2016 Positional Power Rankings: Left Field

It wasn’t that long ago that left field was a bastion for sluggers. The position used to be the last refuge for lumbering players who couldn’t find playing time at first base or designated hitter, but things have changed in recent years, opening up left field to a number of well-rounded and glove-first performers. Below we’ll review them all, team by team, in keeping with our positional power ranking ways.

lf ppr 2016

If you wanted to characterize the state of the position, you might lead with the well-rounded players who occupy it, but also the fact that there are very few great left fielders. No team’s left field unit projects for more than 4.0 WAR, joining only second base and DH as positions with such low projections for the top spot. On top of that, there project to be many poor left field units, as no other position comes close to the ten teams which project to produce less than 1.0 WAR at the spot.

#1 Pirates

Starling Marte 623 .282 .337 .447 .339 13.3 2.0 9.2 3.9
Matt Joyce 49 .228 .319 .373 .305 -0.3 0.0 -0.3 0.0
Sean Rodriguez 14 .236 .281 .374 .285 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Willy Garcia 7 .239 .272 .400 .289 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Jake Goebbert 7 .238 .317 .378 .305 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .276 .334 .440 .335 12.5 1.9 8.9 4.0

Starling Marte is a legitimately great player who doesn’t get enough recognition for being a great player. There are all sorts of reasons why a player might fly under the radar and they pretty much all apply to the 27-year-old outfielder.

First, while the Pirates have been one of the league’s more consistent teams over the last few years, Pittsburgh is a smaller media market with less national attention in general. Second, Marte plays next to one of the game’s best and most marketable talents in Andrew McCutchen. Finally, while Marte is a good hitter, he also gets a good portion of his value by running the bases well and playing strong defense. The game’s leading left fielder plays in a small market, next to a superstar, and doesn’t provide value in a way that catches the eyes of the masses.

Matt Joyce probably didn’t pick the best organization in which to rebuild his value, but he’s probably in line if someone gets hurt. After years as a quality platoon outfielder, Joyce had an awful 2015 with the Angels and will try to earn his way onto the big club. Sean Rodriguez’s flexibility keeps him employed, but if he Willy Garcia, or Jake Goebbert spend much time in left field this season, it will hopefully be because the team locked up a playoff spot early and wants to rest its stars.

#2 Royals

Alex Gordon 602 .266 .352 .425 .338 9.0 1.0 10.3 3.6
Paulo Orlando 42 .250 .283 .356 .278 -1.4 0.1 0.4 0.0
Jarrod Dyson   28 .249 .308 .344 .288 -0.7 0.4 0.5 0.1
Reymond Fuentes 21 .264 .317 .368 .301 -0.3 0.1 0.2 0.1
Terrance Gore 7 .219 .278 .264 .246 -0.4 0.1 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .264 .345 .414 .330 6.2 1.6 11.4 3.7

From 2011 to 2014, Alex Gordon ranked seventh among position players in WAR and despite an injury in 2015 he performed about in line with that pace when he was on the field. Gordon’s above average bat, good base running, and strong defense make him one of the game’s best left fielders and the four year, $72 million deal he signed over the winter to stay with the defending champs makes him a bargain. At 32, Gordon is probably heading for his decline years, but he possesses a diverse set of skills and is coming off a high peak. If he stays healthy, he’ll anchor the Royals’ repeat effort.

If Gordon does have to miss time, fear not, because the Royals have a never-ending parade of fast, athletic outfielders to step in at a moment’s notice. Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando are likely to split time in right field this year but one of them can slide over to left field if needed, and if that doesn’t work, there are still two more really fast outfielders named Reymond Fuentes and Terrance Gore waiting in the wings. At this point, it’s probably reasonable to assume that the librarians and auto mechanics in Kansas City are also fast outfielders.

#3 Tigers

Justin Upton 581 .267 .349 .483 .357 17.6 1.7 -0.9 3.3
Tyler Collins 70 .244 .300 .382 .298 -1.2 0.1 -0.3 0.0
Mike Aviles 28 .248 .284 .353 .278 -0.9 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Cameron Maybin   21 .262 .320 .378 .306 -0.2 0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .264 .341 .464 .346 15.3 1.8 -1.5 3.3

Justin Upton is a casualty of the Mike Trout era. Under normal circumstances, a player who produced +27 WAR through age-27 would be considered a rousing success. Upton was picked first overall in one of the most stacked drafts in recent memory, and while he’s been successful, he’s also found a way to be a tremendously boring star in a game that’s becoming younger and more dynamic every year.

Upton steps into Yoenis Cespedes’ shoes in Detroit and will likely hit ahead of Miguel Cabrera for the Tigers this year. Cameron Maybin and Anthony Gose are slated to split time in center field, but both could wind up spelling Upton in left when he needs a day off. Tyler Collins might have had a chance at 200 or 300 plate appearances before the Tigers signed Upton, but he’s been doomed to Andy Dirks purgatory in which he’s probably capable of being a quality fourth outfielder but might not get a shot to prove it. Mike Aviles offers the team some flexibility should all else fail.

#4 Mets

Michael Conforto 399 .258 .320 .450 .330 6.5 0.1 2.4 1.8
Yoenis Cespedes 280 .264 .309 .481 .336 5.7 0.3 2.0 1.5
Alejandro De Aza 14 .249 .311 .383 .303 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Brandon Nimmo 7 .229 .308 .334 .286 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .260 .315 .460 .332 11.9 0.3 4.4 3.3

In a universe not too different from our own, the Mets acquired Carlos Gomez last July instead of Yoenis Cespedes. It’s impossible to know if the Mets won the pennant in this other universe, but it’s very likely that version of Cespedes didn’t sign with the Mets regardless.

