Case to be made for Mookie Betts being not only the best right fielder but the best outfielder in baseball
Last season was the Mookie Betts coming out party. Last season was also an off year for anyone not named Mookie Betts at the Right Field position. Mookie’s season looked even better because of his season totals. With a slash of .318/31/113/26 in addition to getting 214 hits in 672 plate appearances, it’s tough to see how these numbers didn’t make him the clear cut MVP for the American League last season. Mike Trout was also spectacular and ended up with his second MVP Award in 3 seasons. Trout hasn’t finished outside the top 2 in MVP voting in the last 5 seasons. It’s a spot he’ll remain in as long as he can continue his current production.
Safe to say that Betts & Trout will be contending for the MVP for the next decade. Ranking all other players playing his position, no one made more of an impact for their team than Mookie Betts. As far as right fielders go, only one other name comes to mind in the American League and our runner up for best right fielder in the AL goes to J.D. Martinez. Martinez had an off year as well but considering the other players playing in right, there’s no one better than Betts.
If we open the argument to both leagues, several other players come to mind but in the end, there is no one any GM would or should want to build around besides Betts. He can hit for power & average, has excellent speed, plays amazing defense, and can throw anyone out from just about anywhere. He is a 5 tool player. Many remember what Ichiro Suzuki could do back in the day, this is the reincarnation of Ichiro with the ability to hit for a lot of power.
Some argue that Bryce Harper was going to be the second coming in baseball and that looked pretty accurate back in 2015 but in 2016? What the heck happened? All of Harper’s numbers went down except for his stolen bases. Harper lost almost .100 off his batting average dropping from .330 to .243.That’s pretty ugly. The only thing uglier than Harpers fall was Giancarlo Stanton’s numbers. Stanton did amazing in 2014 and was well on the way to wrecking those numbers in 2015.
Unfortunately, after getting hit in the face during his 2015 campaign, he was limited to just 74 games and hit 27 home runs. In 2015, Stanton hit his 27 home runs again but in 119 games. Stanton also saw his average drop .025 and struck out 45 more times. It’s possible than maybe he’s playing a little nervous since he doesn’t want to get in the face again and I don’t blame him, no one should. The argument however is that if you’re getting paid Stanton type money (13 year/$325 million), you better be darn good at baseball. Otherwise, he’ll end up being a big ole bust in Miami.
Hunter Pence who has been one of the most durable right fielders also experienced an off year. Pence played in 52 games in ’15 and 106 games in ’16. He played twice as much as last season but only managed 4 more home runs and 17 more RBI’s. It’s possible that his career has already begun it’s down cline.
The final name to mention is Carlos Gonzalez. After finding himself in 2015 crushing 40 homers, he found himself only hitting 25 last season while getting a little more playing time. His batting average did go up .027 so there are signs of a potential good 2017 season for him. Gonzalez was hoping to play for a contender last season and does have the benefit of playing with Nolan Arenado an elite 3rd baseman. Andrew McCutchen can start with a fresh slate at right field this season but wasn’t included in the conversation since he played in center field last year.
Starting off the season, Mookie Betts batted leadoff before solidifying himself as an elite multifaceted player batting out of the 3 hole. I always appreciated a player that batted in the top 3 spots in the lineup and could get stolen bases especially in late inning situations. Betts still managed to get more stolen bases (26) than Harper, Stanton, Martinez, Pence, & Gonzalez combined. Statistically speaking, Carlos Gonzalez was the best right fielder playing in the NL sporting a .298/25/100 line. The major difference? Betts is 7 years younger than Gonzalez.
Just to play devil’s advocate a little bit, let’s say that Mookie Betts’ production drops off just a little bit with the loss of David Ortiz for 2017, you’re still going to be looking at the best right fielder in the American League once again. It’s not completely safe to say it, but we’re hedging our bets in that Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, & J.D. Martinez will bounce back and do more damage this year than last.
2017 Right Fielder Rankings
- Mookie Betts
- Bryce Harper
- Giancarlo Stanton
- Nelson Cruz
- J.D. Martinez
- George Springer
- Carlos Gonzalez
- Stephen Piscotty
- Kole Calhoun
- Gregory Polanco
Photo Credit: Steven Mitchell – USA TODAY Sports