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 2019 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 comes to a close and the 2019 MLB season begins, 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 pitcher, 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 2019 season.
15. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (Last year: not ranked)
Gordon fell off severely after 2017, but a decent 2018 campaign for the long-time Royals left fielder — one that featured his sixth Gold Glove Award — puts him in the top 15 at his position in the sport. Gordon bounced back from his .208 average, 126-strikeout, nine home-run 2017 season with a 2018 campaign where he slashed .245/.324/.370 and hit 13 home runs, 54 RBIs, and 24 doubles in addition to 12 stolen bases.
K.C. has little left to enjoy from the Royals teams that won two straight American League pennants and the 2015 World Series. The left-handed Gordon is one of those few things, and at 35, is still providing some value for a reshaping club.
14. Brett Gardner, New York Yankees (Last year: 6th)
Gardner is a pro’s pro, an absolute trooper, and one of the last remaining links to the Yankees’ most recent World Series title from 2009. While his play has taken a hit (which is both fine and expected because he’s 35), the left-hander is an invaluable veteran presence in a Yankees dugout with many young guys.
His performance in left field is still decent, as in 2018 Gardner slashed .236/.322/.368 with 12 home runs, 45 RBIs, 16 steals, and 65 walks. As a lefty in a lineup with powerful right-handers like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Miguel Andujar, he also provided much-needed versatility in a batting order without much. A fan favorite in the Bronx, Gardner is far from done.
13. Tommy Pham, Tampa Bay Rays (Last year: 5th)
Pham has had a very odd career, and at 31 years old is already on the wrong side of the aging curve, but is still a solid asset for a surprising Rays team. Pham, who was traded to Tampa Bay at last season’s trade deadline after Harrison Bader emerged as the St. Louis Cardinals starting center fielder, shifted to left field and slashed a ridiculous .343/.448/.622 with seven home runs, 22 RBIs, six triples, and a 194 OPS+ in 30 games with the Rays.
Remember: In 2017 Pham emerged as a potential superstar with the Cardinals and posted a 6.2 Baseball-Reference WAR in just 128 games. He is clearly a guy with a very high ceiling, and the Rays are hoping to unlock that again with the right-hander.
12. Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers (Last year: not ranked)
There has been a lot of talk about Gallo’s inability to hit to the opposite field (against the shift) since the lefty’s initial promotion to the major leagues. But for a restructuring Rangers club that is years away from contending, I don’t think anyone minds watching Gallo turn on everything and cork 40 home runs over the right field fence every year. The 25-year-old has done so in each of his two full MLB seasons, and last year, was third in all of baseball with 40 bombs.
Of course, that kind of power comes with failure to hit for average. Gallo’s 2018 slash line reads .206/.312/.498, and he struck out a whopping 207 times with just 103 hits to his name. Someone who hovers around the Mendoza line will eventually have to start chopping pitches down the third base line, but again, for now, nobody will object to seeing him settle and blast balls past the Globe Life Park walls.
11. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets (Last year: 3rd)
Cespedes’ tenure with the Mets has been plagued with injuries, which is unfortunate for the energetic outfielder, the 2015 National League pennant-winning Mets, and us as baseball fans, who are being deprived of one of the most entertaining and smooth players in the sport. His hamstrings, quadriceps, and now heels have forced him to miss 205 contests over the past two seasons.
But the facts are when he is on, he is on. The right-hander has slashed .282/.343/.525 with 26 home runs, 71 RBIs, and a 131 OPS+ over the 119 games he has played since the beginning of the 2017 season. He is electric when healthy, and he hopes to return to the Mets lineup soon.
10. Corey Dickerson, Pittsburgh Pirates (Last year: not ranked)
I give the Rays a lot of credit for the way they find value out of any player, but with that being said, they should not have given Dickerson away for the bag of peanuts they received in return. Since joining the Pirates, the 29-year-old Dickerson has performed exceptionally on both sides of the game, hitting .300/.330/.474 with 13 home runs, 55 RBIs, and a 118 OPS+ while stealing eight bags and winning his first Gold Glove Award in 2018.
The Pirates got a 3.8-WAR player for free, and that guy is the left-handed Dickerson.
9. David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks (Last year: not ranked)
Peralta had an insanely good 2018 season, and now his quest turns to proving that it wasn’t a fluke, and that he can be expected to put up those numbers every year. That question has not yet been answered, but his 2018 season is still a great topic of discussion. The lefty slashed .293/.352/.516 with 30 home runs, 87 RBIs, 25 doubles, 48 walks, and a 124 OPS+, accumulating a 3.9 bWAR on a Diamondbacks team that now is desperate for superstar production without Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock.
The 31-year-old won the NL Silver Slugger Award in left field for his efforts and now is arguably the most productive offensive player on the team in downtown Phoenix.
8. Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels (Last year: 2nd)
Upton will be on the shelf to begin the 2019 season after being diagnosed with turf toe. The Angels will certainly miss his production after the four-time All-Star’s scintillating 2018 campaign, where he slashed .257/.344/.463 with 30 bombs, 85 RBIs, 64 walks, and eight steals while also contributing greatly with his left field defense, posting a .987 fielding percentage in 1,200.1 innings.
