2015 Positional Power Rankings: Left Field

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data below is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems, with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position.

Yes, we know WAR is imperfect and there is more to player value than is wrapped up in that single projection, but for the purposes of talking about a team’s strengths and weaknesses, it is a useful tool. Also, the author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

Did you know the saying “out of left field” most likely came from base runners being surprised by a throw from left field that gunned them down at home when they were trying to score? You keep being out of left field, Yoenis Cespedes. Onto the power rankings! First, a chart:

2015-left-field-positional-power-rankings

It’s Kansas City’s favorite day of the week, folks. Atlanta, not so much. Texas — erm, we may or may not have had to adjust the scale of the y-axis to accommodate the Rangers. Your pain is our pain, Arlington. Now the rankings, with lots of words included:

#1 Royals


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Alex Gordon   637 .270 .344 .433 .342 13.3 1.3 13.9 4.6
Jarrod Dyson 35 .248 .308 .324 .284 -0.8 0.4 0.5 0.1
Terrance Gore 21 .206 .264 .247 .236 -1.3 0.1 -0.1 -0.1
Reymond Fuentes 7 .243 .304 .340 .289 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .266 .339 .420 .335 11.1 1.8 14.4 4.7

Last year, Alex Gordon was the poster child for how valuable defense can be to overall WAR. Whether you agree with it, or whether you think his name anywhere near the words “best position player” is royally unwelcome, the fact remains: Alex Gordon was much better in left field during 2014 compared to everyone else in baseball. The main reason for this was a rash of injuries and talent drain at the position, but his great, deterrent arm and solid overall offensive production didn’t hurt his cause.

The bottom line is that Gordon didn’t get substantially better at defense in 2014. Still, his spot atop the left field rankings isn’t likely to change this year unless his offseason wrist surgery severely impacts his offense: with plus defense and a consistent bat for the past four years (he’s posted a wRC+ mark of at least 122 every year except 2013), Alex Gordon remains the clear-cut top left fielder in the game. With 150+ games played each season dating back to 2011, Gordon’s backups will serve as off-day fill-ins unless a serious injury occurs.

#2 Tigers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Yoenis Cespedes 595 .271 .320 .473 .345 13.1 0.6 4.3 3.4
Tyler Collins 70 .238 .291 .384 .299 -0.9 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Rajai Davis 35 .266 .310 .376 .304 -0.3 0.3 -0.4 0.0
Total 700 .267 .317 .459 .338 11.9 0.9 3.7 3.5

It’s fair to say that the Tigers got an upgrade at this position after ranking 27th last year on this list. Yes, Detroit newcomer Yoenis Cespedes is better than the combination of Rajai Davis and Andy Dirks, but he remains an enigma: on one hand, we see him gunning people down trying to take an extra base with his preternaturally incredible arm (perhaps intentionally misplaying balls to do so), but then he continuously frustrates with his peripheral numbers, especially strikeout and walk rates. Heading into his fourth year stateside, perhaps we need to accept this is who he is: a very good but not great player, sitting in the 3 WAR range.

Capable of flashes of brilliance on both offense and defense, Cespedes should continue to supply good power numbers, disappointing strikeout and walk rates, and slightly above-average defense. He shows an increase in projected WAR from this time last season, mostly due to a slight bounce-back campaign in 2014 and improved defense in left field. We might not see the offensive player Cespedes was during his rookie season of 2012 (136 wRC+) for Oakland, and we might never see the full realization of his mercurial talent, but Cespedes remains a top option in left field. With time on the 15-day DL in both 2012 and 2013, Cespedes could leave a little playing time open for prospect Tyler Collins and veteran Rajai Davis.

#3 Yankees


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Brett Gardner 595 .258 .330 .399 .325 3.4 2.7 9.7 3.1
Chris Young 70 .226 .304 .402 .312 -0.3 0.1 0.8 0.2
Tyler Austin 35 .237 .291 .370 .294 -0.6 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .253 .326 .398 .322 2.6 2.9 10.4 3.4

2014 was a great year for Brett Gardner, as he saw his home run total (17) double over his previous career high, augmenting his trademark base running skills. Fueled in large part by him finally taking advantage of the aggressive manner in which he’s been pitched during his career, he changed his approach in 2014 to pull more pitches into the air. From Jeff’s article last August, here is the percent of balls over Gardner’s career hit in the air that have been pulled:

2008: 22% air balls pulled
2009: 22%
2010: 21%
2011: 26%
2012: injured (basically all year)
2013: 24%
2014: 34%

That adjustment caused his HR/FB rate to rocket to 11%, again almost double his previous career best, transforming Gardner from a pesky slap hitter into a power threat. Entering his age-32 season, the question is how the parts of Gardner’s game that rely on his legs – namely his base running and defense – respond to his age, as well as how he will respond to the pitching adjustment that is sure to come following his 2014 season.

