The American League West is stocked with talent in left field but there’s little doubt where the pecking order begins.
Los Angeles boasts of the game’s best talents in Mike Trout, who was the team’s primary centerfielder last season. While Trout is outstanding, there are plenty of other good left fielders in the West.
Here’s a look at the picture in left in the West as well as the team rankings.
1. Los Angeles – The Angels are moving one of their three most valuable player candidates to left field this season. Mike Trout, who won the rookie of the year and finished second in the most valuable player voting last season, was the Angels primary centerfielder last season. Trout made 108 starts in center and just 29 in left. But the Angels want Peter Bourjos in center and Josh Hamilton in right so Trout is in left. Wherever he’s playing, it’s going to be hard for him to improve on last year’s numbers. In just 139 games, Trout scored a league high 129 runs and led the American League with 49 stolen bases. He also finished second in the AL in batting at .326. Barring injury, he’s going to play in more games this year with a better lineup around him. He was a 30-30 player last season and has bulked up in the offseason. A 40-40 season isn’t out of the question nor is another run at the MVP. And to think, he’s still just 21 years old.
Team production in 2012: .249 average, 35 home runs, 102 RBI, .771 OPS
Expected production in 2013: .330 average, 35 home runs, 100 RBI, .950 OPS 2. Oakland – If it wasn’t for the emergence of Mike Trout in Los Angeles, the best rookie outfielder story in baseball would have been up the coast in Oakland. Cuban Yoenis Cespedes provided the kid of spark a normally stagnant Oakland offense needed in 2012. Cespedes smacked 23 homers and added 82 RBI all while making the adjustment to his first year of professional baseball in the big leagues. He has a comfort level now that is only going to be helped by the fact his family is no longer in Cuba and is with him in the United States. Cespedes, who was given huge money by Oakland standards (four years, $36 million), bounced between left field and center field while finishing second to Trout in rookie of the year voting. The Athletics have center covered with Coco Crisp and Chris Young, so Cespedes can get comfortable in left.
Team production in 2012: .290 average, 28 home runs, 93 RBI, .871 OPS
Expected production in 2013: .300 average, 30 home runs, 100 RBI, .875 OPS
3. Texas – David Murphy doesn’t have to look over his shoulder in left field anymore. That’s mainly because the Rangers don’t have any other options in left other than Murphy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The left-handed hitting Murphy was able to shed the tag as a part-time player in 2012 when he was finally given the opportunity to play every day. All he did was hit a career best .304 with 15 home runs and 61 RBI. Murphy, who can be a free agent after the season, has said he’d like to improve his power numbers and his defense this season. Murphy has never had more than 17 home runs in a season but did improve defensively last year, as he was one of the finalists for the Gold Glove in left. The Rangers hope to get more offense out of Murphy to help offset the losses of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young.
Team production in 2012: .305 average, 30 home runs, 109 RBI, .899 OPS
Expected production in 2013: .290 average, 20 home runs, 90 RBI, .850 OPS 4. Seattle – The Mariners made a huge offensive upgrade by trading for Mike Morse from Washington. Of course because it’s Seattle, anyone the team added offensively would likely be an upgrade. Morse, who began his big-league career with the Mariners, was limited to 102 games in 2012 because of injuries but still hit 18 homers with 62 RBI. In his lone full season in 2011, he had 31 homers and 95 RBI. Morse has bounced around defensively in his career. In 2011, he was primarily a first baseman but last year he started 57 games in left field and another 35 in right. The Mariners want to keep him in left despite the questions marks the team has at first base. The most important thing though is to keep him on the field because the team needs his offense.
Team production in 2012: .207 average, 22 home runs, 71 RBI, .647 OPS
Expected production in 2013: .260 average, 25 home runs, 80 RBI, .800 OPS 5. Houston – There are four teams in the AL West who believe they have left fielders capable of an All-Star season and then there are the Astros, who aren’t even sure who their left fielder will be less than two weeks before the season starts. Houston has candidates. Chris Carter, who played for Oakland last year, can play left but is defensively more suited to be a designated hitter. J.D. Martinez is the incumbent in left as he had made 97 starts in left last year and will likely be the guy this season too. Martinez only hit .241 last season with 11 home runs and 55 RBI. Those are decent numbers, but in a division where left field is stacked, those numbers don’t really hold up. The Astros have used Martinez in right some this season to give Carter a chance to play left. Expect both to play in left some this year too.
Team production in 2012: .227 average, 21 home runs, 82 RBI, .679 OPS
Expected production in 2013: .250 average, 25 home runs, 75 RBI, .675 OPS