MLB Position Power Rankings for Every Team's Top Outfielder

Martin FennContributor IIIMarch 16, 2020

MLB Position Power Rankings for Every Team's Top Outfielder

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The coronavirus pandemic might have delayed the start of the 2020 MLB season for at least two weeks, but there is still plenty to discuss in anticipation of Opening Day.

    From the offseason spending spree to the confusing series of events that saw the Boston Red Sox trade star outfielder Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball has offered fans a fair share of drama in recent months.

    Perhaps one of the more overlooked elements of the offseason was the demand for outfield talent.

    The Tampa Bay Rays engaged in a series of trades in an effort to add outfield depth, while teams like the Cincinnati Reds were active in the free-agent market and made multiple splashes. The international scene offered skilled outfielders as well. 

    Now that the dust has settled, how does each team's best starting outfielder project against the others? Time to take a closer look.

Nos. 30-27

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    30. Cameron Maybin, Detroit Tigers

    Maybin was one of the feel-good stories of 2019. The former first-round pick has had a disappointing career, but he was yet another one of those journeyman heroes for a banged-up New York Yankees team in 2019. The corner outfielder slashed .285/.364/.494 with 11 homers and nine stolen bases in 82 games. He also had some success in limited postseason action.

    The 32-year-old signed a one-year deal for his third stint with the Tigers, who drafted him 10th overall in 2005. Maybin's role will be acting as a mentor for a young team in the middle of a rebuild, but he will still be looking to maintain some momentum from last year.

         

    29. Harrison Bader, St. Louis Cardinals

    Despite their internal gripes with Marcell Ozuna, the Cardinals seemed primed to re-sign him this winter—that was until the Atlanta Braves swooped in with a one-year deal. The Redbirds will now look to their young outfield group to make collective strides in 2020, and a lot of pressure will be on Bader to produce.

    The 25-year-old showed promise during his rookie campaign in 2018, but he regressed last year. Bader's walk rate improved, yet he still boasted a 28.8 strikeout rate and finished with 81 weighted runs created plus (wRC+), per FanGraphs.

    Still, Cardinals fans have reason to be excited when it comes to Bader's future. He is one of the fastest players in baseball and also finished fourth among outfielders in outs above average (OAA), according to Baseball Savant. Can he become a more reliable regular in center field?

         

    28. Oscar Mercado, Cleveland Indians

    This is not a knock on Mercado, who had a fine rookie season in Cleveland. He slashed .269/.318/.443 with 15 homers and 15 stolen bases, and he also led the Indians with five OAA while mostly patrolling center field. Moreover, he broke out of an August slump to post an .827 OPS in September, which is always a positive sign for any rookie.

    However, the Indians failed to make any tangible additions to their outfield group, meaning Mercado will have to play well in his sophomore season in order for Cleveland to come out of a reloaded AL Central.

          

    27. Mike Yastrzemski, San Francisco Giants

    Yastrzemski made a name for himself in 2019. The grandson of Boston Red Sox legend and Hall of Fame left fielder Carl Yastrzemski slashed .272/.334/.518 with 21 homers and a 123 OPS+ in 107 games with the Giants while playing above-average defense in left field.

    Yastrzemski's OPS+ is indicative of his ability to hit in San Francisco, and the Giants will need all of his production as general manager Farhan Zaidi and Co. look to piece things together in 2020.

Nos. 26-23

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    26. Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners

    Haniger made the AL All-Star team in 2018 and slashed .285/.366/.493 with 26 homers and a 139 OPS+, and he looked like a potential building block for Seattle.

    But durability matters, and Haniger has had a hard time staying on the field in his big league career. Haniger played in just 63 games in 2019 after suffering a ruptured testicle, and he also underwent multiple core surgeries during the offseason. If he is healthy, Haniger could easily make this ranking look stupid. But that is a big "if."

         

    25. Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh Pirates

    The Pirates are rebuilding, but they can take solace in the fact they can trot out Reynolds each and every day.

    Reynolds was one of the better hitters in his rookie season, slashing .314/.377/.503 with a 131 OPS+ and 16 homers. Reynolds also ranked 21st among qualified outfielders with a 3.2 fWAR. The one reason Reynolds is lower on this list is because he had an unsustainable .387 batting average on balls in play, and there is certainly a chance some of his numbers could slide next season. 

         

    24. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

    For some strange reason, Gurriel has played sparingly over the course of the last two seasons, even though he has positional versatility and is clearly Toronto's best outfield option.

    Gurriel slashed .277/.327./541 with 20 homers and a 127 OPS+ in just 84 games with the Blue Jays last season. He has immense two-way potential as a speedster who can slug and steal bases, though he was caught stealing in four of his 10 tries last season. He is someone to watch as the Blue Jays look to make a significant leap in the American League East.

            

    23. Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles

    While Washington Nationals fans enjoyed the first World Series in franchise history, fans of the Beltway team—the Baltimore Orioles—had little to cheer for in 2019. But at least Trey Mancini developed into a star.

    Mancini had previously looked like a promising player in 2017, but he had a mere 91 wRC+ value in 2018. But 2019 would mark a return to form, as he slashed .291/.364/.535 with a 132 wRC+ and 35 homers.

    However, in Mancini's case, some things are bigger than baseball. He recently had a malignant tumor removed from his colon. While the procedure was successful, his timetable for recovery is unknown.

Nos. 22-19

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    22. Brian Anderson, Miami Marlins

    Is it possible Anderson was one of the most underrated players of 2019?

    After finishing fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year Award balloting in 2018, Anderson slashed .261/.342/.468 with 20 homers this past season. More impressively, Anderson rated as an above-average fielder at both third base and right field. He posted eight defensive runs saved and a 4.2 ultimate zone rating at the hot corner to go along with five defensive runs saved and a 2.2 ultimate zone rating in right.

    The Marlins are hoping to be somewhat competitive in 2020, and another step forward on Anderson's part would certainly help that cause.

         

    21. Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox

    OK, perhaps this is a reach. How can Robert be evaluated when he has yet to play a big league game? Have we not learned a lesson in mitigating hype trains after what happened to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.? What about Eloy Jimenez in this spot? All of these are valid questions.

    However, Robert has the makings of a five-tool superstar. La Pantera hit at every single level of the minors last season, and he was running a .333/.394/.567 slash line in 33 spring training plate appearances prior to the suspension of play. Robert will be a starter on Opening Day, and there is no reason he cannot become one of the best players on the South Side.

         

    20. Nick Castellanos, Cincinnati Reds

    Castellanos went absolutely bananas after being traded to the Chicago Cubs at last year's deadline. The 28-year-old slashed .321/.356/.646 with 16 homers, 21 doubles and a 154 wRC+ in a Cub uniform, putting together one of the best stretches of anyone in baseball. Castellanos will no longer be playing home games at Wrigley Field, but he will still play in a hitter-friendly environment at Great American Ballpark.

    The one knock on Castellanos is his subpar defense. Will he get complacent on the back of his new contract, or will he help the Reds emerge as sleepers in the National League Central?

         

    19. Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs

    As Castellanos was endearing himself to Cubs fans during the final two months, Schwarber was also plenty busy raking. He slashed .304/.394/.649 with 14 homers and a 163 wRC+ during that span, finally showcasing turning into the hitter Cubs fans had longed for since his heroic performances during 2016 World Series.

    Schwarber also hits the ball incredibly hard, ranking ninth in average exit velocity, according to Baseball Savant. While he was a horrific defender last season, Schwarber was one of the leaders in outfield assists in 2018, which shows he can be a capable left fielder.

Nos. 18-15

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    18. Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals

    All Jorge Soler ever really needed was an opportunity. The 28-year-old had mostly been a platoon outfielder for his first five seasons with the Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals, but Soler finally got a chance as a full-time starter in 2019, and he took full advantage.

    Soler smashed a franchise-record 48 home runs and slugged .569 with a 138 OPS+, and he led the majors in barrels, which is a batted ball that requires an exit velocity of at least 98 mph, according to MLB.com. He was dominant after the All-Star break, slashing .299/.411/.665 with 25 homers in just 71 games. While Soler's defense leaves much to be desired, he could be emerging as baseball's next great slugger.

