Hey, if it’s a day that ends in “y” then it is a good talk to talk about fantasy baseball. This week we are shining a light on left fielders in another edition of the 2023 Top Keepers series.
When it comes to left fielders, they are almost like the second basemen of the outfield. Many left fielders also play other positions, whether it is elsewhere in the outfield, DH, or someone in the infield.
Of the 30 ranked players and the five who just missed, only 15 of them appeared in more than 100 games in left. A few more of them would have reach 100 games if they were called up to the big leagues sooner or didn’t suffer through injuries.
The Average Left Fielder
The goal when building a fantasy team is to obviously have the best players at every position. But that is pretty much impossible to do. But an easier goal to reach is to at least have a player who is better than league average at that position. You may think this is easy, but in 16- to 20-team leagues with deep rosters, this goal is a lot harder to achieve than you may think.
So, what does the average left fielder produce?
- A slash line of .250/.322/.403
- 19 home runs
- 72 RBI
- 10 stolen bases
If you can start a player who tops the majority of those players, then you are in good shape. And in case you are wondering, the average left fielder has the best overall slash line compared to center fielders and right fielders, while center fielders have the best speed and right fielders the most power.
Unlike some other positions we have already looked at, like second base, there is relatively good depth in left field. The top players are head and shoulders better than the rest of the group, but there are decent players to be found in Tier 5.
Now, let’s start our dive into the 2023 Top Keepers – Left Fielders edition.
A quick note: Ages are as of now and the team is who they finished the season with. A player’s team may change for 2023, ages certainly will. Players who have not spent any time in the majors are also not ranked. Prospect rankings are for another list at another time.
Jesse Winker could have a breakout season in Milwaukee after a lost year in Seattle. With the Mariners he slashed .219/.344/.344 with 14 homers and 53 RBI and a below average EV. But after being traded to the Brewers, he will be playing in a park that is a bit more hitter friendly, allowing him to possibly duplicate the 2021 season he had with the Reds.
Pham hit is coming off a 17 homer, 63 RBI season, while Canha had a slash line of .266/.367/.403 with 13 dingers. Meanwhile, Ozuna slugged .413 with 23 home runs.
A Tad Better Than Average
Austin Hays will probably be one of the first Orioles hitters to say he wants the club to move the left field fence back to its original distance. While his EV and his Hard Hit% were nearly identical to his 2021 numbers, Hays saw his home runs drop from 22 to 16 this past year. But he still had a decent slash line of .250/.306/.413.
Chas McCormick was not a fulltime starter, but if given the chance in 2023, he may put up some surprising numbers. In only 359 at-bats, he hit 14 home runs and drove in 44 runs while slashing .245/.332/.407. If the Astros don’t re-sign Michael Brantley or sign a free agent left fielder, look for McCormick to get plenty of ABs in left as well as center.
Speaking of Brantley, don’t let his age full you. If there is one thing Brantley knows how to do, it is hit. He had four consecutive seasons of hitting .300 or better until last season, when a shoulder injury limited him to 243 at-bats and a .288/.370/.416 slash line with five homers and 26 at-bats.
Brantley is slowing progressing from shoulder surgery and may not be 100 percent when the season starts, but he always puts up a good slash line and would make a solid keeper.
While MJ Melendez hit only .217 for the Royals, he had a solid rookie campaign as he smashed 18 homers and drove in 62 runs. His home run percentage (3.4%), walk percentage (12.4%) and average EV (90.7 mph) were all better than league average. Making Melendez even more valuable is the fact he can be slotted into your lineup as a left fielder, right fielder or catcher.
Jeff McNeil didn’t hit with a lot of power (nine homers), but he drove in 62 runs and slashed .326/.382/.454, which is more in line with what he did from 2018-2020 compared to 2021 and will help any team’s slash line numbers.
One Fast Diamondback
Arizona is loaded with quality outfielders, one of whom is Jake McCarthy. McCarthy is the Tier 4 player at the moment but could move up if he continues to get regular playing time in 2023.
Grey had a great writeup about McCarthy in his Jake McCarthy Fantasy Baseball Sleeper. McCarthy has great speed and is coming off a .283/.342/.427 rookie season at the plate.
Going to Bounce Back
Jake Fraley didn’t have a great season with the Reds thanks mostly to being injured much of the season. Limited to 68 games, he slashed .259/.344/.468 with 12 homers, 28 RBI and four steals. But over his last 53 games, Fraley slugged 11 home runs and drove in 25 runs with three steals while slashing .295/.377/.526. He is hitting in a great hitter’s park and I fully expect him to break out this year.
When it comes to Corbin Carroll, Grey went in-depth about him in his Corbin Carroll 2023 Fantasy Outlook. I know I am being conservative with Carroll by listing him higher in Tier 3. That is due mostly to the lack of games he has under his belt. However, if you are in league that doesn’t limit how long you can keep a player, then go out and get Carroll if you don’t already have him on your team.
Three of a Kind
Andrew Benintendi, Steven Kwan and Alex Verdugo all had similar seasons in 2022. Benintendi slashed .304/.373/.399 with five homers and 51 RBI in 126 games. Kwan finished with a .298/.373/.400 slash line and added a nice 19 steals to go along with his six homers and 52 RBI.