Adding to the Yankees’ left field mix is Chris Young, who should chip in with the odd home run when the baseball gods deem it wise to grant him such a gift, and prospect Tyler Austin, a power prospect trying to regain his stroke after a bad wrist injury in 2013.

#4 Red Sox


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Hanley Ramirez 490 .281 .354 .462 .359 14.9 0.2 1.7 3.0
Brock Holt 105 .268 .319 .358 .302 -1.3 0.1 -0.1 0.1
Daniel Nava 70 .261 .341 .377 .322 0.2 0.0 0.2 0.2
Allen Craig 35 .267 .324 .418 .328 0.2 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .276 .346 .435 .345 14.0 0.1 1.6 3.4

The train carrying most of the 2015 load of embarrassing riches plowed in Boston this offseason, exploding Hanley Ramirez into positions previously unknown. The Red Sox are another big mover in these rankings, as they sat all the way down in 18th at the start of last season. We know Ramirez can hit, posting a wRC+ of 191 and 135 in the past two respective injury-shortened seasons of 2013 & 2014; the main question is whether he will be defensively adequate with a move to left field, and whether he can stay healthy. Our projections are bullish on the former but less optimistic of the latter, assuming at least one semi-lengthy absence due to injury.

Fortunately, if such an injury occurs, the Red Sox have a lot of options. Daniel Nava and utility man Brock Holt are the most likely to pick up any slack, with Allen Craig likely factoring in at some point as he makes his rounds in the outfield. Most teams would dream of having most of those names as a starter, not just competing for extra at-bats, which highlights how strong the Red Sox are overall and in left field.

#5 Marlins


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Christian Yelich   595 .274 .349 .415 .339 10.1 1.5 7.2 3.3
Ichiro Suzuki 105 .272 .307 .345 .289 -2.3 0.3 0.2 0.0
Total 700 .274 .343 .404 .332 7.8 1.8 7.4 3.3

Christian Yelich got his first full season under his belt in 2014, and he showed us what the fuss is about. Still only 23, and coming off a season for Miami that saw him post the third-best WAR at his position, Yelich seems primed to continue that production with upside for improvement. Posting a HR/FB rate well under what his batted ball distance dictated in 2014 (due mostly to Marlins Park), he brings speed and plus defense to left field for Miami. That speed, along with a high ground ball rate (61%), saw him post an elevated BABIP in 2014 (.356), showing some regression may be in order in the average/on base department. If some of those grounders turn into flies, however, we could see a power spike, but the fact remains that Yelich is still a very good player as it currently stands.

The Marlins also signed Ichiro Suzuki to a one year deal, creating a great juxtaposition at left field in Miami: Yelich was only nine when Ichiro made his debut in 2001. Maybe the 41-year-old can show the new guy one or two things.

#6 Pirates


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Starling Marte 490 .273 .329 .433 .336 9.0 1.9 6.7 3.0
Corey Hart 105 .251 .311 .408 .317 0.4 -0.1 -0.9 0.2
Andrew Lambo 42 .245 .298 .423 .315 0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Jose Tabata 35 .269 .325 .367 .310 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Jaff Decker 28 .221 .303 .348 .292 -0.4 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .266 .323 .422 .329 9.1 1.7 5.5 3.3

Starling Marte was incredibly consistent in 2013 and 2014, posting wOBAs of.344 and .358, respectively. Even though he saw his defensive value go from positive to negative last year, due in large part to a calamitous 160 inning stint in center field, he still has one of the best quality of batted balls in all of baseball. Marte’s strikeout and walk rates leave a lot to be desired, but here’s the thing: those rates haven’t mattered so far in his career.

Marte strikes out more and walks far less than the league average, but he beats the odds with his incredibly unsustainable, sustainable BABIP. His BABIP for the past three years, starting in 2012: .333, .363, and .373. That screams regression, but as August pointed out, when you hit tons of line drives, don’t pop out, and are really fast, you can keep it from regressing. And so Marte has, and so Marte hopefully will, and so Marte is awesome.

As long as he continues to maintain that batted ball profile, he’ll keep putting up his great mixture of power, speed, and on base numbers. Assuming he doesn’t have to man center field this year, his defensive numbers will also return to their positive levels, buoyed by his impressive speed. If Marte makes a trip to the DL (as he has for the past three seasons), his left field duties would largely be assumed by veteran Corey Hart, who provides power at the expense of defensive value.