         

    17. Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies

    Blackmon somehow had a lower fWAR in 2019 as he missed 22 games, but he posted the second-highest OPS+ (123) of his career en route to hitting .314/.364/.576 with 32 homers.

    Two major things come to mind with Blackmon, however: the Coors effect and defensive deficiencies.

    Blackmon's OPS was over 400 points higher at home than on the road. He was also one of the worst defensive right fielders in the game for a second straight year in spite of the fact he was above-average in 2017. Blackmon did deal with a calf strain all last season, which could explain some of his struggles.

          

    16. Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers

    Poor Joey Gallo. The modern king of the "three true outcomes" (walk, strikeout or home run) was putting together an All-Star-caliber season in 2019 until an oblique strain in June and a broken hamate bone in late July put an end to his season.

    Still, the numbers are quite impressive.

    In 70 games, Gallo slashed .253/.389/.598 with 22 homers and a 17.5 percent walk rate. The strikeouts were still there, but Gallo was running a 144 wRC+, and he had the third-highest percentage of barrels per any player with at least 100 events. Not to mention, Gallo was tremendous in the outfield, notching five defensive runs saved.

    In total, Gallo managed to rack up 3.3 fWAR in those 70 games. He could be on the cusp of superstardom.

          

    15. Mark Canha, Oakland Athletics

    Canha's rise has been incredible in the last three years.

    The San Jose native hardly played in 2017, but he got over 400 plate appearances in 2018. This past season, Canha solidified himself as another bopper in Oakland's lineup. The 31-year-old was upgraded to Oakland's everyday center fielder when Ramon Laureano was injured toward the end of July, and he put together one of the best individual months of the year (.347/.434/.602 in August).

    Canha finished the season with a whopping 145 OPS+ and 13.5 percent walk rate to go along with a 146 wRC+ and 26 homers. Laureano's return will also allow Canha to move back to right field, where he posted three defensive runs saved and a 1.8 ultimate zone rating in just 224 innings of action.

Nos. 14-11

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    14. Tommy Pham, San Diego Padres

    Perhaps the Cardinals should have been more patient. St. Louis flipped Pham to the Rays prior to the 2018 trade deadline, only for Pham to reassert himself as one of the most multidimensional outfielders in baseball.

    This past season, Pham clubbed 21 homers, stole 25 bases and walked 81 times. He is one of the rare leadoff men with that combination of speed, power and discipline, which is likely why the San Diego Padres traded one of their top prospects (shortstop Xavier Edwards) in order to acquire him this past winter.

    Can Pham still have success in a traditional pitcher's park and stay healthy enough to merit the deal? Regardless of the answer, he is a clubhouse leader and a gamer for a young and hungry Friars squad.

          

    13. Starling Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks

    In many ways, it has felt like Marte was withering away for years on the Pirates.

    Pittsburgh's ineptitude—paired with a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs in 2017—made Marte somewhat of a forgotten star. The 31-year-old slashed .295/.342/.503 with 60 extra-base hits (including 23 homers and six triples) last season to go along with 25 stolen bases. He should benefit from the rangy dimensions at Chase Field in Arizona, which is a haven for speedsters with gap-to-gap power.

    Ketel Marte likely would have been the starting center fielder, but the acquisition of Starling Marte (no relation) allows him to move to second base and gives the Diamondbacks more offensive firepower.

          

    12. J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox

    There is no denying Martinez is one of the best hitters in the game. After nearly winning the Triple Crown in 2018, Martinez slashed .304/.383/.557 with a 140 OPS+ and 36 homers this past season.

    The question is: Can the Red Sox trust Martinez in right field? He is one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball but also might have to play more innings in the field with Betts now in Los Angeles. Regardless, Martinez will continue to be the primary run-producer for a Boston team that will have to score a lot to even sniff the postseason.

          

    11. Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay Rays

    The Rays absolutely pilfered the Pirates when they traded Chris Archer in exchange for Meadows and Tyler Glasnow prior to the 2018 trade deadline.

