Indians' Top 5 left fielders: Bell's take

April 27th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Mandy Bell’s ranking of the Top 5 left fielders in Indians history. Next week: center fielders.

• Indians' All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS

1) , 1989-96
Key fact: Became the first -- and only -- player in MLB history to hit 50 homers and 50 doubles in a single season

Belle may not have left Cleveland on the greatest terms, but there’s no denying the contributions that he made to the club during its iconic run in the ’90s. In eight seasons with the Tribe, he hit .295 with a .949 OPS, which is the fifth highest in club history among those who played at least 150 games. His 27.4 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball-Reference, are the most among all Indians left fielders and 23rd most in franchise history.

“Albert Belle never gave away an at-bat,” former Indians general manager John Hart told MLB Network in 2018. “There was never a more intense offensive player.”

Belle ranks second with 242 homers among all Indians players, trailing only Hall of Famer Jim Thome, who hit 337 in 1,880 more plate appearances. Belle leads all Indians left fielders with 751 RBIs and a .580 slugging percentage. He was a four-time All-Star with Cleveland, winning four Silver Slugger Awards and finishing in the top three in the AL MVP vote three times. When he was the runner-up for the honor in ’95, he led the AL with 121 runs scored and 126 RBIs; and he led the Majors with a .690 slugging percentage, 50 homers and 52 doubles, becoming the first -- and only -- player to eclipse 50 in both categories.

“Albert was an offensive force,” his former manager Mike Hargrove told MLB Network in 2018. “You don’t find hitters like Albert hanging on trees.”

2) , 2009-18
Key fact: Was the player to be named later in the CC Sabathia trade with the Brewers

The 21-year-old who was tacked on as the player to be named later in the deal that sent Sabathia to Milwaukee made a lasting impact on the Tribe over 10 seasons that ended with an emotional goodbye when he hit free agency after the ’18 season.

“I mean, I know last year when we talked to Brantley in his exit meeting, there probably wasn’t a dry eye, his or ours,” Indians manager Terry Francona said last July. “Everybody is human.”

Brantley morphed into one of the Tribe’s most reliable hitters with a .295 average and a .792 OPS over 10 seasons with the club. His 1,195 hits and 24.0 bWAR are third-most among Indians left fielders, and he ranks second in doubles (248) and fourth in RBIs (528). Brantley is just one of 41 players to remain in Cleveland for at least 10 seasons. He hit free agency at the end of the ’18 season and signed with the Astros that December, though he was a given a warm welcome back at Progressive Field for the All-Star Game the following July.

“Changing uniforms doesn’t take away the affection or the respect that we have had and will have for him,” Francona said. “Man, we were so blessed to have him here for as long as we did. I think sometimes that gets lost when you’re talking about [Brantley], [Josh] Tomlin, [Jason] Giambi, [Mike] Napoli, is people get fixated on them leaving. Sometimes you’ve get to remember how fortunate you were to have them with you for however long you had them.”

3) Charlie Jamieson, 1919-32
Key fact: Member of the '20 World Series championship team

If the Indians were looking for consistency, they certainly got it from Jamieson over a 14-year stint. Among all Tribe left fielders, Jamieson sits at the top of the leaderboard in games played (1,483), runs scored (942), hits (1,753), doubles (296) and batting average (.316), despite having the most plate appearances.

At age 27, Jamieson played a large role in the Indians’ World Series-winning season of 1920, hitting .319 with a .799 OPS during the regular season and going 5-for-15 during the Fall Classic against the Brooklyn Robins.

4) Jeff Heath, 1936-45
Key fact: Only Indians player to ever hit at least 20 doubles, 20 triples and 20 homers in one season

Heath may not have been as consistent as Jamieson over his 10 seasons with the Indians, but in a career of highs and lows, his highs produced some extremely powerful offensive seasons. His 25.3 bWAR, 122 homers and 619 RBIs rank second among Tribe left fielders, while he holds the record for most triples (83) by those who have played his position. Even including a season in which he hit .219, Heath finished his 10 seasons with a .298 average and .872 OPS with Cleveland.

The season after his .219 showing, Heath rediscovered his offensive groove. In 151 games in 1941, he hit .340 with a .982 OPS, 32 doubles, 20 triples, 24 homers and 123 RBIs, becoming the first and only Indians players to record at least 20 doubles, 20 triples and 20 homers in a single season (and one of just seven overall in MLB history).

5) Dale Mitchell, 1946-56
Key fact: Member of the '48 World Series championship team

Mitchell wasn’t the superstar of the Indians' World Series team in ’48, but you can’t ignore what he did to help put the club on top. In 141 games that year, he hit .336 with an .814 OPS and 30 doubles. He was a two-time All-Star for the Tribe (’49, ’52) and he led the Majors with 23 triples and led the American League with 203 hits in ’49. His 1,237 hits rank him second behind Jamieson for most by a left fielder in Indians history, while his .312 average places third and 552 runs scored are fourth.

Honorable mentions

Coco Crisp’s offensive numbers may not jump out as much as the rest of his competition on this list, but he made up for it in his defense. All Indians left fielders have a dWAR of 1.0 or less in Indians history except for Crisp, who sits atop the leaderboard with 2.1 over five seasons.

Joe Vosmik holds the second-best batting average by an Indians left fielder (.313), trailing just Jamieson. Vosmik played seven seasons in Cleveland and placed third in the AL MVP Award vote in 1935 after leading the AL in hits (216), doubles (47) and all of the Majors with 20 triples.