2023 Positional Power Rankings: Left Field

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, we wrapped up our analysis of the league’s infielders with third base and shortstop. Today, we shift our attention to the outfield, starting in left.

The sabermetric era has resulted in hard times for left field as a position. Teams are more willing than ever to give their best young talent every opportunity to stick at tougher defensive positions, which narrows the pipeline to corner outfield jobs. One-dimensional hitters have gone out of style and big home run totals alone don’t result in hefty contracts on the easy side of the defensive spectrum. Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, with barely half the number of teams, there were regularly six or seven active left fielders who were future Hall of Famers. Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey, Billy Williams, Frank Robinson, and Carl Yastrzemski all qualified for the batting title as left fielders in 1963. In contrast, there are basically two superstar left fielders today: Juan Soto and Yordan Alvarez, and the latter doesn’t even exclusively play the position.

Just like last year, only designated hitters project for fewer combined WAR than left fielders, so if the position is going to make a comeback, it probably won’t be in 2023. But I wonder if, with the designated hitter now being universal, there’s a chance that we see an evolution of the position in coming seasons. Now that every team has a place to hide a complete butcher in the field, perhaps we’ll see the defensive standards in left field improve as a result. It’s cherry-picked, anecdotal evidence, but it does seem that teams are more willing to play outfielders who look more like center fielders there now. Steven Kwan, Daulton Varsho, Corbin Carroll, Ian Happ, and Bryan Reynolds, among others, have played a lot of center field professionally and none of them were miserable failures at it. Positions do evolve over time; at times in early baseball history, third base was a purely defensive position.

But enough about the future, let’s get back to the present.

2023 Positional Power Rankings – LF
1. Padres
Juan Soto 546 .278 .430 .512 .406 43.4 -0.6 -1.3 5.7
Adam Engel 63 .226 .285 .345 .278 -1.4 0.2 0.1 0.0
Matt Carpenter 56 .218 .327 .403 .322 0.8 -0.2 -0.1 0.2
José Azocar 28 .240 .284 .343 .276 -0.7 -0.0 -0.1 -0.0
David Dahl 7 .233 .285 .369 .286 -0.1 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .265 .402 .476 .381 42.0 -0.6 -1.4 5.9

Juan Soto landing at the top of the heap here is less surprising than getting burned when you put your hand on a hot stove. Even in a down season, he managed a 145 wRC+ and 3.8 WAR.

While the magnitude of his drop-off from 2021 to 2022 was significant, there’s so much working in Soto’s favor that we shouldn’t be too worried. He’s still very young — at 24, he isn’t much older than quite a few prospects just breaking into the majors — so it’s not like a 33-year-old slugger seeing a dip in his stats. As far as anyone knows, there’s no underlying injury hampering him long-term and all of those beautiful plate discipline numbers were unscathed.

The smart money here is on a robust bounce back for Soto, and he’s so good at his best that even a mildly disappointing season could very well still leave him as the best left fielder in baseball. One note of caution: While his .242 batting average got the press (.236 in San Diego) last year, the more worrying drop-off was arguably that of his defense. The very low BABIP will probably right itself, but his performance in the outfield may not. Soto is so good, of course, that he doesn’t really need defensive value to be an elite player, and there are only a few guys you can say that about.

2. Astros
Yordan Alvarez 364 .293 .384 .577 .406 28.8 -0.3 0.6 3.9
Chas McCormick 126 .230 .314 .378 .307 0.0 -0.2 0.1 0.3
Michael Brantley 119 .287 .351 .420 .337 2.9 -0.3 0.1 0.6
Justin Dirden 49 .229 .297 .400 .305 -0.1 -0.0 -0.4 0.1
Mauricio Dubón 21 .255 .303 .381 .299 -0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
David Hensley 14 .240 .319 .363 .303 -0.0 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Bligh Madris 7 .232 .296 .372 .294 -0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .273 .355 .488 .363 31.4 -0.9 0.3 4.8

Yordan Alvarez looked like full-time DH when he came up to the majors, but that would have made it difficult to use the position to give other hitters a day off in the field or protect a player with a minor injury. Luckily, while Alvarez is a below-average defensive player, he isn’t a disaster out there, even after arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees cost him the (short) 2020 season. With Michael Brantley returning on a one-year deal and the 36-year-old José Abreu likely to need the occasional respite, we project Alvarez to play more left field than ever before. Alvarez has been out with a hand injury, but if he misses Opening Day, it won’t be by much, and the issue isn’t severe enough that there ought to be many cobwebs to shake off.

Any opposing pitcher who mistakes Alvarez for a one-dimensional power hitter risks receiving their swift comeuppance. Yes, he hits baseballs with brutal levels of force, but he’s also a disciplined hitter who was in the top quartile of hitters with at least a .200 ISO when it comes to contact rate. He’s one of only a handful of hitters who you wouldn’t be totally surprised to see have a better offensive season than Soto.

Brantley can still hit, but given his advanced age and the arthroscopic surgery in his non-throwing shoulder, there is some downside risk offensively, even if the projections aren’t that worried. Chas McCormick, on the other hand, is mostly interesting in center; as a left fielder, he’s just an ordinary backup.

3. Red Sox
Masataka Yoshida 511 .302 .379 .484 .370 22.0 -0.7 0.0 3.4
Adam Duvall 70 .228 .288 .454 .320 0.2 -0.1 -0.3 0.1
Rob Refsnyder 49 .256 .337 .409 .329 0.5 -0.0 -0.1 0.1
Raimel Tapia 42 .272 .314 .392 .308 -0.2 0.1 -0.2 0.1
Alex Verdugo 21 .289 .345 .437 .339 0.4 -0.0 0.1 0.1
Jarren Duran 7 .244 .302 .394 .304 -0.1 0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .288 .362 .468 .356 22.8 -0.7 -0.5 3.8

It stung when Xander Bogaerts signed a long-term deal with the Padres, but bringing in Masataka Yoshida on a five-year, $90 million deal ought to at least dull the pain somewhat. Players coming over to the United States from Nippon Professional Baseball hasn’t been a novelty for a long time now, so it’s not shocking to see a fairly large deal like this. While not every Japanese star has succeeded in MLB, Yoshida was one of NPB’s absolute elite players, leading the Pacific League in OPS in both 2021 and 2022, and last year finishing behind only Munetaka Murakami across NPB.

Yoshida is probably only going to be a medium-power corner outfielder in the majors, but given his superior contact skills, if things work out he could be a fixture in batting average races while still drawing walks. That makes him a better fit for Fenway than most; contrary to conventional wisdom, it hasn’t been a big home run park in 40 years. Indeed, Fenway has always been a lousy homer park for lefties, but a really good one for the other types of hits, so a ball-in-play guy like Yoshida ought to feel at home.

4. Guardians
Steven Kwan 532 .278 .354 .391 .330 9.2 0.7 6.1 2.9
Will Brennan 84 .265 .321 .385 .310 0.2 -0.0 -0.4 0.2
Richie Palacios 42 .244 .322 .358 .302 -0.2 0.0 0.1 0.1
George Valera 28 .233 .320 .390 .314 0.1 -0.0 -0.1 0.1
Gabriel Arias 14 .239 .299 .379 .298 -0.1 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .272 .346 .388 .324 9.3 0.7 5.7 3.2

I frequently describe one of baseball’s aesthetic issues — one the recent rule changes are trying to address — as the Anna Karenina problem. That is, all great offenses look the same, but all lousy offenses are terrible in their own way. Players like Steven Kwan (and an offensive environment that can create more of them) would make the first part of that statement untrue.

