Indians' Top 5 right fielders: Bell's take

May 11th, 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 right fielders in Indians history. Next week: designated hitters.

1. , 1993-2000
Key fact: Has the highest slugging percentage in club history

Ramirez was the man with arguably the best right-handed swing the game has ever seen. The first eight years of his career were spent in Cleveland and during that time, he was selected to four All-Star Games and won three Silver Slugger Awards. In his final two seasons with the Tribe, Ramirez led the American League in slugging percentage and OPS and knocked in an MLB-best 165 runs in 1999.

Tribe's Top 5: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF

"Players were asking for video of him when he was a kid in Cleveland," Mariners first baseman Russell Branyan, a former Indian, told ESPN’s Jeff Bradley in 2009. "And it hasn't changed. You watch him, and you try to grasp even a little of what he does, hope it sinks in. You wonder what he's seeing that you don't see, what he's doing that you're not doing.”

The competition for the No. 1 spot on this list was extremely close, and the runner-up certainly has his case to take the title. But it’s hard to argue with the number of offensive categories that Ramirez leads all Indians right fielders in, including games played (967), runs scored (665), hits (1,086), doubles (237), homers (236), RBIs (804), walks (541), slugging percentage (.592, which is the highest of all Indians players) and OPS (.998).

2. Shoeless Joe Jackson, 1910-15
Key fact: Holds the franchise record for highest batting average in a single season

Jackson may be tied to Chicago more often than he is to Cleveland. However, the right fielder thrived for the Naps in parts of six seasons. From 1911-14, Jackson received a handful of MVP Award votes, placing as high as second in '13 after leading the Majors in OPS (1.011) and hits (197) and leading the AL in slugging percentage (.551) and doubles (39).

In merely four and a half seasons with the Naps, Jackson accumulated more Wins Above Replacement (34.9, per Baseball-Reference) than any other Indians right fielder. Although OPS+ wasn’t a stat available at the time, we can now look back and realize that in his three-season stretch from 1911-13, his OPS+ was 192, or 92 percent better than the league average. The only individual seasons in franchise history that reached that mark belong to Albert Belle in 1994 and Jim Thome in 2002, and Jackson did it in a three-year span. In ’11, Jackson hit .408, which is the record for the highest average in a single season in Indians history among hitters with at least 400 plate appearances.

"I copied [Shoeless Joe] Jackson's style because I thought he was the greatest hitter I had ever seen,” Hall of Famer Babe Ruth famously said. “The greatest natural hitter I ever saw. He's the guy who made me a hitter."

3. Elmer Flick, 1902-10
Key fact: Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1963

Of all the great right fielders to have played for the Tribe, Flick is the only Hall of Famer. The former Nap began his career with the Phillies and was one of a handful of players to make the switch to the AL, playing for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902. But when a court order from the state ruled that players under contract with the Phillies couldn’t play for another team, he found a loophole by signing outside of Pennsylvania with Cleveland.

In nine seasons with the Naps, Flick led the AL in stolen bases twice and triples three times, while winning the batting title in 1905. Among right fielders in Cleveland’s history, Flick ranks first in stolen bases (207) and second in bWAR (30.9), games played (935), runs scored (535) and hits (1,058).

4. , 1955-59, '65-67
Key fact: Tied for Major League record with four homers in one game

It’s easy to wonder if Colavito would’ve been higher on this list if it wasn’t for a trade to the Tigers that still gets under the skin of plenty of loyal Cleveland fans. Colavito was known more for his power than average, launching 41 and 42 home runs in 1958 and '59, respectively, just before he was traded. He came back for two more full seasons in '65 and '66 and just half of '67. In those first two years back, he added another 56 homers to his Indians stats with 180 RBIs. Among Tribe right fielders, Colavito ranks fourth in bWAR (23.0) and second in both homers (190) and RBIs (574).

5. , 2006-12
Key fact: Recorded the fourth-most home runs and doubles among Indians right fielders

One of the more recent faces Indians fans have seen in the right-field corner, Choo put together a solid seven seasons in Cleveland, hitting .292 with an .853 OPS and 134 OPS+. Compared to other Indians right fielders, he ranks fifth in bWAR (21.8) and RBIs (372) and fourth in doubles (162) and homers (83). On top of his offensive production, Choo had a decent arm and put it on full display in 2010, when he led the Majors in assists with 14.

Honorable mentions
Bruce Campbell didn’t have much power, but he recorded a .305 batting average over five seasons with the Tribe, which ranks fourth among right fielders who played at least 150 games. He ranks ninth in runs scored (347) and is tied for third in triples (41). ... Cory Snyder’s numbers may not be the most eye-grabbing, but he’s just one of three right fielders to hit over 100 home runs. In 657 games, he launched 115 homers, trailing just Ramirez and Colavito.