#7 Indians


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Michael Brantley 560 .294 .351 .432 .344 14.7 1.5 -1.0 3.0
David Murphy   63 .257 .318 .390 .313 0.2 -0.1 -0.3 0.1
Zach Walters   56 .234 .270 .449 .313 0.1 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Mike Aviles 21 .246 .276 .357 .280 -0.5 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .284 .339 .427 .336 14.5 1.3 -1.4 3.2

Everyone loved Michael Brantley’s 2014, and why not – he was the biggest breakout player last year in the outfield. That breakout was brought on by a few years’ worth of improvements, coalesced around an ignition switch: a change in fly ball angle. In short, he started pulling his fly balls last year, and that caused his home runs to double, and voila — here we are, ranking the Indians 7th, far ahead of last year’s 15th. He was the fourth-ranked overall outfielder by WAR in 2014, so what gives? Why is he the main piece in only the 7th-ranked team out of just left fielders this year?

Fickleness, thy name is baseball! As Eno points out in the article linked above, Brantley’s possible regression mainly concerns the aforementioned fly ball angle, which correlates iffily year to year. Basically, there’s about a 50-50 shot that Brantley pulls his fly balls like he did last year. If he does, great, but if he doesn’t, his numbers will look a little more like his 2013 than his 2014. That’s ok, because 2013 Michael Brantley is valuable in his own right, providing great contact skills and speed. The main drawback is his defense, which has graded negatively every year except 2012.

Among Brantley’s backups are the eternal David Murphy, and intriguing all-or-nothing prospect Zach Walters, who was Javier Baezesque in his limited playing time during 2014.

#8 Padres


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Justin Upton 560 .256 .339 .442 .344 15.3 1.1 -1.7 2.8
Carlos Quentin 105 .238 .327 .420 .332 1.9 -0.2 -1.2 0.3
Tommy Medica 35 .228 .292 .398 .306 -0.1 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .252 .335 .436 .340 17.2 1.0 -2.9 3.1

In two out of three of these outfield power rankings, we can point at the marquee player for a team in the top 10 and say, “hey look, they were on the Braves last year!” In the third, the Braves are ranked 30th. Yikes. The Padres’ left field situation was bolstered by one of those former Braves this past offseason, as Justin Upton went west to the place where fly balls go to die, San Diego. Coming off of two great years in 2013 and 2014 in Atlanta in which he posted wOBAs of .357 and .363, respectively, the question about the consistent Upton in 2015 is just how much Petco will influence his power numbers.

The answer might not be as much as you’d think, as Upton was 7th in average home distance last year, providing some insulation from the power drop most hitters face when moving to Southern California. Another question are his stolen bases, kept in check in Atlanta, which could provide a renewed source of value for the 27-year-old if he’s allowed to run. Backing up Upton is the oft-injured, largely forgotten Carlos Quentin and Tommy Medica, both of whom will find a hard time getting any playing time in a stacked outfield unless someone gets injured. Recent history indicates that probably won’t be Upton, who has played in at least 149 games per season since 2011.

#9 Cardinals


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Matt Holliday 476 .275 .363 .453 .360 16.9 -1.1 -3.0 2.4
Peter Bourjos 119 .244 .303 .378 .303 -1.0 0.4 1.7 0.4
Randal Grichuk 105 .241 .279 .415 .304 -0.8 -0.1 0.3 0.2
Total 700 .264 .340 .434 .342 15.2 -0.8 -1.0 2.9

A strong second half in 2014 saved what looked to be the first real decline year for Matt Holiday, as he hit 14 home runs with a .387 wOBA from July 18th onward. That should provide an idea of what he is still capable of, as he has remained one of the most consistent offensive outfielders in baseball for the past 10 years. Still, entering his age 35 season, Holliday’s WAR has trended downward for three straight years, driven by his poor defensive skills and slowly slipping offensive numbers. A return to anything near his peak form is very unlikely, but when you’re talking about Matt Holiday, that’s still pretty good.

Peter Bourjos brings great, limited value as a late-inning defensive replacement and base runner, while newcomer Randal Grichuk is still weighed-down by platoon issues. Both are still likely to see a little playing time in left field, and, with their skill sets, provide some value: base running (Bourjos), power (Grichuk), and defense (both, but Bourjos more so than Gricheck).

#10 Nationals


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jayson Werth   525 .281 .368 .446 .360 17.4 1.0 -3.7 2.7
Michael Taylor 70 .226 .286 .362 .289 -1.5 0.1 0.5 0.0
Mike Carp   35 .248 .317 .398 .318 0.1 -0.1 -0.3 0.0
Nate McLouth   35 .236 .311 .353 .298 -0.5 0.1 0.0 0.0
Kevin Frandsen 35 .266 .305 .344 .290 -0.7 -0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .270 .351 .425 .344 14.8 1.1 -3.6 2.8

The perma-bearded left fielder in Washington is coming off of a similar campaign to his counterpart in St. Louis, though it’s fair to say Jayson Werth’s skill set is more well-rounded than Holliday’s, and should age more gracefully. Even if Werth might not surpass 20 home run campaigns regularly anymore, his offensive value is supported by many strong points: even with his lowest power output in a full season during his career in 2014, his wOBA of .377 ranked 7th for all outfielders, almost exactly the mark of Yasiel Puig (.379). That company should give us an idea of how valuable on offense the 36-year-old has been recently, though there is one big question mark headed into 2015: off-season shoulder surgery.

Werth still hasn’t started hitting in games yet following the January surgery, and, while he claims he’ll be ready for opening day, that seems murky. Should he be forced to miss time in April and moving forward (likely given his age and the nature of the surgery), a bevy of players stand in reserve, the most exciting of whom is power/speed prospect Michael Taylor. Still in search of the contact skills required to succeed at the major league level, Taylor nevertheless is an interesting prospect given his potential. After him, a trio of outfielders will compete for at-bats in the crowded Nationals outfield.

#11 Dodgers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Carl Crawford 420 .275 .316 .406 .318 2.5 1.7 2.0 1.6
Scott Van Slyke 210 .249 .333 .428 .337 4.3 -0.4 0.9 1.0
Alex Guerrero 35 .248 .297 .396 .307 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Andre Ethier 35 .260 .334 .394 .321 0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .266 .321 .412 .323 7.0 1.3 2.7 2.7

The platoons begin! Carl Crawford required his usual six weeks of paid time off in 2014 due to a sprained ankle, though he bounced back to put up his best offensive season in many years: his stolen base total of 23 showed there’s still life left in his legs, and he popped a few home runs in the 105 games he featured in, as he is wont to do. The projections have him largely mirroring last year, with the same lengthy DL stint that has become customary.

Assuming at-bats against left-handers and off the bench is Scott Van Slyke, who has shown great power numbers and walk rate in his limited opportunities over 2013 and 2014. He’d be a starting outfielder on a lot of teams: the Dodgers aren’t like other teams, however, so Van Slyke is left to pick up the platoon pieces and any starts he can scrounge in the outfield and at first base. Andre Ethier and the young Alex Guerrero take the leftover scraps for the Dodgers in left field.

#12 Blue Jays


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Michael Saunders   525 .246 .322 .420 .327 3.9 1.4 5.0 2.4
Kevin Pillar   70 .265 .297 .397 .305 -0.7 0.1 -0.1 0.1
Dalton Pompey 35 .237 .295 .352 .290 -0.8 0.1 -0.1 0.0
Steve Tolleson 35 .235 .295 .340 .285 -0.9 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Chris Colabello 35 .234 .292 .411 .310 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .247 .316 .410 .320 1.4 1.5 4.6 2.5

The left field situation started in a scary way for Toronto in 2015, as Michael Saunders tore the meniscus in his left knee during early workouts in February, requiring surgery. Fortunately, he’s expected to be back by mid-April, ready to showcase his intriguing blend of power and speed. Saunders also had an injury-shortened 2014, but improved his strikeout rate and posted a career-high ISO, showing he could finally be reaching his potential going into his age-28 season. Should he stay healthy, a 20/20 year is not out of the question, given his move to the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. Backing up Saunders is a quartet of role players, the most intriguing of whom are Kevin Pillar and fast-rising Dalton Pompey, whose moniker needs no introduction.

#13 Rays


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Desmond Jennings   350 .242 .318 .380 .312 1.7 1.5 1.1 1.3
David DeJesus 140 .236 .318 .362 .306 0.0 -0.3 0.2 0.3
John Jaso 70 .249 .338 .387 .325 1.0 -0.1 -0.5 0.2
Brandon Guyer   70 .253 .313 .372 .306 0.0 0.2 0.1 0.2
Steven Souza   70 .237 .308 .408 .316 0.6 0.0 0.1 0.2
Total 700 .242 .319 .379 .312 3.2 1.3 1.1 2.3

Desmond Jennings is expected to vacate his usual center field spot in 2015, moving mainly to left field, where he featured in 2012. In a way, that switch underlines the gloss that came off Jennings last year, as he followed up a strong 2013 with regression in almost every counting category. A knee injury at the end of last year possibly puts his activity on the base paths in question going into 2015, but hope remains: Jennings is only 28, and has previously shown himself to be an exciting, impact player capable of good defense and a useful blend of speed and pop. Our projections build in an injury stint as well as time in center field, with David DeJesus stealing some at-bats versus right-handed pitchers. The trio of John Jaso, Brandon Guyer, and Steven Souza will pick up stray at-bats.

#14 Angels


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Matt Joyce   350 .242 .330 .400 .324 4.7 0.3 -0.6 1.3
Josh Hamilton   245 .250 .311 .421 .319 2.4 0.1 -0.4 0.8
Collin Cowgill 105 .233 .294 .340 .286 -1.6 0.1 0.7 0.2
Total 700 .243 .318 .398 .316 5.5 0.5 -0.3 2.3

It’s difficult to know exactly where to start with the Angels’ left fielders. We’d expect to be discussing Josh Hamilton and his continued decline, but he is now in limbo due to both offseason shoulder surgery and a possible suspension. A precipitous drop in O-Contact% during the past few years, along with a seeming refusal to adapt to being thrown a league-low number of fastballs, has ballooned Hamilton’s strikeout rate and dropped his counting statistics. When he does return this year, we project an aged slugger with poor defense who dispatches the odd fastball over the fence.

