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 left fielders for the 2018 season.
This time around, we have a whole bunch of players who received votes but did not score enough points to end up in the top 15. Those men are Corey Dickerson (4), Domingo Santana (3), Joc Pederson (2), David Peralta (2), Eddie Rosario (1), and Aaron Altherr (1).
Michael Brantley – 15th (4)
We aren’t that far removed from Michael Brantley being an American League Most Valuable Player finalist in 2014 and being regarded as one of the best players in MLB. Through injuries, the emergence of other Cleveland Indians players, and everything else, Brantley has fallen off, but he’s still a serviceable player.
The former Silver Slugger Award winner hit .299/.357/.444 with nine home runs, 52 runs batted in, and 11 steals as an All-Star in 2017, but he only played in 90 games (and has only appeared in 101 games in the past two seasons). It won’t get better soon for the 30-year-old lefty, as the Tribe will place Brantley on the DL to begin the season with an ankle injury.
Trey Mancini – 14th (5)
It’s not fair to be a rookie in the same year as Aaron Judge, but Trey Mancini held his own. The Rookie of the Year finalist hit .293/.338/.488 with 24 homers and 78 RBIs as part of the formidable Baltimore Orioles lineup, adding 26 doubles and 159 hits in 147 games.A position with a lot of speed and a lot of youth, here are MLB's 15 best left fielders for the 2018 season.Click To Tweet
This is basically what you can expect from Mancini, 26, every season: .290 at the dish and 20-25 home runs, with the ability to grow his overall defensive game (to which advanced metrics are not friendly). The right-handed hitter didn’t get the love he deserved behind Judge and others, but had a solid 2017 campaign nonetheless.
Kyle Schwarber – 13th (5)
In case you hadn’t heard, Kyle Schwarber lost a lot of weight in the offseason and committed to playing solid outfield defense as a quicker, lighter version of himself after an abysmal negative-nine defensive runs saved 2017 season in left field. Whether his defense improves remains to be seen, but the lefty is a monster at the plate. Thirty home runs, 59 RBIs, and 59 walks in 129 games last season speaks for itself
Still, the 25-year-old needs to round out his batting after a measly .211/.315/.467 2017 season. With the potential to be a more disciplined hitter and a better defender, the Chicago Cubs will take his unparalleled home run strength and work around it in 2018.
Rhys Hoskins – 12th (8)
After the Philadelphia Phillies signed veteran first baseman Carlos Santana, it becomes likely that Rhys Hoskins will play left field in 2018. For more on Hoskins, who made the Top 15 First Basemen rundown, click here.
Chris Taylor – 11th (12)
Adam Eaton – 10th (14)
Washington Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton will be playing with something to prove in 2018 as he comes back from surgery to repair a torn left ACL and meniscus that prematurely ended his 2017 season. When Eaton was healthy last year, he was productive, slashing .297/.393/.462 with two home runs, 13 RBIs, and 14 walks in 23 games on the field.
Though health will be a concern after a serious knee injury, batting leadoff in a stacked Nats lineup will lead to a lot of runs from the 28-year-old. The lefty is a fine defender and is expected to play right field in 2018 after the emergence of Michael A. Taylor in center.
Ryan Braun – 9th (15)
Former National League MVP Ryan Braun is a career .302 hitter, a six-time All-Star, a five-time Silver Slugger winner, and a former Rookie of the Year, but just ninth on this rundown. Braun has lost a step, hitting just .268/.336/.487 in 2017, but he knocked 17 home runs and 52 RBIs in just 104 games.
The 34-year-old righty has never been the best defensive player, but he has generally been able to balance his deficiencies out with elite production at the plate. Previously hitting 41 home runs in a single season for the Milwaukee Brewers, Braun must be a little closer to that total to remain valuable to the team, especially with the influx of new outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich.
Starling Marte – 8th (24)
Starling Marte now has to shoulder the load on a Pittsburgh Pirates team without ace Gerrit Cole or franchise cornerstone Andrew McCutchen, and I kind of feel bad for him. Hitting .275/.333/.379 last season with seven home runs and 31 RBIs in 77 games, the 29-year-old also has to shed his awful reputation after a suspension for PEDs shortened his 2017 season.
Despite the red flags from the PED suspension, Marte is a strong offensive and defensive player who will bat in a more opportune spot in the lineup after Pittsburgh’s offseason moves. The two-time Gold Glove winner and former All-Star scored nine DRS in just 476 innings in left field last season.
Khris Davis – 7th (30)
Oakland Athletics left fielder Khris Davis is referred to mostly as “Khrush,” because it’s catchy, it’s easy, and he’s a very powerful right-handed hitter. As soon as the A’s can develop a nickname for a consistent hitter, Davis will take that. The 30-year-old has hit exactly .247 in each of the last three seasons, including 2017’s .247/.336/.528, 43-homer, 110-RBI performance.
Davis is statistically one of the worst defensive players among everyday left fielders (-13 DRS last season), which tends to turn his bWAR down a notch (2.6). Still, an elite power hitter grooming some of the top young prospects in the league is something the A’s should cherish.
Brett Gardner – 6th (36)
Brett Gardner will not beat you with his size or his power, but there are few players in MLB with more competitiveness and drive. Gardner is the heart and soul of a New York Yankees team full of more talented players because he never gives anything less than 100 percent. The lefty hit .264/.350/.428 with 21 long balls, 63 RBIs, and 72 walks in 2017, posting 4.9 bWAR (his second-best single season total).
The past Gold Glove winner isn’t slowing down at age 34, playing to the tune of 17 DRS in left field during the 2017 campaign. On a squad full of youthful sluggers and exciting athletes, Gardner is a wily veteran paving the way towards World Series chances.
Tommy Pham – 5th (38)
Minor league baseball players have it extremely tough, and on account of that, my respect and admiration for St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham grows daily. Not a full-time MLB player until last season at the age of 29, the righty hit .306/.411/.520 with 23 home runs, 73 runs driven in, 25 steals, and 71 steals; Pham led the Cards in bWAR with 6.2 in just 128 games played.
Pham is a superb defender as well, with 11 DRS and a .996 fielding percentage in 2017. Either the 30-year-old will experience severe regression in 2018 after a move to center field, or his immense value will continue into a potential Wild Card push for St. Louis. Only time will tell.
Andrew Benintendi – 4th (45)
Just like Trey Mancini, Andrew Benintendi would have won the AL Rookie of the Year in any ordinary season — but instead he ran into Aaron Judge. Nevertheless, “Benny Biceps” slashed .271/.352/.424 with 20 home runs, 90 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases in 151 games for the Boston Red Sox in 2017. The speedy, strong lefty was worth nine DRS in left field to round out a preexisting defensively stout outfield at Fenway.
At just 23 years old, it’s incredible how advanced of a player Benintendi, who scored 2.6 bWAR last season, really is. The Red Sox have a a strong young core in them, with Benintendi being a big part of it.
Yoenis Cespedes – 3rd (55)
An infectious swagger and a bionic arm are just two of the many reasons why Yoenis Cespedes is one of the top players in the game. The New York Mets’ right-handed batter hit .292/.352/.540 with 17 home runs and 42 RBIs during his shortened 2017 season, in which he played 81 games. Cespedes is always a risky player to have but a tremendous one at that when his health permits him to play the Cespedes way.
The 32-year-old is not the defensive player he once was, but he still saved two runs defensively in left field last season. It’s an awful time to be a Mets fan right now, but Cespedes gives them something to cheer for, at the very least.
Justin Upton – 2nd (60)
Justin Upton and Mike Trout in the same outfield is terrifying only if you’re not a Los Angeles Angels fan, in which case it’s one of the coolest things to happen to your franchise in recent memory. The 30-year-old Upton hit .273/.361/.540 with 35 long balls, 109 runs batted in, and 44 doubles in his fourth All-Star campaign, which he split between the Angels and Detroit Tigers.
The righty signed a five-year contract with the Angels to play alongside their immensely talented core of position players this past offseason and immediately becomes perhaps their second-most valuable player. Upton had a 5.7 bWAR season in 2017 in addition to eight DRS.
Marcell Ozuna – 1st (61)
Last year was a breakout season for an already solid young left fielder, as Marcell Ozuna put up absurd career highs for the Miami Marlins in a season overshadowed by that of Giancarlo Stanton. Ozuna hit .312/.376/.548 with 37 home runs, 124 RBIs, 30 doubles, 191 hits, and 64 walks, all of which were career bests. Much like Stanton, Ozuna was traded after a career year, joining another potent outfield in St. Louis.
By just one voting point, the 27-year-old righty was named the top left fielder in the sport by our panel. The Gold Glove winner, Silver Slugger, and two-time All-Star is somewhat of a sneaky MVP prediction this season, and a plausible one at that.