Over the offseason, the team of contributors at Baseball Essential voted upon every position on the diamond, compiling our comprehensive Top 15 countdowns for the 2018 season.
Major League Baseball is overflowing with youth and skill, but don’t forget about the rugged veterans we all know and love. These Top 15 rundowns will feature a splendid mix of young, exuberant athletes, and the aged, mature individuals who mentor them. As for the positions, we will unveil the top 15 starting pitchers, relievers, catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, shortstops, left fielders, center fielders, and right fielders, as well as the foremost designated hitters, utilitymen, and managers, over the next few weeks.
Our voting format is simple. The team of writers and analysts at BBE were given ballots a few weeks back for their top 10 individuals at each spot. A first-place vote is worth 10 points, second-place is good for nine, and so on.
As the spring training season starts to get underway, you will see these countdowns published prior to the beginning of another exciting MLB season. To keep track of the Top 15 lists you might have missed, stay posted to the Top 15 tag on the site.
In the rundown, we list the player, their position among the list, and how many points they have received in the voting. Now, you’re ready. Here are MLB’s Top 15 right fielders for the 2018 season.
Three right fielders received votes but could not accrue enough points to crack the countdowns. Those three were Texas Rangers right fielder Nomar Mazara (3), Philadelphia Phillies standout Nick Williams (1), and Baltimore Orioles slugger Mark Trumbo (1).
Michael Conforto – 15th (4)
New York Mets fans have had a rough go of it as of late, with injuries to their pitching core, managerial changes, and an epic fall from grace after their National League pennant win in 2015. One of the few things that can bring a smile to their face is the thought of Michael Conforto, a young outfielder who can reach elite levels of right field excellence.
The 25-year-old lefty hitter knocked 27 home runs and 68 RBIs in just 109 games played, while slashing .279/.384/.555 over the 2017 season. His 57 walks and .939 OPS were team-highs. Though Conforto will be on the shelf to start 2018 after shoulder surgery, the former All-Star is looking for an early May return to action.
Jay Bruce – 14th (4)
The only thing keeping the aforementioned Conforto out of right field is the return of former Mets slugger Jay Bruce, who is making his return to Citi Field after a short stint with the Cleveland Indians. The two-time Silver Slugger Award winner and three-time All-Star joins Adrian Gonzalez and Todd Frazier as huge veteran signings coming to New York.A position littered with elite bats and wonderfully quick athletes, right field features a number of baseball superstars. Here are the top 15 right fielders for the 2018 season.Click To Tweet
Last season, between the Mets and the Tribe, the lefty slashed .254/.324/.508 with 36 home runs and 101 RBIs in 146 games. 29 of the those long balls came with the Mets, a team that hopes they see another very productive season from the 30-year-old in their hopes to reappear in the NL postseason.
Gregory Polanco – 13th (5)
By Baseball-Reference WAR metrics, Gregory Polanco was not valuable at all last season (0.1 wins above replacement). With all of the organizational dysfunction in the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise, it really does not matter — the 26-year-old will get playing time and improve. After a .251/.305/.391 slash line last season with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs, it can only get better for the left-handed hitter, as he will likely bat higher in the order this season compared to 2017.
Polanco, who is signed by the Pirates through 2022 and might be an early candidate for best trade deadline deal, saved four runs defensively in 2017 to round out a pretty solid overall game. Advanced metrics disagree, but with a lot of fruitful years ahead for Polanco, he will get better.
Kole Calhoun – 12th (11)
When you share an outfield with Mike Trout, you aren’t going to get a lot of love. On the Los Angeles Angels, right fielder Kole Calhoun is severely underappreciated behind the best player in the world. The former Gold Glove winner with the big lefty bat hit .244/.333/.392 last season, totaling 19 home runs, 71 RBIs, and 2.1 bWAR.
