Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

The best left fielder in each team's history

April 28, 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 each player's career with that franchise. We've already tackled catchers, first basemen,

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 each player's career with that franchise. We've already tackled catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen and shortstops. Next up are left fielders.

These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only, and fans were able to participate in Twitter polls to vote for their favorites. Here is the No. 1 left fielder for each club, as chosen by MLB.com's beat reporters.

American League East

Blue Jays: George Bell (1981, '83-90)

Key fact: Bell was the first Blue Jays player to win the AL MVP Award (1987)

Bell starred for the Blue Jays through the mid- and late 1980s, earning the first MVP Award in club history in 1987. Bell still sits among the all-time franchise greats, ranking seventh in games played (1,181), fifth in hits (1,284), sixth in home runs (202) and fourth in RBIs (740), and he is one of just seven players to have their name unveiled on the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence at Rogers Centre. Blue Jays top 5 >

Orioles: Brady Anderson (1988-2001)

Key fact: Only O's player to rank among top 10 in homers (209, eighth) and steals (307, first)

Before he grew into a slugging center fielder, Anderson was the Orioles’ everyday and amply productive left fielder. All told, Anderson appeared in 623 games in left over his 14 seasons in Baltimore, good for second in franchise history. That makes this category as good a place as any to highlight Anderson, who earned three All-Star nods for his dynamic combination of power and speed. Orioles top 5 >

Rays: Carl Crawford (2002-10)

Key fact: Had four All-Star selections with Rays, the most in franchise history

In his nine seasons with Tampa Bay, Crawford displayed the athleticism and talent that made him a coveted three-sport athlete and a highly regarded prospect. Crawford stole 50 or more bases in five seasons with the Rays, including 60 in 2009, which is still a franchise record. He also leads the club in total steals (409), as well as hits (1,480), batting average (.296) and triples (105). Rays top 5 >

Red Sox: Ted Williams (1939-42, '46-60)

Key fact: His 121.9 fWAR ranks second in AL history to Babe Ruth

The Red Sox have three Hall of Famers at the head of their left-field class, but Williams easily stands out as the most dominant player in team history. He is the last player to hit .400 in a season -- back in 1941. Williams not only had a .344 average for his career, but he also blasted 522 home runs despite missing nearly five full seasons serving in World War II and the Korean War. His lifetime OPS was 1.116, which would be a career season for nearly any other player. Red Sox top 5 >

Yankees: Charlie Keller (1939-49, '52)

Key fact: Career 152 OPS+ ranks 27th all time

Though overshadowed somewhat on rosters packed with Hall of Fame talent, Keller was a feared slugger and solid fielder on three Yankees championship clubs (1939, ’41 and ’43), compiling an eye-popping career OPS+ of 152 that ranks 27th all-time. Keller compiled an AL-best .922 OPS in 1943, then missed most of the next two seasons while serving in the United States Merchant Marines. A five-time All-Star, "King Kong" Keller completed his Yankees career with a slash line of .286/.410/.518, slugging 184 homers with 723 RBIs in 1,066 games. Yankees top 5 >

AL Central

Indians: Albert Belle (1989-96)

Key fact: Is the 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 run in the 1990s. His 27.4 bWAR is the most among all Indians left fielders and the 23rd highest in franchise history. When he was the runner-up for the AL MVP Award in 1995, he led the AL with 121 runs scored and 126 RBIs and led the Majors with 50 homers, 52 doubles and a .690 slugging percentage. This marked the first and only time a player eclipsed 50 in both homers and doubles. Indians top 5 >

Royals: Alex Gordon (2007-present)

Key facts: Three-time All-Star, seven-time Gold Glove Award winner

This was pretty much a no-brainer. Someday, Gordon’s No. 4 jersey will be retired. His defensive accomplishments are remarkable: seven Gold Gloves, three Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Awards, and the AL’s Rawlings Platinum Glove Award in 2014. Gordon’s 98 outfield assists are tied for the most in MLB since 2010. “To put it simply,” Royals coach Rusty Kuntz said, “he is the gold standard of left fielders in baseball.” Royals top 5 >

Tigers: Willie Horton (1963-77)

Key facts: Four-time All-Star; led 1968 World Series champion Tigers in average, homers and OPS

This is the only position where the Tigers don't have a Hall of Famer to consider, and it makes for an interesting debate. While Bobby Veach has a strong case as one of the Tigers' great run producers of the Dead Ball Era, Horton's legacy as a hometown hero and clutch performer in the Tigers' 1968 World Series have secured his place in franchise history. He led that 1968 team in batting average, home runs and OPS, earning one of his four All-Star selections in the process. Tigers top 5 >

Twins: Shane Mack (1990-94)

Key fact: His 132 wRC+ is the highest among primary left fielders in club history

In five seasons with the Twins, Mack provided an effective and consistent combination of power, average, on-base ability and speed while playing all three outfield spots, good for a .309/.375/.479 slash line with 67 homers, 119 doubles, 24 triples and 71 stolen bases and a 17.9 fWAR in Minnesota. He was an important force in the heart of the lineup for the World Series-winning '91 squad. Twins top 5 >

White Sox: Minnie Minoso (1951-57, '60-61, '64, '76, '80)

Key fact: First black player in franchise history

Minoso debuted for the White Sox on May 1, 1951, hitting a home run on the first pitch he saw against the Yankees, and was a beloved staple of the organization long after he retired. Minoso’s 41.4 bWAR sits No. 1 among White Sox left fielders and ranks fifth overall behind Hall of Famers Luke Appling, Frank Thomas, Eddie Collins and Nellie Fox. He was a six-time All-Star and won two Gold Gloves as a member of the White Sox, topping .300 in six seasons. The White Sox retired his No. 9 in 1983, and a sculpture of Minoso was unveiled at Guaranteed Rate Field in 2004. White Sox top 5 >

AL West

Angels: Garret Anderson (1994-2008)

Key fact: Only Angels player to record at least 2,000 hits with the club

With his smooth left-handed swing, Anderson set numerous club records during his time with the Angels, including the most hits (2,368), total bases (3,743), doubles (489), RBIs (1,292) and runs scored (1,024). His eight grand slams are also the most in franchise history, as are his 10 RBIs in a single game against the Yankees on Aug. 21, 2007. He was inducted into the Angels Hall of Fame in '16 and remains active with the organization. Angels top 5 >

Astros: Lance Berkman (1999-2010)

Key fact: His .959 OPS with the Astros is the second highest in franchise history

Berkman is one of the three greatest offensive players in Astros history, joining Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. The Big Puma ranks fourth in franchise history in games played; second in homers (326); third in runs scored (1,008), RBIs (1,090), doubles (375) and extra-base hits (727); and fifth in total hits (1,548). He also had a .992 OPS over 29 postseason games with Houston. Astros top 5 >

Athletics: Rickey Henderson (1979-84, '89-93, '94-95, '98)

Key fact: 72.7 bWAR is highest of any position player in A’s history

Widely considered the greatest leadoff hitter ever, Henderson had four separate stints with the A's and is the franchise's all-time leader in position-player bWAR (72.7), runs (1,270), walks (1,227) and stolen bases (867). The “Man of Steal” swiped an astonishing 130 bags in 1982, which remains a single-season record in the Modern Era (since 1900), and became MLB's all-time stolen-base king in '91. Athletics top 5 >

Mariners: Raul Ibanez (1996-2000, '04-08, '13)
Key fact: Ranks among Mariners' top 10 in games, hits, homers, RBIs and runs
Left field traditionally has been a revolving door for the Mariners, but Ibanez provided some stability during his three stints with the team. He was an especially strong presence in Seattle's lineup from 2004-08, batting .291/.354/.477 with 113 home runs and 489 RBIs in 755 games. Ibanez leads all Mariners left fielders and ranks among the franchise's overall top 10 in games (1,110), hits (1,077), homers (156), doubles (216), extra-base hits (392), RBIs (612), runs (540), walks (367) and slugging percentage (.466). Mariners top 5 >

Rangers: Rusty Greer (1994-2002)
Key fact: Tied for fourth in franchise history (min. 300 games) with a .305 AVG.
The Rangers have three worthy candidates for the title of best left fielder in club history: Greer, Frank Howard and Al Oliver. Having helped lead the Rangers to three division titles in four years (1996-99) with a .315/.398/.502 batting line and 80 home runs, Greer gets the edge. Although he played only 1,027 games during his nine-year career, Greer ranks 10th in franchise history with 1,166 hits. Rangers top 5 >

National League East

Braves: Rico Carty (1963-72)
Key fact: Ranks first among Braves left fielders in bWAR (23.2)
Nearly 50 years after Carty played his final game for Atlanta, there’s still reason to wonder how great his career might have been had he not missed 1968 with tuberculosis and '71 with a fractured right knee cap. But despite sitting out those two seasons, he still easily ranks first among Braves left fielders in bWAR. Carty stood as one of the best outfielders of his era, and fans showed their respect for his game when they used write-in votes to elect him to the NL’s starting lineup in the 1970 All-Star Game. Braves top 5 >

Marlins: Cliff Floyd (1997-2002)
Key fact: Was an All-Star in 2001, when he had 31 home runs with 103 RBIs
After gaining valuable experience as a reserve on the 1997 World Series championship team, Floyd became a regular in '98 and blossomed into an All-Star in 2001. That campaign ranks among the best of any player in franchise history: Floyd recorded a .317/.390/.578 slash line with 31 home runs, 123 runs scored, and 103 RBIs. Just three Marlins left-handed hitters have topped 30 home runs in a season -- Floyd in 2001, Carlos Delgado in '05 (33) and Mike Jacobs in '08 (32). Marlins top 5 >

Mets: Cleon Jones (1963-75)

Key fact: Caught final out of 1969 World Series

One of the engines of the 1969 Miracle Mets, Jones hit .340 in 137 games that season, starting in left field for 119 of them. He blew open Game 2 of the NL Championship Series with a late two-run homer, hit a key leadoff double in the eighth inning of World Series Game 5, then scored the go-ahead run in the Mets’ title-clinching 5-3 victory. When the last out settled into his glove a half-inning later, Jones had to leap the left-field fence to avoid a mob of Mets fans streaming onto the field. It is the most memorable part of a legacy that saw Jones hit .291 with 93 homers and 91 steals over 12 years as a Met. Mets top 5 >

Nationals: Tim Raines (1979-90)

Key fact: Was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017

Raines’ accomplishments go far beyond his standing among the franchise’s left fielders. The Hall of Famer leads all Expos/Nationals players in offensive WAR (48.2), runs scored (947), singles (1,163), triples (82), walks (793), runs created (1,047), stolen bases (635), stolen base percentage (85.7) and win probability added (38.9). Dangerous on the basepaths, Raines led Major League Baseball in stolen bases in 1981 and ’84. He also won the 1986 NL batting title, earned a Silver Slugger Award that year and was named to seven consecutive All-Star teams. Nationals top 5 >

Phillies: Sherry Magee (1904-14)

Key fact: Hit .331/.445/.507 with 110 runs and 123 RBIs in 1910

We’re considering Modern Era players (1900 and later), so Hall of Famers Ed Delahanty and Billy Hamilton aren't included in these rankings. Magee ranks first among Modern Era Phillies left fielders in runs (898), doubles (337), triples (127), on-base percentage (.371) and stolen bases (.387); second in hits (1,647), RBIs (885) and batting average (.299); fourth in home runs (75) and OPS (.818) and eighth in slugging percentage (.447). Phillies top 5 >

NL Central

Brewers: Ryan Braun (2007-present)

Key facts: Won the 2007 Rookie of the Year Award and the 2011 NL MVP Award

From a statistical standpoint, only two players have generated more value to the Brewers than Braun, and both (Robin Yount and Paul Molitor) are in the Hall of Fame. Braun ranks in the franchise’s all-time top five in games, runs, hits, RBIs, extra-base hits and stolen bases, and he has been the Brewers’ all-time home run king since breaking Yount’s mark on Aug. 19, 2013 – exactly 20 years after Yount went deep for the final time in his career. There’s an argument to be made that not even Yount delivered as many signature moments. “I’ll tell you, he’s one of the great hitters I’ve ever seen,” said Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker. “I don’t think you can be any better a hitter than Ryan Braun.” Brewers top 5 >

Cardinals: Lou Brock (1964-79)

Key fact: Led NL in steals eight times

While Stan Musial played all over the outfield and could be included at any of the three positions, we’re going to rank him with the right fielders in a few weeks. Among Cardinals who were primarily left fielders, Brock is No. 1. In 16 years with the Cardinals, he stole 888 bases, hit .297 and accumulated 41.8 bWAR. Brock was at his best in October, hitting .391 -- second only to Pepper Martin (.418) in franchise history -- with 34 hits in 21 World Series games. He also stole a record 14 bases in three World Series. Cardinals top 5 >

Cubs: Billy Williams (1959-74)

Key fact: Had 4,262 total bases with Cubs, second to only Ernie Banks in club history

There is no debate over who should be the Cubs’ No. 1-ranked left fielder of all time. That’d be Sweet Swinging’ Billy Williams, who won the 1961 NL Rookie of the Year Award, made six All-Star teams, picked up a batting title (‘72), finished as the runner-up for the NL MVP twice and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987. Williams ended his MLB career with 426 homers, 434 doubles, 2,711 hits and a .290/.361/.492 slash line. Cubs top 5 >

Pirates: Ralph Kiner (1946-53)

Key fact: Is only player ever to have at least a share of the league lead in home runs seven years in a row

Simply put, Kiner is one of the greatest sluggers in the Pirates’ long history. The six-time All-Star led the NL in homers every year from 1946-52, and he hit 35 or more homers every season from ’47-53. In Pirates history, only Willie Stargell -- whom we ranked as the Bucs’ best first baseman of all time -- has hit more home runs (475) than Kiner’s 301, and only six Pirates have driven in more runs than his 801. Pirates top 5 >

Reds: George Foster (1971-81)

Key fact: Had 39.5 bWAR with Reds (16th in franchise history)

After hitting .306/.364/.530 with 29 homers and a league-leading 121 RBIs in 1976, the second of Cincinnati's consecutive World Series title seasons, Foster enjoyed his best season in ’77. That year, Foster posted a .320/.382/.620 slash line with a club-record -- and Major League-leading -- 52 homers and 149 RBIs, winning NL MVP honors. The year after, he hit 40 homers with 120 RBIs, leading the NL. Over his 11 seasons in Cincinnati, Foster went to five All-Star Games and was the team's biggest power threat during the Big Red Machine years. Reds top 5 >

NL West

D-backs: Luis Gonzalez (1999-2006)

Key fact: Had 30 bWAR with D-backs, second most among position players in franchise history

The acquisition of Gonzalez from the Tigers in exchange for outfielder Karim Garcia on Dec. 28, 1998, received little attention at the time, but it would go down as one of the best trades in franchise history. While Gonzalez is best remembered for his base hit off Mariano Rivera that won the 2001 World Series for the D-backs, he also ranks second in franchise history among D-backs position players with 30 bWAR, trailing only Paul Goldschmidt. D-backs top 5 >

Dodgers: Zack Wheat (1909-26)

Key fact: Is the Dodgers franchise leader in hits, doubles, triples and total bases

Wheat was a rookie more than 110 years ago, and he’s still the Dodgers’ franchise leader in career hits (2,804), doubles (464), triples (171) and total bases (4,003). He was Brooklyn’s starting left fielder for 17 years, succeeding in both the Dead Ball and Live Ball eras. He won an NL batting title in 1918 en route to a career batting average of .317. Wheat was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1959. Dodgers top 5 >

Giants: Barry Bonds (1993-2008)

Key fact: He is Major League Baseball’s all-time home run leader, with 762

After spending the first seven years of his career with the Pirates, Bonds signed with the Giants ahead of the 1993 season and sparked the revitalization of the franchise. His arrival helped turn a 90-loss team into a 103-win team. He batted .336/.458/.677 with 46 home runs and 123 RBIs to earn the first of five NL MVP Awards in San Francisco. Bonds spent the final 15 seasons of his career with the Giants, hitting .312/.477/.666 with 586 home runs 1,440 RBIs over 1,976 games. A seven-time NL MVP, 14-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove Award winner, Bonds holds Major League Baseball’s all-time records for home runs (762) and walks (2,558) and is the only player to hit 500 home runs and steal 500 bases. Giants top 5 >

Padres: Gene Richards (1977-83)
Key fact: Ranks among Padres' top five in average, hits, runs, triples, steals and position-player WAR
Historically, the Padres’ outfield thump has come from right field. Richards made a different kind of impact in left. In 1977, he set what was then a rookie record with 56 stolen bases, and he batted .290 en route to a third-place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Richards would depart before the Padres’ 1984 run to the NL pennant. But he posted a .291/.357/.387 slash line across seven seasons, and he still ranks in the franchise's top five in batting average, runs, position-player WAR, hits, triples and stolen bases. Padres top 5 >

Rockies: Matt Holliday (2004-08, ’18)
Key fact: Led NL in average (.340), RBIs (137), hits (216) and total bases (386) in 2007
Rockies fans will argue until the end of time that Holliday's 2007 performance -- a .340/.405/.607 slash line with 46 home runs and league-leading totals in hits (216), doubles (50) and total bases (386) -- should have netted him the NL MVP Award. The Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins took that home, but the Rockies vanquished the Phils in the NL Division Series -- and Holliday went on to earn NLCS MVP honors. Overall, Holliday had a .319 average with 130 homers over six seasons with the Rockies. Rockies top 5 >