Left field is by far the worst position in baseball. It’s the only position that lacks both depth and top-tier talent. Most of these players have a case to be the designated hitter for their respective teams. While there are a lot of great hitters here, they are almost all one-dimensional players. That’s not to say that these guys can’t make a big impact on their teams; they can, and some of them might even put themselves in the MVP race with their towering home runs. Due to the lack of depth, there’s no need for honorable mentions, so let’s just get right into the top ten.
10. Alex Verdugo, BOS
Alex Verdugo is a passable, not great, starting left fielder. Since being traded to Boston as part of the package that sent Mookie Betts to Los Angeles, he’s sported an above-average bat, above-average baserunning abilities, and an above-average glove in left field. He can’t defend in center, but Jarren Duran will start there this season. Verdugo does everything pretty well but doesn’t stand out in any single facet of the game. He should be in line for another 2-3 win season in 2022.
9. Jorge Soler, MIA
Jorge Soler was a hero for the Braves during their World Series run in 2021 after being traded from Kansas City at the trade deadline. In 55 regular-season games for Atlanta, he slashed .269/.358/.524 with a 132 wRC+. He was bad in the field (-1 OAA) and on the bases (-4.3 BsR), so his fWAR was just 0.9 in that span. In the playoffs, Soler had a 145 wRC+ and came up with some huge hits. He fits better in the designated hitter role and sucks in the field, but his bat is good enough to warrant a top ten spot entering the year.
8. Michael Brantley, HOU
Michael Brantley is one of the most steady, consistent bats in baseball. He’s now 34 years old, but he’s put up a wRC+ of at least 120 in each of the last four seasons. He puts the ball in play a lot and finished the 2021 season with his fourth straight season hitting at least .300. Brantley smashes right-handed pitching; he has put up at least a 140 wRC+ against them in each of the last three seasons. Against lefties, he’s borderline unplayable. Although at 35 a move to designated hitter might make sense, he’s still a serviceable defender in left field.
7. Eloy Jimenez, CWS
Eloy Jimenez has been inconsistent but has shown flashes of a truly elite bat in his first few seasons. His career averages are solid – he’s hit .270/.316/.506 with a 117 wRC+ in his first 232 games. As with most left-fielders, he’s probably better suited as a designated hitter. He’s improved defensively, as he had a positive OAA rating for the first time in his career in 2021. However, he’s still put up -14 OAA through his first three MLB seasons. While the massive homers have some appeal, Jimenez leaves some to be desired as an all-around player.
6. Christian Yelich, MIL
Is it time to give up on Christian Yelich as a perennial MVP candidate? Probably. Is it time to give up on him as a top left fielder? Probably not. Yelich is entering his age-30 season coming off of back-to-back disappointing campaigns in 2020 and 2021. In 2018 and 2019, Yelich turned in two straight top-2 MVP finishes including winning the award in 2018 but his numbers have been down across the board since. In 2018 and 2019, Yelich had a 170 wRC+ and 15.5 fWAR, but in 2020 and 2021, he has a 105 wRC+ and 2.2 fWAR. If Yelich can regain that MVP form, he’ll easily be atop this list in 2023.
5. Jesse Winker, SEA
Jesse Winker was traded from Cincinnati to Seattle this offseason and joins a team that surprisingly won 90 games in 2021. Since the start of 2020, Winker has a 147 wRC+ and 4.6 fWAR in 668 PAs. Against righties in 2021, Winker slashed .346/.428/.642 with a 178 wRC+. He struggles against lefties, but he’s so good against righties that he still finds himself in the top five. Winker is another player who fits the mold for left fielders: great bat, questionable glove. He had -7 OAA in LF in 2021.
4. Kris Bryant, COL
A move from third base to left field has propelled Kris Bryant from a borderline top-10 player at his position to an absolute lock. At just 30 years old, Bryant might already be the most accomplished player on this entire list. He’s a four-time All-Star, 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Award winner, and 2016 NL MVP Award winner. He had a solid season in 2021 after a horrible 2020, putting up a 123 wRC+, 5.4 BsR, and 3.6 fWAR. Though he was once a solid defender at 3rd base, he’s no longer the same with the glove. In 2021, he put up -10 OAA across six different positions (1B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF). At Coors Field in 2022, he should hit some towering home runs and put up great numbers.
3. Joey Gallo, NYY
The discourse regarding Joey Gallo is quite polarizing. The traditional baseball fan hates his three true outcome approach, while the fans more inclined to sabermetrics love it. As for me, I’m torn on Gallo. Everything about Gallo’s peripherals would suggest that he’s one of the better hitters in baseball. However, the results aren’t always though. After getting traded to New York, he had just a 95 wRC+. From 2019 to 2021, Gallo had a 121 wRC+, 16.9% BB%, 35.6% K%, and 7.8 fWAR in 280 games. In 2021, he had a 123 wRC+, 4.2 BsR, and 6 OAA. He’s never been able to put everything together for a full season, but if he can, he has the ability to jump up to the top spot on this list.
2. Randy Arozarena, TBR
Randy Arozarena made a name for himself in the 2020 playoffs, slashing .377/.442/.831 with a .515 wOBA, 10 home runs, and a 240 wRC+. He backed that up with a solid season in 2021, posting a .274/.356/.459 slash line with a .350 wOBA and a 128 wRC+. An added bonus for Arozarena compared to other left-fielders is that he’s a competent defender. He had 7 DRS and 0 OAA in 612.1 innings as a left fielder in 2021. He’ll probably never eclipse his record-setting performance in the 2020 playoffs, but he won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2021 and should have another good season in 2022.
1. Tyler O’Neill, STL
Tyler O’Neill was called up in 2018 as one of the Cardinals’ top prospects but didn’t play a full major league season until 2021. He finally put it together in 2021, slashing .286/.352/.560 with a 144 wRC+, 4.7 BsR, and 4 OAA. He has the perfect combination of power and speed (.274 ISO and 29.7 ft/sec sprint speed), but his strikeout rate is somewhat concerning. He struck out in 31.3% of his plate appearances in 2021 while walking just 7.1% of the time. It raises questions about the sustainability of his performance, but if he can continue to put up 5 WAR seasons, who cares about the K’s?
Main image credit:
Embed from Getty Images