It seems as if left field is not the strong position that it once was. There is a major drop-off in talent after the 5 spot, with the rest of the guys each having an individual bugaboo of some kind. Left field is a position in transition, so you will see some names here that you may not be familiar with. Similar to MLB Network’s Top 10 Right Now, here’s Overtime’s Top 10 MLB Left Fielders.
10. Michael Conforto, New York Mets
With Yoenis Cespedes re-signed and likely to play center field (check out our updated Center Fielders list to see Cespedes’s rank), left field at Citi Field is all Michael Conforto’s. The rookie had a solid debut year, hitting .270 with an .841 OPS and 9 homers in only 56 games, and played better defense than expected.
It is a tough to place such an inexperienced player on this list, but with left field as thin as it is now, Conforto squeaked in. He will play a large role for the Mets in 2016 and beyond. Coming off of a fantastic individual World Series (2 homers, .333 avg), look for Conforto to have a breakout season.
9. Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs
Much like Conforto, Schwarber makes the cut despite only playing in 69 games, including just 41 in left field. Schwarber is one of baseball’s best young hitters, but his outfield defense is an absolute mess. He is a catcher playing left field, and he sure looks like it.
However, everything that Schwarber has provided with the bat somewhat makes up for his brutal defense. He popped 16 home runs in his brief season, then hit 5 more in only 9 postseason games (one of which even landed atop of Wrigley Field’s scoreboard)! He struck out a ton but also showed the ability to take walks. Schwarber’s power will be a big part of the Cubs in 2016.
8. Brett Gardner, New York Yankees
One of only two Yankees left from the pre-2009 Championship season (Alex Rodriguez is the other), Gardner has always been a model of consistency for the Bronx Bombers. His plus speed, excellent defense, and good eye make him a valuable player.
However, Gardner slipped big-time in the second half of 2015. He hit just .206 with a paltry .592 OPS and only stole 5 bases after the All-Star Break. This came after a remarkable first half, where he compiled a .302 avg, .861 OPS, and 15 steals. Can the real Brett Gardner please stand up?
7. Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins
Yelich was one of baseball’s most-hyped prospects back in the day, and while he has had good seasons in the bigs so far, he has yet to take that All-Star step forward. A lock for a .285 average, 10 home runs, 10 steals, a .360 OBP, and Gold Glove consideration, Yelich has good numbers, but the Marlins desire even more.
Yelich usually bats second or third, and profiles well there. He is a high OBP guy with solid contact skills, clutch performance, and intangibles. With the Marlins moving the fences in for 2016, Yelich’s power numbers could climb.
6. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Braun, the former king of left field, has moved back from right field for the 2016 season. The controversial slugger is already 32 years old, but he had a surprisingly good 2015 campaign. His 25 homers, 24 steals, solid defense, and .854 OPS reminded us of the Braun of old.
However, Braun’s PED-heavy past clouds his status among the game’s top left fielders. Braun is also playing the position for the first time in 3 years, which could take some time to work out the kinks. Still, Braun is as consistent as they come as long as he’s healthy.
5. Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals
The 36-year-old Holliday just keeps on plugging for the Cards. The former 20-homer lock hit just 4 in an injury-shortened campaign, but he was still hitting the ball proficiently. Even if Holliday’s power is gone, his .394 OBP, consistent contact ability, and clutch moniker keeps him relevant.
Holliday does not play very good defense in left field, and a quad injury certainly won’t help. Still, Holliday’s professional hitting approach and good eye will keep him in the top 10 for quite a while.
4. Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates
Marte may be the game’s most consistent left fielder. His offensive totals always fall in the range of a .285 average, 20 home runs, and 35 steals, and his defense is the game’s best in left field. Marte’s consistency hurts him a bit, as much like Yelich, the Pirates are looking for Marte to take that next step.
Marte definitely has the potential to be baseball’s best left fielder in a couple of years; he just needs to hone it a little more. If he can reach .300 and 25 homers to go with his speed and defense, Marte will even higher on the list.
3. Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers
Justin Upton cashed in this offseason, signing a 6-year, $132.75 million contract with the Tigers. Somehow still only 28 years old, Upton never lived up to his sky-high potential, but is still one of baseball’s best left fielders. His power and speed are ideal for batting fifth in Detroit.
Although we sometimes look at Upton as a disappointment because he never became an elite ballplayer, his stats are still quite good: around 25-30 homers a year, a .270 average, and an .820 OPS. He plays steady defense and has one of the MLB’s best skill sets. He’ll make Detroit’s lineup even more fierce.
2. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
Gordon is a textbook baseball player. A grinder, his .270 avg and 15-20 home runs don’t appear all that special, but Gordon does all the little things right. He is remarkably consistent, plays some of the MLB’s best all-around defense, is usually quite durable (2015 aside), and posts high rate stats.
Gordon’s value was difficult to judge this offseason, but his 4 year, $72 million deal to return to Kansas City seems fair for everyone. The de facto captain of the World Champion Kansas City Royals will look to lead his club to more success in 2016.
1. Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians
This may seem like a controversial choice, but hear me out. Brantley is easily the top left fielder in baseball when healthy. Of course, that rarely is the case. Injuries plagued him early in his career, and a troublesome shoulder injury will cost him the first couple of months in 2016. It is likely that Brantley will have a slower 2016 than we are accustomed to due to that pesky shoulder, but he still leads the pack of largely mediocre left fielders.
When Brantley is on the field, he is a force. He is a line-to-line .300 hitter with 20-home run power, can steal some bases, and is always there when the Indians need him most. He plays a strong defensive game, and is one of the few 5-tool players in the MLB today. Despite injury risks, we’ll still take Brantley as the top left fielder in baseball.