Alex Verdugo didn’t have as good a slash line as Benintendi or Kwan in 2022, but he does provide some more power than those two, slugging .405 and hitting 11 homers. Benintendi’s 162-game average is 16 homers and 84 RBI, so there may be more upside there and a strong reason to rank him ahead of Kwan and Verdugo.
The Power is Back
Seeing Joc Pederson this high may come as a surprise to some. He struggled in 2020 and hit only 18 homers in 2021 but rebounded last season to put up numbers more in line with his career average. Pederson set career highs in AVG and OBP (.274/.353) while slugging .521. But his 23 homers and 70 RBI were not that far off from his 162-game average of 27 and 69 and I expect him to continue to slug for the Giants.
Anthony Santander is not going to help you with your team slash line, at least when it comes to average and OBP. He has a career .245 average and .300 OBP. But Santander does hit homers. An everyday player this past season, he smashed 33 homers and drove in 89 runs and his 162-game average is 31 homers and 88 RBI.
Andrew Vaughn in the top 10? Seriously? Yes, seriously.
In this case, he is a one-year keeper as a left fielder since he is going to stay at first from now on. Despite playing out of position most of last year, Vaughn slashed .271/.321/.429 (up from .235/.309/396 as a rookie) with 17 home runs and 76 RBI. Now playing his natural position, don’t be shocked to see him reach 20-plus homers.
If I was writing this in 2021, Tyler O’Neill would be in Tier 1 as he hit 34 homers, drove in 80 runs and added 15 steals while slashing .286/.352/.560. Then came 2022 and the injury bug, limiting O’Neill to only 96 games and reducing numbers across the board. I expect him to bounce back in 2023 and be much closer to the player he was in 2021.
Two Question Marks
Will Yelich ever return to the days of 2016-2019? Probably not. But is he now just an average left fielder? I don’t think so. While his power numbers were down last year, he did steal 19 bases. I expect him to get closer to 20 homers than 15 in 2023 and get closer to his career slash line of .287/.376/.466.
Bryant can still hit, but can he stay on the field. He appeared in only 42 games this past season. But when he did play, he was productive. Considering he played in 144 games in 2021, I expect him to stay healthier in ’23 and produce the numbers we are used to seeing from him.
It was pretty easy deciding who the Tier 1 players are, but the order wasn’t so easy to determine. But I’m pretty happy with what I have here.
Ian Happ is poised for a breakout season after slashing .271/.342/.440 with 17 homers, 72 RBI and nine steals. Both the batting average and RBI were career highs and his steals matched a career high while. He hit 25 homers in 2021 and that is his 162-game average. I expect Happ to find his power stroke and be a nice surprise in left field next season.
Kyle Schwarber is not going to win a Gold Glove in left field. But do you care? You want him for his bat, and his bat found the perfect stadium in Philadelphia to hit in. Yes, he hit only .218 last year, but he still had a .323 OBP and .504 SLG thanks to his 46 bombs.
He also drove in 94 runs despite hitting at the top of the lineup and even stole 10 bases. The steals were a career high and may not happen again, but he has topped 30 homers four times during his career, so the power is going to stay.
Can He Stay Healthy?
Eloy Jimenez is an outstanding player, but the man can’t avoid injuries. When he plays a full season, he puts up great numbers. As a rookie in 2019 he played in 122 games and hit 31 homers and drove in 79 runs. In the 2020 COVID season he played in 55 games and hit 14 dingers with 41 RBI and a slash line of .296/.332/.559.
But he appeared in only 55 games in 2021 and 84 last year. But he was a beast in those 84 games, slashing .295/.358/.500 with 16 home runs and 54 RBI, with 11 of those homers and 38 of those RBI coming in the last two months of the season.
Arozarena vs. Alvarez
Since bursting onto the scene late in the 2020 regular season and then the postseason, Randy Arozarena has been putting up great numbers for the Rays. He was the AL ROY in 2021 after slashing .274/.356/.459 with 20 homers, 69 RBI and 20 steals. All the did this past year was hit 20 homers again with 89 RBI and 32 steals with a .263/.327/.445 slash line. Anyone who is a 20-20 player is a top keeper.
But he is not Yordan Alvarez
Alvarez was the AL ROY in 2019 and finished third in MVP voting this past season. While Alvarez doesn’t come close to having the speed Arozarena does, he has more power than his Rays counterpart. He hit 27 home runs his rookie season in 87 games and then added 33 in 2021 and 37 this past season. He also excels as a hitter.
Arozarena’s career slash line is .269/.344/463. That is very nice, but Alvarez comes in at .296/.384/.590 – much better numbers across the board. Arozarena’s 162-game average is 23 home runs and 82 RBI while Alvarez’s average is 43 and 125. The only area where Arozarena has the clear advantage over Alvarez is stolen bases. But with Alvarez having the advantage in every other category and is certain to maintain his left field eligibility, he is my top-ranked left field keeper.
Out of the five players who just missed being ranked, I like Bryan De La Cruz, Lane Thomas and Brandon Marsh the most. De La Cruz slashed .252/.294/.432 with 13 homers and 43 RBI while Thomas slashed .241/.301/.404 with 27 home runs, 52 RBI and eight steals.
Marsh has the most upside and is only 25, but he may not play enough games in left field in 2023 to qualify as a left fielder after next season. But until then, he will offer some power and speed as he hit 11 homers and stole 10 bases this past season.
Thanks for reading. If you missed any of the previous Top 2023 Keepers articles, you can find them here: