For me, left field has always conjured up images of true mashers. Guys who can just plain rake. Big boppers.
And the baseball players that have manned left field at one time or another read like a Hall of Fame wing in itself: Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Ricky Henderson, Frank Robinson.
These figures are the stuff of real legends. Iconic. Mythological.
Currently, left field doesn’t boast many of those big boppers or sneaky stealer on the basepaths.
But that doesn’t mean they’re not big talents.
What they do have to offer more than anything is well roundedness. And in today’s game, being able to hit, slam a homer, swipe a bag, and glove a ball moderately well is at a premium.
Here’s your list of the best left fielders in MLB:
The Definitive List of the 7 Best Left Fielders Right Now
7. Eddie Rosario - Minnesota Twins
The 27-year old Rosario has been a steady 30+ doubles / 20+ home runs guy for the last couple of years. As a fan of steady, pure hitters who can also smash a ball hard, that’s my type of ballplayer.
And there’s no reason to expect a decline there as he enters his prime baseball age.
He's already been worth 1 WAR on the season which projects to 6 WAR on the year. But while his average and on base percentages of .276 / .323 are right in line with his career averages, his .678 slugging percentage will definitely come back down to Earth.
After all, 60 homers on the year is a bit of a stretch for this otherwise very solid left fielder.
Yet if Rosario can give the Twins even 3 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) on the year, about average for him lately, they should be very happy with that.
6. Andrew Benintendi - Boston Red Sox
Andrew Benintendi is still a young player at age 24. But already in 2018 he has put up an all-star calibre season.
It probably won’t be his last.
Not only did Benintendi slash .290 / .336 / .465 with 16 homers and 87 RBI’s last year, but the Red Sox corner outfielder also stole 21 bases with his impressive speed.
Though his glove has not been consistent, he’s still been worth an average of 3.2 WAR per season.
So far this year he’s been getting on base at a sweet .384 clip. While he only has two stolen bases at this point, look for him to reach 20+ bags again in 2019 and to also contribute 15+ homers.
At age 24, Benintendi should be a Yankee-smashing cornerstone player for the dynasty-calibre Sox for many years to come.
5. Michael Conforto - New York Mets
New York Metropolitan Michael Conforto took a step back in 2018. But don’t be too shocked if the 26-year old matches or exceeds his 2017 breakout year in 2019.
During 2017 Conforto raked to the tune of .279 / .384 / .555 for a weighted on-base average (wOBA) of .392.
Obviously his 109 plate appearances as of this writing are a smallish sample size, but his stat line this season is positively gaudy so far. He’s hit .292 / .413 / .573 and is showing signs of improved play with his glove in the left field spot.
Don’t expect that slugging percentage to last, but don’t think that a stellar season is out of the question either as Conforto begins sliding straight into his prime years.
Perhaps the 2019 All-Star game awaits him.
4. Marcell Ozuna - St. Louis Cardinals
Marcell Ozuna is puzzling and, perhaps, a frustrating player for his team and fans. After batting a fierce .312 / .376 / .548 in 2017, his final season with the Miami Marlins, he backslid in 2018.
So where will the 28-year old left fielder end up statistically in 2019? The best guess is somewhere in between the last two years, most likely, as the 28-year old Ozuna is now firmly in his prime.
So far he has gotten off to a hot start. Through his first 22 games of the season he’s been packing a .272 / .366 / .654 punch with 9 homers and 21 RBIs.
The slugging / home run rates will probably drop, but the rest of his numbers are either right in line or show the expected improvement you'd want to see from Ozuna.
And 30 homers on the season is definitely still possible for a slugger who should be swinging for the bleachers like it’s his job. Because it is.
3. Justin Upton - Los Angeles Angels
The 31-year old Los Angeles Angel is currently on the injured list, but that does nothing to diminish his value as a left fielder when he’s on the field.
His defense is weak, but he more than makes up with it at the plate. 2017 saw Justin Upton have one of his best seasons as he slashed .273 / .361 / .540 with 35 homers and 109 RBI’s.
He’s even speedy on the basepaths and will swipe a bag here and there.
Yes, he does have a tendency to whiff at the plate and that can hurt his batting average. But Upton more than makes up for it with his quality hitting, some patience at the plate, and undeniable raw power.
When Upton makes it back from injury, fully expect him to continue his home run hitting and walk-taking ways to the benefit of Anaheim, a team that surely needs his bat as they currently languish in the basement of the AL West.
2. Tommy Pham - Tampa Bay Rays
As a kid Tommy Pham came up through the St. Louis Cardinals system and had a breakout year with the big league club in 2018.
With the Cards in 2017 he batted .306 / .411 / .520 with 23 homers and 73 RBIs for 6.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
Though Pham’s numbers dipped a bit in 2018, he still had an impressive showing. He made up for a step back in defense with continued skills displayed at the plate and on the basepaths.
He was traded mid-season in 2018 - to his happiness, it’s been reported - to the Tampa Rays where he now resides.
Pham is the second best left fielder in baseball right now (and the best that’s currently playing the position). His on-base percentage has shot back up to an exquisite .420 this April. But his power is a bit below his career average slugging percentage.
Expect that power to rebound to his career norms so that 20+ homers by year’s end is a distinct possibility. He’s also already stolen 6 bases, more a third of his total of fifteen in 2018. At that rate, he’d have 36 by year’s end.
Pham is doing as much as anyone to help the Rays - somewhat unexpectedly - to stay atop the American League East so far, two games up on the Yanks. Expect him to finish the season around .260 / .370 / .430 with 18 homers and 60 ribbies.
And if the Rays still find themselves in first at season’s end, expect Pham to have played a major role.
1. Christian Yelich - Milwaukee Brewers
In 2018, Christian Yelich won the National League MVP Award. I suppose if you’re the best player in the league, you’re also the best left fielder in the league. Go logic!
The award was well deserved. Yelich mashed the ball in 2018. He’s an on-base machine with a powerful swing that can drive the ball deep, deep, deep.
He’s also not playing left field this year. He’s only logged 2 innings in the spot, while spending most of the rest of his time in right field.
And so far he’s playing the position spot on. The shift to right field makes his bat even more potent in the lineup.
In 2019 he already has a ridiculous 8 homers and we’re halfway through April. I don’t think he’ll hit 50 this year, but he’s as likely a candidate as anyone playing the game today.
So does a non-left field playing left fielder deserve to be #1 on this list?
Well: World Series. Game 7. Away Game. Maximum pressure. Who do you want in left field?
Best of the Rest - Sleeper Picks for Your Fantasy Team
Dwight Smith Jr. - Baltimore Orioles
In 2018, Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. put up an on-base plus slugging (OPS) percentage of .824, a solid output. But that percentage was achieved in under 80 plate appearances.
Too good to be true? Small sample size blues? Don’t be shocked if it’s for real. In 2019, he’s increased that percentage by 30 points to .854 and already has five homers and eighteen RBIs.
The knock on Smith as a fantasy pick has been the potential for very limited playing time for the Orange Birds. But, he may be forcing their hand sooner than later if he keeps up this calibre performance.
B. Brian Goodwin - L.A. Angels
Goodwin has been mashing the ball in April, slashing a line of .344 / .419 / .594 while crushing 3 homers with 10 ribbies so far. After kicking around the Nationals minor league system since 2012, Goodwin has played 111 innings in left field so far for the cherubs.
Could Goodwin be the Angel in left field LA is looking for? It might be worth picking him up for your fantasy team and finding out.
And if your league-mates get mad when he continues to break out, just blame it on us.
C. Jeff McNeil - New York Mets
McNeil was a revelation for the Mets in 2018 at second base, producing 2.7 WAR in only a third of a season played. But with Robbie Cano coming in-house, dontcha know, and a fluid player situation at third base, McNeil agreed to play some outfield.
So far it’s been a rewarding experience for the Metsies. Though he’s only hit 1 homer, he’s made up for it by going .363 / .440 / .488 and bolstering an offense that has napped for a couple of years now.
McNeil seems to be a part of a core group including Peter Alonso and Michael Conforto that have helped to awaken the beast. If he’s still available in your league, I’d pick him up right quick.
Click below to watch Entre Innings every Thursday only on beIN SPORTS.