Instead, we’re looking at major time in left field for Matt Joyce, who has seen his own decline fueled by a drop in fly ball and batted ball distance. Coupled with his stark platoon numbers, that decline might open the door for more playing time for Collin Cowgill, a strikeout-prone hitter with a little speed and power.

#15 Brewers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Khris Davis 350 .250 .316 .463 .342 5.8 -0.3 -0.8 1.2
Gerardo Parra 287 .264 .320 .390 .313 -1.6 -0.2 4.6 0.9
Logan Schafer 35 .230 .292 .342 .282 -1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Shane Peterson 28 .244 .316 .377 .309 -0.2 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .255 .317 .423 .326 2.9 -0.6 3.6 2.1

Khris Davis put up a big power season in 2014, parlaying his powerful swing into 22 home runs. That power comes with a classic drawback, however, as his below-average strikeout and walk rates leave something to be desired. Davis will never be a contact hitter, but an improvement in those rate statistics could see him vault to a very good offensive player (his strong AAA walk rates show he may have it in him). Gerardo Parra is likely to form a platoon with Davis in the outfield, as the former shows a strong righty/lefty split at the plate. Parra also adds strong defense to the position, so late game defensive replacements might also be in store for Davis.

#16 Athletics


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Coco Crisp   525 .252 .327 .388 .318 3.3 2.2 -2.0 1.6
Sam Fuld 70 .232 .306 .328 .286 -1.3 0.2 0.1 0.1
Craig Gentry 35 .254 .320 .325 .291 -0.5 0.3 0.6 0.1
Ben Zobrist 35 .264 .350 .408 .336 0.7 0.0 0.2 0.2
Mark Canha 35 .239 .307 .376 .305 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .250 .325 .379 .314 2.2 2.6 -1.2 2.1

Oakland will shift regular center fielder Coco Crisp to left in 2015 in an effort to keep the veteran healthy for most or all of the season — that may prove difficult, as Crisp hasn’t played over 136 games in a season since 2007. His combination of on-base skills, stolen bases, and pop would make him a more valuable player if it weren’t for father time starting to catch up; declining steals, defense, and a trend in the wrong direction related to ground ball/fly ball rates make Crisp’s 2015 outlook murky.

Stepping in for Crisp should he get injured, as well as providing the inevitable platoon-heavy lineups the A’s are known for on Crisp’s off days, is Sam Fuld — a slap hitter with base running and defensive upside. Craig Gentry, Ben Zobrist, and rookie power prospect Mark Canha will assume the rest of the few remaining plate appearances.

#17 Rockies


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Corey Dickerson 560 .287 .336 .510 .365 11.0 -0.9 -3.5 1.9
Brandon Barnes 140 .255 .299 .399 .308 -3.4 -0.2 1.2 0.0
Total 700 .281 .329 .487 .354 7.6 -1.1 -2.3 1.9

Corey Dickerson officially broke out in 2014, posting great power numbers, a little speed, and league-average strikeout and walk rates. That was good for a wOBA of .399, good for 5th among outfielders with a minimum of 450 plate appearances. Some of that was the Coors Field effect, as he posted wRC+ of 171/102 in his home/road splits, but he did hit nine home runs away from home, showing it isn’t just the thin air taking the ball out. The main question is whether he will garner a full season of playing time in a very crowded Rockies outfield; if so, his value may exceed the projections, but for now, he figures to share at least some time with Brandon Barnes, an all-or-nothing Coors-dependent power hitter.

#18 White Sox


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Melky Cabrera 595 .292 .341 .436 .342 10.7 -0.4 -5.3 1.9
J.B. Shuck 70 .253 .306 .333 .286 -1.7 0.0 0.0 0.0
Emilio Bonifacio 35 .248 .303 .329 .284 -0.9 0.2 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .286 .336 .420 .333 8.0 -0.3 -5.4 1.9

To say that Melky Cabrera has ridden a roller coaster for the past few years is a pretty big understatement. He broke out in a huge way in 2011 for the Royals, disqualified himself from winning a batting title in 2012 with the Giants after violating the league’s drug policy, was ravaged by injuries in 2013, then bounced back in a major way in 2014. His true talent likely resembles something close to last year: a contact hitter with some pop, a few walks, and below-average defense that resides somewhere near the .350 wOBA mark. The speed/contact combo of J.B. Shuck should spell the Melkman in some plate appearances against right-handers, with Emilio Bonifacio doing his usual “play every position on the field” routine in a few games.

