Ranking the outfield becomes a little more difficult, mainly due to the fact that reserve players often play all the outfield positions. So the rankings will be mainly based on who is the expected starter for each team.
One note, when going through each team’s Spring Training roster, I tried to pick out any outfielders with major league experience or who are considered prospects and placed them in these rankings. You will notice one team has a lot more depth in the outfield than others…
Without further ado, here are the rankings for left field:
1. New York Yankees
The Yankees and their newly-contracted left fielder take first in the rankings, as Gardner moves to left with Jacoby Ellsbury manning center field. Gardner gives you speed both on offense and defense from the left field position, as last year he led the majors in triples and in 2011 led the majors in stolen bases. A career .268 hitter, in 2013 he amassed the most hits in a season in his career, with 147. The alarming part is that he also struck out 127 times, a very high number for a guy with little power.
Behind him is a number of the Yankees aging veterans in Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro. Zoilo Almonte also could make the team, as Soriano and Ichiro could both DH along with Derek Jeter on a team where due to age, many different players may share the DH spot.
2. Baltimore Orioles
What appears more and more like a David Lough/Nelson Cruz platoon takes up the second spot in the rankings. Buck Showalter hinted Sunday that Cruz is likely to play the outfield against left handers, making some Oriole fans cringe. Lough reminds many O’s fans of former LF Nate McLouth. A guy with good speed, good range and a solid hitter. However, I think Lough has better range and is also just coming into his prime. He will help the Birds forget about losing McLouth to their rival across the Beltway. Cruz brings a powerful bat to the lineup, and will alternate between DH and LF. With his PED suspension behind him, Cruz comes to the Orioles on a one-year deal set to prove himself.
The host of players behind them are ranked in likelihood of making the majors in my opinion. I think Delmon Young makes the team and can be the DH when Cruz is manning left field. However, Reimold and Pearce are both out of options, and both would likely be snatched up by another team. Urrutia has a future on the team, but still needs some seasoning in the outfield and has a stacked group ahead of him.
3. Toronto Blue Jays
Cabrera, the former Yankee is entrenched as the starter for the Jays, but the team has to be hoping for more from him than what they saw last year. In 88 games, Cabrera hit .279, with only 3 HRs, 30 RBIs and 39 runs. Now Cabrera batted all over the lineup, but still those numbers are low. But, if you look back on his career numbers, they aren’t terribly low. Cabrera never has been a HR hitter, and is more of a gap hitter who can slap doubles and score runs. Not known for his speed, Cabrera’s reputation is based upon two good seasons, one in Kansas City in 2011 and one in San Francisco in 2012, which of course was tainted by a PED suspension.
Behind him comes three players who all saw time with the Jays last year. Gose is the backup center fielder and will almost certainly make the team, and whether Pillar and Sierra do will depend on how many position players the team carries. Gose was considered a top prospect and has great speed to go with what is expected to be a solid hitting approach.
4. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox would gladly take the 2013 version of Nava in left field every day, where he hit .303, drove in 66 runs, scored 77 times and totaled 12 HRs and 29 doubles. However, 2013 was Nava’s first full year in the majors, and his numbers from two partial seasons, in 2010 and 2012, were much quieter, with an average at .242 both seasons. Nava was fifth in the AL in on-base percentage in 2013, and if he puts up similar numbers in 2014 the Red Sox will be ecstatic.
Gomes and Sizemore both are likely to make the team, with Sizemore likely backing up Jackie Bradley Jr. in CF and Gomes backing up the corner outfielders and also doing a little bit of DHing, when David Ortiz isn’t manning that spot. Sizemore hopes to get his career back on track. Sizemore is a three-time All-Star, but that was 2006-2008. He hasn’t played in the majors since 2011, and last played 100 or more games in 2009. A healthy and contributing Sizemore will help the already talented Red Sox.
5. Tampa Bay Rays
DeJesus is another slap hitter who bounced around from the Chicago Cubs to the Washington Nationals and finally to Tampa Bay in 2013. DeJesus has always been an average hitter, with a career .279 average. However, over the past few years he has played more of a utility role except for in 2012, when he started 148 games for the Cubs. Admittedly, that Cubs team was short on talent, which is likely why DeJesus started so many games. The first seven years of his career, all with Kansas City, DeJesus averaged out at around a .285 hitter, but the past few years his average has been significantly lower. DeJesus provides adequate defense, but has more games at the other two outfield positions than he does in left.
DeJesus and Joyce could platoon at the position, as Joyce also will see sometime at designated hitter. With Desmond Jennings and Wil Myers manning the other outfield positions, this position is the one that the Rays could afford to upgrade. Rodriguez, their super utilityman, is actually a natural left fielder.