Preseason Position Power Rankings: Couch Side’s top five left fielders for 2013

Ryan Braun tops the list of Couch Side's top left fielders with his big bat and speedy legs. Photo by: Steve Paluch / Flickr

Ryan Braun tops the list of Couch Side’s top left fielders with his big bat and speedy legs. Photo by: Steve Paluch / Flickr

BY BRANDON J. SMITH, senior blogger

Some may think of left field as that position where a youth baseball coach would hide his worst player. In Major League Baseball, it’s quite the contrary, In fact, many former center fielders, who had a younger player with a tad more defensive skills bump them out of their former positions, will usually move just one spot left. It also seems like a lot of the games top power hitters call left field their home. We’ll look at both cases in today’s blog of the top 10 left fielders in the game today:

10. Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins (.260 BA, 35 HR, 110 RBI, 2.9 WAR) – One of the most underrated power hitters in baseball.

9. David Murphy, Texas Rangers (.304 BA, 15 HR, 61 RBI, 10 SB, 3.2 WAR) – One of the most underrated players in baseball.

8. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics (.292 BA, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, 3.4 WAR) – Great rookie season from the defected Cuban, expect more in 2013.

7. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (.303 BA, 22 HR, 85 RBI, 20 SB, 1.3 WAR) – Big platoon split due to Coors Field.

6. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (.294 BA, 14 HR, 72 RBI, 10 SB, 6.2 WAR) – Excellent defensive fielder with an improved bat.

5. Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals (.295 BA, 27 HR, 102 RBI, 3.8 WAR)

Holliday is one of the great sure things in baseball. Consistently reliable slugger who drives in runs and generally does things well. One of the things he doesn’t do well is defend, or really have great range, at least not anymore. Regardless, he’ll be a big factor the Cardinals yet again.

4. Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves (.280 BA, 17 HR, 67 RBI, 18 SB, 2.1 WAR)

This is what the Dbacks decided to trade for 50 cents on the dollar, bear in mind this is spring training but holy crap.  That looks like the Justin Upton of 2011, the Upton that finished top 5 in the MVP voting and had a legitimately great season. A wrist injury zapped most of his power in 2012, which caused the reasonable and rational Kevin Towers to publicly lower his trade value and accept less than worthy in a deal to Atlanta. He enters an outfield with his brother BJ in center, and supreme champion of excellence Jason Heyward in right. ZiPS projects Upton to hit .275/.361/.473, which seems a bit low for my taste. Turner Field isn’t the hitting haven that Chase is, but I like Justin’s chances to slug closer to .500 regardless.

3. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (,326 BA, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB, 10.7 WAR)

The reigning AL ROY and what some believe should have been the MVP is facing the impossible challenge of topping one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time. Hitting .326/.399/.564 with roughly 10 wins above replacement while nearly propelling your team into playoffs is an all-time great achievement (bear in mind the Angels didn’t bring him up until April 28, so it’s possible him missing an entire month prevented LAA from getting that Wild Card spot). A sophomore regression is far from the worst thing ever, especially when Trout’s worst case scenario is going from the best player in baseball to now somewhere in the top 10 players in baseball, oh what a cruel game this is. He’s also so darn good that he topped Couch Side’s top center fielders list. It’s really your call.

2. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (.270 BA, 22 HR, 59 RBI, 18 SB, 5.0 WAR)

I’m on the Bryce Harper for 2013 MVP bandwagon. Taking into consideration how talented he already is, and having seen some of the spectacular power he displays, and the freak of nature style on the base paths, I’m willing to put my cards on this table. I think his upside for this season is tremendous, like .300/.400/.500 tremendous, I regret nothing. The move to left field should help his defensive game, especially at times he looked lost in CF, like on this play:

1. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers (.319 BA, 41 HR, 112 RBI, 30 SB, 6.8 WAR)

MLB is investigating Braun for his role in what has become a fading story with the Biogenesis crisis. Unless it affects his on field play due to suspension, I’m not going to factor that into this ranking. Braun is the preeminent slugger at the position. His seasonal averages to this point are .313/.374/.568, 37 HR, 147 OPS+. On his baseball reference page, his most similar player comparison through age 28 is Vladimir Guerrero, which Braun exceeds in 7 points of OPS+ to this point despite playing in a lesser offensive environment (Miller Park helps, we know). Braun should be expected to hit like a superstar at age 29.

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