As the baseball season is upon us, with Spring Training under way, the superstars of the MLB are returning and preparing for a full campaign after the 2020 abbreviated season. As everybody gets back into the baseball mood, let’s take a look at the 10 best left fielders in the MLB as 2021’s regular season approaches and consider who has a shot at being the best LF in 2021.
Just a note, as with all three outfielder positions you can argue who plays where. I am going to operate based on what I think their primary position will be in 2021 and I will not duplicate any players between the three outfield positions. Let’s get into the list.
10. AJ Pollock, Dodgers
The LA Dodgers are batting 1.000, making all three outfielder lists.
Not everyone knows how good their left fielder is. AJ Pollock is a nine-year veteran, having spent the first 7 with Arizona, who has been very productive since moving to LA.
He doesn’t hit for amazing average, but he has some power and in 2020 his transition to left field was very successful. He hit 16 homers – tied 7th in MLB – and drove in 34 runs in an abbreviated season. As we get back to a 162-game campaign, I’m excited to see him try to sustain that type of production. If he does, he will be a key contributor to the World Series champions.
9. Eddie Rosario, Indians
Another example of a player who has some serious pop on his bat, Eddie Rosario is one of the best left fielders in baseball.
An underrated one, too. In a Minnesota team who appreciate hitting for power as much as anybody, he fits right in. Unfortunately, however, he was released this offseason, and he just got picked up by the Cleveland Indians ahead of the new season. He had been dominant against the division-rival Indians and will feel right at home in one of his favourite stadiums to hit in. Rosario hit 13 homers and record an impressive 42 RBI’s in the 60-game season of 2020.
He’s 29 entering the season and his one-year deal in Cleveland gives him all the incentive he needs to have a good one. I think he is going to do just that when he finds his role in Cleveland and tries to assert himself as one of the best left fielders in the league.
8. Mark Canha, Athletics
As in any offseason in baseball, we have players shifting around not only their team but their position, too. Mark Canha has played center field, right field, designated hitter and even first base across his six years in Oakland.
This year, however, he is going to be spending the majority of his time in left field. Playing LF should hopefully allow him to bounce back with his hitting after a mediocre 2020. He only hit 5 homers in 59 games and his batting average has never been a selling point of his.
Canha showed much more pop in 2018 and 2019, with 43 homers across those two campaigns. If we see the resurgence in production I’m expecting, with 20 homers and 50 RBI’s, he will be one of the best left fielders after transitioning to the new spot.
7. Jesse Winker, Reds
You will start to recognise a pattern that top outfielders generally hit the ball hard. Jesse Winker of the Cincinnati Reds had not fit that bill for the first few years of his career, but in 2020 that changed.
The abbreviated season saw him hit 12 homers in 54 games. In the year prior, he hit just 16 in more than double the plate appearances. Winker’s power stroke is even more dangerous as he has good vision. His OBP is by far his best stat and has been since his entry into the majors. In his career, he has an OBP of .380 and some extra pop on the bat to go alongside his ability to get on base makes him a great asset for the Reds.
6. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Blue Jays
In his rookie campaign, he played 65 games and hit 11 homers, drove in 35 RBI’s and hit .281 with an OBP of .309. During 2019, he was able to play 84 games and he put up 20 HR’s and 50 RBI’s and he laid claim to the left field position in Toronto. In 2020 he was the de facto LF starter and had a great year. He had a career-best slashing line of .308/.348/.534 and hit 11 more deep shots and drove in 33 runs. He is solid out in the field and grabs stolen bases here and there, too.
Gurriel Jr. has a huge opportunity this year as he tries to finally appear in triple-digit games and show his production and assert himself as one of the best left fielders in the league.
5. Michael Brantley, Astros
We open up the top five with one of the oldest players on the list. Michael Brantley has been one of the best left fielders in the league for years.
He has great contact and fantastic athleticism. He was fantastic for the Cleveland Indians and then later the Astros. In his years in Houston, who he joined in 2019, he has been significantly less aggressive with his once-dominant baserunning, but his hitting is still reliable.
He has a career average of .297 and he hasn’t had a year below that number for four seasons. The contact is as reliable as ever. He hits for the gaps and hits doubles like it’s easy and he has respectable power, although it fell off in 2020. Even at 33-years-old, Brantley is going to be one of the best left fielders out there.
Brantley played as a DH primarily in 2020 but he’ll be playing in left in 2020 and some players play better when they get to stay in the flow of the game, so that’s a little bonus too.
4. Eloy Jimenez, White Sox
Near enough the opposite end of the list from Brantley, number four is the young LF from the White Sox, Eloy Jimenez. At just 24-years-old, he is one of the rising talents in an exciting generation of MLB stars. Jimenez burst onto the scene in 2019 and dominated in his rookie year.
He hit 31 home runs in 122 games at just 22. In 2020 he continued with his outrageous production. In 55 outings he hit 14 homers and drove in 41 RBI’s, producing at an even higher rate than in his rookie campaign. As he rises, his ceiling is as high as anyone else at the position. He is one of the best left fielders in the game and he could genuinely be the best LF in 2021 if he continues to improve. He’s going to be on this list for years to come, so get used to it.
3. Dominic Smith, Mets
A name you probably weren’t expecting to see up here is Dominic Smith, but I can talk all day about why he should be. The first reason he might be unexpected is that he isn’t a household name – yet. The second is because you might not even think he’s the Mets’ LF. With the 2020 campaign featuring the universal designated hitter, a lot of National League teams shuffled around their players. The Mets were definitely one such team, as they employ one of the most powerful bats in baseball in Pete Alonso.
When Alonso was playing as DH, it was Dominic Smith who stepped in at first base. When that was the case, star second baseman Jeff McNeil went out and played Left Field and looked great. However, without the DH spot, Alonso will return to everyday 1B.
This means that now all the Mets have to do is find a permanent left fielder. Well, how about the man who finished 13th in MVP voting out of nowhere? Smith split about half of his games at first and half in left and his hitting was so impressive I think that he is worthy of an everyday LF spot.
He hit with an outrageous slash line of .316/.377/.616, with an OPS of .993 (tied for 5th in all of baseball). He drove in 42 runs and bagged himself 10 homers. His production was great and his hitting was superb – and he’s only 25. Dominic Smith starts 2021 as one of the most underrated players in baseball and he will be up there as one of the best left fielders, as he makes it his primary position.
2. Marcell Ozuna, Braves
If you want to talk about a player who benefited from the universal DH, look no further. The Atlanta Braves’ LF-turned-DH Marcell Ozuna absolutely exploded in 2020. I am not exaggerating when I say Ozuna was a top-five hitter in baseball last year, he was ridiculous.
He led the National League in both homers and RBI’s (#1 in the majors), with 18 and – a ridiculous – 56 respectively. His slash line of .338/.431/.636 was absurd and his OPS of 1.067 put him third behind just teammate Freddie Freeman and absolute wonderkid Juan Soto.
Ozuna will have to field this year but he’s capable and Christian Pache will take some pressure off.
I want to see more of 2020 Ozuna, so take all the pressure off him you can and watch him absolutely rake. If the player in number one on our list can’t bounce back to his usual form, Ozuna could be the best LF in 2021, straight up.
1. Christian Yelich, Brewers
The aforementioned player, in serious need of a resurgence, is Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers. A true superstar of Major League Baseball, he had a very disappointing year in 2020 – and a well-documented one.
He fell off and had the worst season of his career in the abbreviated campaign, despite being otherworldly in his first two years in Wisconsin, after joining from the Marlins in 2018. In that first season he was the best player in all of baseball. He won the MVP off the back of a league-leading .326 batting average, .598 slugging percentage and 1.000 OPS. He didn’t do much worse in 2019 when he won his second National League batting title in a row. This time leading the NL in every single average with a slash of .329/.429/.671 and OPS of 1.100.
2020 was absolutely terrible by comparison – and I genuinely don’t know why – but Yelich is still a great player.
You don’t expect to see a player go from MVP winner and then runner up the following year to hitting .205. His hitting should bounce back and there is no debate that he is the guy at the position. He is one of the best left fielders we have ever seen and I believe he will be able to get himself back on form. If he does, he will surely assert himself as the absolute best LF in 2021.