As we enter the final stretch of the 2023 season, Pitcher List is ranking the top 10 at every position in baseball.
Are you managing a team and have a great hitter who can’t field a lick? Stick ’em in left! What’s the worst that could happen?
Well, you could have a player hit 40+ home runs annually, yet still not manage to crack the top 10 list at his own position. That could definitely happen and maybe even happen on this exact list.
Big-hitting, light-fielding types dominate left field in ballparks across the country, and you’ll see them well-represented on this list as well. Let’s dive in.
Boston’s talented rookie left-fielder wasted no time acclimating to playing baseball on this side of the Pacific Ocean. Yoshida lived up to pretty much all the hype and slashed .285/.338/.445 in his first MLB season.
The Red Sox dealt with injuries up and down the roster, but Yoshida importantly stayed healthy throughout the year, becoming a mainstay in the heart of the lineup.
Yoshida’s carrying tool was his ability to get the bat on the ball, and that showed immediately. His 81.7% contact rate is 88th percentile, and his 13.8% strikeout rate is even better in the 93rd percentile. Both of those numbers were the second-best among qualified left fielders this season, and he was bested by someone you’ll see coming up shortly on this list.
We never expected power to be a big part of Yoshida’s game, but he still managed to hit 15 home runs and collect 68 RBI. It’d be great to see him elevate the ball more consistently next year and perhaps harness some more power. His 56.7% groundball rate was 95th percentile among hitters.
Another area of growth could be his walk rate. He earned free passes at a 6.3% clip, and as someone with such great bat-to-ball skill, you’d think plate discipline would naturally follow. Yoshida struggled with his strike zone judgment, especially early on this season, but it’s an area where he’s grown quite a bit as the season progressed.
Like many of his fellow left fielders, Yoshida struggled immensely in the field. It wasn’t Kyle Schwarber-level bad, but his -12 Fielding Run Value from Statcast was third-lowest among players with at least 200 innings at the position.
Hays is one of the biggest surprises on this list, but maybe not if you’re an Orioles fan. He’s been a consistent part of the AL-East leading lineup all year long and is putting up the best numbers of his career across the board. Hays has slashed .282/.329/.452 to go along with 14 home runs, 62 RBI, and 72 runs scored. That comes out to a 114 wRC+ and 2.1 fWAR.
A big part of Hays’ leap from being a .250s hitter to a .280s hitter is a BABIP surge. His .352 BABIP is over 40 points above his career average. Hays hasn’t changed his batted ball profile much at all and his hard contact rate is up less than a percentage point, so I don’t think I’d bank on those BABIP gains sticking around into the 2024 season.
Hays’ season would likely look even more impressive if he didn’t play in Baltimore. His pulled fly balls just won’t leave the yard the way they used to before the left-field wall was pushed back last year.
Impressive fielding prowess doesn’t typically pop into your mind when you think about Hays, but via Statcast’s Fielding Run Value, Hays has been the seventh-best defensive player with at least 200 innings in left field this year.
Reynolds started the 2023 season with a bang, pounding five home runs in his first seven games. It looked like we were maybe seeing the long-time Pirate breaking out to a new level of production, but the strong start didn’t last.
That’s not to say it was a bad season for the former All-Star, but it hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations we had for him, and he comes in near the bottom of a list most would’ve expected him to be near the top of at the start of the season.
This is Reynolds’ third straight campaign taking a step back in wRC, wOBA, and fWAR. He’s slashed .272/.333/.474 with 22 home runs, 77 RBI, 78 runs, and 12 stolen bases, but an improved offensive environment across the league means each of those weighted stats took a hit.
He’s sitting at a 113 wRC+, .343 wOBA, and 2.5 fWAR. Those are respectable numbers, sure, but it’s not the production Pirates fans were likely hoping for when the team inked him to an eight-year extension.
Puzzlingly, even in his prime years, his fielding numbers have decisively regressed. Statcast graded Reynolds as a 96th-percentile fielder in 2021 and now he’s just a 21st-percentile fielder in 2023.
There were positive changes to his game this year though. He’s played into the stolen base surge, swiping a career-high 12 bags. His 92% success rate is also a career-best mark.
Kwan seems destined to be the leadoff hitter in Cleveland for a long time. In his sophomore season in MLB, Kwan has started and hit at the top of the Guardians’ lineup in all but seven games this year. Taking a breather for so few games is almost unheard of in today’s environment.
In his 147 games this season, Kwan has further cemented his status as a top-tier hit tool player. His 0.91 BB/K ratio is the sixth-best mark among all hitters, not just left fielders. He’s the player I mentioned in the Yoshida blurb — Kwan ranks first among qualified left fielders in both contact (88.7%) and strikeout rate (10.3%).
All together, Kwan has produced a .274/.344/.375 slash line on the year with five home runs, 52 RBI, 89 runs, and 20 stolen bases. That comes out to a 102 wRC+, but his strong fielding ability pushes him up to 3.0 fWAR and 3.8 bWAR.
As we discussed in this article’s intro, this position is dominated by big-hitting, weak-fielding types, but Kwan is the opposite. Here’s a look at how Statcast grades the top 10 fielding left fielders this year.
Kwan’s fielding grades out to be 89th percentile among all players, but as you can see his calling card is his range. His 9 OAA this season is 94th percentile. He’s the type of player who routinely flies under the radar because what he does isn’t flashy, but he’s an irreplaceable piece in Cleveland.
Happ has followed last year’s All-Star and Gold Glove campaign with another solid showing in 2023. In the first season of his three-year extension with the Cubs, Happ has hit .246/.360/.421 with 18 home runs, 73 RBI, 79 runs, and 14 stolen bases.
He still has a little bit of time left to add to his numbers, but currently, both his wOBA and wRC+ have stayed just about the same as compared to last year. They’ve gone from .339 and 120 in 2022 to .342 and 116 in 2023.
Happ has intentionally been less aggressive this season, cutting his swing rate from 49% last year to 44.4% this year, and it’s particularly noteworthy on pitches outside of the strike zone. His chase rate has plummeted to 24.9% which is an 82nd-percentile mark among all hitters.
As you’d expect with that tendency, he’s enjoying a phenomenal plate discipline season. His 14.5% walk rate is in the 95th percentile of hitters, and his 22.3% strikeout rate is the best of his career.
I struggled with Alvarez’s placement on this list for a handful of reasons. First, he’s been penciled in the lineup much more as a DH than a left fielder this season. He’s played the field in 38 of his 102 games so far.
Second, his season has been marred by injury, so balancing where to put an elite producer who’s been on the field less often than everyone else on this list is a bit tricky.
When he’s played, Alvarez has been his typical elite self. The 2019 American League Rookie of the Year is slashing an incredible .300/.413/.591 with 28 home runs, 93 RBI, and 70 runs scored. His production comes out to an eye-popping 174 wRC+ and 4.4 fWAR.
Among hitters with at least 400 plate appearances, only three have a better wRC+ than Alvarez. It’s safe to say if he had been healthy all year, you’d have to scroll quite a ways further down this list to find him.
Alvarez absolutely crushes baseballs. His 17.7% barrel rate and 117.7 mph max exit velocity give you a taste of the pure power in his bat. Alvarez’s Pitcher List and Baseball Savant player pages are just seas of red.
Each of his xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, Average EV, Barrel%, Hard-Hit%, and walk rate are 93rd percentile or better. PLV grades his overall Hitter Performance as a 70 on the 20-80 scale and lists just six hitters as better than him.
After two straight down years for Yelich, the former MVP bounced back solidly in 2023. He didn’t reach his previous heights, but he’s been the best bat in an otherwise lackluster Milwaukee offense looking to win the NL Central. In fact, what he’s doing this year has been eerily similar to the numbers he put up in his final season in Miami six years ago.
Yelich has lowered his strikeout rate for the fourth season in a row down to just 22.1%, and he’s managed to do that while also raising his barrel rate for the third straight year to 8.7%. PLV loves what he’s been doing and has had him above the 90th percentile in hitter performance for over half the season.
It’s not just his bat that he’s excelling with either. Yelich has added a ton of value on the basepaths. Of course, his 27 stolen bases are nice, but his Statcast Baserunning Run Value is elite in the 98th percentile.
Arozarena’s consistency is astounding. Since he went haywire in the 2020 postseason, he’s put up three straight years with a wRC+ of 127, 124, and 127. Being able to be a hitter that regularly produces about 25% better than the league average is pretty incredible, and I feel like baseball fans take that consistency for granted.
