Welcome back to our ongoing series aimed at determining the best of the best at each position in Major League Baseball.
Our goal here is two-fold. First, we determine each current franchise’s best ever player at a position. Then we rank those players 1-30 to determine how they stack up in MLB history.
The only caveat being that the selected player must come from the current incarnation of each franchise. We recognize the Los Angeles Dodgers lineage tracing back to Brooklyn. However, we’ve separated the Washington Nationals from the Montreal Expos because of the complete rebrand. But don’t worry, we’ll throw in bonus players when warranted as well.
To make things more interesting, we also require that no player represents multiple franchises or multiple positions throughout the series.
Today, we arrive at the last of baseball’s traditional nine positions: Right field.
We thought last week’s center field list was loaded. Then we tried ranking a position with 11 players already in Cooperstown and another 10 who will or probably should be there. It all starts with two of baseball’s greatest icons: Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. The debate over which icon is the greatest right fielder will not be settled today, but we hope the contributions of both are celebrated just the same.
Honestly, this may be the most debate-worthy list of this series. So let’s allow the debates to begin.
Here are the right fielders.
1. Babe Ruth — New York Yankees
With Yankees: 15 seasons
Best season: 1923 (14.1 WAR, .393/.545/.764, 41 homers, MVP)
After winning 89 games as a Red Sox pitcher, Ruth transitioned quite well to power-hitting right fielder for the Yankees. His 714 career home runs were the MLB record upon his retirement in 1935 and held up until Hank Aaron passed him in 1975. Of course, Ruth’s legacy is about more than his versatility or home run-hitting ability. His personality transcended sports, but certainly helped to put baseball on the map. There’s only one word to aptly describe him: Icon.
2. Hank Aaron — Atlanta Braves
With Braves: 21 seasons
Best season: 1961 (9.5 WAR, .327/.381/.594, 34 homers)
As great as Ruth was, Aaron could just as easily be No. 1. They are both iconic figures who helped to weave our beloved game into the fabric of multiple generations. Aaron’s numbers speak for themselves. You can marvel at those right here. Aaron means so much more to baseball. Like Jackie Robinson, he helped open doors that changed the game forever … and for the better. We can never honor Hammerin’ Hank enough for his contributions.
3. Stan Musial — St. Louis Cardinals
With Cardinals: 22 seasons
Best season: 1948 (11.3 WAR, .376/.450/.702, 39 homers, MVP)
Regarded as the greatest Cardinal player ever, Stan “The Man” finished his 22-year career with three MVP awards and 24 All-Star selections. Yes, they played two All-Star games in a few seasons. Musial remains the franchise leader in hits (3,630), home runs (475), doubles (725), triples (177), runs scored (1,949) and RBIs (1,951). He entered Cooperstown in 1969.
4. Frank Robinson — Cincinnati Reds
With Reds: 10 seasons
Best season: 1961 (7.7 WAR, .323/.404/.611, 37 homers, MVP)
Here’s the list of players to win MVP in both the American and National League: Frank Robinson. That’s it. That’s the list. The Hall of Famer was also the Rookie of the Year with Cincinnati in 1956 and a Triple Crown winner in 1966 for Baltimore when he hit .316/.410/.637 with 49 homers and 122 RBIs. Robinson’s 586 home runs rank 10th all-time.
5. Roberto Clemente — Pittsburgh Pirates
With Pirates: 18 seasons
Best season: 1967 (8.9 WAR, .357/.400/.554, 23 homers)
As one of baseball's pioneers from Latin America, Clemente could do it all. He hit for power and average, which is supported by his four batting titles. He also provided superb defense, as evidenced by his record 12 straight Gold Gloves awards. Clemente also led Pittsburgh to two World Series, and was voted NL MVP in 1966. Tragically, his 3,000th career hit was his last. The Hall of Famer was killed in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972, while transporting earthquake relief supplies to Nicaragua.