#19 Mariners


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Dustin Ackley 525 .250 .313 .383 .309 -0.1 1.2 3.4 1.7
Rickie Weeks 154 .223 .308 .361 .302 -0.9 0.1 -1.3 0.1
Justin Ruggiano 21 .237 .300 .386 .306 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .244 .312 .378 .307 -1.0 1.2 2.0 1.9

Ah, Dustin Ackley. It seems like only yesterday that he was batting over .400 in college, earning the second-overall pick in the 2009 draft. Unfortunately, it wasn’t only yesterday, and his years in the majors have been a bumpy ride to get where he is now. Ackley is perhaps only a little more than an average major league left fielder: a little pop, an average average, a few stolen bases, and neutral defense. Ackley is projected for 100 wRC+. That sums it up. It’s also really far from what a lot of people expected out of him, but it’s useful, and if he can maintain the power production from 2014, there’s maybe a little more than meets the eye. Rickie Weeks will try to show that he’s not totally done against his share of left-handers, providing some power and a few stolen bases in his likely strict platoon role.

#20 Orioles


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Alejandro De Aza 490 .262 .321 .395 .317 0.3 0.0 2.4 1.5
David Lough   105 .252 .293 .372 .294 -1.8 0.1 1.1 0.2
Delmon Young 70 .261 .299 .403 .310 -0.4 -0.2 -0.4 0.1
Travis Snider 35 .251 .320 .428 .329 0.3 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .260 .314 .394 .313 -1.5 0.0 2.9 1.8

2013 was a flashy year for Alejandro De Aza, as he hit 17 home runs, stole 20 bases, and compiled 84 runs. Unfortunately, those marks masked deficiencies in De Aza’s game, including an ever-increasing strikeout rate, that saw him post just below a league-average mark in wRC+ (98). The power regressed in 2014, taking the eye-catching numbers away, leaving us with what was probably there all along. Heading into his age-31 season, De Aza’s stolen base tally has declined for three years running and his strikeout rate has increased every year he’s been a regular. Moving forward, more of a timeshare wouldn’t be surprising, as David Lough, veteran Delmon Young, and intriguing breakout candidate Travis Snider wait in the wings to pilfer plate appearances in the Baltimore outfield.

#21 Twins


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Oswaldo Arcia 518 .255 .317 .461 .340 10.4 -0.3 -5.6 1.7
Jordan Schafer 105 .223 .297 .304 .272 -3.4 0.7 -0.6 -0.1
Aaron Hicks 42 .224 .308 .342 .293 -0.7 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Max Kepler 35 .227 .275 .344 .276 -1.0 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .247 .311 .425 .324 5.4 0.4 -6.3 1.6

You know Oswaldo Arcia: swinger in 3-0 counts, hitter of long home runs, statuesque defender of the outfield grass. Yes, Arcia is a lot of fun to watch, and the Twins would be much higher on this list if it weren’t for him being so terrible with the glove. Nonetheless, Arcia remains a few (or more) plate discipline tweaks away from being one of the best raw power hitters in the game, as he managed to hit 20 home runs in just 103 games during 2014. He’ll probably always be terrible on defense, pulling his WAR down, but the offensive upside is tremendous. As Arcia has been good for a few DL stints during his short career, the speedy Jordan Schafer figures to get the majority of the replacement appearances, with question-mark youngster Aaron Hicks and prospect Max Kepler scrounging around.

#22 Giants


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Nori Aoki 385 .276 .341 .360 .316 2.6 -0.5 0.7 1.1
Gregor Blanco 210 .247 .324 .345 .301 -1.0 0.2 -0.2 0.3
Travis Ishikawa 70 .232 .299 .354 .291 -0.8 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Juan Perez 35 .232 .270 .339 .271 -1.0 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .261 .328 .354 .306 -0.1 -0.5 0.6 1.5

The Giants have an interesting thing going in left field this year. First of all, there’s Nori Aoki, who is a bit like a walking contradiction — good for stolen bases, but makes terrible base running decisions; fast, but takes poor routes in the outfield; hits for no power, but is very difficult to strikeout. Then there’s Gregor Blanco, who is very similar to Aoki, just with a tick more power and strikeouts. I guess you could say the Giants now have the opposite of their 2014 Michael Morse option in left field for 2015, which might suit the Giants just fine, as they’ve won a ton of World Series recently with speedy slap hitters in their lineup. Travis Ishikawa will reprise his weekly role as hero of the pinch-hit at-bat in a one-man play entitled “How to Win the Pennant Without Really Trying”.

