MLB Network ranked their top 10 in left field, and I believe I may disagree a good bit more with their rankings here than I did in CF. Here’s how they ranked them:
- Ryan Braun (MIL)
- Josh Hamilton (ANA)
- Matt Holiday (STL)
- Alex Gordon (KC)
- Bryce Harper (WSH)
- Carlos Gonzalez (COL)
- Yoenis Cespedes (OAK)
- Melky Cabrera (TOR)
- Martin Prado (ARI)
- Josh Willingham (MIN)
I see some glaring weaknesses in these rankings, and I also see some missing names. Let’s start with the guys that didn’t make my top 10. Melky Cabrera?? What impressed MLBN the most: the suspension for PED’s? the sub-par fielding metrics? the 11 home runs per season the last 3 years? the 13 stolen base average? I just don’t get it. Martin Prado is another one that makes very little sense to me. He’s an above-average (not great) fielder. That’s all I can give him. He isn’t lighting up the scoreboard with anything offensively. He isn’t blazing the basepaths. I just don’t understand how he made their list. A couple that were close to making my list were Alfonso Soriano (.801 OPS, 27 HR average the last 3 years, and has improved his defense of late), and Mike Morse (.861 OPS, 133 wRC+ the last 3 years, but he’ll be 31 next month, and has only played one full season). So, here are my top 10, right now, in left field.
#10 – Logan Morrison. Yes, too, has only played one full season. But, at just 25 years old, this guy has plenty of gas left in the tank. His OPS has been better than Prado, his home run production is better than Prado or Melky, and his run production is better than Prado and comparable to Melky (112 wRC+). He gets the nod over Melky because I don’t trust Melky’s numbers after the PED suspension. He gets the nod over Soriano and Morse because he’s 12 and 6 years their junior, respectively. With Stanton in the same lineup, Morrison could have a break-out year, if he can stay healthy.
#9 – Brett Gardner. I guess MLBN feels that one season lost to injury suddenly means a guy is no longer proven. How could you have a list of the top 10 left-fielders, and not include the best fielding left-fielder in the game? Granted, he isn’t a huge threat with his bat (.739 OPS the last 3 years), but he isn’t paid to hit home runs. He has the 5th best OBP the last 3 years of anyone on this list (.365), and the two years he was healthy, he averaged 48 stolen bases per season. He gets on base, steals a ton of bases, and is the best guy in left field in the game. I’d really like to know how MLBN thought Prado or Melky were better.
#8 – Josh Willingham. Terribly underrated. I’m pleased to see his name on MLBN’s list, but I think he’s a couple slots better than they have him. Granted, he’s entering his age 34 season, but he has shown no signs of slowing down. He’s a below average fielder, but he makes up for it with his bat. Only Cespedes, Holiday, Hamilton & Braun have better run production the last 3 seasons (133 wRC+). An .851 OPS, and an average of 27 home runs per year the last three puts him ahead of several more recognized names.
#7 – Matt Holiday. Vastly overrated. He’s going into his age 33 season (meaning, he is beyond his prime years), and over the last 3 seasons we’ve seen a steady decline in OPS and batting average, along with a steady increase in strikeouts (a career-high 132 last season). Yes, his cumulative numbers the past three seasons in St. Louis have been very good – which I imagine is why Holiday ranks so high on MLBN’s list. But, this downward trend, for an aging player means that younger, faster, better fielding guys should be ranked ahead of him. He’s still one of the best – but, he’s sliding down the list as he ages.
#6 – Bryce Harper. I think too many are jumping the gun on this kid – and I’m not sure I should have him this high. He has played one season. ONE! He’s going to have to make adjustments in the coming years, and this list is the top 10, right now; not the 10 with the most potential. That being said, he still performed very well last season, proving to be efficient with the bat (22 home runs, .817 OPS), on the bases (18 stolen bases), and in the field (9.9 UZR, 14 DRS). And, since he’s just going to be 20 this season, and will be playing the whole year in Washington, I would expect those numbers to get even better – provided there’s no sophomore slump.
#5 – Carlos Gonzalez. Yes, his home/away splits aren’t great. But, are we going to disregard the guy’s production just because he’s playing well at home? If CarGo were on a different team, then sure we might have him elsewhere on this list. But, he plays half his games in Colorado, and therefore belongs in the top 5, based on his production. A .918 OPS, averaging 27 home runs and 22 stolen bases the last 3 seasons. He’s not a great fielder (in fact, he’s below average), which is why he isn’t further up the list than he is.
#4 – Yoenis Cespedes. If all you look at is his totals from last season, you might not get the right impression. The first half of the season, Cespedes looked like he was never going to be able to hit an off-speed pitch, and the A’s might have wasted a lot of money. But, he made the adjustments, and I believe the Cespedes we should expect to see in 2013 showed up in the 2nd half of 2012 – .909 OPS, 14 home runs, 10 stolen bases, and just 54 strikeouts in 322 plate appearances. He rates out to be an average fielder, but at just 27 years old, he’s just hit his prime, and that very well could improve. He looks to be the complete package.
#3 – Alex Gordon. Few realize how great he is, because he plays in Kansas City. He has taken a little longer than some to begin reaching his potential, but he has emerged as a premier outfielder. Back-to-back Gold Gloves, and he’s probably second only to Brett Gardner overall in left field. Over the last two seasons (the years he has really broken out), he’s second only to Braun in WAR (12.8), and is 5th in wRC+ (133 – tied with Hamilton). His home run and stolen base totals aren’t staggering (average of 18 & 14, respectively, the last two years), but he has a very nice OPS (.850), and he led the league in doubles last season. Entering his age 29 season, Gordon has the potential to be at the top of this list a year from now.
#2 – Josh Hamilton. Yes, he’s 32, and he struggled down the stretch last season. Yes, at 32, his body might be closer to 36, because of the way he treated his body years ago. But, a .953 OPS and 33 home run average the last 3 seasons is hard to ignore. And, in spite of his struggles at times last year, did you notice that he still hit 43 home runs? I think he has a couple more really good seasons left in him. And, playing in the same lineup as Pujols?? Watch out.
#1 – Ryan Braun. There’s little doubt that his numbers the last few years speak for themselves (.947 OPS, 33 HR, 26 SB average the last 3 years, as well as being an above-average fielder). The only doubt right now is whether or not they have been enhanced by PED’s. But, at just 29 years old, he’s still in his prime, and should have another great year in 2013.