Kwan isn’t just a solid contact hitter, he’s a very choosy contact hitter, avoiding the occasional tendency of players who can hit anything to, well, swing at everything. That discipline means he can get behind in counts — he started off with a strike more often than the average player — and still get on base at an impressive clip.

Some readers may be disappointed by the regression towards the mean anticipated here, but it still leaves Kwan among the best second-tier left fielders in the game, with only Soto and Alvarez obviously better options. It’s just very hard to rack up a bunch of WAR when you’re playing left and have single-digit home run totals.

5. Rays
Randy Arozarena 476 .259 .334 .439 .336 13.6 -0.1 -0.4 2.4
Manuel Margot 154 .251 .311 .379 .303 0.4 0.2 1.3 0.5
Harold Ramírez 35 .273 .315 .404 .314 0.4 -0.0 -0.2 0.1
Josh Lowe 21 .225 .301 .377 .298 -0.0 0.1 0.1 0.1
Luke Raley 14 .224 .304 .383 .303 0.0 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .256 .326 .421 .326 14.3 0.1 1.0 3.2

Expectations got a little overheated for Randy Arozarena after he hit a ludicrous 10 homers in the 2020 postseason. But that doesn’t mean he was a one-postseason wonder — 7.5 WAR and 40 homers over two full seasons is nothing to scoff at. His playoff heroics miscast him a bit as a pure power hitter, but he’s more of a well-rounded type who will extend his 20/20 Club membership and maybe hit .275 in his better seasons. Despite being fairly quick, he’s only an average defensive outfielder in the corners thanks to rather mediocre jump speed. One slight note of worry? His out-of-zone swing percentage jumped by a pretty good bit in 2022 while his in-zone numbers also went a bad direction. That suggests a change in judgment rather than a change in approach, and while that hasn’t had bad consequences yet, it’s something to keep in mind.

If Josh Lowe is on the roster for a substantial portion of the year, which we find likely, it’s probable Manuel Margot will be in a hybrid-platoon role, splitting time with Lowe in right field but getting a full helping of plate appearances as the primary backup for Jose Siri in center and Arozarena here. Margot’s speed isn’t what it used to be, but he’s still quick and can play all three outfield positions well. The power that many hoped would develop back in his prospect days never really materialized, which has kept him from being a plus starter.

6. White Sox
Andrew Benintendi 553 .271 .345 .417 .334 11.5 0.3 1.9 2.7
Eloy Jiménez 98 .270 .325 .488 .351 3.3 -0.1 -0.7 0.5
Leury Garcia 28 .251 .294 .344 .282 -0.6 0.0 -0.2 -0.0
Adam Haseley 14 .233 .289 .364 .288 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Romy Gonzalez 7 .220 .274 .373 .283 -0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .269 .339 .423 .333 13.8 0.2 1.1 3.1

Chicago’s roster still has some significant issues, but in a positive development, the team has apparently decided that its starting corner outfielders should be players who can actually play the outfield or, at a minimum, have played there at some point in their careers.

ZiPS is down on the team generally, but that’s not the fault of Andrew Benintendi, who signed a five-year, $75 million contract this winter. Benintendi isn’t a power hitter, which doesn’t make him an ideal fit for Guaranteed Rate Field, but he gets on base and can handle the job defensively. At least poor Luis Robert Jr. won’t feel like he has to be all three outfielders this year. Batting order doesn’t really mean all that much, but the team appears to be planning to hit Benintendi third, which seems kind of odd given who he is as a player. The three spot is the one that leads off the fewest innings and is among the lineup positions that comes to the plate with the most runners on base.

Assuming the White Sox don’t change plans and make Oscar Colas the DH instead, Eloy Jiménez will likely see some time in left. He’s not a great option given his below-average defense and recurring injuries, but the Sox have paper-thin depth, and he’s probably still easily the best candidate.

7. Blue Jays
Daulton Varsho 427 .246 .312 .472 .338 10.7 0.9 4.1 2.6
Whit Merrifield 196 .256 .303 .382 .299 -1.1 0.6 -0.4 0.3
Cavan Biggio 49 .224 .336 .371 .316 0.4 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Nathan Lukes 21 .242 .301 .353 .288 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Spencer Horwitz 7 .240 .322 .376 .310 0.0 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .247 .311 .435 .324 9.7 1.5 3.6 3.1

The Blue Jays got an excellent return on Gabriel Moreno, a top catching prospect (he has technically graduated based on active roster days) who they didn’t have the playing time for anyway. After a season of Raimel Tapia, Daulton Varsho, who is coming off a 4.6 WAR season in Arizona, ought to be a revelation, even if he’s not projected to quite catch that mark in 2023.

It feels a bit like Varsho is on the wrong depth chart as he was an excellent defensive center fielder for the Diamondbacks last year, but Toronto also picked up Kevin Kiermaier this winter, one of the few players who makes this outfield configuration reasonable. The speedy Varsho could very easily be a +15 run defender in left and will be a strong contender for a Gold Glove award. Plus, being able to play catcher is a neat trick for a speedy, good defensive outfielder, even if the presence of Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen renders it less useful than it might otherwise be.

And Varsho hits, too. No, he’s not going to be an offensive powerhouse, but he hits for enough power that you can live with the suboptimal plate discipline and contact rate.

Whit Merrifield is well into his decline phase and if something should happen to Varsho, acquiring a replacement or trying someone like Addison Barger in left would be far better than trotting out Merrifield five or six times a week. Being able to play second means Merrifield is still a viable role player, but he has next to no value in left.

8. Cubs
Ian Happ 630 .246 .330 .427 .331 10.1 0.0 3.0 2.9
Trey Mancini 21 .246 .321 .410 .320 0.2 -0.0 -0.0 0.1
Nelson Velázquez 21 .221 .284 .392 .294 -0.3 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Mike Tauchman 14 .220 .311 .352 .296 -0.2 -0.0 0.2 0.0
Patrick Wisdom 7 .209 .294 .423 .313 0.0 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Christopher Morel 7 .231 .297 .413 .310 -0.0 0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .244 .328 .423 .328 9.8 0.0 2.9 3.0

It feels kind of weird to say that Ian Happ is now the senior Cub in the lineup, but he has a full three years on Nico Hoerner, who was drafted in 2018. Happ never became the next-gen star the Cubs were hoping for when they drafted him in the first round, but he’s turned out to be a solidly above-average player. After a down 2021, he bounced back last season despite trading in some homers, as he set a career high in batting average and more than doubled his career-best, err, two-bagger mark with 42.

Fantasy players might be upset that the Cubs stopped giving Happ token appearances at second and third base, but he showed significant improvement with the leather when he was mostly anchored in left field rather than playing multiple positions.

Happ may get 630 plate appearances, but will they all be in Cubs duds? The Cubs probably aren’t ready to seriously compete without a lot of things going their way this year, and Happ is a free agent after the season. But Willson Contreras was in a similar position last year and the Cubs held onto him and gave him a qualifying offer, so who knows!

9. Brewers
Christian Yelich 546 .247 .354 .411 .336 10.7 1.7 -1.2 2.5
Jesse Winker 105 .250 .361 .423 .346 2.9 -0.5 -0.8 0.4
Tyrone Taylor 21 .238 .299 .424 .315 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.1
Joey Wiemer 14 .219 .288 .376 .291 -0.2 0.0 0.1 0.0
Owen Miller 7 .236 .294 .354 .286 -0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Tyler Naquin 7 .234 .289 .398 .298 -0.1 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .247 .351 .412 .335 13.2 1.2 -1.8 3.0

Now three years removed from being a superstar, the chances that Christian Yelich makes a triumphant return to MVP ballots appear to be quite small. It’s surprising to see how far the exciting young Marlins outfield of olden days has fallen, as Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna also appear to be in the post-stardom phase of their careers.

