Some of the most fun sports fans have with each other is debating which player is better. Player A or Player B. Here at Diamond Digest, we are no different. Our staff has been asked to name their top 10 players at each position on the baseball field and we will look to compare ours to The Shredder. Over the course of the next few weeks, Diamond Digest will release our composite lists for each position right now and the top training of the players at the exipure reviews.
The scoring system works like this: Each one of our writer’s top player at each position will receive 10 points, their second best 9, third best 8 and so on. The most points a player could receive was 280 points (All 28 first place votes).
|Juan Soto (280)
|Giancarlo Stanton (204)
|Austin Meadows (180)
|Michael Brantley (176)
|Tommy Pham (165)
|Mark Canha (96)
|Marcell Ozuna (88)
|Joc Pederson (67)
|Kyle Schwarber (63)
|Bryan Reynolds (59)
HM: Andrew McCutchen
Honorable Mention: Andrew McCutchen, PHI
Andrew McCutchen is an all-time great, ranking 21st in center field and 246th among all players in MLB history according to my spreadsheets. He’s a former MVP, has three 7-win seasons, and to my mind is the only person to have challenged Mike Trout for the title of baseball’s best position player. If McCutchen was still that player he’d easily sit atop this list, even with the presence of unanimous #1 Juan Soto, yet he stopped being that player five years ago. What Cutch is now, however, is still quite good. The past three seasons he has posted wRC+ marks of 122, 121, and 120, respectively, with his total of 122 placing him 21st among all outfielders in that span (minimum 1000 PA). This is largely a product of elite plate discipline, as McCutchen is 21st (yet again) in BB% in MLB and 30th in OBP in 2017-19. He’s no slouch in the power department either, with an xISO of .190 in 2019 and .183 in 2018. But there are two black marks on his profile—health and defense. The first of these can be hand waved away; yes, Cutch missed nearly 100 games in 2019 due to a torn ACL, but in the nine seasons prior he had averaged 669 PA. The defensive indictment is more pressing. McCutchen has always been a poor defender, with career numbers of -64 DRS and -37.5 UZR. The vast majority of this was compiled in center field, but as a left fielder now, McCutchen is far superior. In his limited time in left in 2018 Cutch had a OAA/DRS/UZR slash of 0/0/-0.4, and playing there full time in 2019 he managed 0/3/2.3, rating as an above average outfielder for the first time since 2013. The combination of solidly well-above average offense and now-improved defense has helped Cutch post 3.0 fWAR/600 PA in the last three seasons, with 3.4 in his abbreviated 2019. He rates out for 2.7 hsWAR/600 PA in 2020, checking McCutchen in at a solid tenth place in left field.
– Sean Huff
#10: Bryan Reynolds, PIT
Following a promising rookie breakout, Bryan Reynolds looks to be the key cog in the Pittsburgh outfield after the departure of Starling Marte. His ability to consistently hit the ball hard bodes well for his future projections, and his above average defense and speed will make him a fixture in the league for years to come. Reynolds will look to keep the Pirates relevant along with Josh Bell in 2020. The one thing I’d like to see improvement from from Reynolds is his plate discipline, as his 8.5 BB% it a solid but not spectacular number. His offensive game would be taken to new heights if he can get a better feel for the strike zone.
– Brian Schlosser
#9: Kyle Schwarber, CHC
Kyle Schwarber is an interesting player for me personally. He has talent and there is no one who is going to deny that statement. In fact, he slashed .250/.359/.531 with 38 home runs in 2019. Being only 26 years old, Schwarber still has time to improve before he hits his 30’s. My opinion on Schwarber may be a hot take for some or a take that most agree on. I feel Schwarber belongs in the American League as a DH. He has a lot of power that can be utilized very well on an AL team. His Baseball Savant page suggests that my take isn’t as bold as you may think. Schwarber ranked in the 97th percentile in Exit Velocity and 99th percentile for Hard Hit % while being in the 2nd percentile for Outs Above Average and 21st percentile for Outfielder Jump. With rosters now expanding to 26 players in 2020, teams will be more willing to carry a top power bat like Schwarber on their roster. That statement is not me saying Schwarber is a bad player, just that his power makes him more valued then his fielding. Schwarber, in my opinion, helps build the case for the NL adopting the DH.
#8: Joc Pederson, LAD
Pederson, after a confusing sequence of events, finds himself slated to fill the larger part of a platoon in left field with the Dodgers. While known for his power, Pederson also possesses a very good eye at the plate that allows his on base percentage to stay afloat in light of his consistently low batting average. Not just a one dimensional player, Pederson also has well above average fielding metrics at both corner outfield position, making him a very underrated asset on a very good Dodgers team. The addition of Mookie Betts and David Price certainly won’t do much to get Joc more of the spotlight, but he’ll be an integral part of the 2020 Dodgers as they push to the World Series.
