|Hate him or love him, Braun is one|
of the best outfielders in the game
by: Chase Fitzgerald
1. Ryan Braun
Last season’s stats: HR: 41 RBI: 112 AVG: .319 OPS: .987 OBP: .391 SLG: .595
Over the past two seasons, Ryan Braun has proved himself to be not only the best left fielder in the game, but arguably the best player in all of baseball. He won the MVP in 2011 and was the runner up this year and with him just entering his prime now, he should be contending for another one next season. He led all LF in Slugging, OBP, average, hits, runs, and WAR while adding 41 homeruns and 112 RBIs. Braun has been accused of using PEDs but until he is proven guilty, in my opinion, his name should be clean. Braun is one of the best players in the game and he consistently puts up amazing numbers. He has won a Silver Slugger each of the past 5 seasons and continues to improve every season. Braun may be the best player in the National League and I can’t wait for what he has in store for us next year.
2. Josh Hamilton
Last season’s stats: HR: 43 RBI: 128 AVG: .285 OPS: .930 OBP: .354 SLG: .577
Hamilton will be moving to left field next year because his new team, the Angels, already have a pretty solid center fielder in Mike Trout. Hamilton and Trout headline probably the best outfield in the majors with the ability to score as many runs as they please. Hamilton found his power stroke last season passing 40 homers for the first time in his career along with tallying 128 RBIs and leading all left fielders in both those categories. Hamilton though did seem very disinterested at times and went on his fair share of cold streaks. He also went on some crazy hot streaks including one where he hit 9 homeruns in six games and just seemed impossible to get out. He also was awful when his team needed him most only getting 2 hits in the last 4 games of the season which may have played a part in him not getting re-signed. Even with all his woes, Hamilton is still easily a top ten player in the league and is one of the most feared hitters in the game. When he’s hot, there is no one better.
3. Carlos Gonzalez
Last season’s stats: HR: 22 RBI: 85 AVG: .303 OPS: .881 OBP: .371 SLG: .510
Car-go is one of my favorite players in all of baseball and he has the potential to be one of the best players in the game. We had a glimpse of the player he can be in 2010 when he had an MVP caliber season and he has regressed since that year but, I think this is the season where he returns to his MVP form. He was top five among left fielders in OBP, SLG, OPS, SB, and AVG while being a great all-around player. He believes he had an off year which is amazing considering the numbers he put up, and he’s focused on having a “rebound” season. If he finally puts it all together, the rest of the league better be on lookout. With him and Tulo, the Rockies have a couple superstar players and could surprise a lot of people next season.
|Harper's best days are ahead of him|
Last season’s stats: HR: 22 RBI: 59 AVG: .270 OPS: .817 OBP: .340 SLG: .477
Bryce Harper had a very solid rookie season which was enough to earn him the rookie of the year and get him some voted for MVP. He struggles at times but he did show flashed of the player he could be. He has more potential than any other player in baseball and he should be contending for MVP’s soon. He was top five among left fielders in runs, WAR, 3B, and led the league in hustle which I have yet to find a stat for. If any pitcher or outfielder fell asleep, Harper was always there to take advantage and take that extra base. Even though Harper was over talked about on ESPN, he deserves most of the hype because he is on his way to becoming one of the best players in all of baseball. It may take a little longer than it took Mike Trout but Harper is on the rise slowly but surely.
5. Matt Holliday
Last season’s stats: HR: 27 RBI: 102 AVG: .295 OPS: .877 OBP: .379 SLG: .497
Matt Holliday did a great job of filling the Superstar role after Pujols left and almost led the Cardinals to another World Series. He gets a lot less credit then he deserves and is one of the premier players in the league. Holliday had a slightly off year for Matt Holliday having his OPS dip below .900 for the first time since 2005. The six time all star did however put together a fine season being top 5 among left fielders in OPS, OBP, AVG, RBI, and hits while being the clubhouse leader the Cardinals needed leading them to be one game away from another trip to the World Series. Holliday is getting older and he may not be the MVP caliber player he once was, but he can still play with the best of them and is well worth his 16 million dollar salary.
