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Phillies' Top 5 right fielders: Zolecki's take

@ToddZolecki
May 12, 2020

Few people love a good debate 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. Love this list? Hate it? If

Few people love a good debate 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. Love this list? Hate it? If you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Todd Zolecki’s ranking of the top five right fielders in Phillies history.

• Phillies All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF

1. Bobby Abreu, 1998-2006
Key fact: His 47.2 bWAR with Phillies is 10th on all-time franchise list

Abreu is a no-brainer in the top spot.

The only question about Abreu is this: Should he make the Hall of Fame? His name appeared on only 5.5 percent of ballots cast in January in his first year of eligibility, barely keeping him on the ballot for a second year. (Players need to appear on a minimum of five percent of ballots cast to remain eligible.) Abreu finished his career with 60.2 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. Hall of Famers like Harold Baines (38.7 WAR), Jim Rice (47.7), Tony Perez (54.0) and numerous others fall below that mark.

“I really do think about it,” Abreu said last summer about enshrinement in Cooperstown. “There’s some numbers there. Right now, people have more time to see what I did in baseball. I know I don’t have 500 homers, but I did a lot of things in the game that, right now, people are starting to see what’s going on.”

Abreu slashed .291/.395/.475 in his career. He had 2,470 hits and stole 400 bases. Abreu played in more than 150 games in 13 consecutive seasons (1998-2010). His 1,990 games in right field rank 10th on the all-time list.

Baseball Reference’s Hall of Fame Monitor gives Abreu a score of 95. A score of 100 means a likely Hall of Famer. Its Hall of Fame Standards gives Abreu a score of 54. The average Hall of Famer has a score of 50. The JAWS system ranks Abreu as the 20th-best right fielder in baseball history with 60.2 career WAR and 41.6 WAR over a seven-year peak. The average right fielder has 71.9 career WAR and 42.4 WAR over a seven-year peak.

If Abreu is not Hall of Fame-worthy in the minds of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, maybe he will be down the road when the Today's Game Committee votes. But one thing is certain: No right fielder in Phillies history comes close to Abreu’s production.

2. Johnny Callison, 1960-69
Key fact: Finished second in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting in 1964

Callison fans are like, “No right fielder in Phillies history comes close to Abreu?”

It is not meant as a slight to Callison. He had a great career. He could hit and play defense. Callison had 90 outfield assists from 1962-65. Roberto Clemente, who has one of the most legendary arms in baseball history, had 59 in that span. (Abreu had 136 outfield assists in his 18-year career.) Callison was also a three-time NL All-Star with the Phillies and received NL MVP Award votes in four seasons. He batted .274 with 31 home runs, 104 RBIs and an .809 OPS in '64, when he finished second in NL MVP Award voting behind St. Louis’ Ken Boyer (.295, 24 homers, 119 RBIs, .854 OPS).

If the Phillies had won the pennant that season, Callison probably would have won the NL MVP Award. Of course, back then, writers only seemed to vote for players on title contenders. There were a handful of players that year who had a much better season than Boyer and Callison -- Willie Mays, for example, batted .296 with 47 homers, 111 RBIs and a .990 OPS, but he finished sixth.

3. Chuck Klein, 1928-33, '36-39, '40-44
Key fact: Won Triple Crown in 1933

Klein made the Hall of Fame in 1980, 22 years after he died in '58. He posted superhuman numbers with the Phillies from '29-33, winning the NL MVP Award in '32 and the Triple Crown in '33. He slashed .359/.414/.636 with a 161 OPS+ in that five-year span.

The BBWAA never came close to electing Klein to the Hall of Fame. But as detailed in the recently released “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Philadelphia Phillies,” President Richard Nixon’s appreciation for Klein might have put him back on the map. A reporter once asked Nixon if he could name his all-time team. Nixon chose his all-time AL and NL teams in the pre- and post-1945 eras. Klein made Nixon’s pre-1945 NL team as a reserve.

Nixon sent a letter to Klein’s nephew’s home in Indiana.

“No team would be complete,” Nixon wrote, “without your uncle’s name.”

So why is he No. 3 on this list? Because we’re probably not talking about Klein if he didn’t play half his games at lefty-friendly Baker Bowl. Klein hit .424/.472/.772 at Baker Bowl from 1929-33. He hit .294/.355/.501 on the road. Good road numbers, sure. But is Nixon putting him on his all-time team if he didn’t play at Baker Bowl? Doubtful. Is he in the Hall of Fame? Definitely not.

4. Gavvy Cravath, 1912-20
Key fact: Led the NL in homers six times; led the Majors four times

Cravath had an interesting career. He started in the Pacific Coast League, pushing his big league debut until his age-27 season in 1908. He then played in the American Association from '10-11 before joining the Phillies in '12. Cravath dominated the NL from '12-20, slashing .291/.381/.489 with a 153 OPS+ over that stretch. He played just 83 games in '19, but he led the league with 12 homers.

“There is no advice I can give in batting, except to hammer the ball,” Cravath said, according to SABR.org. “Some players steal bases with hook slides and speed. I steal bases with my bat.”

5. Jayson Werth, 2007-10
Key stat: 1.176 OPS in two World Series with Phillies

Pat Gillick is in the Hall of Fame as an executive because he made moves like the one he made for Werth, signing him after the Dodgers gave up on him in 2006. Werth did not play in '06 because of a wrist injury, but Gillick believed a healthy Werth could play. Werth had four productive seasons with the Phillies, establishing himself as an everyday player in '08, making the NL All-Star team in '09 and posting a monster season in '10 that led to a huge contract with the Nationals.

Phillies fans booed Werth while he played with Washington, but he has returned to Philadelphia a couple times since his retirement. He has been well received, which is only right. He hit 11 home runs with a .966 OPS in 40 postseason games with the Phils.

Honorable mentions
Bake McBride (1977-81) could have made the top five, but Werth bested him in almost every category.

Sam Thompson (1889-98) is in the Hall of Fame, but throughout this process, we have considered only players from 1900 and later for the top five.

Elmer Flick (1898-1901) is in the Hall of Fame, but he does not qualify for the same reasons as Thompson.

Bryce Harper (2019-present) posted 4.3 WAR last season. He should easily slide into the top five down the road.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .