Who are the best MLB outfielders right now? Before we answer that question, let’s lay down a few ground rules.
First, we’re talking about all around best outfielders, meaning defensive and offensive abilities factor in, with FanGraphs’ WAR serving as a key arbiter. Thus, Oakland Athletics center fielder Ramon Laureano and his league-best howitzer arm didn’t quite make the cut.
Second, we’re judging players on the past few seasons rather than merely the truncated 2020 campaign, meaning guys with an extensive track record and a ho-hum ‘20 stat line receive the benefit of the doubt, while promising youngsters such as the Seattle Mariners’ Kyle Lewis and Chicago White Sox’s Luis Robert will have to wait their turn.
10. LF Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves
Marcell Ozuna is no one’s idea of a great defensive outfielder. He’s best suited as a designated hitter.
But, after re-signing with Atlanta, Ozuna will primarily man left field for the defending National League East champions.
Wherever he plays, there’s no ignoring the .338/.431/.636 slash line and NL-pacing 18 home runs and 56 RBI the 30-year-old posted in 2020.
9. RF Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies missed the postseason despite the expanded format in 2020. They’ll need to play to the top of their potential to make the dance in a crowded division in 2021.
If they do advance into October, a lion’s share of the credit will likely go to Bryce Harper.
Harper has flashed superstar potential, winning NL MVP honors in 2012 with the Washington Nationals and making six All-Star appearances.
He posted a .962 OPS last season for the Phils and is young and talented enough to carry their offense.
8. CF George Springer, Toronto Blue Jays
George Springer inked a six-year, $150 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason.
He’ll start the year on the injured list with an oblique strain. Assuming he returns healthy, he could guide the up-and-coming Jays back to the postseason.
A three-time All-Star, Springer posted an .899 OPS with 14 home runs in 51 games in 2020 and ranked sixth among all MLB outifielders with 11.4 WAR (by FanGraphs’ calculation) between 2018 and 2020.
7. RF Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
If he’s healthy, Aaron Judge is among the most imposing, potent hitters in the game.
That’s admittedly a big “if.” After swatting 52 home runs in 155 games and winning American League Rookie of the Year honors in 2017, Judge has played 112 games in 2018, 102 games in 2019 and 28 (out of 60) games in 2020 while battling various injuries.
Still, when he’s right, Judge is one of the premier sluggers in baseball and owns a canon for an arm in right field.
6. CF Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
The 2017 National League Rookie of the Year and 2019 NL MVP, Cody Bellinger took a step backward in 2020.
Bellinger hit just .239 in the shortened season with a decent-not-great .789 OPS. That said, the Dodgers won their first title since 1988, and Bellinger swatted 12 homers and 10 doubles in 56 games.
Entering his age-25 campaign, it’s safe to say he remains a talent-laden superstar on the rise.
5. LF Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
Speaking of star players who regressed, Christian Yelich hit a paltry .205 for the Milwaukee Brewers last season.
Yet, Yelich ranked third among all outfielders with 16.2 WAR between 2018 and 2020, won an NL MVP award in 2019 and snagged back-to-back Senior Circuit batting titles in 2018 and ‘19.
At age 29, he’s in his prime and primed for a comeback.
4. LF Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves
Since winning NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2018, Ronald Acuna Jr. has smacked 81 home runs, stolen 61 bases, scored 251 runs and posted 11.7 WAR, fifth-best among MLB outfielders.
He’s a rising star for an Atlanta club that is set to defend its division title and is loaded with offensive weapons aplenty.
At the tender age of 23, Acuna is only going to get better.
3. LF Juan Soto, Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals followed up their 2019 World Series win with a last-place finish in 2020.
One Nat who didn’t fall short of expectations? Juan Soto.
After finishing ninth in NL MVP voting in 2019, Soto paced baseball with a 1.185 OPS while tallying 13 homers and 14 doubles in 47 games in ‘20.
Oh, and did we mention he’s still only 22 years old?
2. RF Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers
Mookie Betts finished second in NL MVP voting in 2020 and led the Los Angeles Dodgers to a long-awaited title.
In his first go-round with L.A. after a trade from the Boston Red Sox, Betts slashed .292/.366/.562 with 16 homers and won a Gold Glove.
The 28-year-old is in his prime and is the face of MLB’s preeminent franchise.
1. CF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
You were expecting someone else?
During nine full MLB seasons, Mike Trout has won three MVP awards, made nine All-Star teams and posted 75 WAR, per FanGraphs (Betts is the next-closest during that span with 40.2).
He is, by any measure, the best outfielder and player of his generation.
The only blemish on Trout’s record is the fact that he’s appeared in only three postseason games, all of them in 2014.
It’ll be up to the Los Angeles Angels’ front office, and Trout’s teammates, to change that posthaste.