The Determinator: Outfielders #5-1 + Honorable Mentions (Part 2)
The Determinator finishes the 6-day collection of outfielders in the MLB! Along with the top Outfielders, we will also be discussing some outfield honorable mentions who ranked from #31 to #63.
Today I will reveal the #5-#1 Outfielders in the MLB and tomorrow I will announce the #5-1 designated hitters in the AL. For a background about The Determinator, see my article about my methodology, changes for 2021, and schedule, here.
The Determinator: Outfield-Specific Information
To easily work through and cut-down the list of 396 different players who played any amount of time in the outfield (316 in Left, 198 in Center, and 278 in Right) during the past two seasons, I set-up two boundaries to keep it as close to having only starters:
They must’ve had at least 350 PA’s over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
They must’ve had at least 750 innings combined in the outfield over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
This limited the number of outfielders down to 96.
However, without further ado, let’s get to the first of six days on the outfield:
If an outfielder led a statistic, it will be bolded.
Number 5: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Top-5: OBP, SLG, HR, wRC, wRC+, BsR, Off, WAR
Top-35: Games, SB
Total Score: 92Embed from Getty Images
It didn’t seem to make sense at the time, but last season Mike Trout came out to be the #4 center fielder in baseball. This year he is the #5 outfielder in baseball, even while leading all outfielders in OBP (.424), SLG (.632), HR (62), wRC (184), wRC+ (173), Off (+86.6), and WAR (+11.0). So, why does Trout rank unfavorably on The Determinator again? Defense. The owner of 0 gold gloves (yes, there are awards Trout hasn’t won), Trout has been a back-and-forth positive or negative defender during his career, including back-to-back negative seasons in 2019 (-0.3) and 2020 (-2.4). Obviously an excellent hitter (178 wRC+ and 162 wRC+) and baserunner (+7.1 and +1.3), Mike Trout has been and will continue to be a favorite for the AL MVP for many years to come, especially considering 2021 will be just his age-29 season. The highest ranked AL outfielder, 3-time MVP, and still under 30. That’s nuts.
Number 4: Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves
Top-5: HR, SB, BsR, Innings
Top-10: wRC, Off, WAR
Top-15: Games, OBP, SLG, DRS
Top-25: AVG, Fld
Total Score: 94Embed from Getty Images
The #1 center fielder by The Determinator going into 2020, Acuna ends up 4th across all outfielders on this go around. Just one of 5 players to rank across all 15 metrics (including our #1 and #2 players alongside #16 Marcell Ozuna and #27 Ramon Laureano), the young Braves center/right fielder is likely the best bargain in baseball. Making just $12.5 AAV after signing an 8-Year/$100M contract before 2019, Acuna is and will continue to be a consistent 5.5+ WAR player (+5.6 in 2019, +2.4 in 2020 [on pace for 6.4). Just 23-years-old, he boats a profile that many not be tops in all facets of the game, but is near the tops across offense (+32.7 and +17.3), defense (+1.5 and +2.0), and baserunning (+8.1 and + 2.2). Like with Juan Soto yesterday, I don’t want to make bold career-based assessments on him yet in terms of BB-rates or K-rates, but Acuna did have career highs in both (18.8% BB and 29.7% K) in 2020. This will be an interesting trend to see if it continues.
Number 3: Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
Top-5: OBP, SLG, HR, SB, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR
Top-10: AVG, BsR
Total Score: 99Embed from Getty Images
After a fracture knee cap ended his 2019 season (1 50 HR season, and a likely bid at a 2nd straight MVP) early, Christian Yelich has found himself into a new player in Milwaukee. Our #4 right fielder last year, Yelich did have a very poor 2020 season with some easy to point to numbers that kept him from his new normal: a 30.8% K-rate (career 21.2%), a .259 BABIP (career .354), and a -1.2 BsR (career norm of +3.9). All of this kept Yelich near the Mendoza line (2020 BA of .205) and brought his SLG (.430) down near his years with the Marlins (.432). However, while his rank here is largely due to his MLB leading SLG (.671) and OPS (1.100) from 2019, I don’t doubt that the 29 year old will be able to find his stride again in a full season. It is hard to project 7+ WAR for any player (Yelich has a +7.7 and +7.8 WAR in 2018 and 2019), but a 5+ WAR should hopefully be expected if he can bring his K-rate back down to around 20% and get his BABIP back over .350.
Number 2: Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
Top-5: Games, SLG, HR, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR, DRS
Top-10: OBP, UZR
Top-15: AVG, SB, Fld
Total Score: 112Embed from Getty Images
After bearing out Yelich for the NL MVP in 2019, Cody Bellinger also took home the #1 right fielder spot on The Determinator after an amazing season. However, he also took a massive step back in 2020 which has some casting doubt on whether his +7.8 WAR 2019 campaign was the best he’ll be able to offer. After a 1.2 WAR 2020 (on pace for 3.2), most projections have Bellinger playing somewhere in between at around a 5.5 fWAR player for 2021, which by all means is still great. His offense should return back after hitting to a .245 BABIP (career .297) and a .216 ISO (career .274), which should help boost a SLG that was under .500 (.455) and a wRC+ below 120 (114). However, outside of offense, Bellinger was the outfield leader in DRS (+28) these past two seasons, though 2019 was his only positive defensive season to date (+3.4). He is an all-around player, although his time spent at first base does knock him down a little from our #1 player:
Number 1: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers
Top-5: wRC, BsR, Off, WAR, Fld, DRS, UZR
Top-10:AVG, OBP, SLG, wRC+, Innings
Top-15: Games, HR, SB
Total Score: 120Embed from Getty Images
Our #2 right fielder last year, Betts was just one of 3 players to reach 3.0 fWAR in 2020 (alongside Jose Ramirez and Freddie Freeman). Combine this with a +6.3 fWAR 2019 (while adjusting to the NL) and an unconsidered +10.4 fWAR in 2018, Mookie Betts has been one of the best baseball players in our game for the last few seasons. Yet again, placing Top-15 across all 15 metrics of The Determinator across a 96-player pool of outfielders just accents how good, versatile, and toolsy he is. (Not to mention how he is an amazing bowler.) There isn’t enough good things to be said about Betts, who many project at or near a 6.0 fWAR for 2021. He has been a positive offensive player, defensive player, and baserunner is every one of his MLB seasons, and is a constant MVP threat. There shouldn’t be much surprise the Dodgers offered him a 12-Year/$365 Million extension (AAV of $30.4M) after getting him from the Red Sox last offseason. Now the winner of 2 World Series, Betts is pretty well likely the best all-around player in the MLB.
Honorable Mentions (From Ranks #31-63):
Below is a selection of outfielders from ranks 31 to 63 who led statistics but did not place in the Top-10 rankings, are notable veterans of the game, are a former Yankees player, and the Yankees player/s who qualified for the position if they failed to rank in the Top-10:
Kyle Schwarber – Ranked #33 with 30 points
Jarrod Dyson – OF Leader in BsR (+10.6), Ranked #34 with 29 points (3-Way Tie)
Jason Heyward & Eloy Jimenez – Ranked #34 with 29 points (3-Way Tie)
Jackie Bradley Jr. – Ranked #37 with 28 points
Mike Tauchman – Ranked #44 with 24 points
Lorenzo Cain – Ranked #46 with 22 points (3-Way Tie)
Mallex Smith – OF Leader in SB (48), Ranked #49 with 21 points (2-Way Tie)
Alex Gordon & Randal Grichuk – Ranked #51 with 20 points (3-Way Tie)
Brandon Nimmo – Ranked #56 with 18 points (2-Way Tie)
Ryan Braun – Ranked #58 with 16 points (4-Way Tie)
Cameron Maybin – Ranked #63 with 15 points (2-Way Tie)
The Determinator is a way I used to determine the best players at each position. Like any metric or formula, I am sure it has flaws. No statistical compilation is perfect. That being said, The Determinator, seems pretty effective at assigning player values. I’m pleased with what I have found using this method and hope this is a conversation starter for many.