Braves: Ranking the Left Fielders of the NL East

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Welcome back to the NL East positional player rankings segment. If you missed any of the previous parts of this series, please click the links below.

We already know Marcell Ozuna wins offensively among this group of players, but what about the whole package? Ozuna was one of the most unlucky players in the league in 2019. His BABIP was the lowest of his entire career by a large margin — .64 points lower than his career average. His Weighted On Base Average was also higher than his OBP, showing he was due for some positive regression. And boy did it ever come in 2020, as Ozuna nearly captured the NL Triple Crown, leading the league in homers and RBIs.

To be fair, there is no way the Big Bear will keep up his insane offensive rate from 2020 over a 162-game season, but it was impressive nonetheless. If we look at his slash line since 2017, it is .287/.355/.504 with an OPS+ of 129. Over the past five years, he owns a 3.74 WAR per 162 games. However, while Ozuna’s offense is superb, Braves fans are well aware of his faults defensively.

Even though Ozuna won a Gold Glove, he has never actually been good at defense. When he won that Gold Glove in 2017, he had a Defensive Wins Above Replacement of exactly zero. He has accumulated negative dWAR in each season since. Last year, in 145 innings in left field, he had precisely zero Defensive Runs Saved, which is actually encouraging. He is far from good at defense compared to other major leaguers, but it’s not quite as abysmal as some may think initially. From a baserunning standpoint, Ozuna had a down year in 2020 with an Ultimate Base Running of -0.6, but since 2018 he owns a 5.0 UBR, which is actually fantastic.

The Marlins project to have Corey Dickerson in left field. He was below-average at the plate in 2020, but he typically has a much better OPS+ than 94, boasting a career 118 OPS+. Dickerson is subpar defensively. In fact, Ozuna has a better dWAR than him, who averages -0.5 dWAR per year. Dickerson has also negatively produced in the UBR department over his career, but he was actually above-average last season, recording 0.7 in 52 games. With all of that combined, he’s been good for 2.53 WAR per 162 games over his career.

Dominic Smith is the Mets left fielder. New York signed Kevin Pillar and Albert Almora to play center field, so this could shift Conforto to left. But for now, we will stick with Smith. Dom had a fantastic season last year. Not as good as Ozuna, but he was well above average. The question mark with him is if it sticks or not.

Smith had 1.9 WAR in 50 games, which actually raised his four-year career total to 1.2. It took his last three years to accumulate 195 games, so I’ll use those. He averaged a 132 OPS+, and his WAR per 162 games equals 1.74. What is scary, though, is if you just look at his last two seasons, he’s recorded 3+ WAR per 162.

Smith’s slash line ins 2020 was .316/.377/.616 with an OPS+ of 169. While that’s inflated, he’s been well above-average at the plate his entire career. In his last 195 games, he owns a .278/.336/.527 slash line with an OPS+ of 132. Defensively, Smith has never shown positive value at any position, and he’s subpar on the bases with a -0.8 UBR in 244 games.

Next, we have a fringe Hall of Fame candidate. Of course, McCutchen’s HOF candidacy will depend on many things like health and being able to produce as he ages. Sticking with the Ozuna model, let’s look at the last five years. He owns a 114 OPS+ with 1.92 WAR per 162 games played. Much of this is due to his quickly declining defense. In 580 games, McCutchen has accumulated -4.6 dWAR, and from a DRS standpoint, he has had a miserable -39 DRS in the outfield over the last five years. On top of that, he owns a horrendous -7.2 UBR in that same time span.

Lastly, we have the new Nationals left fielder Kyle Schwarber. He has power potential; we know that, but he has never really lived up to the hype. In 551 games, Schwarber has posted a 113 OPS+ with a slash line of .230/.336/.480. Not too bad, but if you factor in his career -3.6 dWAR and slightly below average UBR of -0.2, he averages just 1.49 WAR per 162 games played.

So here are the rankings:

  1. Ozuna
  2. Smith
  3. Dickerson
  4. McCutchen
  5. Schwarber

 

In this positional group, we have a Brave as the clear front runner. Smith may challenge him in the future since he is still relatively young, and Ozuna will probably decline with age. However, this one is not particularly close.

Go Braves. Let’s see your rankings in the comments!

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