“Precision Tayloring” Out of Left Field: The top 25 Left Fielders for 2014
No intro needed for this one, we are going to dive right into the rankings starting with..
- Matt Holliday- Matt Holliday is the most consistent outfielder of the last decade sporting a career .311 batting average and hitting more than 20 home runs every year since 2006. He already turned 34 this winter, but shows no signs of slowing down as an elite hitter at least not for another couple of years. It’s these reasons alone that we find Holliday at the top of the list, because if you are building your team on the principle of consistency then he will be one of your top targets in the draft for sure. He is going to continue to hit 3rd in one of the best line-ups in the National League which will lead to elite run and RBI totals. It should be noted as well that Holliday actually improved on his already elite strikeout % by posting a career best 14.3% last season, so those of you in leagues that count OBP should also see a boost to those numbers as well.
- Carlos Gonzalez- He is a legitimate 30/20 threat if he can stay on the field for the whole season and that is a big IF as he has missed chunks of games in the past 3 seasons. When on the field there isn’t a more dangerous hitter in a more favorable environment than CarGo as the thin mountain air really helps his power play in-game (77 of his 125 career home runs have come at home and his career batting average is 59 points higher at home). Taking a player like Gonzalez is the ultimate example of how risk/reward can pay off if you hit it big during the right year. Just ask anyone who owned him during his last great season in 2010.
- Bryce Harper- More risk/reward type drafting by slotting the 21-year-old phenom here in the 3rd spot, but it doesn’t take a baseball genius to see that this guy is going to be a perennial NL MVP candidate, and it’s gonna start sooner rather than later. Call his 2013 season when he batted .274 hit 20 home runs and stole 11 bases while fighting injuries (he goes hard in the paint a lot, but boy is he fun to watch) a hold over to something greater, and if it is any indication of his true skill set when healthy we are looking at a guy who in his prime is going to hit around 40 home runs while hitting .300 and probably stealing near 20 bases. That is a fantasy monster, and getting a season like that for the right price is what really lets you get a jump on your opponents during the season.
- Justin Upton- It’s hard to believe that Justin Upton will only be 26 next season, it just feels like he should be 36 by now because of how long his name has been mentioned in the fantasy and scouting communities respectively. J-Up started his career with the Braves big bang style as he hit 12 home runs through the first 26 games of the season. As the calendar turned to may however, pitchers finally started saying “fuck that” to pitching to J-Up and the game plan from the catcher was normally “make anyone else on the team have to beat us” as the braves weren’t a team known for making a lot of contact last season. He hit only 15 more home runs over the teams remaining 136 games and at times you could really see him try to press the issue at the plate. Hopefully the braves let him run on the base paths a little more next season as he still has the athletic ability to be a 20 stolen base threat.
- Ryan Braun- I feel like this is the biggest wild card of the Left Field position next season. As much as we look at the statistics and the numbers side of the game, we have to remember that these guys are people too and we are going to have to consider for a second what Ryan Braun is going to have to go through next season. He is going to be hated no matter what stadium he goes to during the season, and that includes Miller Park. The fans are going to let him know too, day in & day out. Having that kind of hatred thrown at you everyday can really drain someone emotionally, especially when said someone has alienated himself to his own teammates by being a gigantic douche and straight up lying to everyone’s face. Does he deserve what he gets coming to him? Oh yes every bit. If he continues to be the same player he once was before the whole Bio-genesis scandal (if you could call it that) then he is worth taking here, you just won’t see me own him on any of my teams this spring.
- Starling Marte- He played the lead-off table setter role well in his first full season for the first pirates team to reach the playoffs in over 2 decades and flashed his elite speed swiping 41 bases while showing moderate pop in a home ball park that generally suppresses home runs. While there is some swing and miss to his game he brings good enough bat speed to the plate to make well above average contact and may even develop into a true .300 hitter with some improved discipline at the plate. If he learns to draw more walks his stolen base total could really jump.
- Shin-Soo Choo- This guy was forever on base last season (.423 OBP) and even hit 21 home runs out of the lead off spot for the reds last season. He leaves one offensive heavy ball park and high run scoring offense to join another down here in Texas, which will lead to even more runs scored for him if he can keep doing what he did last season and set the table for guys like Fielder and Beltre behind him. Solid contributor to just about every category across the board.
- Yoenis Cespedes- Cespedes has the kind of power to hit it out of just about any ballpark including spacious O.Co Stadium, and while his average may have dipped last season to .240 (due in part to a combination of bad luck .274 BABIP and a decline in plate discipline 23.9k%) his true skill set is still somewhere in the range of a .260-.280 hitter. He will even chip in a handful of steals as he is speedy enough to catch pitchers off guard as he has 23 steals in his first 2 full seasons.
- Mark Trumbo- The Diamondbacks insist that they are going to give Trumbo every opportunity to play Left Field for them next season, and while that may not be the best thing for them defensively the bat could be really special in a hitters ballpark like Chase Field. I mean if he can hit 34 home runs while playing half of his games at Angel stadium and while striking out 27.1% of the time just imagine how many he can hit while playing in a ball park that doesn’t heavily suppress home runs. He could easily be next seasons home run king if he can learn to make enough contact.
- Alfonso Soriano- Look I know he is on the latter stages of his career, but if you can deal with the strikeouts and subsequent drag to your batting average here is a guy who hits in a favorable ball park and has shown that he can still hit for power (has hit more than 30 home runs and recorded at least 100 RBI the previous 2 seasons). The Yankee offense can’t possible be as bad as it was last season with the moves the front office made over the winter and you can expect Soriano to be hitting somewhere in the middle of that order.
- Josh Hamilton- Leaving the Rangers and joining the Angels didn’t do him any favors as he didn’t have the breakout season the Angels signed him to have. He hit .236 at home and continues to be prone to the strikeout, especially on pitches on the edges of the strike zone. He still has great power potential, but if he can’t get his aggression at the plate under control it will never play to its full potential with the Angels.
- Domonic Brown- Brown had himself a very J-Up like tear himself in the month of May when he was just tearing the cover off of the ball hitting .303 and belting 12 home runs over 28 games, and in his first full season with extended playing time he really held his own and showed everyone why he was such a highly touted prospect while coming up through the Phillies farm system. And while a 19.3% HR/FB rate is a little lucky, he is only 26 and could be coming into his prime here in the next 3-5 years.
- Carl Crawford- The bat speed and speed on the base paths may not be what they once were, but he is still well above average at both tasks and will hit lead off for a very dangerous Dodgers line-up next season. If he can stay on the field he is gonna rack up tons of runs and be an above average source of steals.
- Alejandro De Aza- De Aza is deceptively strong, especially when hitting at U.S. Cellular and to be honest as an avid White Sox fan not even I saw that kind of power coming from him. With the addition of Adam Eaton to the roster this allows the Sox to slide De Aza over to left (thank god I won’t have to watch Dyan Viciedo try to play left field everyday) and now gives them some legitimate speed at the top of the line-up.
- Christian Yelich- He showed he was a well above average hitter in the 62 games he played for the Marlins last season, and while his team and ball park are both terrible, hitters with the ability to make contact on the ball as much as he can tend to find a way to just get it done. He is going to be a true elite source of batting average to pick up in the middle rounds.
- Daniel Nava- He got a little bit lucky with the .352 BABIP so expect the average to come down a little bit though he shouldn’t kill you in that department. If he hits near the top of the line-up he could become a good source of runs while still providing a modest amount of pop.
- Micheal Brantley- He would be playing center field if the Indians didn’t have track star Micheal Bourn already playing center. Brantley has really improved on making contact with the ball and if he can get on base enough to justify the Indians hitting him near the top of the line-up it could be a big boost to his counting stats.
- Alex Gordon- He has had an up and down career with the Royals, but he has put it together the last 3 seasons and has played in at least 150 games in each of them. He has a very nice mix of both power and speed, and while he may not be the most elite contact hitter he has shown the ability to square the ball up at a better than average clip (somewhere in the .270 range).
- Eric Young Jr.- He has shown that he can really put on the burners on the base paths if given enough playing time. He did in fact steal a career high 46 bases last season in his first real season with extended playing time.
- Josh Willingham- Was dead for the better part of last season, but he shows well above average pop when healthy even at Target Field.
- Ryan Ludwick- Only time will tell if his power can return after a shoulder injury cost him most of his 2013 season.
- Melky Cabrera- Is all the PED business finally behind the Melkman? He will provide average production across the board being okay to good in each category, but not being great in any particular one.
- Micheal Morse- He can just never stay healthy long enough for me to buy into it at all.
- David DeJesus- Move it along. Nothing special to see here.
- Junior Lake- Started off strong when he joined the Cubs, and then tailed off once pitchers knew to just throw him a steady dose of off-speed. If he can improve on his discipline he could end up being a cheap source of steals.
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