Even if he’s not longer a star, Yelich hasn’t actually been a drag on Milwaukee’s offense. He’s in the same tier of left fielders as Ian Happ or Kyle Schwarber, and nobody really has a problem with those guys. Yelich is an above-average overall player and pushes the Brewers towards the playoffs. That said, I wouldn’t hold out much hope on that lasting anywhere near the end of his contract in 2028.

Jesse Winker will get most of his playing time at DH, but he’s likely to get the occasional appearance in left. He shouldn’t get too comfortable; he isn’t signed past this season and a better 2023 from Brian Anderson could leave him losing a game of OF/DH musical chairs.

10. Phillies
Kyle Schwarber 567 .234 .339 .496 .359 20.7 -0.7 -6.0 2.8
Josh Harrison 42 .251 .310 .369 .300 -0.4 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Nick Castellanos 35 .261 .312 .442 .326 0.4 -0.0 -0.4 0.1
Dalton Guthrie 28 .236 .290 .360 .287 -0.6 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Jake Cave 28 .232 .299 .394 .303 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .237 .332 .475 .349 19.8 -0.8 -6.4 3.0

Bryce Harper’s injury answered the question of whether Kyle Schwarber or Nick Castellanos would be the Phillies’ DH with an unfortunate “neither.” Schwarber has certainly tried to be a better defensive outfielder, but he’s slower than he once was and his arm surprises aggressive baserunners less often than it used to. He’s still willing to steal the occasional base when a catcher is napping, which I find to be a hoot. I kind of hope the larger bases mean the Phillies let him steal even more, because I’d love to see him be just about the most unlikely 20/20 club member ever, like a mountain man from the Ozarks showing up to a hoity-toity country club with beaver pelts.

Luckily, Schwarber still hits home runs a long way, and 46 homers will make up for a lot of sins. There’s absolutely nothing in his profile to suggests that he didn’t earn them, either. His xSLG was actually 31 points higher than his actual .504! Basically, the questions here are related to aging and how well his defense holds up. Schwarber would be even more valuable as a DH, but that’s just not in the cards given Harper’s injury and the team’s paper-thin outfield depth after him and Castellanos.

11. Diamondbacks
Corbin Carroll 385 .245 .330 .421 .328 4.5 0.8 3.4 1.8
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. 259 .283 .332 .438 .334 4.3 -0.8 -1.3 0.9
Kyle Lewis 42 .239 .317 .408 .319 0.2 -0.0 0.0 0.1
Alek Thomas 7 .258 .314 .405 .315 0.0 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Jake McCarthy 7 .256 .320 .405 .318 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .259 .330 .426 .330 8.9 -0.0 2.2 2.9

Yay, I get to talk about Corbin Carroll! Personally, I would have stuck Carroll in center field every day; the team just signed him to an eight-year, $111 million extension, so why not explore his best-case scenario? Carroll is less likely to be an instant offensive sensation in left (we still anticipate that he’ll get some play in center), but his bat can hold down the position and I think he’ll be a Gold Glove contender out there. He was also the top prospect this year by ZiPS, just edging out Gunnar Henderson; the projections expect Carroll to eventually be a 25-30 home run hitter, peaking near a .500 slugging percentage while still swiping 20 bases a year.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. almost feels like the forgotten player in the Daulton Varsho-Gabriel Moreno trade. He had a rather weird 2022 campaign. He showed better discipline at the plate, made more contact than he ever had, and didn’t have any kind of drop-off in his overall hard-hit rate. But his barrels also disappeared and as a result, his home runs did too, down to a career-low five.

ZiPS and Steamer are both betting on the return of Gurriel’s homers, with both systems projecting a more respectable 13. Gurriel is a limited defensive player and nobody thinks of him as an infield option anymore, so if the Carroll-Alek Thomas-Jake McCarthy outfield pans out, it’s very possible that Gurriel will be a top trade target for a team searching for help this summer.

12. Angels
Taylor Ward 560 .260 .347 .445 .347 16.4 -0.2 -2.1 2.7
Jo Adell 63 .226 .281 .416 .303 -0.4 -0.0 -0.2 0.1
Mickey Moniak 42 .221 .270 .391 .286 -0.8 0.0 -0.2 -0.0
Brett Phillips 28 .187 .283 .347 .281 -0.6 0.1 0.2 0.0
Gio Urshela 7 .272 .321 .425 .324 0.1 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .252 .334 .435 .336 14.6 -0.1 -2.3 2.8

Taylor Ward was a pleasant surprise for the Angels in the early going last year, spending the first two month of the season doing a shockingly good Mike Trout impression. His OPS didn’t drop below 1.000 until mid-June, and it’s hard to completely fake that.

It’s tempting to write Ward’s performance off as a fluke, but he came into sync with the ZiPS projections fairly quickly. As of April 29, the computer projected that he would finish the season with a 134 wRC+, and he actually ended up at 137. He showed excellent plate discipline all year without falling into the passivity that can sometimes snare disciplined hitters (also known as the Jeremy Hermida Trap) and made above-average contact. It seems unlikely he just drops off precipitously. Ward’s also a respectable defensive player, though he’s not suited for center field and probably isn’t a realistic emergency option at his former position, third base.

Luckily for Ward, he’ll have plenty of time to get things back on track if there’s a post-breakout letdown; none of the other options in left field are ones the Angels ought to have much motivation to use.

13. Pirates
Bryan Reynolds 385 .270 .352 .462 .352 12.3 -0.4 -2.2 1.9
Andrew McCutchen 112 .240 .329 .401 .322 0.9 -0.3 -0.6 0.3
Connor Joe 105 .242 .344 .380 .324 1.0 -0.1 0.4 0.4
Ryan Vilade 35 .233 .299 .328 .280 -0.9 -0.0 0.3 0.0
Travis Swaggerty 28 .234 .308 .353 .294 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Cal Mitchell 14 .260 .312 .411 .315 0.0 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Jack Suwinski 14 .233 .314 .419 .321 0.1 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Miguel Andújar 7 .262 .299 .414 .309 -0.0 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .257 .341 .427 .335 13.0 -0.9 -2.3 2.7

Don’t take this ranking as our computers having a secret vendetta against Bryan Reynolds, but rather as a reflection of the fact that the team’s usage of him looks to be rather fluid this season. Reynolds is a really solid player, but manager Derek Shelton has said that he’ll get some time in left field as well as center in order to keep him fresh.

Reynolds was a bit over his head with his 6.1 WAR in 2021, but even if 2022 was a big drop-off, he’s now firmly entrenched as an above-average player who ought to make some All-Star Games in his better years. The Pirates, who will likely fight the Reds for the honor of placing fourth in the NL Central, will be quite happy with Reynolds’ performance in 2023.

At 36 years old, Andrew McCutchen is purely a role player with no real defensive value at this point, but since I’m an aging Gen-Xer, I’m predisposed to enjoy nostalgia. Seeing McCutchen back in a Pirates uniform is cool, though it’s a touch bittersweet since it reminds one of better days, when Cutch was a superstar and appeared to be on a Hall of Fame trajectory. If I suggest I feel similarly about Weezer, would that result in a fight in the comments?

