years: .279/.346/.479 18 HR, 68 RBI, 24 doubles, 62 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, .825 OPS
Braun will be returning to the position where he originally rose to prominence in 2016, and will also be doing so on the heels of a renaissance year of sorts. Braun’s production had noticeably dipped post-PED suspension and was also fueled by a string of hand injuries. However, he showed a year ago that he still has plenty of hits left in his bat, and more.
Braun pulled his slugging percentage back up to the doorstep of .500, hitting 25 homers and driving in 84 amid a mostly injured and traded away Brewer lineup. He was a presence on the base paths once again as well, swiping 24 bags and scoring 87 runs.
5. Justin Upton, Tigers (#5 in ’15)
2015: .251/.336/.454 26 HR, 81 RBI, 26 doubles, 85 runs scored, 19 stolen bases, .790 OPS
Last 3 Years: .262/.344/.470 27 HR, 84 RBI, 29 doubles, 85 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, .814 OPS
Despite being saddled with the daunting task of Petco Park for a year, Upton proved that his power was Petco-proof, as he hit 15 of his 26 home runs at home. While never a ‘leading man’ in the sense of driving an offense single-handedly, Upton has been one of the most consistent power sources in the National League since breaking in as a 19 year old with the Diamondbacks. He has hit north of 26 home runs in four of the past five years, and reinserted the speed element back into his game last year as well, swiping 19 bases, his most since 2011.
As he relocates to Detroit this season, he will be hitting in one of the most enviable positions in the game: in front of Miguel Cabrera. An uptick in fastballs should come his way as a result, combined with having Ian Kinsler roaming the bases in front of him, should prove that his decision to bide his time and land with the Tigers could be a very healthy decision for him.
4. Starling Marte, Pirates (#3 in ’15)
2015: .287/.337/.444 19 HR, 81 RBI, 30 doubles, 84 runs scored, 30 stolen bases, .780 OPS
Last 3 Years: .286/.345/.446 15 HR, 57 RBI, 28 doubles, 80 runs scored, 34 stolen bases, .790 OPS
Marte’s varied attack upon a game of baseball continued to reach new heights last summer. In addition to his standard issue 30 stolen bases, wide-spanning defensive exploits (for which he netted his first Gold Glove) and .780+ OPS, Marte expanded his pure power and run production numbers as well. He clubbed career-highs in home runs, hits and RBI, while playing a career-best 153 games.
In the Pirates’ relentless offense, Marte has become an indispensable keystone atop the Pirates lineup. However, with the departures of Neil Walker and emergence of Gregory Polanco, Marte will be able to continue his growth as a run producer from the cleanup spot this season. With Polanco, Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen among those that will be ahead of him on a daily basis, Marte could stand to see yet another 20+ runs batted in attached to his 2016 total.
3. Alex Gordon, Royals (#1 in ’15)
2015: .271/.377/.432 13 HR, 48 RBI, 18 doubles, 40 runs scored, 2 stolen bases, .809 OPS
Last 3 Years: .267/.348/.428 17 HR, 68 RBI, 26 doubles, 72 runs scored, 8 stolen bases, .776 OPS
All in all, Gordon, who came in at the number 1 spot on this list a year ago, had a season that mostly lived up to his standard offering last year. He made his third consecutive All-Star Game, was playing the tremendous defensive that has become his calling card and was actually having his best offensive year overall in some time (44 defensive runs saved since 2013). He carries a strong career on-base percentage of .348, and the .377 mark he posted last year would have been a new career high if held over a full season.
However, a nasty groin injury took him out for a month and a half mid-summer, and it took him some time to get back into form. While his defense slid some (he missed out on a fifth consecutive Gold Glove) and his average dipped as well, that was to be expected as he essential rehabbed while still returning to the lineup. Gordon still remains one of the most versatile presences in all of the game, capable of both setting the table and regularly driving in runs as well (87+ runs scored as well as 70+ RBI in each of his past four full seasons). He was worth every penny of the Royals-record contract he inked to remain the face of the franchise and second greatest player in franchise history, and should continue to remain at the All-Star level he has made his custom.
2. Michael Brantley, Indians (#2 in ’15)
2015: .310/.379/.480 15 HR, 84 RBI, 45 doubles, 68 runs scored, 15 stolen bases, .859 OPS
Last 3 Years: .308/.366/.462 15 HR, 85 RBI, 39 doubles, 76 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, .828 OPS
Brantley proved that his breakout 2014 season was no fluke, as he continued to hit at an elite level in all of the game last summer. His 45 doubles led the American League, and overall, only Miguel Cabrera and Jose Altuve have hit for a higher average than his .319 since the start of 2014.
Brantley has quietly become one of the best hitters that (cliché time) “nobody talks about”. But over the past two seasons, his effectiveness at the plate has been at an irreproachable level at the position. A patient hitter who gets the most out of his at-bats, Brantley walked nine more times than he struck out last year, while also cutting his K’s while raising his walk total for the third straight year. He also has made the most of his time on base, by also leading the AL in overall doubles and being successful in 38 of his last 40 stolen base attempts. Brantley has 563 total bases over the past two seasons, as he is just a year removed from a 200-hit campaign and a top three finish in the 2014 AL MVP vote.
1. Yoenis Cespedes, Mets (#8 in ’15)
2015: .291/.328/.542 35 HR, 105 RBI, 42 doubles, 101 runs scored, 7 stolen bases, .870 OPS
Last 3 Years: .265/.309/.481 28 HR, 95 RBI, 33 doubles, 88 runs scored, 7 stolen bases, .789 OPS
From day one since he broke in with the Oakland A’s, Cespedes has been one of the most freakish athletes in the game, looking better suited to be strong safety in the NFL than a multi-tooled Major League outfielder. But the latter is what he is and few players have the buffet of abilities that Cespedes puts on display on a nightly basis. Whether it be launching the long ball over the fence at a break neck speed, hawking down a ball in the gap or letting loose a laser beam throw to cut down a runner, Cespedes is one of the rare players that can change the game in every aspect possible.
But what he did in he did in his breakout 2015 was a coming of age of sorts for Cespedes turning those tools into an every night impact. After a deadline deal that sent him to the Mets over from the Detroit Tigers, Cespedes produced full-season type numbers in the course of eight weeks. In 57 games, he hammered National League pitching to the tone of a 17 home runs, a .604 slugging % and .942 on-base + slugging percentage. Over course of his time in New York, the Mets’ offensive production increased by three runs per game, the majority reason why they were able to run away with National League East title. MVP’s are not won in two months’ time, but Cespedes certainly made enough people consider it as a rational possibility.
Just A Bit Outside: Brett Gardner, Yankees; Khris Davis, Athletics; Melky Cabrera, White Sox.