    In what was really his first full season in the majors, Meadows slashed .291/.364/.558 with 33 homers, a 143 OPS+ and a 142 wRC+, adding 12 stolen bases for good measure. The 24-year-old missed three weeks at the end of April, but he picked up right where he left off, making the AL All-Star team and leading the Rays in homers, RBI and OPS.

    Meadows still has work to do defensively, but he has become a franchise cornerstone for a Rays team whose window has arrived much sooner than anticipated.

Nos. 10-7

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    10. Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins

    The Bomba Squad had its fair share of excellent performances in 2019, but perhaps none better than Kepler.

    The 27-year-old not only clubbed 36 homers with a .519 slugging percentage, but he was also one of the best defensive outfielders in the game. Kepler had plus metrics in his traditional right field spot as well as in center when he filled in for the injured Byron Buxton, and he also recorded seven OAA.

    The Twins bolstered their lineup in the offseason by signing another two-way star in third baseman Josh Donaldson, but Kepler is still among the best all-around players in baseball.

         

    9. Jeff McNeil, New York Mets

    McNeil has one of the best nicknames in baseball, but the Flying Squirrel is a menace on the diamond, too.

    McNeil slashed .318/.384/.531 with 23 homers and a 143 wRC+, and he ranked 14th in the majors in contact rate, per Fox Sports. While McNeil’s average and OBP both declined after the All-Star break, he added 83 points to his slugging percentage and clubbed 16 homers.

    The Mets play McNeil all over the field, but he figures to see the majority of his time in one of the outfield corners. McNeil will have to string together another excellent campaign if the Mets hope to navigate a crowded NL East in 2020.

          

    8. Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies

    Harper was under immense pressure to perform immediately after signing a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies last February. The 2015 NL MVP slashed .260/.372/.510 with 35 homers and 114 RBI while posting the third-highest fWAR (4.6) of his career, yet it was still considered a "down" year.

    That narrative does him a disservice.

    Harper had arguably the best defensive season of his career, posting 10 defensive runs saved and a 10.0 ultimate zone rating while finishing second in outfield assists. He was also a menace hitting with runners in scoring position, slashing .357/.459/.690 with 10 homers, but the Phillies got poor production from their leadoff hitters all season.

    Considering Andrew McCutchen is back from injury and Scott Kingery is finding his groove at the top of the order, however, it would not be a surprise if Harper had a massive year.

         

    7. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

    Judge immediately asserted himself as one of the best players in baseball in 2017 with one of the greatest rookie seasons in MLB history. While injuries have taken a toll on the imposing slugger in recent years, he remains one of the most valuable players in the game.

    Judge missed 60 games in 2019, yet he still finished 10th in fWAR among all outfielders with at least 400 plate appearances. The 27-year-old led the majors in average exit velocity, and he has become one of the top two defensive right fielders in the game. Judge recorded eight OOA and posted 20 defensive runs saved.

    A stress fracture in his rib is threatening Judge's status yet again, but he is unquestionably one of the best all-around superstars in baseball when healthy. The Yankees hope he can make a full recovery in time for Opening Day.

Nos. 6-4

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    6. George Springer, Houston Astros

    At this point, it is impossible not to address the elephant in the room: How much did the sign-stealing scandal help Springer?

    Jayson Stark and Eno Sarris of The Athletic published a piece in January that observed Springer's plummeting strikeout rate and also noted he had the second-most recorded can-banging incidents on the team. Plus, Springer had his best season in 2019.

    The 30-year-old missed 40 games due to injury, yet he still managed to club 39 homers and drive in 96 runs. He posted career highs in every major statistical category, including a 150 OPS+ and 156 wRC+. Moreover, he was one of the better defensive center fielders in the game.

    The sign-stealing scandal will forever be a black mark on the Astros and the sport at large, but there is no denying what Springer accomplished last season.

          

    5. Juan Soto, Washington Nationals

    Want to see the list of greats Soto joined by posting an OBP of .400-plus before or during his age-20 season? Oh, just Ted Williams, Mel Ott, Al Kaline, Jimmie Foxx and Alex Rodriguez, to name a few.