14. Giants
Michael Conforto 301 .250 .346 .420 .337 6.7 -0.2 -0.8 1.3
Joc Pederson 196 .246 .328 .452 .338 4.6 -0.3 -1.0 0.8
Austin Slater 91 .242 .337 .392 .324 1.1 0.4 -0.5 0.3
LaMonte Wade Jr. 49 .234 .331 .395 .321 0.5 -0.1 -0.3 0.1
Blake Sabol 42 .234 .302 .377 .298 -0.3 -0.0 -0.5 0.0
Luis González 14 .236 .312 .362 .299 -0.1 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Heliot Ramos 7 .227 .288 .349 .281 -0.2 -0.0 -0.0 -0.0
Total 700 .245 .335 .419 .331 12.2 -0.2 -3.0 2.6

If you’re ever confronted with someone who insists that players always have their best seasons in contract years, Conforto is a good counter-example to offer against their cherry-picking. In 2021, his walk year, Conforto had his worst offensive season since establishing himself as a regular, and by a healthy margin. The lockout and then season-ending shoulder surgery kept him from getting a contract in 2022, or at least one he wanted to sign.

Despite the setbacks, Conforto is only 30, which is still young enough to right the ship. It has to be a good sign that the Giants are confident in his arm’s health that he has been playing the outfield, so he shouldn’t be limited to just DH duties. Spring training doesn’t mean a lot, but it means something, and Conforto has looked solid in camp and even hit some homers, which were sorely missing in 2021.

Conforto’s not going to play Ironman Left, so there should be a healthy dose of Joc Pederson out there. The Giants have gotten good value from Joc because they’ve accepted him for what he is. They aren’t pretending he should face lefties when it can be helped and seem to know that he won’t bring much defensive value to the table.

15. Cardinals
Jordan Walker 273 .243 .302 .387 .302 -0.9 0.1 -0.6 0.5
Tyler O’Neill 203 .246 .317 .451 .334 4.5 0.5 -0.0 1.0
Lars Nootbaar 147 .237 .335 .437 .336 3.5 0.0 0.7 0.8
Alec Burleson 28 .268 .313 .425 .321 0.3 -0.0 0.2 0.1
Brendan Donovan 28 .260 .356 .364 .324 0.4 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Juan Yepez 14 .255 .311 .461 .334 0.3 -0.0 -0.1 0.1
Taylor Motter 7 .211 .298 .379 .298 -0.0 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .244 .316 .418 .321 8.1 0.5 0.1 2.6

While the Cards only get a middle-of-the-pack projection here, there are a few ways that this position could go very, very right for them.

Jordan Walker doesn’t have a great mean projection, but as I’ve discussed in the past, at least in the view of ZiPS, the power upside he has is nearly limitless. It’s hard to say right now just what his role will be, however, as the Cards have been very cagey as to their exact plans for him. He’s certainly looked like a major leaguer this spring.

And it may be a mistake to write off Tyler O’Neill so quickly. 2022 was a lousy year without a doubt, but only a fool would completely dismiss a 28-year-old player who was finishing a 34-homer, .560 SLG season just 18 months prior. O’Neill was a 5-WAR player in 2021 and it’s not absurd to think that it could happen again. His peripherals didn’t have anywhere near the drop-off that, say, Cody Bellinger’s did when his offense disappeared.

Lars Nootbaar will make some appearances here as he’ll likely be spread fairly evenly across all three outfield positions this season. Before last year, his name might have made you think he was the Undersecretary for Confusing Scandinavian Fish Snacks in a lost Monty Python sketch. Now when you hear Nootbaar’s name, however, it conjures an image of one of most highly disciplined hitters in the majors, a guy who can play anywhere in the outfield and smack the occasional pitch into the stands. Mmmm, I could go for one of those confusing fish snacks right now.

16. Mets
Mark Canha 364 .242 .353 .390 .332 8.6 -0.4 -2.7 1.5
Tommy Pham 259 .226 .315 .359 .301 -0.4 0.4 -1.4 0.5
Jeff McNeil 56 .290 .351 .420 .338 1.6 -0.1 -0.2 0.3
Darin Ruf 14 .222 .319 .392 .314 0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Brett Baty 7 .251 .325 .415 .325 0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .240 .338 .381 .321 10.1 -0.1 -4.3 2.3

In Mark Canha’s first season with the Mets, they stuck him in left and just, well, left him there. At 2.8 WAR, he had his usual above-average-but-not-a-star sort of season, which is about what the Mets expected when they signed him to a two-year deal before 2022. This season, he’ll probably be used a little more like he was in Oakland. He’ll spell the 34-year-old Starling Marte in right, and one of the nice things about Canha is that for a corner outfielder who literally nobody would confuse with a speedster, you can stick him in center for short bursts without any highlight (lowlight?) reel embarrassments. Canha doesn’t hit for all that much power, but he makes up for it with plate discipline, and even when the homers are missing, he gets on base at a pretty good clip.

Already 35 thanks to a late start to his major league career, Pham is backup material at this point, and his job is mainly just being Plan B for Canha and Marte (with Canha shifting to right in those scenarios). Pham’s basically limited to left at this point and has lost a lot of speed, so his value now mostly comes from the occasional homer. The Mets are top contenders, so a known quantity like Pham is useful to have on hand, more than an uncertain talent with higher upside. With the Robinson Canó era over, Jeff McNeil is finally the man at second base, so he’s less available than usual here.

17. Twins
Joey Gallo 294 .195 .325 .414 .326 4.7 0.0 2.2 1.4
Nick Gordon 168 .255 .302 .401 .306 0.0 0.2 -0.3 0.4
Trevor Larnach 133 .231 .311 .375 .303 -0.3 -0.3 -0.1 0.2
Michael A. Taylor 49 .235 .296 .362 .290 -0.6 -0.0 0.5 0.1
Willi Castro 28 .247 .295 .380 .296 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Gilberto Celestino 14 .238 .309 .344 .292 -0.2 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Alex Kirilloff 14 .253 .313 .410 .316 0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .224 .313 .397 .312 3.7 -0.1 2.4 2.2

I am on the record as being skeptical that banning shifts will single-ruledly get Joey Gallo’s career back into tranquil waters. Unlike lefties like Corey Seager, who pull a lot of pitches into play, one of the most obvious features about Gallo is how few opportunities defensive players get when he’s at the plate. There just aren’t enough grounders into shifts to add more than a handful of singles a year to his line. Luckily for the Twins, unlike the last contact-deficient power hitter they failed to turn around, Miguel Sanó, Gallo can play actual defensive positions without being a total wreck.

For want of an ideal place to find a full-time home, what with Carlos Correa and Jorge Polanco entrenched in the middle infield, the Twins are looking to continue using Nick Gordon as a super-sub. With Minnesota getting Michael A. Taylor to back up Byron Buxton in center, I’m not sure Gordon isn’t most valuable in a trade to a team that needs a more extensive fill-in at second or short.

18. Orioles
Austin Hays 441 .252 .306 .427 .319 4.1 -0.4 2.8 1.7
Kyle Stowers 84 .235 .307 .415 .315 0.5 -0.1 -0.6 0.2
Colton Cowser 70 .231 .323 .369 .309 0.1 -0.0 -0.4 0.1
Ryan McKenna 35 .213 .289 .342 .280 -0.7 -0.0 0.2 0.0
Anthony Santander 28 .252 .314 .460 .335 0.6 -0.0 -0.0 0.1
Daz Cameron 21 .219 .286 .355 .284 -0.4 0.0 -0.0 0.0
Adam Frazier 14 .265 .325 .366 .305 -0.0 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Nomar Mazara 7 .248 .309 .392 .307 0.0 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .245 .307 .414 .315 4.2 -0.6 1.9 2.1

Austin Hays has been a solidly average corner outfielder for the O’s the last two years, but he feels more like a caretaker of the position rather than its long-term owner. Surviving the prospect gauntlet of Coby Mayo, Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, and Dylan Beavers will likely prove challenging for Hays, who is middling across the board without any one standout skill that would help ensure his playing time. Plus, the Orioles have five middle infield prospects with a Future Value of 45 or better, and it’s a good bet that at least a few of them end up in the outfield.

Hays has the job for now, but if Cowser avenges his poor month in Triple-A, the former may start to shift to more of a fourth-outfielder role as early as this season. Kyle Stowers will likely get some time in the field and the O’s have consistently hyped Adam Frazier’s versatility.

19. Yankees
Aaron Hicks 392 .221 .329 .356 .306 0.0 0.3 -0.6 0.8
Oswaldo Cabrera 168 .231 .290 .398 .300 -0.8 -0.1 1.0 0.4
Aaron Judge 63 .279 .385 .568 .402 4.8 0.0 0.7 0.7
Willie Calhoun 56 .243 .313 .400 .313 0.3 -0.1 -0.2 0.1
Rafael Ortega 14 .240 .320 .384 .310 0.0 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Isiah Kiner-Falefa 7 .258 .309 .345 .289 -0.1 0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .232 .323 .389 .314 4.3 0.1 0.9 2.1

There are basically two factors that will determine what left field looks like for the Yankees: how healthy Aaron Hicks is and how many of their young shortstops they try to cram onto the roster simultaneously.

Hicks has fallen off considerably from his 2017-18 peak, with both injuries and age contributing factors. It’s unlikely that he’ll ever come close to repeating his 27-homer high; if he stays healthy enough to just reach double digits, it would be a solid campaign relative to expectations. There’s still three years to go on his seven-year, $70 million contract (with a club option that seems unlikely to be exercised), but at this point in his career, Hicks is best used as a fourth outfielder. The question for the team is how soon they can find someone they prefer to start there.

I like Oswaldo Cabrera, but I think he’s more likely to bring in a good left fielder in trade than be one himself, as he has the misfortune of being third in the pecking order of Yankees infield prospects behind both Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza. Cabrera has good power and may best Hicks in homers in far fewer plate appearances, but his bat isn’t up to the standards of a corner outfield starting spot, at least not yet.

Aaron Judge’s projected cameo in left is doing a lot of work here, making up a third of the position’s combined WAR. Leave that footage on the cutting room floor and the Yankees project considerably lower.

20. Marlins
Bryan De La Cruz 238 .262 .311 .419 .318 1.9 -0.2 -2.2 0.5
Jesús Sánchez 140 .245 .311 .428 .322 1.6 -0.2 -0.3 0.4
Jorge Soler 126 .232 .322 .441 .333 2.5 -0.3 -0.5 0.5
Avisaíl García 91 .245 .302 .387 .302 -0.4 -0.1 0.6 0.2
Jon Berti 77 .235 .321 .341 .298 -0.6 0.7 -0.2 0.2
Peyton Burdick 28 .209 .300 .368 .297 -0.2 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .246 .313 .410 .316 4.7 -0.2 -2.8 1.9

The Marlins lineup as a whole confuses me. Even if we assume that the team is going to squeeze every penny until it screams bloody murder, they’ve still made some odd decisions. Avisaíl García was absolutely atrocious last year, and yet Bryan De La Cruz and Jesús Sánchez, players in their 20s who handily outplayed him in 2022 and actually have upside, are being forced to compete with each other for the left field job while García has a full-time job in right well in hand.

Both De La Cruz and Sánchez have significant power upside. De La Cruz put up a .498 xSLG last year with a 47.1% hard-hit rate, which suggests there are some more round-trippers hiding in that bat. He’s also alright in center field, so naturally the Marlins went full chaos, throwing Jazz Chisholm Jr. out there so they could trade off pitching depth for Luis Arraez.

Sánchez is one of my favorite breakout picks for 2023, so much so that I put him in a piece that will inevitably come back and haunt me at some point. The raw power has always been there, but he showed a real late-season uptick in plate discipline both in the majors and minors.

Jorge Soler will still likely see some time in left in addition to right (he’s played both in the spring) under the baffling theory that having a poor defensive player play multiple positions poorly constitutes flexibility.

21. Dodgers
David Peralta 441 .243 .307 .397 .306 -1.0 -0.5 1.7 1.1
Jason Heyward 70 .235 .311 .373 .302 -0.4 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Trayce Thompson 63 .216 .297 .430 .316 0.4 0.0 0.2 0.2
Chris Taylor 56 .230 .313 .389 .309 0.0 0.1 -0.0 0.1
J.D. Martinez 35 .253 .322 .443 .331 0.6 -0.1 -0.0 0.1
James Outman 35 .226 .301 .411 .311 0.1 -0.0 0.2 0.1
Total 700 .239 .307 .400 .308 -0.3 -0.5 1.8 1.8

I’m actually a bit surprised by how unambitious the usually aggressive Dodgers were this winter when it comes to left field. Without a true full-time starter in left last year, Chris Taylor got the most playing time, but he’s far more valuable to the team as a supersub than he is just sticking him in a corner outfield spot and leaving him there. For a while, it looked like the plan was going to be Miguel Vargas or James Outman, but veteran David Peralta was brought in around the start of spring training.

Peralta has had a significant platoon split throughout his career (173 points of OPS) and as he’s well into his decline, it would be surprising to me if he gets a full slate of playing time against southpaws. Taylor is the most fitting platoon partner here, as both Outman and Jason Heyward hit left-handed and Trayce Thompson is the starter in center field.

The Dodgers don’t tend to do things for no good reason, so though this position confuses me, it may be as simple as the organization being confident that either Andy Pages or Michael Busch will destroy Triple-A pitching and be the obvious solution by June or so.

22. Tigers
Akil Baddoo 392 .236 .315 .379 .306 0.2 1.0 1.4 1.2
Matt Vierling 126 .249 .306 .373 .299 -0.6 0.1 -1.4 0.1
Kerry Carpenter 105 .248 .304 .435 .319 1.1 -0.3 0.0 0.3
Justyn-Henry Malloy 35 .229 .317 .353 .300 -0.2 -0.0 -0.1 0.1
Eric Haase 21 .226 .286 .414 .304 -0.0 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Riley Greene 14 .254 .324 .400 .318 0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
César Hernández 7 .248 .312 .352 .295 -0.1 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .240 .311 .386 .307 0.6 0.8 -0.1 1.7

After a .259/.330/.436 rookie season that looked an awful lot like a breakout, Baddoo’s age-23 season went particularly poorly. He finished with a .204/.289/.269 line, earning him a two-month sojourn with Triple-A Toledo. Baddoo’s weakness is that he doesn’t hit the ball very hard, and to add insult to injury, he falls behind a lot of counts early and doesn’t have good enough plate discipline to get out of the hole. I’m still holding out hope for Baddoo — you shouldn’t toss away players based on their age-23 seasons — but unlike a lot of hitters, I think he’d be better served by line drives rather than trying to crush homers, which really isn’t his specialty.

Matt Vierling is listed second on our depth chart, but he’s not the threat to Baddoo’s playing time; he’s basically a fifth outfielder whose main skill is that he makes OK contact and can play center field. No, Baddoo’s fight this spring is against Kerry Carpenter, a player with a very different profile. Carpenter had the misfortune of being a 19th-round draft pick the year before COVID canceled the minor league season, but he finally emerged in 2022, hitting .313/.380/.645 and ringing up 30 homers in the high minors. The .252/.310/.485 line he put up in the majors was a solid debut, certainly compared to what the rest of his teammates were doing.