6. Mel Ott — San Francisco Giants
With Giants: 22 seasons
Best season: 1938 (8.9 WAR, .311/.442/.583, 36 homers)
Barry Bonds, Willie Mays and now Mel Ott. Together, that is 1,933 career home runs among the Giants outfielders on our ultimate rankings. Ott led the then-New York Giants to three NL pennants during his 22-year, Hall of Fame career. In 1933, he delivered a series-clinching home run in the 10th inning of Game 5 of the World Series against the Washington Senators.
7. Al Kaline — Detroit Tigers
With Tigers: 22 seasons
Best season: 1961 (8.4 WAR, .324/.393/.515)
Kaline debuted in MLB one week after his high school graduation and was a superstar by age 20. In fact, in 1955, his second full MLB season, Kaline became the youngest batting champion in MLB history by one day over Ty Cobb. Kaline went on to earn 18 All-Star selections and win 10 Gold Glove awards, in addition to winning a World Series in 1968. He entered Cooperstown in 1980.
8. Ichiro Suzuki — Seattle Mariners
With Mariners: 14 seasons
Best season: 2001 (7.7 WAR, .350/.381/.457)
Ichiro debuted in MLB at age 27 and immediately dazzled MLB viewers by winning MVP — and Rookie of the Year — in his first campaign. From there, he led the league in hits seven times while racking up an astonishing 3,089 hits in MLB. Combine those with the 1,278 hits he'd already collected in Japan and many will tell you Ichiro is baseball's true hit king. His Cooperstown call will come in 2025, and we hope it's unanimous.
9. Tony Gwynn — San Diego Padres
With Padres: 20 seasons
Best season: 1987 (8.6 WAR, .370/.447/.511, 35 strikeouts, Gold Glove)
You know it’s a deep list when Kaline, Ichiro and Gwynn can’t crack the top five. Gwynn was a hitting machine, finishing his 20-year MLB career with eight batting titles and a .338 average. As MLB.com’s list of 19 amazing Tony Gwynn facts indicates, he literally never struck out. Most amazingly, "Mr. Padre" still owns 4.66 percent of the franchise’s hits.
10. Reggie Jackson — Oakland Athletics
With Athletics: 10 seasons
Best season: 1973 (7.8 WAR, .293/.383/.531, 32 homers, MVP)
Jackson had big moments and seasons with the New York Yankees as well. That’s where he earned the Mr. October moniker. However, his decade in Oakland was definitely the high point of his career. The Hall of Famer ranks first among A’s right fielders in home runs (269), runs scored (756) and stolen bases (145), and was selected to six All-Star teams.
11. Larry Walker — Colorado Rockies
With Rockies: 10 seasons
Best season: 1997 (9.8 WAR, .366/.452/.720, 49 homers, MVP)
Walker checked off a lot of Rockies firsts. He was the team’s first MVP in 1997. He’ll be the first player with a Rockies cap on his plaque in Cooperstown. And he’s the first to make a top 15 in our ultimate position rankings. Yes, there’s a Coors Field argument to be made against Walker, but he was already brilliant with the Montreal Expos and wasn’t a one-trick pony. His defense earned seven Gold Glove awards.
12. Manny Ramírez — Cleveland Indians
With Indians: 8 seasons
Best season: 1999 (7.3 WAR, .333/.442/.663, 44 homers, 165 RBIs)
No ultimate rankings would be complete without Manny. The slugging outfielder had a fascinating career that included monster production, odd behavior and two PED suspensions. The latter will likely keep him out of Cooperstown, which is a shame. With Cleveland, he hit .313 with 236 homers, 237 doubles, 541 walks and a .998 OPS.
13. Vladimir Guerrero — Los Angeles Angels
With Angels: 6 seasons
Best season: 2004 (5.6 WAR, .337/.391/.598, 39 homers, MVP)
With all due respect to Tim Salmon, Vladimir Guerrero was the greatest right fielder in Angels history after being the greatest right fielder in Expos history. In six seasons with the Angels, Guerrero hit .319/.381/.546 with 173 homers, 194 doubles and 616 RBIs. In 2018, he became the first player with an Angels cap on his plaque to be enshrined in Cooperstown.
14. Sammy Sosa — Chicago Cubs
With Cubs: 13 seasons
Best season: 2001 (10.3 WAR, .328/.437/.737, 64 homers)
Sosa's career and even his post-career have been embroiled in one controversy after another. Will that cost him a spot in Cooperstown? Probably. Will his fractured relationship with the Cubs ever be fixed? Who knows. Nonetheless, he produced some of the best offensive seasons in MLB history, three times topping 60 homers while also tallying two 30-homer, 30-steal seasons.
15. Shoeless Joe Jackson — Chicago White Sox
With White Sox: 6 seasons
Best season: 1920 (7.5 WAR, .382/.444/.589, 20 triples)
His best seasons came with the Cleveland Naps, but Jackson is best known for his time with the White Sox. Part of that is about his production on the field, which was always excellent. But the bigger story was his involvement in the Black Sox scandal as one of several players who conspired with gamblers to throw games in the 1919 World Series. The latter is the only reason Jackson’s not a Hall of Famer.
16. Dwight Evans — Boston Red Sox
With Red Sox: 19 seasons
Best season: 1981 (6.7 WAR, .296/.415/.522, 22 homers)
Evans was a fixture in Boston’s lineup, spending nearly two full decades (1972-90) as the franchise's right fielder. The majority of his production came during the second half. Evans hit .279/.385/.489 with 256 of his 385 career homers coming over his final nine seasons with the Red Sox. Defensively, Evans won eight Gold Glove awards.
17. Giancarlo Stanton — Miami Marlins
With Marlins: 8 seasons
Best season: 2017 (8.0 WAR, .281/.376/.631, 59 homers, MVP)
Is Stanton the greatest Marlin of all-time? It's difficult to argue against him. He is the franchise leader in WAR (34.6) and home runs (267), and he set single-season records with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs during his MVP season in 2017. Of course, no Marlins story would be complete without the inevitable trade that immediately followed his career season.
18. Bobby Abreu — Philadelphia Phillies
With Phillies: 9 seasons
Best season: 2004 (6.6 WAR, .301/.428/.544, 30 homers, All-Star)
Abreu spent the prime of his 18-year career with the Phillies. During those nine seasons, he hit .303/.416/.513 with 195 homers and 254 stolen bases. Some Hall of Fame metrics — like JAWS — actually have Abreu rated higher than Guerrero, but he only appeared on 5.5 percent of ballots in January.
19. Darryl Strawberry — New York Mets
With Mets: 8 seasons
Best season: 1987 (6.4 WAR, .284/.398/.583, 39 homers)
Strawberry was a part of so many big Mets moments it feels like he never played elsewhere. In reality, he was traded to the Dodgers before his age-29 season. Nonetheless, his best days were at Shea Stadium. Straw hit .263/.359/.520 with 252 homers and 191 stolen bases with New York. Unfortunately, personal issues and legal troubles prevented him from sustaining his excellence.
20. Tony Oliva — Minnesota Twins
With Twins: 15 seasons
Best season: 1964 (6.8 WAR, .323/.359/.557, 32 homers)
Can a three-time batting champion be underrated? It sure feels like Oliva falls into that category. We might be guilty too based on this ranking. Oliva was a five-tool player who led the AL in hits five times, produced five 20-plus-homer seasons and finished runner-up twice in AL MVP award voting. Worth noting: In 1964, he became the first rookie to win a batting title.
21. Bryce Harper — Washington Nationals
With Nationals: 7 seasons
Best season: 2015 (9.7 WAR, .330/.460/.649, 42 homers, MVP)
Harper didn't leave Washington on the best terms, but he certainly made a mark. During those seven seasons, Harper won Rookie of the Year in 2012, MVP in 2015, earned six All-Star honors and won the Home Run Derby crown at Nationals Park in 2018. The only thing missing was a World Series title. As we all know, that happened in 2019, right after he left for Philadelphia.
22. José Bautista — Toronto Blue Jays
With Blue Jays: 10 seasons
Best season: 2011 (8.3 WAR, .302/.447/.608, 43 homers)
The bat flip alone was enough to clinch Bautista's spot. His league-leading 97 home runs between 2010-11 didn’t hurt, either. The late-blooming Bautista was awesome from his age-29 season through age-34. During that stretch he hit .265/.386/.540 with 240 homers.
23. Juan González — Texas Rangers
With Rangers: 13 seasons
Best season: 1993 (6.5 WAR, .310..368..632, 46 homers)
González hit .310/.357/.621 with 134 homers and 432 RBIs over a 421-game stretch from 1996-98. Not surprisingly, that stretch earned him two MVP awards. He also led the AL in homers in 1992 and 1993 — when he hit 43 and 46, respectively — and is the Rangers’ all-time leader with 372. Needless to say, power was his game.
24. George Springer — Houston Astros
With Astros: 6 seasons
Best season: 2019 (6.4 WAR, .292/.383/.591, 39 homers)
Though Terry Puhl has a higher career WAR (28.3) with Houston, it took him 11 seasons to accumulate that value. Springer will likely pass that in his next season, which will be his seventh. When you factor in his postseason production — 15 homers and 14 doubles — in 50 games, Springer gets a nice boost up this list.
25. Dixie Walker — Los Angeles Dodgers
With Dodgers: 9 seasons
Best season: 1944 (5.8 WAR, .357/.434/.529, batting title)
Right field has been a fun position for the Dodgers. Especially this century, with guys like Shawn Green, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig and now Cody Bellinger. None have done it long enough, though, to top Walker. Dixie played for Brooklyn from 1939-47. He hit. 311/.386/.441 over nine seasons, while twice finishing top three in the NL MVP voting.
26. Ken Singleton — Baltimore Orioles
With Orioles: 10 seasons
Best season: 1977 (5.7 WAR, .328/.438/.507, 24 homers)
Frank Robinson would be the easy top choice in Baltimore. With him off the board, the choice is between Ken Singleton and Nick Markakis. Singleton gets the nod because he was always on base. Five times he posted an on-base percentage over .400. He also finished top three in the AL MVP voting in 1977 and 1979.
27. Justin Upton — Arizona Diamondbacks
With Diamondbacks: 6 seasons
Best season: 2011 (5.5 WAR, .289/.369/.529, 31 homers)
Upton put up strong numbers in Arizona, but never fully lived up to the massive hype that surrounded him when he was selected No. 1 overall in the 2005 draft. Injuries played a role in slowing him down. He hit .278/.357/.475 with 108 home runs over six seasons. He's since played for the Braves, Padres, Tigers and Angels. Somehow, he’s still only 31.
28. Sixto Lezcano — Milwaukee Brewers
With Brewers: 7 seasons
Best season: 1979 (5.6 WAR, .321/.414/.573, 28 homers)
If Christian Yelich wasn’t already off the board, he might have this spot locked up. As for Lezcano, he showed great promise early on, hitting .297/.385/.513 with 64 homers from 1977-79. That was enough to push him past Jeromy Burnitz and Corey Hart. Lezcano quickly turned into a journeyman, spending his final six seasons on four different teams.
29. Danny Tartabull — Kansas City Royals
With Royals: 5 seasons
Best season: 1991 (4.4 WAR, .316/.397/.593, 31 homers)
Tartabull bookended his Royals' career with 30-homer seasons while also batting over .300. The latter resulted in his only All-Star selection. Power was typically the bigger part of his game. He mashed 124 homers in five seasons for KC.
30. Matt Joyce — Tampa Bay Rays
With Rays: 6 seasons
Best season: 2011 (3.4 WAR, .277/.347/.478, 19 homers, All-Star)
Joyce split his time between left field and right field, but his best season came as the Rays right fielder in 2011. Joyce was selected to his lone All-Star team that year, which is enough to get him on this list.
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