Calhoun will continue to be overlooked, especially with the addition of Justin Upton in the outfield at Angel Stadium, but the 30-year-old is one of the most consistent two-way right fielders in the sport. With a .988 fielding percentage and four DRS last season, Calhoun shows his value with his glove, and with 26 home runs in 2015, he displays a high ceiling with his bat.
Jason Heyward – 11th (11)
Maybe Jason Heyward has had better days, but the five-time Gold Glove winner still has plenty of baseball left in him at 28 years old. The Chicago Cubs right-fielder hit .259/.326/.389 in 2017 with 11 home runs and 59 RBIs in 126 games, and while that isn’t exactly elite, the Cubs will take that production from Heyward behind superstars like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
Despite struggles with health and batting, Heyward’s true value was still where it has been since his MLB debut eight years ago. Winning his fourth consecutive NL Gold Glove in right field, Heyward posted 18 DRS, 1.4 defensive WAR, and a .991 fielding percentage out in the outfield grass. It’s not too late for him to rediscover his batting prowess, but if the lefty doesn’t return to form at the dish, his defense is still plenty valuable.
Steven Souza Jr. – 10th (12)
Following a trade from the Tampa Bay Rays, Steven Souza Jr. is finding a place with the Arizona Diamondbacks. If he can play the same way he has in his relatively young career, that won’t be an issue. Souza slashed .239/.351/.459 with career-highs 30 home runs and 78 RBIs in 148 games last season, playing to the tune of a 4.2 bWAR 2017 total.
The righty is expected to be sidelined until the middle of May with a nagging pectoral injury, but he has shown the ability to step in and produce whenever needed. Souza is a stellar defender (seven DRS) and baserunner (16 stolen bases) as well, meaning as soon as he returns to the lineup, the 28-year-old will be the spark plug the D-Backs need on the field.
Domingo Santana – 9th (15)
Only the Milwaukee Brewers know how Domingo Santana will be used in 2018, but everyone can attest to how great his 2017 season was. A pure slugger once a heavily touted prospect in the Houston Astros system, the righty hit .278/.371/.505 with 30 home runs and 85 RBIs in 2017, his first full season in the big leagues.
The right fielder is surprisingly athletic for player his size (6’5’’, 220 lbs), swiping 15 bases and fielding .979 in the right-field grass. At 25 years old, not only is Santana a sensational player in a multitude of ways, but he’s still developing. Depending on how and where the Brew Crew play the powerful free-swinger, Santana could be good for another 30-home run season in 2018.
Yasiel Puig – 8th (18)
In addition to being one of the most unique personalities in baseball, Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig is one of the most purely talented at his position. Puig hit .263/.346/.487 with career highs in homers (28), RBIs (74), and stolen bases (15) in 2017. Puig’s athleticism is part his wide range of unteachable tools, as his quick, reactive feet allowed him to post 18 DRS in right field last season.
The right-handed hitter was a big part of the Dodgers’ playoff run, hitting .286 with three long balls in October for the team with MLB’s most regular season wins. The 27-year-old still has a lot of time to progress and put his whole game together, and if he does, the Dodgers in the World Series will become somewhat of a familiar sight.
Josh Reddick – 7th (20)
Speaking of someone who has greatly underwhelmed Dodgers fans in right field, here’s Astros right fielder Josh Reddick. About as solid of an outfielder as you will find, the 31-year-old had a career year at the dish in 2017, hitting .314/.363/.484 as one of the few lefty bats in the electric Houston lineup.
Reddick was worth 4.3 bWAR thanks to the former Gold Glove winner’s tremendous defensive presence (.980 fielding percentage, five DRS) in addition to his 13 home runs and 82 RBIs. Now entering his second of four years under contract with the Astros, Reddick just has to be a reliable player in a lineup littered with superstars, and he fits the bill.
Avisail Garcia – 6th (20)
Playing for the Chicago White Sox will do this to you, but Avisail Garcia had a borderline elite 2017 season that close to nobody outside of the Windy City really recognized. Hitting .330/.380/.506 with 18 home runs and 80 RBIs on an awful south side team, Garcia earned his first All-Star Game appearance. The righty was second to only Jose Altuve in the AL batting title race, which really speaks to how great of a season he had.
Garcia, who posted a 4.6 bWAR score last year, is just 26 years old, and as the White Sox pick up steam in their transition from rebuilding to title contention, he will play a big part in any pennant aspirations. For a player his size (6’4’’, 240 lbs) he isn’t all that bad of a defensive player, around even in DRS every season and good for a handful of steals.
J.D. Martinez – 5th (41)
I’m an Astros fan, but I’m going to start this section out with this: Houston cut J.D. Martinez in 2014 because of his “sloped swing,” stating that he couldn’t hit at the big league level. Martinez slashed .303/.376/.690 in 2017, featuring an MLB high slugging percentage, with 45 home runs and 104 RBIs in 119 games between the Diamondbacks and the Detroit Tigers. Oops.
Martinez signed with the Boston Red Sox this offseason, inking a deal that gives the right-handed hitter nearly $110 million over five years. The 30-year-old has won the Silver Slugger once and been an All-Star twice as a right fielder, and after his historic 2017 season during which he knocked four home runs in a single game, Martinez will likely play as the designated hitter for most of 2018 with Boston.
Mookie Betts – 4th (59)
One of the things keeping Martinez from starting in the Boston outfield is the presence of an elite two-way force near Fenway’s Pesky’s Pole. That man is Mookie Betts, who last season slashed .264/.344/.459 with 24 home runs, 102 RBIs, and 26 steals in his second straight All-Star worthy campaign. The undersized right-handed batter won his second straight Gold Glove in 2017, and for great reason: an insane 32 defensive runs saved and a .990 fielding percentage.
The 2016 AL MVP runner-up garnered MVP votes for the third consecutive season, and impressively walked almost as many times as he went down on strikes (77 to 79) in 2017. Betts, who is almost unbelievably just 25, is the complete package in right field and has become a trendy and plausible preseason MVP choice.
Aaron Judge – 3rd (63)
Aaron Judge is that guy in MLB The Show whose attributes you set to 99 just to see what he looks like and how good he can be, but in real life. The 6’7’’ behemoth had a historic AL Rookie of the Year campaign, smashing 52 home runs, 114 RBIs, slashing .284/.422/.627, and walking a league-high 127 times.
Judge finished second to Altuve for MVP in his first full year, lifting the New York Yankees from inferiority to one win away from the World Series. The righty, at just 25, is one of the game’s premier defensive talents as well, moving pretty quickly for a big man and scoring nine DRS in 2017. This isn’t the last of Judge, who is expected to lead the Yankees back to the playoffs this season.
Bryce Harper – 2nd (71)
You might think a $400 million contract sounds absurd, but for Bryce Harper, all is fair and earned. At just 25, the lefty has won the NL MVP once and been an All-Star five times, and in 2017 continued his torrid career pace with a .319/.413/.595 slash line, 29 home runs, and 87 RBIs. The former Silver Slugger totaled 134 hits in 111 games while battling several injuries.
Harper is solid with his glove, posting four DRS to bring his career total to 28. Healthy and ready to exorcise the Washington Nationals’ postseason demons before hitting the free agent market, the former Rookie of the Year is a sneaky MVP candidate in a stacked Nats lineup.
Giancarlo Stanton – 1st (78)
Not enough can be said about Giancarlo Stanton: the defending National League MVP hit a memorable 59 home runs, had a league-leading 132 RBIs, and slashed .281/.376/.631 in 2017 for a lowly Miami Marlins team. Now with the New York Yankees, it’s unclear if the four-time All-Star will play right field in 2018, but his world class righty bat will find a way to lead the squad in one department or another.
Last year was the second time Stanton, 28, was in the top three for NL MVP, but this upcoming season could be his first as a finalist for the AL’s MVP award. The two-time Silver Slugger netted all but two first-place votes on our countdown and was no worse than second on any single ballot. He’s decent.