Here’s where Miguel Cabrera’s continued presence on the team yet again creates a roster construction challenge for the organization. With Riley Greene in center and Austin Meadows in right when healthy, having Cabrera as the primary DH means Detroit can’t give full-time at-bats to both Baddoo and Carpenter, which is what they need right now. As a result, at least one of them will end up wasting time for the Mud Hens with no benefit to the big league club or, at this point, their development.

23. Mariners
Jarred Kelenic 350 .223 .291 .410 .305 1.1 0.0 -0.0 0.9
AJ Pollock 175 .248 .299 .409 .308 1.0 -0.2 -1.0 0.4
Sam Haggerty 84 .225 .297 .344 .283 -1.2 0.4 0.3 0.1
Cade Marlowe 28 .214 .277 .353 .278 -0.5 0.0 -0.1 -0.0
Cooper Hummel 28 .211 .312 .356 .298 -0.1 -0.0 -0.0 0.1
Taylor Trammell 21 .213 .294 .357 .289 -0.2 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Dylan Moore 14 .212 .317 .369 .306 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .228 .295 .395 .301 0.2 0.3 -0.7 1.5

It’s painful to see Jarred Kelenic struggle like he has in the majors, and I worry that if he doesn’t come around to some degree, he’ll be named as one of the biggest outfield busts for decades to come. Thankfully — at least if it works out — the Mariners have shown a good deal of faith in him despite his bleak performance in the majors so far. Given how he’s played, there’s surprisingly little reason for him to look over his shoulder, as none of the other options here are all that enticing unless Kelenic literally shows zero improvement. And as my colleague Esteban Rivera recently pointed out, there have been some hopeful signs this spring.

AJ Pollock is probably the biggest threat to Kelenic’s playing time, but he’s already expected to get a lot of time at DH, and with his injury history, the Mariners probably aren’t going to be motivated to play him in the field 120 times in 2023. Not to mention, Pollock was absolutely atrocious last season and 35-year-olds who fall off the cliff quite often don’t climb their way back up again.

24. Royals
Kyle Isbel 259 .240 .301 .382 .300 -2.6 -0.0 2.6 0.6
MJ Melendez 168 .240 .323 .446 .334 2.9 -0.4 -2.1 0.4
Edward Olivares 112 .260 .317 .405 .317 0.4 -0.1 0.0 0.3
Hunter Dozier 63 .236 .302 .401 .307 -0.2 -0.2 -0.7 0.0
Nate Eaton 49 .240 .302 .362 .294 -0.7 0.2 0.3 0.1
Samad Taylor 28 .238 .309 .377 .302 -0.2 0.1 -0.0 0.0
Drew Waters 14 .240 .306 .390 .306 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Nick Pratto 7 .219 .312 .406 .316 0.0 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .243 .309 .401 .311 -0.5 -0.5 0.1 1.5

The Royals are closer to a fire sale situation than they’ve been in a long time and with the team eschewing signing any middling 34-year-old veterans to clog up the depth chart, Kyle Isbel will get a chance across all three outfield positions to wipe out memories of a rather poor 2022 season. He probably won’t actually start the season in left, as Drew Waters remains out with a sore oblique and Isbel is probably the team’s best option in center in his stead.

The Royals should probably be using their top catching prospect at catcher, but failing that, they’re at least giving MJ Melendez opportunities to show off his bat rather than sitting him on the bench. While he’s not likely to impress defensively, Melendez easily represents the best chance for the Royals to get decent offense out of this position, though I should note that there is significant disagreement among the projection systems here, with ZiPS (117 wRC+) and Steamer (114) liking him quite a lot better than THE BAT (102). One good thing about Melendez is that unlike a lot of young, left-handed power hitters, he hasn’t shown any particular vulnerability to left-handed pitching. In fact, over the last two seasons in the majors and minors, he’s hit slightly better against lefties than righties.

If anyone bombs this season, Edward Olivares is a sleeper to grab a starting job. He shows better range than you might expect from his mediocre defensive stats in small samples, and there were signs in the minors that he could hit for at least moderate power. I wouldn’t play him over Melendez, but I certainly prefer him over Hunter Dozier and maybe even Isbel.

25. Athletics
JJ Bleday 210 .205 .303 .362 .297 -0.5 -0.2 -1.3 0.3
Conner Capel 182 .235 .304 .368 .297 -0.4 -0.3 0.8 0.4
Esteury Ruiz 119 .237 .313 .366 .302 0.2 0.6 -0.6 0.3
Tony Kemp 84 .251 .331 .366 .311 0.7 0.1 -0.1 0.3
Cristian Pache 42 .220 .271 .350 .273 -0.9 -0.1 -0.0 -0.0
Seth Brown 28 .234 .300 .444 .321 0.5 -0.0 0.0 0.1
Ryan Noda 21 .203 .309 .358 .298 -0.0 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Brent Rooker 14 .209 .301 .393 .306 0.1 -0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .226 .306 .368 .299 -0.5 0.2 -1.3 1.4

Who is the A’s left fielder? Oakland’s not quite sure, nor should they be at this point. The A’s, the organization that invented the fire sale back in the Connie Mack days, are early on in another one, and they’re still in throw-stuff-at-walls-and-see-what-sticks mode at several positions.

The top name on the depth chart, JJ Bleday, was actually recently optioned to Triple-A, but he’s expected to be given plenty of opportunities this year. This makes sense given that he’s probably the player on this list with the most offensive upside. Bleday was a top draft pick due to the general belief that he’d be a force at the plate, so his .409 slugging percentage and .746 OPS as a minor leaguer puts him in the mega-disappointment zone. But he’s still just 25 and the A’s have a lack of hitting talent who can boast upside at any point in their careers.

Conner Capel has solid plate discipline, but not enough power to really leverage that skill all that much. He can play all three outfield positions. Capel’s probably a better player than Bleday right now, but it’s hard to see him having Bleday’s ceiling. Esteury Ruiz’s playing time in left probably comes down to how Cristian Pache fares in center. As I’m not optimistic about Pache despite a good spring, Ruiz probably won’t feature here all that often.

26. Nationals
Corey Dickerson 378 .262 .306 .412 .311 -0.5 -0.8 -2.3 0.5
Stone Garrett 98 .232 .274 .425 .301 -1.0 0.0 0.4 0.2
Alex Call 98 .235 .324 .389 .316 0.2 -0.1 -0.2 0.2
Jake Alu 42 .256 .310 .408 .312 -0.0 -0.0 0.2 0.1
Joey Meneses 35 .263 .311 .456 .329 0.4 -0.1 0.1 0.1
Michael Chavis 21 .234 .280 .415 .301 -0.2 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Lane Thomas 14 .240 .312 .411 .317 0.0 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Dominic Smith 14 .252 .318 .409 .317 0.0 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .252 .304 .413 .311 -1.0 -1.0 -1.8 1.3

The Nationals are in the early stages of a rebuild, so it isn’t surprising to see them only making a token investment to try to cover left field this season. Yadiel Hernandez, who got the most starts for the team last year and was outrighted off the roster in November, is actually older than the veteran Dickerson. Dickerson’s job in Washington is simply to hold down the position this year while the team waits to see if a viable long-term solution emerges in the minors.

Dickerson was once touted as a future batting average champion, but those days are behind him now, and his B+ gap power has mostly disappeared. He remains extremely aggressive at the plate, but the only real effect has been a consistent decline in his walk rate without anything on the positive side of the ledger to balance it out.