In that universe, there is certainty in the Mets outfield in 2016 with Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson, and Gomez occupying the three positions. Instead, back in our universe, the Mets intend to play Cespedes, a feared hitter, in center field so that Conforto’s bat may also retain a lineup spot as the left fielder. While this seems like a savvy move for the sake of the offense, Cespedes didn’t exactly shine in center field in 2015. Small sample size warnings apply, but Cespedes cost his team three or four runs in just over 300 innings during the regular season and failed to alleviate concerns in the postseason.

Such troubling defensive indicators lead us to believe Cespedes might wind up getting quite a few reps in left, a position at which he excels, in order to improve the team’s overall fielding.

Both Cespedes and Conforto were more than 30% better than average at the plate in 2015 and project to be between 10% and 20% better than average this year. While it’s unclear how well Cespedes will be in center for a full season, Mets fans are probably happy to see a strong projection for Conforto is forcing the issue. The one player who probably isn’t thrilled with these developments is Alejandro De Aza, who signed with the Mets before Cespedes, and thought he had a clearer path to playing time. He and Juan Lagares, while somewhat displaced, can likely lay claim to being one of the better fourth/fifth outfielder combinations in the game.

#5 Marlins

Christian Yelich 595 .282 .356 .415 .338 9.2 1.5 5.6 3.0
Derek Dietrich 84 .244 .318 .417 .320 0.1 0.0 -0.6 0.1
Ichiro Suzuki 14 .250 .293 .313 .267 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.0
Cole Gillespie 7 .258 .316 .364 .298 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .277 .350 .412 .334 8.6 1.5 5.0 3.1

Among players with 700 plate appearances since 2013 (a minimum used to make this fact slightly more interesting), Christian Yelich trails only Chris Johnson in BABIP, with a .365 mark in 1,458 PAs. While sustaining a high BABIP over a long period is a pretty rare trick, Yelich has been a model of consistency, producing a 117 wRC+ in each of his three major league seasons. Combining that above average bat with a quality corner glove and good set of wheels puts Yelich a power breakout from being a perennial All-Star.

His likely backup, should he need one, is lefty Derek Dietrich. He’s never topped 300 PA in a season, so you aren’t likely to find him among many leaderboards that require 501 to qualify, but Dietrich’s power numbers have been impressive in small samples, slamming 24 HR in 705 career PA to go with his .186 ISO. The projection systems buy that power even if no one really buys him as a full-time defender in the outfielder. He’ll get some reps around the infield as well, but Dietrich will get most of his chances in left and as a PH/DH. If Yelich goes down, the Marlins have totally competent hitter to fill the void. Ichiro is around for defense and entertainment purposes.

#6 Indians

Michael Brantley   497 .298 .362 .447 .349 12.8 1.3 -1.6 2.5
Rajai Davis 140 .249 .295 .379 .294 -2.6 0.7 -0.4 0.1
Joey Butler 28 .256 .325 .396 .317 0.0 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Zach Walters 21 .237 .278 .433 .304 -0.2 0.0 0.1 0.0
Jose Ramirez 14 .260 .314 .372 .300 -0.2 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .284 .343 .429 .334 9.9 2.0 -1.9 2.7

Indians fans looking at their outfield projections should take comfort in the fact that things were almost much worse. Until recently, it looked like 2014 MVP Finalist Michael Brantley was going to miss a significant portion of the 2016 season. His wolverine-like healing abilities, however, seem to be on par with his elite contact skill. Since the start of 2014, Brantley leads qualified hitters with a 91.8% contact rate. While that’s impressive enough, he’s maintained that mark while also running a .175 ISO. Other players who have a .150+ ISO and 87+% contact rate during the same period: Victor Martinez, Jonathan Lucroy, and Buster Posey.

While Brantley has flashed superstar abilities and seems likely to be an above average player while on the field, his recovery is no sure thing and the Indians will likely have count on a few hundred at bats from a cast of supporting characters, none of whom are long term fixes if Brantley needs to miss a lot of time.

Rajai Davis can handle left-handed pitching, run the bases, and wear a funny looking oven mitt on his hand while sliding. Zach Walters can provide some power. Joey Butler isn’t terrible. Together, Brantley’s backups blend themselves into a useful player, but if any one of them is called on to take the job full time there could be issues.

#7 Cubs

Kyle Schwarber 329 .256 .341 .485 .355 9.6 0.4 -2.6 1.5
Jorge Soler 231 .260 .325 .448 .331 2.4 0.2 -1.7 0.6
Ben Zobrist 70 .273 .356 .431 .342 1.3 0.0 -0.1 0.3
Shane Victorino   49 .246 .305 .369 .296 -0.9 0.2 0.7 0.1
Kris Bryant 14 .268 .361 .496 .369 0.6 0.0 0.1 0.1
Matt Szczur   7 .249 .299 .344 .284 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .258 .335 .458 .341 12.9 0.8 -3.7 2.6

If you’ve read the preceding posts in this series you’re probably used to the idea that the Cubs project to be amazing in 2016 and their left field situation tells that story quite well. While the Cubs are not projected to have the best left field in the league, they probably have more depth at the position than any team.

With Jason Heyward and Dexter Fowler in line for most of the playing time in right field and center field, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler will share the duties in left. Schwarber obliterated the minor leagues en route to his callup last year in which he had no trouble adjusting to major league pitching, posting a 133 wRC+ in 273 PA. The projections expect a touch of regression, but his high walk, high power mix is good enough to get him into any lineup, despite the need for growth in the outfield.

Soler, the one likely to get a bit less playing time in this strong platoon, struggled in 2015 after an eye-opening 97 PA run in 2014. Soler’s minor league success points to a bounceback campaign with plenty of power of his own. And if the Cubs should need to dig deeper, they have the option of moving Ben Zobrist into a corner, and a host of other depth options if things get dicey.

