Happy New Year! As the calendar gets set to flip to 2023, it means we are that much closer to the start of the baseball season once again. Thank goodness for fantasy baseball, otherwise the winter months would really drag on.
This week we are doing one final look at the 2023 Top Keepers by position as we wrap up with right fielders.
The Power Position
Of the three outfield spots, right field produced the most power in 2022 as the average was 21 homers and 75 RBI with 10 steals to go with a .241/.309/.405 slash line. And Aaron Judge didn’t inflate those numbers. Judge actually started more games in center (74) than right (54) this past season and hit 32 homers while playing in center compared to 19 as a right fielder.
Eleven of the Top 30 ranked players below hit 25 or more homers. But the position also has players who can steal bases as 11 players reached double digits in that category in 2022.
Overall, it is a pretty deep position and one of the more experienced positions in my rankings. Of the 30 ranked players, 12 are 30 years old or older. But there is still a lot of great, young talent – players who are going to be great keepers for years.
So let’s get past the small talk and take dive into the 2023 Top Keepers – Right Fielders.
A quick note: Ages are as of now and the listed 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.
Two Pair – Rockies and Athletics
For five straight seasons, Charlie Blackmon was one of the best hitters in the game, hitting above .300 in four of those years and .291 the other season. But Blackmon slumped to .270 in 2021 and this past year he slashed .264/.314/.419. The average and OBP were his lowest numbers since 2012. His home run output has also dropped, though he did drive in 78 runs in each of the past two years.
When anyone goes to Colorado, I expect big offensive years. Guess that humidor is doing its job in Denver. Randal Grichuk managed only 19 homers for the Rockies in 2022 but drove in 73 runs and slugged .425. His biggest problem last season was a ground ball percentage of 50.4%, nearly 10 points higher than his career average of 40.6%. If he makes the adjustment back to his career averages, expect more homers.
Like Colorado, two players from Oakland played enough games in right field and were decent enough to land a spot in these rankings. Ramon Laureano doesn’t hit for a high average or get on base at a high clip, boasting a career slash line of .251/.324/.444. But he does have decent power and speed. He hit 14 homers and stole 12 bases in 2021 and added 13 homers and 11 steals in 2022.
Teammate Seth Brown provides great versatility, appearing in the first base rankings at No. 26, the left field rankings at No. 21 and here at No. 27. Brown’s best attribute is his power. He socked 20 homers in 281 at-bats in 2021 and then hit 25 homers with 73 RBI in 2022. He even added 11 steals.
Middle of Tier 5
Lars Nootbaar may only be a household name due to his actual name, but he also produces solid numbers on the field. After appearing in 58 games in 2021, Nootbaar slugged .448 and hit 14 home runs with 40 RBI for the Cardinals in 290 at-bats with an OPS+ of 126. Nootbaar also had a 14.7% walk rate with a 90.5 mph EV and 46.0% hard hit percentage.
Austin Hays will be one of the first Orioles hitters to say he wants 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 and drove in 60 runs.
The Question Marks
Michael Conforto missed all of the 2022 season with a shoulder injury and now the Giants are counting on Conforto, who will likely see most of his playing time in left field with manning right, to be the player he was from 2017-19 with the Mets. While in New York, he averaged 29 homers and 81 RBI with OPS+ numbers of 148, 122 and 127. In the 2020 COVID season he hit 9 homers and drove in 31 runs in 54 games and had a 154 OPS+.
The Cleveland Guardians were the surprise team of MLB in 2022, and one of the reasons for that was due to the play of Oscar Gonzalez. The slugging right fielder hit 11 homers and drove in 43 runs in 362 at-bats and slashed .296/.327/.461. But Gonzalez is still a question mark as his HR% and EV were right at MLB averages. But as a Tier 5 player, he is a low-risk, high-reward player.
Needing to Bounce Back
The Detroit Tigers thought they made a great trade when they acquired Austin Meadows from the Rays for Isaac Paredes. But in 2022, the Rays won that trade hands down. Meadows was limited to 36 games, slashing .250/.347/.328 with zero homers and only 11 RBI. Compare those numbers to 2019 and 2021 when Meadows combined for 60 homers and 195 RBI in 280 games.
Meadows turns only 28 in May, so I don’t think it would be wise to write him off and expect a bounce-back season in 2023.
Mitch Haniger just turned 32, but that didn’t stop the Giants from signing the former Seattle Mariner this offseason. Haniger has had trouble staying healthy, playing in 63 games in 2019 and 57 games this past season. When healthy, Haniger provides power to any lineup as he has a career SLG of .476 and OPS of .811. His 162-game average is 32 homers and 93 RBI with a .335 OBP.
Great Depth Players in Right
Alex Verdugo played 102 games in left field but 52 in right field while Andrew Vaughn played more than 40 games in left and right last year. Because of that, both players also appear in the right field rankings and give them some extra value.