If I ran the Nats, I’d be far more interested in using the team’s other options, with Stone Garrett arguably the leading candidate. He’s not a prospect and the projection systems are quite low on him, but he’s at least on the right side of 30 and did slug .568 in the minors last year while being solid in his brief time in Arizona. He’s a lottery ticket rather than an obvious starter, but I’d rather have today’s lottery ticket than the one from yesterday that didn’t pay out. Jake Alu is another possibility, but he should be playing third every day or even better, maybe be traded to an organization that seems interested in him; like Garrett, he’s not a young player and a slow ascent to the majors might leave him spending his peak years in the minors.

27. Reds
TJ Friedl 406 .248 .327 .406 .322 0.2 0.1 -1.6 0.8
Stuart Fairchild 84 .231 .306 .406 .312 -0.6 -0.1 0.7 0.2
Will Benson 56 .210 .317 .381 .309 -0.6 0.0 -0.6 0.0
Jake Fraley 56 .244 .338 .427 .335 0.6 0.0 -0.2 0.2
Chad Pinder 42 .226 .270 .379 .283 -1.3 -0.0 0.0 -0.0
Michael Siani 28 .228 .296 .342 .284 -0.8 0.0 0.1 -0.0
Nick Solak 21 .259 .331 .412 .327 0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Wil Myers 7 .255 .325 .442 .333 0.1 0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .241 .320 .402 .317 -2.3 0.0 -1.6 1.3

Cincinnati’s outfield is a total mess right now, and left field is no exception. If this outfield were a picture drawn by a five-year-old, not even the kindest parent would put it on the fridge.

TJ Friedl at least drew some walks in the minors, but walk-heavy players tend to translate very poorly to the big leagues. On the plus side, Friedl did show some signs of life in the majors, with a 101 wRC+ in 72 games during his rookie campaign. That’s not good for a left fielder without a ton of defensive value, but it would be enough to at least get the position comfortably above replacement level.

I would be shocked if anyone listed here ends up being a fixture in left for the Reds, or even on the team long-term. Cincy has a boatload of infield prospects and I suspect that as soon as this year we’ll see whoever is the defensive odd man out get an extended opportunity in left, whether that’s someone like Spencer Steer or Christian Encarnacion-Strand. I’d probably look to start doing that before the year is out, unless Friedl turns out to be a pleasant surprise.

28. Rockies
Jurickson Profar 518 .247 .333 .399 .323 -3.9 0.1 -1.5 0.7
Kris Bryant 105 .281 .363 .479 .365 2.7 0.1 -0.8 0.5
Harold Castro 42 .290 .321 .402 .315 -0.6 -0.1 -0.4 -0.0
Randal Grichuk 21 .263 .305 .453 .327 -0.1 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Yonathan Daza 14 .286 .334 .385 .317 -0.2 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .257 .336 .413 .329 -2.1 0.0 -2.6 1.2

Jurickson Profar made sense for a contending team with a real hole in the outfield to fill in an emergency, especially one that still has confidence in his ability to at least fake a few other positions. His presence on the Rockies doesn’t make all that much sense to me, though. A team like the Rockies, which is realistically just trying to not be the worst team in baseball, ought to be more ambitious with their depth chart than just sticking in whatever 30-something veteran wants to sign. Profar has been bouncing between a wRC+ of 90 and 110 or thereabouts the last few years and is fairly mediocre defensively, so he’s a role player/stopgap rather than someone who pushes a team towards a pennant.

Kris Bryant has been playing right field in spring training, but he’ll likely get some time here as well based on injuries and rest days when Charlie Blackmon or another player gets a start over there. He wasn’t a great third baseman, but he loses a lot of his value as a middling defensive outfielder. I certainly wouldn’t be excited about the end of his contract if I were the Rockies, and I’m sure he would like a mulligan on his debut season in Denver, but there’s still a good chance he’s a plus for the next few years at least.

29. Braves
Eddie Rosario 357 .246 .290 .400 .300 -4.2 0.1 -3.2 0.1
Marcell Ozuna 168 .247 .313 .442 .328 1.8 -0.1 -0.3 0.6
Kevin Pillar 84 .246 .294 .410 .306 -0.6 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Jordan Luplow 70 .214 .313 .427 .324 0.5 -0.0 0.3 0.3
Eli White 14 .211 .286 .335 .278 -0.4 0.0 0.1 0.0
Sam Hilliard 7 .206 .283 .376 .289 -0.1 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .242 .298 .412 .309 -3.1 -0.0 -3.2 1.0

The Braves have a great shot at challenging for the most wins in baseball in 2023, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune from having a weakness or two. Here’s that weakness, the biggest in the team’s lineup. Eddie Rosario, fresh off eye surgery to correct blurry vision, ought to have a significantly better season. However, those who hope it’s a full fix are likely to be mistaken; he was still only a 105 wRC+ career hitter before 2022, and he swung at a lot of bad pitches and played indifferent defense for a long time prior to last year. Rosario’s a good role player who is stretched as a starter.

Considering how awful Ozuna was last year (he hit just .226/.274/.413), the projection systems are perhaps being uncharacteristically kind to him, probably because his wildly productive 2020 season is still lying there in the shadows. I have to admit that I’m surprised by how acceptable-ish his defensive numbers are in left, because based on eye test alone, I’d have placed his 2022 range as just below that of a doormat draped over a rusty bicycle next to a lawnmower that I’ve been meaning to have repaired for three years. I guess that was too specific an analogy.

Oddly, Jordan Luplow is the most interesting player here to me. He at least has a use: he’s probably the best defender listed here and he has the most exploitable platoon splits in that he can scorch lefties. The best configuration here might be a Rosario/Luplow platoon, with Ozuna DFA’d, but the team has shown a puzzling amount of loyalty to Ozuna.

30. Rangers
Robbie Grossman 301 .226 .330 .362 .310 0.6 -0.4 -0.4 0.7
Clint Frazier 112 .208 .291 .338 .282 -2.3 -0.1 -1.7 -0.2
Bubba Thompson 105 .237 .279 .360 .280 -2.3 0.7 -0.3 0.0
Brad Miller 98 .220 .297 .391 .302 -0.4 -0.1 -0.6 0.1
Josh H. Smith 70 .240 .333 .357 .310 0.1 -0.0 0.2 0.2
Ezequiel Duran 14 .241 .286 .401 .299 -0.1 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .226 .311 .362 .300 -4.4 0.0 -2.9 0.8

If you want to know what the Rangers’ left field situation is without knowing a single stat, their starter right now is a 33-year-old free agent who was available on a one-year, $2 million contract. He’s also likely the correct choice based on the other options. Grossman’s skill set at this point in his career mostly consists of getting on base occasionally.

Behind Grossman are more question marks than a late night Matthew Lesko commercial. Clint Frazier’s 2020 breakout turned out to be a mirage, and he spent last season putting up a .585 OPS… for Triple-A Iowa. Speedy Bubba Thompson’s roster status basically comes down to the fact that he can play center field, and Brad Miller, who only needed 241 plate appearances to be more than a win below replacement last year, is here because he’s guaranteed $5 million in 2023.

Unfortunately, there’s no likely upside potential anywhere on this chart. The team’s best hope for a contribution out of left may be Dustin Harris, acquired from the A’s a few years ago in the Mike Minor trade, having a breakout in the high minors and forcing his way onto the squad.

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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1 year ago

Can you discuss the decision not to scale aggregate league total WAR for these projections to something more in keeping with what has been observed historically?

It’s popping up in each of the comment threads for this series, and I think we’re all having trouble understanding these projections – everything just seems inflated with such a high proportion of players above the threshold for what we generally consider average.


Last edited 1 year ago by soddingjunkmail
1 year ago

I honestly think most writers here don’t know how to effectively answer this question. Dan probably does, but I’m not surprised at the crickets.

Cool Lester Smoothmember
1 year ago
Reply to  Dan Szymborski

What’s the FGDC input for Fld projections?

If it’s straight UZR rather than the Statcast-aided combo model fWAR currently uses, that could explain some of the oddities.

1 year ago
Reply to  Dan Szymborski

I think the issue here people have is the discrepancy between these projected stats and “actual” stats.

For instance looking at fWAR for the 15th team ranking last year compared to projections this year.

C: 1.4, 3.3
1B: 2.3, 2.5
2B: 2.5, 3.2
SS: 2.5, 3.5
3B: 3.4, 3.3
LF: 2.1, 2.6
CF: 3.0, 3.4

Other than 3rd base, the projected WAR is higher than what the median team did last year. And a lot of them quite a bit higher (catcher being most prominent which was why it was brought up in that piece).

Since WAR is a normalized stat in that you can’t really get more than 1000 WAR total in a season, it should be accounted for in the projections IMO. After all people don’t project teams to average 90 wins to start the year and start decreasing wins as injuries pile up (which is essentially what this does).

Last edited 1 year ago by baubo
1 year ago
Reply to  Dan Szymborski

Now that teams are basically required to play someone in LF and RF, should the position adjustments be based purely on difficulty or also on probable performance with a position change. In other words should the probable performance of Fernando Tatis Jr in RF compared to SS matter rather than only the fact that Nicholas Castellanos would probably not be playing SS ever in his life?

1 year ago
Reply to  Dan Szymborski

Your comment about the positions not being as difficult to play as is believed fits into my disdain for defensive stats. With a few Daniel Vogelbach sized exceptions the huge majority of major league players, pitchers don’t count except Vince Velasquez, are GREAT athletes and can perform capably almost anywhere on the field. An impression I have gotten since I came to Fangraphs is that some here, quite a few actually, think that a player who is not playing his normal position is going to misplay virtual everything hit his way. I will put an unusual player up as my prime example that this is erroneous thinking and that is Bobby Dalbec. I have watched him play all over the infield and he is just plain good. His hitting struggles have hidden what a talented player he is and, by the way, he was the closer, who threw in the mid 90’s, for the very strong Arizona Wildcats while in college.

Last edited 1 year ago by bosoxforlife
1 year ago
Reply to  bosoxforlife

Tongue in cheek, I mentioned Vince Velasquez in my previous comment but who can forget his great diving catch a couple of years ago while playing LF and also a tremendous throw to the plate. These guys are good!!.

1 year ago
Reply to  bosoxforlife

I mean a lot of these guys are incredible athletes, but that doesn’t mean they are incredible defenders. Bobby Witt is one of the Top 5-7 fastest guys in MLB and made something like 16 errors in 800 innings at shortstop. Brandon Crawford is one of the 50 slowest guys in the league and he’s fantastic at shortstop. JD Martinez and Corey Seager have the same sprint speed; so do Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker; heck, so do Kyle Schwarber and Manny Machado. Some of this is that what you really need at some of these positions isn’t “football athleticism” but is hands and agility, and some of this is that some people are just wired wrong for the infield, or outfield, or both.

1 year ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

I wasn’t implying that they would be all-stars but they wouldn’t look out of place. I would like to see a fun game where the positions of the seven defensive players were drawn out of a hat. I believe the game would look much like a normal game.

1 year ago
Reply to  Dan Szymborski

Dan: I don’t think it’s positional adjustments; that’s always been there. I do think at least some of this is injuries, but do starters really miss that much time due to injury? Depth Charts is predicting something like 40% more position player WAR than was accumulated all of last year. That’s a lot for it to be injuries.

There are a couple of things that I think might clarify things, if you have the answer–
1) What are the historical norms that are being used to assess whether someone is a below average or above average hitter? (or neither).
2) Is this norming process different than what is done during the regular season?
3) What sort of offensive environment are Steamer and ZiPS thinking is going to happen? Is it possible, for example, that the Steamer / ZiPS blend projects a guy to hit 30 homers based on what they did from 2019-2021, but since power is down across the league, it looks unusually good compared to what offense was like in 2022?

Left of Centerfield
1 year ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

“Depth Charts is predicting something like 40% more position player WAR than was accumulated all of last year. That’s a lot for it to be injuries.”

Exactly. And as I’ve mentioned multiple times in these threads, there’s basically 0 overprediction for pitchers. That needs to be explained somehow. Why this is only happening for position players and not for pitchers.

1 year ago

Is part of it that the random, unpredictable long term injuries aren’t really being reflected because they can’t be predicted? There will probably be half a dozen all-star level players who will miss most of the year because they tear an ACL or something like that, but most of those kind of things aren’t something that can be predicted. Everyone starters play time could be adjusted down to reflect this (and I suspect that is baked into the projections somewhat), but that would defeat the point of the exercise a bit.

If Juan Soto tears his ACL tomorrow the aggregate projection for LFers drops by almost 0.2 WAR per team. In all likelihood, multiple players on this list will miss most or all of the season, but we don’t know who that is and having everyone listed at 400 PA to offset the chance they could have 0 PA would make this a less fun exercise.

Roger McDowell Hot Foot
1 year ago
Reply to  68FC

Yes. At this point it seems like everyone knows the models are consistently missing high, and playing time/injury is a big reason why. As you say, though, injuries can be predicted in aggregate. So it’s just a mistake not to model them. We wouldn’t accept a projection system that built in this kind of Panglossian ultra-optimism about other causes of underperformance. If I said I wanted to take out the BABIP regressions because they made the projections less “fun,” I’d expect to be laughed out of the room.

1 year ago
Reply to  Dan Szymborski

First, appreciate the response. At the risk of kissing your behind too much, this is one of the things that makes fangraphs special – the ability to interact with the content creators to get clarifications, provide feedback, etc. So, thank you.

Second, that Zips is providing results closer to 1000 WAR per year is WAY more satisfying. Poor Rosario got picked on quite a bit in the SS thread, but the point is a good one – the positional ranking projections just aren’t passing the sniff test.

1 year ago

What risk are you taking by kissing Dan’s behind?

1 year ago
Reply to  Dan Szymborski


Left of Centerfield
1 year ago
Reply to  Dan Szymborski

Except the total WAR for pitchers via the Depths Charts projections is basically the same as was accumulated last year. All of the “overprediction” is happening with the position players.

1 year ago

I mean, the injuries are definitely part of it. I think Depth Charts thinks Carlos Correa is going to get 560 PAs, but would anyone be surprised if he only had 400 instead? You could definitely trim the playing time projections to be more conservative.

That said, position player WAR projected by Steamer is 40% higher than actual position player WAR last year. So something else is going on.

1 year ago
Reply to  68FC

But every projection system DO account for injuries, including team projections.

Suppose Juan Soto has 90% chance to be healthy and get 600 PA and put up 7 WAR, and 10% chance to miss the season and get 0 WAR, then his projection would not be 7 WAR with the caveat that he’s healthy. It would be 6.3 WAR and 540 PA to account for injuries. This is why team win projections tend to feel low to fans, because fans look at the team as is while simulations include things that happen during the season that can derail the team.

So there is no reason for these WAR projections to not account for the downside.