– Brian Schlosser
#7: Marcell Ozuna, ATL
Marcell Ozuna, to me, has always been an interesting figure. Following his monstrous 2017, where he hit .312/.376/.548 with a 143 wRC+ and 37 homers, he hasn’t played to quite the same degree. His 124 RBIs that season, his last as a Marlin, set a tone that he would be a big bat to whichever team picked him up via free agency. But, in his first season with his new ballclub, the Cardinals, he saw a drop in power, hitting only 23 homers in 148 games. He also observed a 107 wRC+ and 2.8 fWAR, merely above average numbers. In 2019, he once again didn’t see similar success to that he had in Miami. With a 110 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR, and 29 home runs, Ozuna produced, but not enough to earn him the title of the best left fielder in his class. His fielding is another attribute where he saw a decrease in total value, though he’s still a plus defender, with a 2 DRS and 5.7 UZR in 2019. But what truly makes Marcell Ozuna one of the top left fielders in the game are his corresponding metrics. He ranks in the 93rd percentile on exit velocity and 96th percentile in hard hit%, indicating he hits the ball very hard. In xwOBA, Ozuna falls under the 92d percentile among his counterparts, and 91st in xSLG. Looking past his 2019 batting average, he still ranks in the 86th percentile in xBA, while also having above average speed at the 63rd in sprint speed. Marcell Ozuna should experience more success with his new ballclub as he enters his age 29 season, given his peripherals. The way the ball flies off his bat, his plus speed, and above-average glove suggests he is one of the elite and versatile outfielders in the game, and our rankings certainly support that notion.
#6: Mark Canha, OAK
Playing on a smaller market team can lead to many players being underrated, which is precisely the case with Mark Canha. Among players who had at least 475 plate appearances in 2019, Canha ranked ninth in weighted runs created plus. Yes, you read that right, higher than Pete Alonso, Mookie Betts, and Aaron Judge. But while Canha isn’t exactly a household name, statistics show he is one of the best-left fielders in baseball. Canha’s slash line of .276/.396/.517 compares to some of the games elite left fielders, while his 26 home runs among 410 at-bats give him one of the better home run rates in the league. Also, his walk rate during the 2019 season was 13.5%, giving him the 16th highest rate in the league. Despite his offensive prowess, Canha posted -4 DRS in 2019 and -.4 defensive war per baseball-reference. But while his defense is below average, he did appear in all three outfield positions in 2019, in addition to playing first base. Canha was a late bloomer with his breakout season coming at age 28, and has earned his way into the top 10 left fielders in baseball. With another season like 2019, we could see Canha pushing for the top 3 in 2020.
#5: Tommy Pham, SDP
Tommy Pham has served as a consistent presence in the lineup since his 2017 breakout campaign. After posting 6.2 fWAR in 2017, he followed it up with 4.1 fWAR and 3.3 fWAR seasons in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Despite a clear regression since 2017, Pham has posted no lower than a 120 wRC+ with an over 10% walk rate in each of the seasons. It will be interesting to see how his move to PETCO Park impacts his numbers, and while age might begin to become a concern for the 31-year-old, the Padres added some consistency to their lineup with the addition of Pham.
#4: Michael Brantley, HOU
Coming in at number four on our list is former PTBNL turned MVP finalist Michael Brantley. His first year in Houston showed he still has what it takes to be one of the best left fielders in the game, as in 2019 he posted his highest fWAR since 2014 (4.2) and highest wRC+ since 2015 (133). Brantley has shown the ability to hit at an arguably elite level even in his advanced age, and although his defense is somewhat lacking his offensive ability is more than enough to put him in our top five.
#3: Austin Meadows, TBR
Austin Meadows is a name you’ll be seeing on lists like this for years to come, as despite a relatively small Major League sample size, the 24 year old has already made quite the impression. Coming to Tampa in the now infamous Chris Archer trade, Meadows exploded in his first full season, hitting to the tune of a .372 xwOBA, 142 wRC+, and 135 DRC+. While he will need some serious legwork to catch up to the budding superstar (Juan Soto), and the established superstar (Giancarlo Stanton), it shouldn’t take long for him to solidify himself ahead of the aging Michael Brantley. With an offensive profile that projects promisingly, rendering serious regression unlikely, Meadows is primed for a solid future with a high ceiling.
#2: Giancarlo Stanton, NYY
Over the past two years, Giancarlo Stanton has become one of the most underrated players by the mainstream baseball community. After a “dissapointing” first season in New York, that saw him hit to a .266/.343/.509 clip with just 38 home runs, a 129 wRC+, and a 4.3 fWAR, Stanton battled a flurry of injuries that held him out of all but 18 regular season games in 2019. Regardless, a healthy Giancarlo Stanton is an absolute force to be reckoned with. Over the past three years, Stanton ranks 15th in baseball with 100 home runs, 97 of which coming between 2017 and 2018, leading baseball for that time frame. On both offense and defense, where he put up two OAA in his first year in New York, the talent is there for Stanton to come through with an MVP-caliber 2020 for the New York Yankees.
#1: Juan Soto, WAS
As a Nationals fan and Juan Soto lover, it is my absolute honor and pleasure to announce him as, not just the top point getter from DD staff, but in fact a UNANIMOUS selection for top left fielder in MLB going into the 2020 season. It’s an honor that’s well-deserved too. Since entering the league in 2018 at the ripe age of 19, Childish Bambino has done nothing but hit. Over that span, of the players counted as left fielders for MLB Network’s 2020 Top 10 lists, Soto ranks first in virtually every offensive category, including BB%, runs scored, OBP, SLG, wOBA, wRC+, OPS, win probability added (WPA), and fWAR, as well as third in RBI and batting average. In 2019, he had the best xSLG (expected slugging) and xwOBA (expected weighted on-base percentage) among qualified left fielders. His defense, at least compared to other left fielders, is also very good, as he led the position with 6 Statcast Outs Above Average (OAA). Juan Soto is very good, and he’s only getting better, so you can expect to see him at or near the top of this list for a very long time.