Verdugo didn’t have a great slash line in 2022 (.280/.328/.405) compared to his career line of .286/.341/.431. But he is good for about 15 homers and 65 RBI per year. And with the average right fielder slashing .241/.309/405 in 2022, he certainly can help you in those categories.
Vaughn was ranked ninth overall in the left field rankings and drops to 18th here as right field has more depth. Like in left, Vaughn will likely be a right fielder for fantasy purposes for one more year since he is going to stay at first base 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.
Taylor Ward had a breakout season in 2022, hitting 23 homers while slashing .281/.360/.473 in 135 games. Before this past season, his career high in homers was eight in 65 games in 2021. Ward was a parttime player for the Angles since 2018 before taking over right field duties fulltime this season. But the home runs shouldn’t have been too surprising. During his career he has a 42.2% Hard Hit% (MLB average is 38.9%) and a line drive (27.4%) and fly ball percentage (29.7%) that are above the MLB averages of 38.9% and 24.2%.
Seiya Suzuki was a star in Japan before joining the Cubs this past season. In nine seasons in the NPB, Suzuki slashed .315/.414/.570 with 182 home runs in 902 games. In his first year with the Cubs, Suzuki appeared in 111 games and slashed .262/.336/.433 with 14 homers, 46 RBI and nine steals. Hurting Suzuki’s numbers was a poor month of May in which he slashed .211/.279/.338 with no homers and only seven RBI. Subtract that one month and he was very solid all season.
If you read the left field and center fielder rankings articles, then you shouldn’t be surprised to see Jake McCarthy ranked here as well. That is how much I like McCarthy. (Grey also likes him — Jake McCarthy sleeper.) With the change in the number of pickoffs allowed to first base and with the slightly larger bases in 2023, McCarthy should take advantage of these new rules to rack up quite a few steals. In his first full season with the Diamondbacks, he stole 23 bases in 354 plate appearances last year and slashed .283/.342/.427 with hit eight homers.
Was the 2022 season a sign of Giancarlo Stanton starting to show his age? He had a slash line of .211/.297/.462 – all career lows, as was his 113 OPS+. He also had a 30.3 K%, the highest rate since 2019. However, Stanton still hit the ball extremely hard. His average EV was in the 99th percentile, and his Hard Hit% and Barrel% were both in the 98th percentile. Those are not the numbers of a player losing bat speed at the plate.
Meanwhile, Starling Marte continues to produce like he is 24. Marte is coming off a .292/.347/.468 season with 16 homers, 63 RBI and 18 steals. Amazingly, those 18 steals are the fewest he has had during his career outside of the COVID season, when he still swiped 10 bags. Marte is still producing close to his career slash line of .290/.346/.468.
Nick Castellanos has a career slugging percentage of .475 and a 162-game average of 24 home runs and 87 RBI. His 13 dingers with the Phillies this past season were his lowest total since 2014, but I fully expect him to bounce back and reach the mid-20s in homers in 2023.
The Young Guns
Grey kinda stole my thunder when it comes to Anthony Santander in his Anthony Santander Fantasy Baseball Sleeper. Santander only hit .240 last year, but he slugged .455 thanks to 33 home runs. He was in the 82nd percentile in barrel percentage, 88th percentile in xwOBA and 87th percentile in xSLG with a strikeout rate of only 18.9%. Since 2019 his HR% has been 4.9%, 6.7%, 4.1% and 5.1%. The MLB average is 3.2%.
Daulton Varsho earned a Tier 2 ranking as a center fielder but falls to the top of Tier 3 here due to the depth at this position. Traded to Toronto, he will get most of his playing time in center but could get time in right when George Springer is out of the lineup or at DH. No matter what, he is hitting in a very deep lineup and I expect him to duplicate what he did last season in Arizona, where he hit 27 homers, drove in 74 runs and stole 16 bases.
Power and Power
Renfroe has a career slugging percentage of .490 and a 162-game average of 36 home runs and 91 RBI. Playing for Milwaukee in 2022, he slashed .255/.315/.492 with 29 home runs. No matter which team he plays for (now with the Angels, this will be his fifth team in five seasons), Renfroe hits for power.
The Seattle Mariners continue to wheel and deal this offseason, and one of the club’s key additions is Hernandez. The former Blue Jay hit 25 homers last year while slashing .267/.316/.491. His career slugging percentage is .499 and his 162-game average is 33 home runs and 95 RBI while career OPS+ is 121.
Speed and Power
Adolis Garcia has a career 29.8% strikeout rate, but that is about his only blemish when it comes to fantasy baseball. He hit 31 homers, drove in 90 runs and stole 16 bases while slashing .243/.286/.454 in 2021 and he was even better this past season, slashing .250/.300/.456 with 27 homers, 101 RBI and 25 steals. He even lowered his strikeout rate from 31.2% to 27.9%.