#23 Diamondbacks


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Ender Inciarte 350 .265 .306 .357 .295 -7.3 0.8 5.0 0.6
David Peralta 175 .277 .312 .433 .326 0.6 -0.1 -0.7 0.3
Yasmany Tomas 140 .261 .300 .452 .329 0.7 -0.2 -0.5 0.3
Cody Ross 35 .253 .312 .391 .312 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .267 .306 .397 .310 -6.2 0.5 3.7 1.2

Ender Inciarte looks like the favorite to win the most plate appearances in a crowded Arizona left field situation, bringing speed, plus defense, and contact to the position. There’s nothing too exciting here, though, as Inciarte doesn’t walk much, doesn’t hit for power, and is below average offensively (87 wRC+ in 118 games in 2014). David Peralta, a 27-year-old former pitcher turned position player, figures to get a fair share of plate appearances as well, adding a little pop (.164 ISO in 2014), but not many on-base skills, either. Add some time for Yasmany Tomas into the equation, and you have a left field situation in Arizona that is convoluted, and not without its question marks concerning effective production.

#24 Mets


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Michael Cuddyer 595 .262 .319 .432 .329 9.2 -0.6 -10.1 1.1
John Mayberry 35 .226 .292 .377 .297 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Matt den Dekker 35 .237 .295 .364 .293 -0.4 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Kirk Nieuwenhuis 35 .221 .290 .382 .297 -0.3 0.0 0.2 0.1
Total 700 .257 .315 .423 .324 8.2 -0.5 -10.1 1.2

The ever-present, stubbornly persistent Michael Cuddyer took his talents to Flushing Meadows this offseason, bringing with him a bat that seemingly refuses to age when healthy (his 2014 batted ball distance was just behind Yasiel Puig). However, the issue of health is the main question for “Cuddy”, as he’s missed a lot of time over the past three seasons, especially in 2014, when he was on the 60-day DL for a fractured shoulder. The move from Coors Field to Citi Field is also a question, though Citi has shown itself to be kinder to right-handed power than first assumed. If Cuddyer can stay healthy, he should produce well above-average offensive numbers, but his poor defense in left field will always drag his WAR numbers down. The trio of platoon/defensive specialists John Mayberry, Matt den Dekker, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis figure to split any remaining at-bats, assuming Cuddy stays healthy.

#25 Astros


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jake Marisnick 385 .237 .281 .361 .284 -8.5 0.6 3.7 0.5
Colby Rasmus 105 .235 .301 .424 .319 0.5 0.2 -0.5 0.3
Robbie Grossman 84 .235 .324 .345 .303 -0.6 -0.2 0.0 0.1
Evan Gattis   70 .245 .296 .462 .330 0.9 -0.1 -0.4 0.2
Alex Presley 28 .255 .304 .384 .305 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Domingo Santana 28 .221 .292 .380 .300 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .237 .292 .381 .298 -8.1 0.6 2.5 1.1

The outfield situation in Houston is a little more convoluted than most, as there are a lot of young players vying for spots. Jake Marisnick is going to try out his third team in the hopes of putting everything together, as he brings terrific defense and athleticism to the outfield. He hasn’t shown he can hit yet, but that’s where Colby Rasmus comes in, who many see as a good comp for where Marisnick could be in a few years. Robbie Grossman is yet another young player in search of playing time, and Evan Gattis is likely to feature in left field at some point. There could be rapid change in the outfield situation in the next two weeks for the Astros, but this much is certain: there are too many young players that need major league at-bats to develop, and there aren’t enough spots for them.

#26 Reds


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Marlon Byrd 490 .259 .304 .442 .325 2.7 -1.2 1.7 1.4
Donald Lutz 105 .220 .268 .371 .281 -3.0 0.0 -0.1 -0.1
Brennan Boesch 49 .244 .290 .426 .313 -0.2 0.0 -1.0 0.0
Jason Bourgeois   35 .247 .285 .320 .270 -1.3 0.0 -0.2 -0.1
Skip Schumaker 21 .242 .301 .317 .279 -0.6 0.0 -0.3 -0.1
Total 700 .251 .297 .420 .313 -2.4 -1.2 0.1 1.1

The incomparable Marlon Byrd made a pretty large adjustment going into 2013, trading ground balls for fly balls and contact for power. It renewed his career at the time, but there’s the sense that something has to give for the 37-year-old at some point, as his on-base statistics have started to show the side effects of such an aggressive approach. While Byrd has been an above-average hitter the past two years (137 and 109 wRC+ in 2013 and 2014), the question is how long that will remain the case. The Reds are hoping it’s at least one more year, and if not, the first German-developed baseball player, Donald Lutz, will most likely step in to fill any playing time required.

#27 Phillies


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Domonic Brown   490 .255 .312 .429 .324 2.9 -0.3 -6.2 0.6
Darin Ruf 105 .238 .309 .398 .314 -0.2 -0.1 -0.5 0.1
Odubel Herrera 91 .257 .299 .327 .280 -2.5 -0.1 0.2 -0.1
Aaron Altherr 14 .213 .257 .338 .264 -0.6 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .252 .309 .409 .315 -0.3 -0.5 -6.3 0.7

Alas, poor Domonic Brown! We knew him, Amaro. Brown caught lightning in a bottle in 2013, swatting 27 home runs and breaking out in a major way. Unfortunately, he dropped some of his mechanical adjustments that drove the breakout and saw less grooved fastballs in 2014, causing him to regress. His true offensive talent probably lies somewhere in the middle between his 2013 (123 wRC+), and his 2014 (75 wRC+). That is, to say, a fairly average offensive outfielder. Unfortunately, that offensive production is coupled with simply abysmal defensive tendencies, dragging his WAR down. Darin Ruf will man left should Brown miss any time in April due to an Achilles injury, and will also handle some at-bats versus left-handed pitching.

#28 Cubs


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Chris Coghlan 420 .248 .319 .376 .309 -3.2 0.3 -3.1 0.2
Chris Denorfia 140 .261 .317 .376 .308 -1.1 -0.1 0.7 0.2
Arismendy Alcantara 70 .243 .290 .408 .307 -0.6 0.2 0.1 0.1
Ryan Sweeney 35 .258 .313 .380 .307 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Junior Lake 35 .240 .281 .376 .291 -0.7 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .250 .313 .379 .308 -6.1 0.4 -2.4 0.6

Another team that currently finds itself in flux at left field, the Cubs currently project Chris Coghlan to start. Coming off by far the best year of his career, Coghlan will have to continue to produce his elevated line drive and home run rates of 2014. If that sounds too good to be true, that’s because it probably is, and with poor defense, Coghlan looks like a regression candidate in left field. That’s not good for him, because the Cubs now have a ton of options, including the most recent news that Kris Bryant is going to see some time in left field during the remainder of spring training. The situation in Chicago requires a close watch, as it’s liable to change rapidly.

#29 Braves


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Zoilo Almonte 350 .237 .280 .383 .293 -6.0 0.0 -1.4 -0.1
Jonny Gomes 140 .229 .326 .375 .314 -0.1 0.1 -1.5 0.1
Eric Young 105 .239 .304 .323 .283 -2.6 0.9 -0.9 -0.1
Dian Toscano 70 .254 .327 .346 .303 -0.7 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Eury Perez 35 .261 .294 .340 .283 -0.9 0.1 0.3 0.0
Total 700 .239 .298 .367 .296 -10.2 0.9 -3.4 0.1

And here we are, at the end of all things. As I said in my Padres ranking (see #8), two outfielders on top-10 teams in these outfield rankings were on the Braves last year. They’re not anymore, and here we are, at 29th, talking about a platoon of Zoilo Almonte, Jonny Gomes, and Eric Young. Almonte is the most exciting of the options, mostly because he’s young and possesses the possibility of a power/speed combo (he slashed .261/.311/.437 with six steals in 105 games in AAA last year), but it’s still just a possibility, because he’s only amassed 149 plate appearances at the major league level. Jonny Gomes will pitch in with the odd home run against lefties, but his production continues to wane, and Eric Young will run the bases effectively. There’s no way to sugar coat this, really.

#30 Rangers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Ryan Ludwick 210 .237 .297 .376 .299 -3.6 -0.7 -2.4 -0.2
Ryan Rua 210 .240 .292 .378 .298 -3.8 0.0 -0.3 0.1
Nate Schierholtz 105 .234 .282 .394 .296 -2.0 0.0 0.1 0.0
Michael Choice 105 .240 .309 .383 .308 -1.1 -0.2 -0.8 0.0
Jake Smolinski 35 .237 .306 .364 .300 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.0
Delino Deshields 35 .223 .288 .322 .275 -1.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .237 .295 .377 .298 -12.3 -0.8 -3.3 -0.1

Can Ryan Ludwick get back to being a league-average hitter after shoulder surgery that sapped his one tool (power) and only one year in the past six (134 wRC+, 2012) that truly graded above average? Can Ryan Rua garner a walk rate higher than 1.8% in the major leagues if he’s given more playing time? Can Nate Schierholtz recapture the magic of his 2013 power-infused season? One hopes any of these questions will be answered with an affirmative for the Rangers in 2015, but hope is all it is at this point. Rua is the best bet to provide some value, if he’s provided the opportunity to develop.





Owen Watson writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @ohwatson.

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Kennesaw State University
Guest
Kennesaw State University

Well, at least this prediction allows plenty of room for improvement/to do better than expectation for the Rangers! 😀
A negative WAR is good though, right!?

someone
Member
someone

It looks like there was one 2014 position that had a negative projection (Marlins 1B, projected at -0.4).

Thanks to the fact that Greg Dobbs never actually played 1B for the Marlins (he only PH) and the “impressive” performance of Justin Bohr, the Marlins beat the projections to record an impressive 0 WAR at 1B!

So clearly if the Rangers play their cards right, a WAR of 0 at LF is completely attainable.

Ross
Guest
Ross

Rangers stated yesterday the are releasing Ludwick. Looks like we already improved!