#8 Cardinals

Matt Holliday 336 .271 .362 .435 .346 8.3 -0.9 -2.6 1.2
Tommy Pham 210 .259 .321 .408 .317 0.2 0.6 1.0 0.7
Stephen Piscotty 84 .269 .330 .416 .324 0.6 -0.1 0.4 0.3
Randal Grichuk 63 .251 .297 .453 .321 0.3 0.0 0.2 0.2
Anthony Garcia 7 .235 .303 .386 .302 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .265 .340 .425 .332 9.2 -0.4 -1.0 2.4

I know this going to come as a shock to regular readers of FanGraphs, but the Cardinals enter the 2016 season with many solid baseball players who are capable of playing more than one position. Note how the club has five quality outfielders, and one Matt Adams, that looked poised to rotate among LF, CF, RF, and 1B. For that reason, the precise WAR rankings for each position don’t tell the whole story.

Like the Cubs and definitely not like the Indians, the Cardinals have insurance everywhere. Matt Holliday is likely going to get the most reps in left field, but he’s also penciled in for quite a bit of first base as well. Prior to 2015, Holliday was one of the most durable and reliable performers in the game. He still hit reasonably well when he was on the field last year but he registered just 277 PA in 73 games. If you believe Holliday’s last year was more injury than decline, there’s a good chance he’ll anchor the Cardinals lineup in 2016. But if he’s showing signs of a more substantial breakdown, his near Hall of Fame level career might be reaching its twilight.

His supporting cast in left doesn’t have the resume he does, but there is plenty of talent among them. Tommy Pham displayed a good eye and excellent power in 173 major league PAs last year, registering a .209 ISO. Even factoring in some regression, he figures to be an average hitter this year. The club will also be able to rotate in Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty from the other outfield slots, depending on how the defensive alignment shakes out and the platoons settle in other spots.

#9 Yankees

Brett Gardner 560 .256 .331 .400 .320 0.5 2.3 4.1 2.0
Aaron Hicks 70 .244 .319 .393 .311 -0.4 0.1 0.3 0.2
Dustin Ackley 35 .257 .314 .417 .317 -0.1 0.0 0.3 0.1
Chris Denorfia 21 .252 .306 .367 .295 -0.4 0.0 0.2 0.0
Mason Williams   14 .240 .293 .338 .277 -0.5 0.0 0.2 0.0
Total 700 .254 .327 .398 .318 -0.9 2.3 5.1 2.3

The Yankees depth chart in left is a good reminder of how the position has changed in recent years. While Brett Gardner has grown into his power in recent years, he’s known more for his glove and his wheels than slugging homers. Aaron Hicks, at his best, has been the same kind of player. Hicks joins the Yankees this year and seems to be in line for time at every outfield spot. He probably hasn’t shown enough to be an everyday player on a contender, but complementing the Yankees’ aging outfield with fresh legs is a nice way to ease him into that potential future.

Dustin Ackley’s career certainly hasn’t gone the way most expected it to when he was taken one pick after Stephen Strasburg in the 2009 draft. While Ackley’s 2011 debut was impressive, he’s failed to be an above average hitter in each of the four seasons since, finally leaving Seattle in a trade last year. He’ll have a fresh start in a utility role in 2016.

#10 Rays

Desmond Jennings 455 .245 .317 .381 .308 -1.7 1.6 5.5 1.6
Brandon Guyer 140 .259 .330 .379 .314 0.2 0.4 0.3 0.4
Corey Dickerson 70 .260 .309 .453 .325 0.7 -0.1 -0.1 0.2
Mikie Mahtook 28 .237 .286 .362 .283 -0.6 0.0 0.1 0.0
Taylor Motter 7 .248 .302 .380 .297 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .249 .317 .387 .310 -1.6 1.9 5.8 2.3

The Rays are what the Cardinals might look like after a few sleepless nights. The roster is filled with quality, interchangeable parts, but rather than being brand new and shiny, they’re a bit more damaged. Desmond Jennings is slotted in left field, but Brandon Guyer and Corey Dickerson are bound to get some chances there as well as Jennings spells Kevin Kiermaier on his days off or takes some of his own.

Jennings, the one time heir to the Carl Crawford throne, had a really rough 2015 season. After four straights seasons of above average performance, a left knee injury kept him out of the lineup for most of the year and held his performance back even when it didn’t. He failed to provide value with his glove or on the bases and his power was decimated. You could imagine him hitting the ground running in 2016 and reclaiming his place among good, not great outfielders, but if he can’t find his footing, the Rays can count on Dickerson and Guyer to cover for him.

#11 Brewers

Ryan Braun 525 .278 .343 .479 .352 11.8 0.2 -3.1 2.1
Rymer Liriano   105 .239 .306 .382 .301 -1.9 0.0 0.9 0.1
Colin Walsh 49 .228 .319 .347 .296 -1.1 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Ramon Flores 14 .260 .329 .415 .324 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Shane Peterson 7 .247 .316 .377 .304 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .268 .335 .453 .339 8.8 0.2 -2.4 2.2

Under new management, the Brewers seem poised to suck with a purpose in 2016. David Stearns appears to be in the midst of a thorough tear-down. However, left field is one of the spots on the team that doesn’t resemble scorched earth, thanks to Ryan Braun.

Braun’s baggage makes him hard to trade for value, but if the Brewers are going to avoid the cellar in 2016, it will be on his back. The former MVP actually had a fine year in 2015, popping off 25 HR and delivering a .213 ISO in 568 PA. His glove remains problematic, but despite not returning to his pre-suspension level of offense, his 119 projected wRC+ should be enough to keep things somewhat interesting in Milwaukee.

A nasty hit-by-pitch put Rymer Liriano’s season in doubt, which thins out the team’s depth to a degree.. If they have to dig into the law firm of Walsh, Flores, and Peterson for at bats in left, the only people who will be happy are the Cincinnati Reds.

#12 Dodgers

Carl Crawford 280 .266 .308 .399 .306 -1.3 0.8 -0.2 0.5
Scott Van Slyke   210 .249 .333 .422 .329 2.7 -0.2 2.4 1.0
Andre Ethier   105 .266 .339 .417 .328 1.3 -0.1 -0.2 0.3
Trayce Thompson 91 .230 .283 .403 .297 -1.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Alex Guerrero 14 .241 .283 .400 .296 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .256 .316 .409 .315 1.4 0.5 2.1 1.9

Compared to a normal person, Dave Roberts is in an enviable position. He’s the manager of a major league baseball team! And not even one of the bad ones. But Roberts has the unenviable task of managing a team determined break the record for time spent on the disabled list.

Just a few days ago, Andre Ethier looked poised to receive the a good number of reps in left, but a broken leg will delay his attempt to build on his strong 2015 season. Rather than counting on Ethier and juggling playing time for him, Carl Crawford, and Scott Van Slyke, Roberts is likely going to platoon Crawford and Van Slyke until Ethier returns and forces a reconsideration.

There was a time when Crawford’s blend of defense, speed, and solid bat made him one of the better players in the league, but as he’s worn down into his thirties his best case scenario is probably slightly above average performance on the whole. Van Slyke fought injuries in 2015, but when healthy he is capable of facing off against whatever lefty comes his way while more than holding his own in an outfield corner.

#13 Astros

Colby Rasmus 490 .233 .304 .436 .319 0.6 1.2 -0.4 1.3
Preston Tucker 119 .249 .304 .423 .314 -0.4 0.0 -0.3 0.2
Jake Marisnick 70 .241 .287 .376 .288 -1.6 0.2 0.8 0.1
Andrew Aplin 21 .243 .324 .331 .292 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .237 .303 .424 .315 -1.9 1.4 0.1 1.6

I’m not really one to speak up for the idea of destiny, but Colby Rasmus and the Astros finding each other did kind of seem preordained. Rasmus is athletic, he hits for power, and he strikeouts a ton. If the Astros were a player, they might be Colby Rasmus.

It worked out well in 2015 for both sides, but Rasmus found himself on the receiving end of a qualifying offer and made the decision to be the first player to accept it, giving him another chance to embody the Astros while being an Astro. With Carlos Gomez and George Springer covering the other two outfield spots, the club’s reserve outfielders, the slugging Preston Tucker and speedy Jake Marisnick, will be able to play more to their strengths.

#14 Orioles

Hyun-soo Kim 490 .272 .337 .424 .329 3.1 0.0 0.0 1.5
Nolan Reimold 175 .233 .306 .358 .293 -4.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Henry Urrutia 21 .267 .305 .382 .299 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Mark Trumbo 14 .255 .309 .470 .333 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .261 .328 .407 .319 -1.1 -0.1 0.0 1.5

Earlier in the offseason, Jeff threw a Nick Markakis comp on Hyun-soo Kim, proving once and for all that the Orioles are fans of familiarity. When it came time to build the 2016 Orioles they went with Kim, a player somewhat similar to their former star, while also retaining Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Comfort is important to the Orioles, so when they went shopping for more players, they went with high strikeout, power potential guys who would fit the mold in Baltimore.

Now of course the Markakis-Kim comp is mostly just guesswork. It’s hard to grab players from totally separate leagues and forecast what they’re going to do in the majors, but Kim looks capable of holding down left field and avoiding the 612th season* in which Nolan Reimold manages to get several dozen unremarkable plate appearances for the O’s.

*number is an estimate

#15 Twins

Eddie Rosario 595 .257 .289 .414 .301 -8.3 0.2 6.8 1.3
Eduardo Escobar 70 .258 .305 .401 .306 -0.7 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Miguel Sano   35 .253 .341 .498 .359 1.1 -0.1 -0.2 0.2
Total 700 .257 .293 .417 .305 -7.8 0.1 6.5 1.5

Eddie Rosario got called to the show in 2015 despite a pretty unimpressive Triple-A showing at age-23, but that didn’t get him down. In fact, he thrived on the surprising Twins, playing good defense, running well, and hitting for good power (.192 ISO). The problem with Rosario is that he doesn’t command the strike zone, walking less than 4% of the time in 2015 while punching out in about one-quarter of his trips.

If the word toolsy didn’t already exist within the baseball lexicon, surely someone would invent it for Rosario. He can run, throw, and mash, he just can’t seem to figure out when the ball is going to cross the plate and when it isn’t. A little refinement could go a long way.

The other options in left are going to depend on how well the other newcomers perform. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano will get their shots to hold center and right field, but the Twins have Oswaldo Arcia ready to fill in, as well as whichever of Eduardo Escobar and Danny Santana isn’t in the game at short. Also lurking is rising star Max Kepler, who could be putting pressure on Rosario before long. The Twins are a team dripping with potential, but there’s an element of boom or bust in the projections for most of their key players.

#16 Athletics

Khris Davis 525 .240 .310 .430 .321 3.0 -0.6 -3.1 1.2
Chris Coghlan 70 .241 .319 .378 .305 -0.5 0.1 -0.1 0.1
Coco Crisp 49 .242 .317 .366 .301 -0.5 0.2 0.1 0.1
Mark Canha 35 .253 .319 .406 .317 0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Sam Fuld   14 .221 .295 .320 .274 -0.4 0.0 0.1 0.0
Jake Smolinski 7 .245 .315 .398 .312 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .241 .312 .417 .316 1.6 -0.4 -3.1 1.5

What do Bryce Harper, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, and J.D. Martinez have in common? Well, lots of things. They’re all excellent baseball players, but specifically, they have all had a lower ISO than Khris Davis (.244) since the start of 2013. In fact, there are only nine players (min. 1,000 PA) who have a higher isolated power than Davis during that period.

His power will be challenged by a more cavernous home ballpark this year, but his 60 HR in under 1,200 career PA indicate he’s up to the task. ZiPS and Steamer split the difference between his strikeout and walk increase in 2015 when spitting out his 2016 projection, but they are both forecasting a pretty substantial decrease in power and overall offensive performance, even when adjusting for park effects. The Fan Projections are having none of it, predicting a three win season for the slugger.

If Khris Davis should fail, get injured, or find himself on the receiving end of a Billy Beane trade, the A’s have a number of other options in left. With Josh Reddick and Billy Burns likely to control the other two outfield spots, Chris Coghlan, Coco Crisp, Mark Canha, and Sam Fuld will all be available to rotate in as needed.

Coghlan is unquestionably the most interesting. While the projections suggest he’s a below average hitter, he’s solidly above average for his last 1,000 big league plate appearances. What happened before 2014 remains relevant, but this is definitely a case in which the projections open themselves up to ridicule if he has a strong season. The A’s took advantage of the Cubs gluttony of outfielders and made that gamble.

#17 Mariners

Nori Aoki 490 .269 .332 .356 .306 -2.4 -1.2 0.8 0.9
Seth Smith 140 .246 .331 .410 .322 1.1 -0.1 -0.2 0.4
Franklin Gutierrez   70 .238 .292 .412 .305 -0.4 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .262 .328 .373 .309 -1.7 -1.3 0.6 1.4

The Mariners figure to have a three-man carousel in the outfield corners utilizing Nori Aoki, Seth Smith, and Franklin Gutierrez. In left, we expect to see Aoki and Smith sharing the job, which is one of those extremely delightful things that only happens in baseball. Aoki is listed at 5’9” and 180 pounds while Smith is listed at 6’3” and 210. Physical size aside, Aoki puts everything in play and hits mostly singles while Smith walks and strikeouts out more often at hits for much more power.

These two men have the same job on the same team! The projections see them both taking a small step back compared to 2015, but if they can maintain their previous performance they’ll help the Mariners contend out west.

#18 White Sox

Adam Eaton 448 .274 .347 .396 .327 2.6 1.1 -2.3 1.2
Melky Cabrera 133 .282 .329 .412 .321 0.2 -0.1 -1.0 0.2
J.B. Shuck 112 .257 .312 .335 .286 -3.0 -0.1 -0.2 -0.1
Daniel Fields 7 .214 .285 .336 .275 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .272 .337 .389 .319 -0.4 0.9 -3.5 1.3

We probably could have filled in the White Sox outfield depth chart with the shrugging emoji. It’s not a question of who will play, but rather of where they will play. The Sox have Adam Eaton, Austin Jackson, and Melky Cabrera slated for most of the reps, but at this point it’s anyone’s guess exactly how the alignment will shake out. For now, we’re forecasting Eaton as the primary left fielder, but it might be Melky. If it’s Melky, go read what Carson wrote in the right field rankings.

Everyone is on board with Eaton as a good base runner, but there is disagreement elsewhere in his game. While he’s been a solidly above average hitter in each of the last two seasons, the projections aren’t buying the 118 wRC+ he’s posted over the last couple seasons. He provides a solid approach without too many strikeouts and decent pop for someone his size, but he’s also the kind of player who relies heavily on good BABIP numbers and some bad luck could really sap his value.

On defense, he’s an enigma. UZR hates him, DRS loved him one year and hated him the next. He’s certainly shown the talent necessary to make difficult plays, so he seems to be someone who could have an execution or positioning problem. Moving to a corner could take some of the pressure off.

#19 Red Sox

Rusney Castillo 420 .265 .311 .383 .304 -6.9 -0.3 5.2 0.8
Chris Young 175 .240 .311 .418 .315 -1.3 0.2 0.7 0.4
David Murphy 70 .262 .313 .394 .307 -1.0 -0.2 -0.5 0.0
Brock Holt 35 .274 .332 .366 .308 -0.5 0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .259 .312 .392 .307 -9.6 -0.2 5.2 1.2

A year removed from experimenting with Hanley Ramirez in the outfield, the Red Sox are running quickly in the other direction. Rusney Castillo has had a rough time at the plate in the majors (83 career wRC+) and the projections aren’t optimistic there’s much more in the 28 year old’s bat. On the other hand, you know who loves Castillo? Defensive metrics. They can’t get enough of him. He saved 15 runs according to DRS in just over 600 innings last year. UZR called it about 10.

The Red Sox went from employing the worst left fielder to one of the best left fielders and the pitching staff is likely to thank them for it. The question will be how much Castillo can hit, and if professional lefty-facer Chris Young gets called in for some of the tougher assignments.

#20 Nationals

Jayson Werth 497 .255 .340 .411 .329 4.1 0.5 -6.0 0.9
Ben Revere 105 .302 .333 .364 .306 -1.1 0.7 -0.7 0.1
Matt den Dekker 49 .252 .309 .395 .307 -0.5 0.1 -0.1 0.0
Tyler Moore 35 .240 .299 .412 .308 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Clint Robinson 7 .250 .325 .384 .311 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Chris Heisey 7 .233 .303 .388 .301 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .261 .334 .402 .323 2.1 1.3 -6.9 1.1

Projecting Jayson Werth is a complicated endeavor. He was great in 2013 and 2014, but had an injury plagued disaster of a season last year. While some of that was a low BABIP that’s due for some positive regression, it’s hard to say how much more he has left entering his age 37 season.

It’s tough to be a bad team with Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez in tow, but the Nationals look like a much less formidable club than they have in years past. Ben Revere will likely spell Werth in left via Michael Taylor in center, yet it’s hard to imagine a big year from the Nationals without a bounce back year from the bearded left fielder.

#21 Padres

Jon Jay 350 .259 .333 .347 .299 -3.3 -0.1 1.3 0.5
Jabari Blash 175 .223 .298 .416 .311 0.0 0.0 -0.8 0.3
Melvin Upton 140 .214 .287 .355 .281 -3.4 0.3 0.2 0.0
Wil Myers 35 .258 .330 .433 .330 0.5 0.0 -0.4 0.1
Total 700 .241 .315 .370 .300 -6.2 0.1 0.3 0.9

There’s actually a pretty good case to be made for Jon Jay. His 2015 was terrible (57 wRC+), but if you’ll forgive his injured wrist it’s easy to imagine the 31-year-old outfielder could return to his pre-2015 form. Jay’s a capable defender with an above average bat, albeit one that relies on sustaining one of the higher BABIPs in the league. That approach worked for five seasons in St. Louis and if he’s fully healthy, there’s no reason it can’t work in San Diego.

Jabari Blash is also in position to prove himself. The 26-year-old is too old to be have never played in the majors and still be considered a prospect, but no one who received 200 or more PA in Triple-A last year had an ISO better than Blash’s .376. We can’t say how well he’ll adjust to major league pitching, but if Jay can’t find his old form, the Padres have a guy who has earned a chance to demonstrate his abilities at the highest level.

#22 Rangers

Ian Desmond 455 .244 .300 .408 .308 -6.6 0.9 1.4 0.6
Josh Hamilton   140 .257 .312 .440 .322 -0.5 0.0 -0.6 0.2
Justin Ruggiano 70 .246 .317 .421 .321 -0.3 -0.1 -0.3 0.1
Drew Stubbs 21 .217 .288 .346 .280 -0.8 0.1 0.0 0.0
Delino Deshields   7 .250 .326 .359 .304 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Ryan Rua 7 .231 .288 .381 .293 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .246 .304 .413 .311 -8.5 0.9 0.5 0.9

During Ian Desmond’s three-year peak, it would have been pretty reasonable to refer to him as the Carlos Gomez of shortstops. He didn’t quite possess Gomez’s skill on the bases or in the field, but he provided positive value in both arenas while providing a similar kind of offense. Yet Desmond’s growing difficulty with the high fastball added to his strikeout numbers and decreased his power in 2015, forcing him to settle for a one-year deal with the Rangers as a left fielder.

He’ll likely split time with Josh Hamilton when he returns to action later this season. Hamilton still possess game-changing power, but his discipline remains a serious impediment to success. Given Hamilton’s off-field struggles, it’s difficult to predict exactly how he’ll perform on the field, but you can always dream on his talent.

#23 Giants

Angel Pagan 315 .264 .309 .356 .292 -3.9 0.8 -3.6 0.0
Gregor Blanco 280 .261 .336 .365 .307 -0.1 0.3 -1.0 0.5
Jarrett Parker 56 .223 .300 .377 .297 -0.5 0.0 0.2 0.1
Brandon Belt 35 .265 .340 .448 .340 0.9 0.0 0.4 0.2
Kyle Blanks   14 .246 .314 .406 .315 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .259 .321 .367 .301 -3.4 1.1 -4.0 0.8

Left field is the only position at which the Giants project for fewer than +2.5 WAR. The projections are buying heavily into Angel Pagan’s decline, who didn’t hit for any power last year in his first full season since 2012. Pagan is now four years removed from his last great season, but if he can get back to his solid 2013-2014 levels the Giants will be happy to call him their worst regular.

And even if Pagan really has lost his magic, Gregor Blanco is arguably baseball’s most underrated player. He’s turned in four straights seasons with at least +2 WAR without ever crossing the 600 PA threshold. He combines a good eye with good contact skills and handles himself well on the bases and in the field. No one would confuse him with a superstar, but assuming his oblique injury is nothing serious, he’s perfectly capable of carrying the heavy side of a platoon for a championship caliber club.

#24 Blue Jays

Michael Saunders 245 .246 .323 .415 .321 0.2 0.4 1.4 0.8
Dalton Pompey 175 .247 .311 .369 .298 -3.0 0.7 0.6 0.2
Ezequiel Carrera 105 .254 .304 .351 .288 -2.6 0.4 -0.8 -0.1
Domonic Brown 91 .245 .296 .396 .299 -1.5 0.0 -1.1 -0.1
Darrell Ceciliani 70 .245 .290 .365 .285 -1.9 0.1 -0.4 -0.1
Junior Lake 14 .240 .293 .377 .293 -0.3 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .247 .310 .385 .303 -9.1 1.5 -0.3 0.8

For a two and a half year run from 2012 to 2014, Michael Saunders looked like he was really putting it together in Seattle. He was an average corner outfielder being asked to play center field too often, but it was pretty clear that he had the talent to stick in the show. Unfortunately, he’s had a horrible run of health that’s prevented him from having the same impact over the last season and a half. If he can remain on the field and settle back into that player, the Blue Jays will have a solid compliment to their impressive core.

If Saunders isn’t an option, the Jays stand ready to deploy an army of one tool players like Ezequiel Carrera, Domonic Brown, and Junior Lake while they wait to see if Dalton Pompey is ready for prime time.

#25 Rockies

Gerardo Parra 427 .291 .336 .429 .330 -4.3 -0.1 2.4 0.7
Ryan Raburn 175 .258 .331 .442 .334 -1.3 -0.1 -1.7 0.1
Brandon Barnes 63 .254 .303 .384 .299 -2.2 0.0 0.1 -0.1
Ben Paulsen 35 .256 .309 .436 .321 -0.6 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .278 .330 .429 .328 -8.4 -0.3 0.9 0.7

Gerardo Parra made sense for the Rockies in a vacuum, but trading Corey Dickerson for a reliever to open up space to pay Parra was kind of a weird thing for a non-contender to do. Parra’s versatility makes him interesting, and he flashed some surprising power in 2015, but given that his only great year looks like it was built on defense and he’s getting older, there’s not a ton of upside here.

Ryan Raburn, while not necessarily a better player, is easily more interesting. Raburn spent years in Detroit being terrible in the first half only to mash in the second half, then shifted to an every other year pattern after moving on to Cleveland. He’s murder on lefties and his raw power could shine at Coors. Raburn also holds the distinction of producing the widest range of possible outcomes on defense. He’s delivered incredible throws and miraculous catches while also spiking throws into the ground and knocking a ball over the fence to assist with a home run. Raburn is sometimes great and sometimes terrible, but he’s never boring.

#26 Angels

Daniel Nava   420 .239 .323 .338 .296 -4.8 0.1 0.0 0.5
Craig Gentry 210 .235 .291 .306 .266 -7.4 0.9 2.8 0.1
Todd Cunningham 35 .249 .298 .334 .279 -0.9 0.0 0.2 0.0
Rafael Ortega 35 .237 .299 .319 .275 -1.0 0.0 0.7 0.0
Total 700 .238 .311 .327 .285 -14.0 1.1 3.7 0.7

The Angels are a testament to the fact that it’s essentially impossible to simultaneously suck and employ Mike Trout. Without him, they’d be near the bottom of the American League. While they probably should have acquired one of the big names to handle left field for them this year, a Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry platoon could actually work. Although ZiPS and Steamer are skeptical.

Nava’s struggled over the last couple of seasons, but mix a thumb injury and a crowded situation in Boston and you can understand why he’s had a hard time finding his footing. He’s more than capable of mashing righties and Gentry is an average hitter against lefties while also providing outstanding defense and plenty of speed. They’d probably benefit from some sort of surgery that blends them into a single player, but it’s not unreasonable to think the Angels could stumble into some decent production if both players land on the positive side of their median projections.

#27 Braves

Hector Olivera 420 .259 .319 .392 .310 -2.0 -0.2 -1.1 0.6
Michael Bourn 133 .245 .308 .327 .282 -3.6 0.3 0.0 -0.1
Nick Swisher 84 .225 .314 .370 .302 -0.9 -0.2 -0.3 0.0
Ender Inciarte 28 .277 .318 .372 .303 -0.3 0.1 0.3 0.1
Kelly Johnson 21 .232 .298 .388 .299 -0.3 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Emilio Bonifacio 14 .242 .291 .316 .268 -0.5 0.1 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .252 .315 .375 .303 -7.7 0.1 -1.5 0.6

Hector Olivera is one of the true wild cards on this list. Not only do we have almost no major league data on which to draw, Olivera only has 222 plate appearances between the minors and majors in his career. He was a hot commodity last year when he finally became eligible to sign with MLB teams and he was a key piece of a major midseason trade, but we’re also basically guessing when it comes to his 2016 outlook.

Sadly for Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, it’s no longer 2009 to 2012. Back then, they were both very good baseball players. Now they’re just baseball players who probably wouldn’t be baseball players if, in 2012, Cleveland hadn’t arranged to pay them through the 2016 season.

#28 Reds

Scott Schebler 245 .230 .290 .402 .298 -4.6 0.2 -0.5 0.0
Adam Duvall 175 .241 .289 .460 .321 -0.1 0.2 -0.7 0.3
Jesse Winker 133 .256 .328 .409 .321 0.0 0.0 -0.2 0.3
Yorman Rodriguez 70 .242 .285 .392 .294 -1.6 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Jake Cave 56 .234 .283 .329 .270 -2.3 0.0 0.0 -0.1
Kyle Waldrop 21 .232 .267 .351 .268 -0.9 0.0 -0.1 -0.1
Total 700 .239 .295 .409 .305 -9.5 0.4 -1.5 0.4

It’s probably not wise to admit this in front of regular readers and my editors, but I couldn’t pick a single member of the Reds left field possibilities out of a lineup. This reads like a list of fake names a baseball video game would generate to fill out the low minors rosters. If NL Central monitor Alex Chamberlain had literally made them up, I wouldn’t have known until writing this post. There are just 219 career major league plate appearances among them, meaning that if the Reds stick with the alignment we’ve proposed here, they will likely triple their combined career playing time before Halloween.

#29 Phillies

Peter Bourjos 280 .226 .297 .358 .286 -7.3 0.2 2.7 0.1
Cody Asche   245 .257 .309 .413 .311 -1.5 -0.1 -2.3 0.1
Tyler Goeddel 105 .242 .294 .370 .290 -2.4 0.1 0.0 0.0
Nick Williams 35 .249 .284 .405 .298 -0.6 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Darnell Sweeney 21 .230 .291 .357 .284 -0.6 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Darin Ruf 14 .241 .308 .404 .310 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .241 .300 .383 .296 -12.5 0.1 0.1 0.2

I don’t actually know if the physics supports it, but when your car skids on a patch of ice people say you’re supposed to turn into the skid. The Phillies have taken that advice to heart. They’re careening all over the interstate and hoping the car straightens out.

They’ve made a lot of good moves to put themselves on track for the future, but that comes at the cost of the present. While Peter Bourjos can run down baseballs with the best of them and Cody Asche was recently a promising third base prospect, but the likelihood that either does much of anything in 2016 is minimal. But that’s actually a good thing. If you’re really looking to turn a franchise around quickly, pulling out all the stops to win 75 games instead of 60 is probably detrimental. The fans will come back in droves once the team is good, so while it’s painful to see the Phils so low on all of these lists, it’s going to help them survive the storm.

#30 Diamondbacks

Socrates Brito 294 .259 .288 .378 .288 -8.4 0.4 2.0 0.0
Yasmany Tomas 196 .262 .298 .422 .311 -2.1 -0.3 -2.0 0.0
Rickie Weeks 105 .225 .310 .371 .302 -1.8 -0.1 -0.9 -0.1
Peter O’Brien 70 .236 .279 .455 .313 -0.6 0.0 -0.8 0.0
Brandon Drury 35 .254 .292 .378 .291 -0.9 -0.1 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .253 .293 .397 .299 -13.9 -0.1 -1.5 -0.1

Even if the Diamondbacks project to have the worst group of left fielders in all of baseball this year, they have to rank near the top when it comes to our proprietary wName+. They have a player named Socrates and a player named Yasmany. If baseball was a cool name contest, our projections would be terrible.

Unfortunately for the Snakes, that’s not how it works and relying on Brito and Tomas to handle most of the left field duties probably won’t end well. Yasmany Tomas was legitimately terrible during his debut season, running an 88 wRC+ with bad defense, but there tools all seem to be there. No one doubts his raw power, and if the Diamondbacks stick him in a corner and don’t mess with him, he’ll probably be good enough not to notice on defense. The problem is his lack of plate discipline, something he’ll need to rectify soon if he doesn’t want to find himself riding the bench all year.

Brito had a nice year in Double-A in 2015 and performed well in a cup of coffee in the bigs, but so much of his minor league value was BABIP driven and major league defenders don’t give away hits like they do in the minors. Peter O’Brien has tremendous power, but it’s not clear if he’ll strikeout too much for it to matter. There are tools in left for the Diamondbacks, but they’re a bunch lacking refinement. If the club’s stars have them in the hunt this summer, look for the front office to shop for an outfielder.


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Neil Weinberg is the Site Educator at FanGraphs. He is also the Managing Editor at Beyond The Box Score and can be found writing enthusiastically about the Detroit Tigers at New English D. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @NeilWeinberg44.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
2 months 2 days ago

Derek Dietrich in the field? The man’s a born DH if there ever was one.

2 months 2 days ago

The weird thing is that he’s not that far-removed from being a passable shortstop in the minors.

Brian Reinhart
2 months 2 days ago

If baseball was a cool name contest, then the All-Star Game would just be Arquimedes Euclides Caminero pitching to Socrates O. Brito.

Hang on: there’s a Monty Python sketch about that!

2 months 2 days ago

I certainly hope one of Saunders or Pompey can beat those projections.

2 months 2 days ago

Last 2yrs:

Saunders (29): 299pa, 1.9fwar
Pompey (23): 146pa, 0.4war
Carrera (28): 265pa, 0.4war
Ceciliani (25): 75pa, 0.3war

I’d say odds are good they do.

2 months 2 days ago

Odds are probably just as good that they don’t, too.

2 months 2 days ago

The odds that one of them beats the projection must be close to 75%, right?

2 months 2 days ago

I’m just waiting for the CF rankings to see how much bigger Mike Trout’s epeen bar is than everyone else’s.

Baron Samedi
Baron Samedi
2 months 2 days ago

“well-rounded and glove-first performers”

That’s a kind way of saying this position is a steaming heap of trash that no team cares about.

Shirtless Bartolo Colon
2 months 2 days ago

Well-rounded almost never means glove-first. Unless you count behind-the-back assists.

2 months 2 days ago

You’re not well-rounded, just round.

Jason B
Jason B
2 months 2 days ago

At 32, Gordon is probably heading for his decline years


2 months 2 days ago

I’m skeptical about some of the fielding projections. Schwarber at only -2.6, even though he looked like a disaster in left field? Gregor Blanco at -1.0, even though he can play a passable center field? Maybe I’m making too much out of small samples, but those two, just to cherry-pick, look off.

Brians Sticky Sock
Brians Sticky Sock
2 months 2 days ago

He looked bad during inopportune times during the playoffs when the entire baseball world was watching. He didn’t look “good” during the regular season, but he wasn’t a disaster either. His body makes it tough to catch at the major league level, mostly because he’s thick and it makes crouching for low pitches tough, but he has the athleticism to play LF.

2 months 2 days ago

So there is a pretty strong consensus among knowledgeable Pirates fans (and knowledgeable baseball fans in general) that Marte should be the teams center fielder. It’s pretty evident that Cutch has declined defensively – all metrics show a strong dip since 2013 – which in itself was a bit of an anomaly to the prior years. And simply as someone who watches the Pirates play almost everyday, it can be painfully obvious at times. His range and speed are not what they use to be and that’s compounded by the fact he’s dealt with a pretty sore lower body throughout last year. On top of that, his arm, which never was a huge strong suit for him, is also quite poor. Marte is a superb defender, and while he still makes the occasional boneheaded mistake, would be a massive upgrade over Cutch. The problem is, left field at PNC Park is one of the most difficult left fields to play in the majors. It is deep with a stomach high wall and a weird notch towards left center. It’s definitely not a position where you can hide a subpar defender, that would be right field at PNC, which is where we play Polanco. I wouldn’t feel totally comfortable putting Polanco there yet. He has amazing tools as a defender and a rocket arm, but he’s still very raw and makes a lot of dumb plays. Cutch still has enough range and takes good routes that left field would workout well. So in an ideal world, I would love for Cutch and Marte to trade spots. Alas, its a moot point. I see no way we ask the franchise player to move from his throne.

Today's Play
2 months 2 days ago

I know there’s a question of playing time and projections rightfully lean conservative but is there anyone who believes that Michael Brantley won’t beat his 2.5 WAR 2016 projection published here?

2 months 2 days ago

Minor shoulder injuries have a way of being problems.

oh Hal
oh Hal
2 months 2 days ago

Did the analysis of the Brewers come from a drinking buddy? Who was the editor of this… article?