By Eric J and Chris L
Shifting the focus back to our "Top 10 Right Now" series, today's report focuses on left field. Left field is one of the hardest positions in the game to rank simply because it's the position that experiences the most platooning out of the 9 positions around the diamond. Most teams prefer to platoon at this position because they have found it to be a competitive advantage and it allows them to exercise their lineup in the best way possible
Given that there is so much versatility that happens in left field, it's hard to evaluate because of the fact that some of the players play other positions around the diamond, but because this is a ranking series, a player that plays full time in left field is only being evaluated. In order to qualify as a full-time left fielder for this report, a player has to have had at least 450 plate appearances last season. With that being said, there is still some enormous talent at this position, especially at the top end, of the list.
Here are this year's Top 10 Left Fielders:
Eric's Top Ten Left-Fielders RIGHT NOW
1. J.D. Martinez, (Boston Red Sox)- 2018 Stats: .330/.402/.629/1.031, 6.4 WAR, 43 HRs/130 RBIs
2. Ronald Acuna Jr. (Atlanta Braves)- 2018 Stats (Rookie Season): .293/.366/.552/.917, 4.1 WAR, 26 HRs/64 RBIs
3. Kris Davis, (Oakland Athletics)- 2018 Stats: .247/.326/.549/.874, 2.9 WAR, 48 HRs/123 RBIs
4. Juan Soto, (Washington Nationals)- 2018 Stats (Rookie Season): .292/.406/.517/.923, 3.0 WAR, 22HRs/70 RBIs
5. Justin Upton, (Los Angeles Angels)- 2018 Stats: .257/.344/.463/.808, 3.8 WAR, 30 HRs/85 RBIs
6. Michael Brantley, (Houston Astros)- 2018 Stats: .309/.364/.468/..832, 3.6 WAR, 17 HRs/76 RBIs
7. Tommy Pham, (Tampa Bay Rays)- 2018 Stats, (Tampa Bay Rays & St. Louis Cardinals): .343/.448/.622/1.071, 3.4 WAR, 21 HRs/63 RBIs
8. David Peralta, (Arizona Diamondbacks)- 2018 Stats: .293/.352/.516/.868, 3.9 WAR, 30 HRs/87 RBIs
9. Joey Gallo, (Texas Rangers)- 2018 Stats: .206/.312/.498/.810, 2.1 WAR, 40HRs/92 RBIs
10. Michael Conforto, (New York Mets)- 2018 Stats: .243/.350/.448/.797, 2.9 WAR, 28 HRs/82 RBIs
Chris' Top Ten Left-Fielders RIGHT NOW!
1. J.D. Martinez (Boston Red Sox) - When you survey the landscape of left field, it's hard to argue with the fact of J.D. Martinez being the best one in the game right now. In fact, you could certainly make the argument that J.D. Martinez belongs on the list of the Top 25 players in baseball at the moment. After the Boston Red Sox snagged him for a bargain of a deal last winter (5-years, $110 million dollars that includes an opt-out after this season), they truly benefitted from having him join their talented position player core last season. Ultimately, the contributions that J.D. Martinez made (43 home runs and 130 RBI over 569 plate appearances) helped lead Boston to a World Series Championship and he is once again primed to have another fabulous 2019 season.
2. Ronald Acuna Jr. (Atlanta Braves) - Ronald Acuna Jr. is one of the pillars of the Atlanta Braves and certainly a youngster that made quite the impact at the big league level last season. During his rookie season, Acuna Jr. put up a: .293/.366/.552 batting line over 487 plate appearances and had the third highest BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) among leftfielders at .352. Furthermore, you have to like the power that Acuna Jr. has, as illustrated by his Isolated Power (ISO) value of .259, also the third highest among the position group. Regarding this season, some believe that Acuna Jr. might end up making the transition over to right field, but his talent is going to play no matter where he plays in the outfield and he will be a big contributor to the success of the Atlanta Braves this season and for many years to come.
3. Khris Davis (Oakland Athletics) - Khris Davis is another guy that might ultimately end up in another position this coming season, as the Athletics Designated Hitter, but right now he is tops among left fielders in the game. What's really ironic about Khris "Khrush" Davis is the fact that he has finished each of the last four seasons with a .248 batting average. Will he do it again this coming season? Only time will tell, but it would certainly be fascinating if he could and just another reason why baseball can be such an interesting game. Furthermore, last season was a big one for Khris Davis, as he launched a career high 48 home runs over the span of 654 plate appearances. There's a reason why the Oakland Athletics are talking to him about an extension and it's something that just needs to happen already!