This season, Arozarena’s put up a .259/.367/.428 slash line along with 22 home runs, 81 RBI, 90 runs, and 22 stolen bases. It’s his third straight 20/20 season. Each of his runs, RBI, stolen base, and OBP are all top 40 marks among hitters.
Although most of Arozarena’s stats have stayed consistent over the last few years, one hasn’t: his walk rate. He’s walking at a 12.2% clip on the year, over five points above last season’s rate and about three points above his previous career best.
Arozarena’s also improved both his chase and swinging-strike rates this year, and when he has swung at pitches outside of the strike zone he’s made more contact on them than ever, at least fouling them off to keep at-bats alive.
Arozarena’s only 28 years old, so it’s a bit perplexing to see how much his defensive numbers have fallen off. In 2021, his first full season with a starting job, Statcast graded Arozarena as a 67th percentile fielder. That’s fallen in consecutive years to the 29th and 10th percentile, respectively.
Digging into the numbers a bit more, the biggest problem seems to be he’s just not reacting as quickly at the beginning of his route. If he could improve his fielding to just be around league average, he’d get a nice bump to his 3.5 fWAR.
If you evaluated Soto purely by the discourse you saw on social media, he probably wouldn’t even crack this top 10 list. It’s funny that there is so much negativity surrounding the young phenom when we’re talking about a player who’s hit .266/.402/.505 with 32 home runs, 98 RBI, and 87 runs this year.
Each of Soto’s .387 wOBA, 150 wRC+, and 4.8 fWAR are improvements over last year’s marks. He hasn’t exactly been the second coming of Ted Williams like so many wanted him to be, but he’s still been a star that every single team in the league would love to plug into their lineup day in and day out.
It’s certainly too early to be evaluating his entire career, but collecting 27.7 fWAR before your 25th birthday is a pace that elicits Hall of Fame chatter.
Soto is up to his typical batted-ball antics this season, posting an xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, Average EV, barrel rate, and hard-hit rates that all fall in the top 20 percentile of batters. As usual, he’s also showing his trademark plate discipline skills. His 18.6% walk rate is the best in the league, and it’s the fourth straight season he’s topped that chart.
He’s continued his minimalistic approach to swinging, and opposing pitchers have helped boost that walk rate by tossing just 41.8% of pitches to him in the strike zone. That level is extremely low — just 7th percentile zone rate.
All those numbers come together to paint the picture of an elite hitter. It’s incredible just how good he’s been, especially for how seemingly negative baseball fans have been about him during his time in San Diego. We should be enjoying watching the prime years of Soto’s career, not being upset that he isn’t putting up unrealistic levels of production year in and year out.
Next year will be Soto’s last arbitration-eligible season, and with a Scrooge-McDuck-swimming-in-money type of payday on the horizon, expectations will be sky-high again in 2024.
Carroll has lived up to every ounce of prospect hype he carried entering his rookie year. Through 599 plate appearances, he’s slashed .279/.358/.501 with 24 home runs, 70 RBI, 104 runs, and 47 stolen bases. Both his run and stolen base totals are top 10 among all players.
The Diamondbacks’ rookie comes in at the top of both the left field fWAR and bWAR leaderboards with marks of 5.2 and 4.9, and his 4.3 WARP comes in just a tick behind Soto’s 4.5.
Back in late June and early July, Carroll had a few flare-ups of right shoulder soreness which was particularly scary given that he had season-ending surgery on that shoulder back in 2021. Thankfully, Carroll didn’t miss much time, but his batting numbers as a whole have taken a step back since then, particularly his power numbers.
Before the shoulder issues, Carroll had a .391 wOBA and 147 wRC+ compared to a .339 wOBA and 112 wRC+ after. For the season as a whole, Carroll’s production comes out to a .366 wOBA and 130 wRC+.
Prior to the shoulder issues, Carroll’s name was being mentioned alongside Ronald Acuña Jr. in National League MVP discussions, and although he hasn’t kept that pace up, he’s still the hands-down favorite to take home the National League Rookie of the Year award. It’s honestly not even really a competition. Here’s how he stacks up to other rookie hitters:
Kodai Senga’s name should be in the Rookie of the Year discussion too, but his 3.4 fWAR seems to create a big enough gap between the two that he won’t be able to seriously challenge Carroll for the award.
It’s been an absolute blast watching Carroll take the league by storm, and if his rookie year is any indication of what his career as a whole will shape up to be, he’ll be one of the faces of baseball for the next decade.