    Soto proved his unbelievable rookie season was no fluke in 2019, slashing .282/.401/.548 with 34 homers, 110 RBI and a 142 wRC+ while losing only five points in OBP (.401). He does not strike out often for someone with his walk rate, and he showed maturity by raking in the postseason.

    The 21-year-old easily could have been named World Series MVP as he slashed .333/.438/.741 with three homers. He even bashed the go-ahead homer off Justin Verlander in Game 6 that helped spur the Nationals to a Game 7, in which they completed their historic comeback.

    Although FanGraphs is not kind to Soto as a defender, Baseball Savant gave him six outs above average last season, so he has the potential to develop into a plus left fielder.

    Just as a reminder: He is still only 21 years old.

          

    4. Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves

    There is nothing Acuna cannot do on a baseball field. Late-season injuries prevented him from becoming the youngest member to join the 40-40 club, but he still finished with 41 homers and led the NL with 37 stolen bases and 127 runs.

    Additionally, Acuna had the second-most barrels in the bigs. He can certainly hit.

    There are still details to keep an eye on, such as Acuna's strikeout rate, but the youngster saw an uptick in his line-drive rate and spread the ball to all fields in 2019. Acuna also notched 11 defensive runs saved, and he has all the intangibles to become a Gold Glove outfielder no matter where he lines up.

Nos. 3-1

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    3. Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers

    Yelich likely would have won his second consecutive NL MVP award had it not been for a fractured kneecap in September, but either way, he remains one of the top three players in baseball.

    Yelich never lost his momentum for the second half of the 2019 season. He led the majors in OPS (1.100) while leading the NL in batting average (.329), OBP (.429) and OPS+ (179). The 28-year-old clubbed 44 homers and also stole 30 bases, finishing third among all position players in terms of fWAR.

    The Brewers signed Yelich to a nine-year, $215 million extension this month, securing Milwaukee the superstar it has been missing for over a decade. Yelich rakes at Miller Park. He slashed an absurd .347/.451/.750 with 27 homers in 65 home games last year. That is bad news for pitchers in the NL Central.

          

    2. Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers

    With all due respect to the 2018 NL MVP, Betts has been better longer. There is a reason the Dodgers were intent on acquiring him this winter: He has all the abilities necessary to be the best player in baseball.

    Mookie ranks second in fWAR between 2015 and 2019, and he is the only guy remotely close to Mike Trout (more on that in a second). Betts was not prolific as he was during his 2018 campaign, but he still slashed .295/.391/.524 and led the majors with 135 runs.

    Even when he is not swiping bags, Betts is one of the best baserunners in the game. He finished second in the majors in baserunning value, according to FanGraphs.

    Finally, there is no need to elaborate much on his generational defensive talent. Betts recorded 16 defensive runs saved and a 12.6 ultimate zone rating last year. He has tremendous range and an absolute cannon of a throwing arm in right field.

    Although there is reason to believe his offensive numbers could slide somewhat at Dodger Stadium, Betts is also joining one of the most dangerous lineups in the majors. He is going to command one of the largest contracts in MLB history next winter.

          

    1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

    Mike Trout is the best player in baseball. It really is that simple.

    From 2012 to 2019, Trout has racked up 72.7 fWAR. That is more than 25 wins higher than Giants catcher Buster Posey, who has the second-highest total during that span. To put this into perspective: Trout had the highest WAR of any player in history before the age of 28.

    The 2019 season was yet another display of brilliance. Trout led the majors in fWAR (8.6) OBP (.438), OPS+ (185) and wRC+ (180) en route to capturing his third AL MVP award. He also mashed a career-high 45 homers.

    One of the biggest frustrations among baseball fans has been Trout’s rather conspicuous absence every October, but the Angels signed Anthony Rendon and made a series of moves to upgrade the roster in 2020. Trout has been a model of consistent excellence, and now, his franchise is finally starting to surround him with pieces to help the team contend for years to come.

         

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs or Baseball Savant, unless otherwise noted.