This is what I said about George Springer last week in the center field rankings: “The days of Springer being a fulltime center fielder may be closing as the Blue Jays signed Kevin Kiermaier to patrol center with Springer moving to right field. But until he no longer qualifies at the position in fantasy leagues, Springer will remain a Tier 1 center fielder. He provides power and speed, as shown by his 25 homers and 14 steals last season and his 162-game average of 36 homers, 94 RBI and 11 steals with a .269/.358/.494 slash line.”
With Varsho now in Toronto, it is pretty obvious that Springer’s days in center field are certainly over. But whether he is playing center or right field, he is still a dangerous hitter and one I would want in my lineup.
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. While Arozarena is mostly a left fielder, he appeared in 25 games in right, given him that extra versatility. 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.
Betts vs. Tucker vs. Acuna Jr.
Mookie Betts is one of the best right fielders in the game, finishing eighth or better in the MVP voting six times, including a fifth-place finish last season after slashing .269/.340.533 with 35 homers, 82 RBI and 12 steals, a nice rebound season for Betts after he hit only 23 homers and drove in 58 runs in 2021 with a .487 SLG, but still not up to his previous standards.
Kyle Tucker hit 30 homers, drove in 107 runs and stole 25 bases this past season, and one could argue it was a down year for him as he slashed .257/.330/.478. Compare that to 2021 when he slashed .294/.359/.557 with 30 homers, 92 RBI and 14 steals. For his career Tucker has a .502 SLG and .837 OPS. He also had a strikeout rate under 16% the past two years. What does that mean? It means the Astros lefty is quickly proving himself to be one of the top right fielders in baseball.
Ronald Acuna Jr. was having a great season in 2021 before suffering a knee injury. In 82 games, he had 24 homers, 52 RBI and 17 steals with a .283/.394/.596 slash line. His 2022 season was not as good as his career numbers as far as power and his slash line as he hit only 15 home runs and slashed .266/.351/.413. But his speed was still there as he had 29 steals. His 162-game average is .277/.370/.517 with 38 home runs, 93 RBI and 34 steals.
At the age of 25, there is no way I am considering this past season a trend when it comes to Acuna’s power. It is just a blip and I expect he will be back to launching 30 or more homer in 2023.
Judge over Soto
So why do I rank Judge ahead of Soto, who is only 24? Perhaps the way Soto played in San Diego after the trade deadline is clouding my judgement. His numbers with the Padres were dreadful, slashing .236/.388/390 with six home runs and 16 RBI in 52 games. His combined numbers with the Nationals and Padres left him with 27 home runs and 62 RBI with a slash line of .242/.401/.452.
For his career, Soto has a .287/.424/.526 slash line with a 162-game average of 33 homers, 98 RBI and 10 steals. He also has more walks in his career (508) than strikeouts (448). Judge’s career slash line is .284/.394/.583, so a lower batting average and OBP but better SLG%. However, he averages 49 homers, 110 RBI and nine steals every 162 games.
Judge had a monster season with his 62 homers and 131 RBI and more than likely won’t duplicate it again. But he has twice topped 50 homers in a season and will be in right field for at least the next three years before making a possible move to DH. In the short term, I am going to take Judge over Soto and that is why as just a keeper for next year Judge comes out on top.
Cal Mitchell has developed into more of a power hitter since being drafted by the Pirates in the second round of the 2017 draft. He hit five homers in 69 games for Pittsburgh this past season but reached double-digit home run totals in the minors from 2018-2021 (2020 there was no season) and had nine in Triple-A before being recalled by the Pirates.
Hitting for average is not what Michael Toglia does. His best batting average in the minors was .249 this year. While Toglia isn’t going to boost your average or on-base percentage, he is going to hit home runs. He blasted 22 in 2021 at the Class A and Double A level and hit another 30 this year between Double A and Triple A. Togila can play first base in addition to right field, giving him a little added value.
Oswaldo Cabrera saw most of his action in right field for the Yankees in 2022, but his future is either in left field or possibly. Grey had a great writeup about Cabrera in his Oswaldo Cabrera, 2023 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper article. I may be ranking Cabera too low here.
Josh Lowe was a top 50 prospect according to Baseball America and MLB entering 2022. But his rookie season wasn’t one to write home about as he slashed .221/.284/.343 with two home runs, 13 RBI and three steals. He also had a strikeout rate of 33.3% with only a 7.6% walk rate. Not good. But he has displayed both power and speed in the minors and I still believe in his upside.
Gavin Sheets didn’t quite equal his 2021 season this past year. After slugging 11 homers in 160 at-bats in ’21, he hit 15 in 377 in ’22. But that is still a 162-game average of 24 homers to go along with 79 RBI and a .244/.304/.439 slash line.
If Max Kepler can regain the power he displayed from 2018 and 2021, then he will be a great buy-low player. In those seasons, he hit 20, 36, 9 (in 48 games) and 19. But his home run production dropped to only nine in 115 games this past year with a career-low .348 SLG.
That’s a Wrap
Thanks for reading as this wraps up the 2023 Top Keepers series. If you missed any of the previous Top 2023 Keepers articles, you can find them here: