The Determinator: Right Fielders: #1-5 + Honorable Mentions
Before every season, baseball minds across the sport test their skills with crunching numbers, diving deep into analytics, and reviewing game footage in order to determine who the best players are in the game. Often times they give their analysis fun names; one of the most notable being The Shredder from MLB Network.
Sometimes the results astound people- like in 2015 Hanely Ramirez was rated the top Left Fielder in the MLB before ever playing there. Other times, the results are unsurprising- spoiler alert, but Mike Trout was probably the best CF in baseball, and most likely will be again.
Every weekday at 4:00 PM throughout the next few weeks, I will be posting my own analysis on who the top players at each position truly are.
Welcome to The Determinator.
Today I will reveal the Top-5 Right Fielders in the MLB, as well as explaining my methodology for these rankings. Monday will be the #1-5 Designated Hitters in the MLB.
The Determinator: My General Methodology
The Determinator is a ranking system that is built upon the analyzation of 16 carefully chosen stats through a very simplistic system of comparisons. Some of these stats are more classical (Games Played, Home Runs, etc.), others are more advanced (wRC+, WAR, etc.). From this come 7 offensive stats, 4 defensive, 2 baserunning, and 3 general stats, set to contribute towards the importance of each part of the game.
The Offensive stats are: AVG/OBP/SLG, wRC, wRC+, HR, and Off (Fangraphs)
The Defensive stats are: Fielding, DRS, UZR (or Framing for Catchers), and Def (Fangraphs)
The Baserunning stats are: Stolen Bases and BsR (Fangraphs)
The Overall stats are: Games Played, Innings at Position, and fWAR (Fangraphs)
After determining this list of statistics, I then had to input each into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet I sorted how each player did in each statistic from best-to-worst. If you were top 5 in a category, you got ranked as a ‘Green’. Top 6-10 was a ‘Yellow’. And, Top 11-15 was labelled as a ‘Red’. The number of each ranking was counted- so it was possible to come out with a score of zero- and given values of 5, 3, and 1 respectively.
Key Note: If player/s across a statistic had the same numbers across a border- for example the 5th and 6th players with the most Home Runs- then they would both be counted as the better ranking- in this case both ‘Green’ or 5 points- and replace one spot from the following ranking- in this case a ‘Yellow’ or 3 points. This could also stretch some statistics to include more ‘Red’ players who had equal stats to the 15th best.
Additionally, if no stats were recorded in a counting statistic that could fit into a ranking- as is seen with Catchers and Stolen Bases- then no ranking is given to those players. This would greatly increase the number of points given out, and lessen the value of each point. This is not true for advanced metrics that can produce negative values- as is seen with Catchers and BsR.
The results were then tallied, sorted from greatest to least, and a ranking was created.
Finally, player age, 2020 salary, and contract status, were all not considered in this experiment. This is entirely statistic-based.
The Determinator: Right Field-Specific Information
To easily work through and cut-down the list of 228 different players who played any amount of time at right field during the season, I set-up two separate boundaries for right fielders:
They must’ve had at least 250 PA’s during the 2019 season.
They must’ve had at least 500 innings in right field during the 2019 season.
This limited the number of right fielders down to 26.
However, without further ado, let’s get to numbers 6 through 10:
If a player led a statistic for their position, it will be bolded.
Number 5: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
Top-5: OBP, SLG, wRC+, Off, WAR, Fld, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-15: AVG, HR, SB, wRC, Innings
Total Score: 53Embed from Getty Images
Aaron Judge, if healthy, could make a case for being the best player in the MLB. In the past two seasons (2018-2019), he has only played in 214 of 324 games (~66%) and yet has still put up seasons of 5.1 and 4.6 fWAR (5.5 and 5.4 bWAR) respectively. Extrapolate that to a full season of 162 games and Judge would’ve had seasons of 7.4 and 7.3 fWAR (8.0 and 8.6 bWAR). However, while the value Judge provides on offense is pretty obvious to the casual fan (0.540 SLG, 27 HR’s, 141 wRC+, 23.7 Off), his defensive value is supremely underrated. Judge led all RF’ers in Fld (12.7, tied with Max Kepler), DRS (19, tied with Cody Bellinger), and Def (8.7) in 2019. His dip in offense from previous seasons (from a 174 wRC+ in 2017, to 150 in 2018, to 141 in 2019) is a little concerning, but this can be easily explained by his loss of playing time. Please stay healthy Aaron.
Number 4: Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
Top-5: AVG, OBP, SLG, HR, SB, wRC, wRC+, BsR, Off, WAR
Top-10: Fld, Innings
Top-15: DRS, UZR, Def
Total Score: 59Embed from Getty Images
Christian Yelich was on track to potentially put up a 50 HR season last year, but had a season-ending injury with a fractured knee cap in the middle of September. However, what he did in his other 130 games, in not only leading all RF’ers, but the whole MLB in SLG (0.671), the National League in AVG (0.329), OBP (0.429), wRC+ (174), BsR (8.5), Off (65.2), a tie for fWAR (7.8 with Cody Bellinger), along with his position-leading SB (30). While his offensive value is almost immeasurable, Yelich’s defense (-5) is definitely something that could be improved, even though his Fld (1.9) and UZR (0.4) come out as positive. All being said, after leaving Miami and going to Milwaukee in 2018, Yelich has become a top player in the game, most easily Top-10 overall and seen as a Top-5 among many peoples consensuses.
Number 3: Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies
Top-5: Games, OBP, HR, SB, WAR, Fld, Innings, DRS, UZR
Top-10: SLG, wRC, wRC+, Off, Def
Total Score: 61Embed from Getty Images
The biggest name on the 2018-2019 free agent market, Bryce Harper held out until late February to sign with a team, eventually coming to terms with the Philadelphia Phillies on a 13-Year, $330 Million deal. So far, it seems as though the Phillies made a solid deal, as Harper ranked out as the 3rd best RF in the MLB by The Determinator, as he put up a solid season with 4.6 fWAR. As was the case with Judge and Yelich, the most important part of the game is being able to play the game, which is where Harper led all RF’ers in games played (157). While Harper will always be viewed in the lens of expecting another 2015, where he won MVP with a 9.3 fWAR (10.0 bWAR), he still is a very productive player in seasons that more typically show his true value- as was the case in 2019. He was Top-5 across many offensive stats, including OBP (0.372), HR’s (35), SB (15), WAR (4.6), with solid numbers on his periphery SLG of 0.510, wRC+ of 125. Like Judge, his defense (3.2) is also an underrated part of his game, as all his values were positive Fld (10), DRS (9), UZR (10).
Number 2: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
Top-5: AVG, OBP, HR, SB, wRC, wRC+, BsR, Off, WAR, Fld, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-10: Games, SLG, Innings
Total Score: 70Embed from Getty Images
The biggest question in baseball right now is whether or not Mookie Betts will get traded, as in recent days it appears the Los Angeles Dodgers are making a serious push for the Right Fielder. Betts is also refusing to sign any long-term extension, not because of the Red Sox, but because of how it would affect future labor talks between the MLBPA and MLB Owners. After an insane 2018 campaign where Betts accumulated 10.4 fWAR (10.9 bWAR), his true value was interesting to find a fit for, as he had two outlandish seasons in 2016 (8.3) and 2018, and two great seasons in 2015 (4.8) and 2017 (5.3). It seems as though 2019 found Betts at a comfortable middle-ground between the two (6.6 fWAR), as he ran that towards his 4th straight All-Star Game, Gold Glove, Top-10 MVP finishes, and a Silver Slugger (his 3rd). Leading all RF’ers in UZR (12.9), Betts is a true 5-Tool Player, placing Top-15 in all 16 statistics measured, with a large majority of them (12) being a Top-5 placement. His numbers don’t lie, and this placement is extremely appropriate for a player of Betts’ caliber: 0.295/0.391/0.524, with 29 HR’s, 16 SB’s a wRC/wRC+ of 126/135, an Off of 37, and a Def of 7. With little offseason left, where he plays in 2020 will be an interesting story to follow.
Number 1: Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
Top-5: Games, AVG, OBP, SLG, HR, SB, wRC, wRC+, BsR, Off, WAR, Innings, DRS, UZR, Def
Total Score: 74Embed from Getty Images
I think it’s pretty fitting that our first position and last positions on the diamond had the two players with the highest rating (not counting DH) that The Determinator gave during this analysis. Cody Bellinger placed Top-5 in 14 of the 16 metrics, placing Top-10 in one other, and Top-15 in the last. Bellinger is an interesting case to examine, as in 2018 he played over 700 innings at 1B (the only position he would’ve qualified for via The Determinator), yet in 2019 he played over 1000 in the outfield (911.1 in RF) and only 211 at 1B. Last season, Bellinger put up a 7.8 fWAR (9.0 bWAR) in his NL MVP winning season, yet only led the NL in Total Bases (351), but did lead all RF’ers in HR’s (47), wRC (137), WAR (7.8, tied with Yelich), and DRS (12, tie with Aaron Judge). Truly, his 156 games played catapulted him above Yelich in the MVP voting, although it was a pretty close race all things considered (86% Vote Share).
As the Yankees (finally) got a player to place high on a list, there is very little I can say as a precursor to the honorable mentions list. So, let’s get to it:
Nick Castellanos, Cincinnati Reds – Scored 31 Points, Ranked #11
Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs – Scored 24 Points, Ranked #14
Josh Reddick, Houston Astros – Scored 17 Points, Ranked #16 (3-Way Tie with Yasiel Puig and Dexter Fowler)
Nick Markakis, Atlanta Braves – Scored 8 Points, Ranked #21
Adam Jones, Orix Buffalos – Scored 3 Points, Ranked #25
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.
Click here to see the #6-10 Right Fielders.
Check back in Monday at 4:00 PM to see the #1-5 Designated Hitters in the MLB.