The right-handed Upton, a three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, is a serviceable sidekick to transcendent stars like Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, and when he returns to the depleted lineup in Anaheim, the Angels’ ambitious postseason aspirations will get a massive boost.
7. Eddie Rosario, Minnesota Twins (Last year: not ranked)
Rosario’s last two seasons have been too much to ignore, and as the Twins fight for a postseason spot after a disappointing 2018 campaign, the club will ride the exceptional power and defensive skill of their left fielder in 2019. Rosario slashed .288/.323/.479 coupled with 24 home runs, 77 RBIs, 57 extra-base hits, and a 115 OPS+ in 2018.
The 27-year-old left-hander has no accolades to his name, but after another solid season both offensively and defensively (6 FanGraphs DRS and .986 fielding percentage in left field last season), 2019 could be the year Rosario, already a star in the Twin Cities, breaks out and earns national acclaim.
6. Michael Brantley, Houston Astros (Last year: 15th)
The Astros needed a left-handed bat due to the departing Brian McCann and switch-hitting Marwin Gonzalez. Brantley is that and much, much more for a team with as good of a shot at the World Series as anybody in baseball. The former AL Most Valuable Player Award finalist finished 2018, a year spent with the Cleveland Indians, with a splendid .309/.364/.468 slash line, 17 home runs, 76 RBIs, 12 steals, 36 doubles, and only 60 strikeouts after battling injuries for much of 2016 and 2017.
It’s obvious that Brantley is extremely valuable when his health coincides with his great skill and all-fields contact-hitting approach. Houston receives a very intelligent and reliable left fielder in the 31-year-old.
5. Marcell Ozuna, St. Louis Cardinals (Last year: 1st)
Ozuna was the Cardinals’ big-name acquisition before the 2018 season, and the right-hander did not disappoint, but his 2018 campaign was not nearly as impressive as his eye-popping 2017 results. His first season in the Gateway City saw the 28-year-old slash .280/.325/.433 with 23 home runs, 88 RBIs, a 106 OPS+ which is very solid, but a far cry from his 37-bomb, .312-hitting season with the Miami Marlins a year prior.
Ozuna has a chance to shoot back up the left fielder power rankings with a great 2019 performance in the middle of the best Cardinals lineup since their 2013 NL pennant-winning run, after falling from first place to fifth.
4. Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox (Last year: 4th)
The talent level of those on the Red Sox roster is at its most apparent when you look at Benintendi — a 24-year-old with speed, power, contact tools, and great defensive instincts — and realize he probably isn’t even a top-five player on their roster, but would be the face of many other MLB franchises. The lefty slugger deserves no disrespect, however, and in 2018 showed just why he’s invaluable to a club with even that much skill.
The former first-round MLB draft pick slashed .290/.366/.465 with 16 home runs, 87 RBIs, 21 stolen bases, 41 doubles, and 71 walks during Boston’s 108-win 2018 regular season. The former Rookie of the Year finalist provided a 3.9 bWAR and four DRS to the world champs.
Yeah, I refuse to mention what happened in Game 4 of the 2018 AL Championship Series. Keep scrolling.
3. Juan Soto, Washington Nationals (Last year: not ranked)
Soto would have won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in almost any other year besides 2018, but alas, the Nationals have a generational talent of a complete hitter who happens to only be 20 years old. No big deal.
Soto slashed .292/.406/.517 with 22 home runs (including a three-run jack on the very first pitch he saw in his first MLB start), 70 RBIs, 48 extra-base knocks, 79 walks, a .923 OPS, and a 142 OPS+ in 116 games in 2018. He look impossibly poised and mature for someone his age, exhibiting plate discipline never before seen from an under-20 major-leaguer. If he can clean up his defensive game (-5 DRS in 2018), he can ascend from young phenom to certified superstar.
2. Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves (Last year: not ranked)
Yeah, about that NL Rookie of the Year race… Acuna won it fair and square and did so while battling injuries, playing fewer games than the aforementioned Soto, but still somehow posting better cumulative stats. He is a 21-year-old megastar for a team with the NL pennant on their minds and is quickly emerging as one of the faces of MLB.
Acuna slashed .293/.366/.552 with 26 home runs, 64 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, 45 bases on balls, a .917 OPS, and a 144 OPS+ in just 111 games in 2018, assisting the Braves in their conquest of the NL East. Not only was his talent on display last season, his fiery passion and swagger was as well, when he hit this booming grand slam in the NLDS.
1. Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers (Last year: ineligible — played center field)
Yelich’s 2018 season was one for the ages and one that allowed a national audience to finally appreciate the talent that had been wasted on a lowly Marlins roster for so long. In joining the Brewers, the left-handed hitter had career-best statistics in essentially every meaningful category, slashing a ridiculous .326/.402/.598 with 36 home runs, 110 RBIs, 22 steals, 68 walks, a 1.000 OPS, and 164 OPS+.
The 27-year-old posted a 7.6 bWAR and led Milwaukee, who had not qualified for the postseason since 2011, to the NLCS, where they fell just one game short of a World Series berth. He provides a fearsome presence with his contact hitting, power, discipline, and defensive excellence, putting together a package that makes for an absolute superstar.