AL East Positional Rankings: Young Stars Push Gardner at Left Field

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 13: Trey Mancini
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 13: Trey Mancini /
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We take a look back at Nate Wardle’s AL East positional rankings to see how they look compared to how the season panned out. Today, left field.

Left field in the AL East has been held down by Brett Gardner recently, while other teams opt for platoons, but 2017 may be when that changes.

Gardner was ranked first in my preview rankings, and there may not be a reason to change that.

However, two of the top three vote-getters in the American League Rookie of the Year race play left field in the AL East, Andrew Benintendi and Trey Mancini.

As for the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays, we will take a look at their left field play in 2017, and see what it looks like moving ahead toward 2018.

First, the preseason rankings.

5. Tampa Bay Rays

4. Baltimore Orioles

3. Toronto Blue Jays

2. Boston Red Sox

1. New York Yankees

5. Toronto Blue Jays – Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, Teoscar Hernandez

I predicted that Melvin Upton Jr. would be the Jays’ starting left fielder. He didn’t make the team.

I commented that Pearce could fill in the corners, but was probably better in right field than left. Well, Jose Bautista held down right in Toronto in 2017, and probably for the last time.

Pearce started 77 games in left field, hitting .252/.319/.438 in 92 games total, with 13 home runs, 17 doubles, 39 runs scored and 37 runs batted in. Not exactly fantastic numbers.

Pearce combined a 0.6 offensive WAR with a -0.9 defensive WAR for a 0.0 WAR overall. Not very good there either. Pearce made two errors and added below average range to the position for the Jays. But, defense is never going to be the strongest suit for the utility man.

Carrera started 50 games in left field but played in 91 games at the position. And overall, it was another good year for him, as he hit .282/.356/.408 with eight home runs, 10 doubles, 38 runs scored, 20 runs batted in and 10 stolen bases in 131 games total.

The Jays’ spark plug combined a 1.0 offensive WAR with a dismal -1.8 defensive WAR, for a negative WAR overall. Hernandez saw most of his playing time late in the season when the Jays were out of it and turned to their younger players.

All three will be on the team next year, and my guess is that with Bautista’s likely departure, at least one of them will start at a corner outfield spot, although not necessarily left field.