6. Justin Upton
Last season’s stats: HR: 17 RBI: 67 AVG: .280 OPS: .785 OBP: .355 SLG: .430
Justin Upton is another player loaded with potential but has not quite reached it. He had an incredible 2011 having an OPS around .900 but he followed that up with probably the worst season in his career. Justin Upton is a much better player than he has been and an MVP type season may be arriving soon for him. He received MVP votes in 2011 and I can see him having a similar year to that in 2013. He was traded to Atlanta where he should become more comfortable especially since he is playing with his brother and maybe all Upton needed was a change of scenery. Upton has the ability to .300 with 30 homeruns every season and should be reaching those types of numbers very soon.
7. Josh Willingham
Last season’s stats: HR: 35 RBI: 110 AVG: .260 OPS: .890 OBP: .366 SLG: .524
Josh Willingham absolutely came out of nowhere with a monster 2012 for the Twins hitting 35 homeruns and tallying 110 RBIs. He has usually been at best a solid player but he was never thought to be capable of this. He showed improvement the year before but burst onto the scene this year earning him his first ever Silver Slugger and a lot of well deserved attention. Willingham has been the center of a lot of trade rumors recently but the 34 year old looks to be staying put for at least the time being. The reason Willingham is only 7th on the list despite his monster year is that it was just one season. He’s going to have to repeat last year’s numbers if he’s going to move up and I wouldn’t be shocked if he does.
8. Yoenis Cespedes
Last season’s stats: HR: 23 RBI: 82 AVG: .292 OPS: .861 OBP: .356 ALG: .505
Yoenis Cespedes might be the most athletic player in MLB and the 27-year-old rookie showed plenty of his freakish ability last year with the A’s. The usually low spending A’s out-bid many teams for Cespedes’ services and the reward was well worth the cost. His play was a huge reason why the A’s won their division and returned to the postseason and he probably would have been the rookie of the year if some guy named Mike Trout didn’t exist. He missed 30 games this year due to injury but still managed to hit 23 homers and 82 RBIs. He was top fifth among Left fielders in WAR and was 6th in OPS, SLG, and average. Cespedes is just scratching the surface of the player he can be and if you’re an A’s fan, you can’t help but be excited about this great young core.
9. Alex Gordon
Last season’s stats: HR: 14 RBI: 72 AVG: .294 OPS: .822 OBP: .368 SLG: .455
Alex Gordon is a hitting machine being one of the best leadoff men in the game and being second among all left fielders in hits with 189. He is also one of the most durable players in the game missing only 1 game the entire year and consistently producing. He caught fire during the summer hitting over .300 and having an OPS of close to .900 but his early season woes kept him from having a great year. You might look at Gordon’s low homerun total and think he doesn’t have much power but don’t be fooled. Gordon led all Left fielders in doubles by 14 while racking up 51 one of them. Along with being one of the best hitters, Gordon is also one of the best fielding left fielders winning the Gold Glove each of the past two years. He is one of the best in the game at getting himself into scoring position and creating runs for his team which is 93 runs scored and his 6.2 WAR shows. Gordon is just now entering his prime and with him and Butler headlining the lineup, the Royals could make some noise very soon.
10. Carlos Quentin
Last season’s stats: HR: 16 RBI: 46 AVG: .261 OPS: .877 OBP: .374 SLG: .504
After missing the beginning of 2012 with injury, Quentin absolutely killed it the rest of the year starting the season off hotter than ever before cooling down as the season came to a close. Quentin only played half the year but if you double the numbers he put up, you have a 32 homer and 92 RBI season which isn’t that bad. After a breakout 2008 where he earned his one and only Silver Slugger, Quentin had an off year but has been progressing every year and slowly getting back to his 2008 self. The reason Quentin is so low on the list is because it was only half a year. He has to show that he can put up those numbers for an entire year which is much tougher. Quentin though, still is capable of putting together an All Star season and with him and Chase Headley batting 3rd and 4th, the Padres have a deadly middle of the order combo.
Be sure to follow Chase on Twitter via @Cfitzwrites and tell him what you think about the rankings.