4. Justin Upton (Los Angeles Angels) - Over the last handful of seasons, Justin Upton quietly continues to be one of the top left fielders in the game. The defensive metrics aren't necessarily kind to Justin Upton, as he finished with a Defensive rating of (-7.1) last season, but offensively he had an Offensive rating of (17.3) last season, which put him 9th on the list among left fielders. In addition to that, Justin Upton finished the year tied for 6th in wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) with a (124) value along with a .321 BABIP. While Justin Upton might be on somewhat of a decline, considering he will turn 32 in August, he still has a 35.0 WAR over his 12-year big league career and will be a vital part to the success of the Angels in 2019.
5. Michael Brantley (Houston Astros) - The Houston Astros got a heck of a bargain this offseason when they inked Michael Brantley to a two-year, $32 million dollar deal. Many around the industry expected him to get a bigger deal than that especially considering how he performed for the Cleveland Indians last year. Among left fielders, with at least 450 plate appearances last season, Brantley finished tied for 10th with a .468 slugging percentage and is one of the most elite fielders at his position. Looking at the data from last season over 1,136.1 innings of work, Michael Brantley had a cumulative fielding percentage of .996 with only 1 error. That's going to play quite well with George Springer and Josh Reddick in the outfield with the Astros and could very well lead to a Gold Glove, if Brantley can stay healthy this year.
6. Tommy Pham (Tampa Bay Rays) - Some wondered exactly why the Tampa Bay Rays traded for Tommy Pham prior to last years July 31st trade deadline, but there's a few different reasons why. According to the rankings, Pham finished last year 8th, among left fielders, with a (11.8) walk percentage which helps to signal what type of disciplined hitter Pham can be. Furthermore, Pham finished last season with a (4.0) WAR, the third highest among his position group, and was tied for fifth in wRC+ with an overall value of (129). Tommy Pham might not necessarily be the biggest name in the game or someone that you automatically recognize on TV, but he's a name to watch considering that he's right in the midst of his peak at 30 years old.
7. David Peralta (Arizona Diamondbacks) - Now that Paul Goldschmidt is no longer a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, David Peralta is the guy that the Diamondbacks are going to look to in an effort to make up for the lost offense. "The Freight Train" as Diamondback fans refer to him, has a tremendous amount of power, as illustrated by his ISO value of (.223) which put him eighth on the list, along with his .516 slugging percentage over 614 plate appearances, fourth best among left fielders with at least 450 plate appearances, last season. Besides the power that he brings to the plate, David Peralta has a huge heart for the game of baseball, which is illustrated by his style of play on the field, and generates a lot of excitement among the team. Don't be surprised if that train engine sound effect goes off quite a bit this season at Chase Field!
8. Juan Soto (Washington Nationals) - When Howie Kendrick, a player who is well regarded around the game compares you to Mike Trout, you know that you are something special. That's exactly what happened to Juan Soto this week at Soto's first big league Spring Training camp. The Washington Nationals continue to be bullish about Soto and it's no wonder why. During his rookie campaign last season, at the ripe young age of 19, Soto finished the year with a: .292/.406/.517 batting line over the span of 494 plate appearances with 22 home runs, 70 RBI, and 79 walks. To think that a 19 year-old has 79 walks over that period of time is something of brilliance and a credit to the plate discipline that Soto has. Don't be surprised if Juan Soto steps up his game another notch this season and launches himself into the Top 5 among this group next year at this time.
9. Joey Gallo (Texas Rangers) - Power is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Joey Gallo and the type of player that he has proven to be over the past few seasons. Dating back to 2016, among all of the qualified players in baseball, Joey Gallo leads the list with a 37.1 strikeout percentage, but has a 13.5 walk percentage, the 15th highest over that span. Essentially, that means that Gallo tends to be disciplined at certain times, but then less disciplined at other times. However, he still deserves a spot on this list because of that power. In fact, among left fielders with at least 450 plate appearances dating back to 2016, Gallo ranks first in Isolated Power (ISO) with a value of (.304) which puts him fourth overall with (82) home runs among the group. Get ready for plenty of Gallo Bombs to launch out of Arlington this year!
10. Michael Conforto (New York Mets) - Among the New York Mets position player group, Michael Conforto has to be the most exciting name. Among left fielders last season, Conforto finished the year tied for 4th in walk percentage (13.2%), had a (.350) on-base percentage, and an overall Offensive rating of (15.8) over the span of 638 plate appearances. Over the course of this offseason, there was speculation that the New York Mets might end up trading Conforto, but there's a reason they didn't and that's likely because they still believe in him and believe there is a lot of potential left at the plate. After all, Conforto is 25 years old and could easily finish this coming season as one of the best outfielders in the game.