PL Best in Baseball: Outfields

What are the league's most impressive outfields?

Welcome to our third installment of 2024’s Best in Baseball series!

By now, if you’ve been following along, you probably get the idea–we’re going to highlight the top five teams for a certain positional group as well as a few that just missed the cut. Last time, we broke down the first line of defense in our best infields article, and today, we’re going to make the logical step and look at the best outfields in the league. Again, it’s not just about the offense–defense matters for these rankings, too!

As we move through positional groups, an important note to make is that we’re considering a player’s primary position for 2024 when making these lists. For example, even though Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger have been primarily outfielders in years past, that’s likely not the case this year. This weakens the positional groups for those teams, but that’ll give us a chance to (hopefully) feature some different teams this time around.

Without any further ado, let’s take things from the top:


1a. Houston Astros


Projected Outfield:

Am I cheating by sharing this ranking between two different teams? Maybe. Do I care? Not particularly. Do I have a good reason? Absolutely. Both the Astros and the other team sharing this spot (spoiler alert: it’s the Yankees) have outfields led by a pair of stars and a solid third supporting member.

In left field, we have lefty slugger Yordan Alvarez. Yordan has spent plenty of time DH’ing for the ‘Stros over the years, but it seems like Yordan may be the primary left fielder for Houston this year, with reports showing that Yordan may push for 100 games in left field in 2024. Is this the wisest decision, given Álvarez’s extensive injury history? I’d vote no, but there’s a reason I’m sitting here while Joe Espada is managing a major league baseball team. Yordan isn’t the most prolific defensive outfielder, recording -1 Defensive Run Saved (DRS) in 40 games last year, but he’s got plenty of time to learn as Espada spreads DH responsibilities around the board to give other players more rest. As far as offense goes, Yordan needs no introduction – 31 homers and 97 RBIs in 114 games last year speaks for itself.

Sliding over to center field, we have Chas McCormick, who broke out in his age-28 season, slashing .273/.353/.489 with 22 home runs and 19 steals in only 115 games played. McCormick’s career high for games played is 119, meaning there’s plenty of room for upward mobility in the counting stats department should he stick as an everyday player. He’s no slouch defensively, either, totaling five DRS and four Outs Above Average (OAA) across all of his appearances. Jake Meyers figures to get some work in center field this year, too, but McCormick should get plenty of work with Álvarez also serving as the DH from time to time.

Rounding out this elite group in right field is Kyle Tucker, who won a Gold Glove in 2022 and finished as a finalist in 2023. Tucker also finished fifth in MVP voting and somehow flies under the radar every year as a consistent and elite hitter–he was just one home run shy of a 30/30 season with an .886 OPS in 2023. Tucker’s consistent production is an underrated element of the Astros’ sustained success, and with a chance to finally bat in the top four of the order this season, his counting stats could get even better.


1b. New York Yankees


Projected Outfield:

Yes, the addition of Juan Soto makes this Yankees outfield that much better. And why shouldn’t it? Soto may have not lived up to his lofty standards in San Diego but still recorded a .275/.410/.519 slash line that helped him finish sixth in NL MVP voting. Yankee Stadium profiles as a lefty’s paradise with the short porch on that side of the field, but Soto may have to slightly adjust his approach if he wants to take full advantage of the park’s dimensions. According to Statcast, Soto pulled the ball 35.5% of the time compared to the league average of 37.0% and strongly favored hitting the ball to center, doing so 43.1% of the time compared to the league average of 37.6%. Yankee Stadium has a deceptively deep center field, so it would benefit Soto to develop an approach that lets him pull the ball more. Soto isn’t exactly a prolific defender, tallying -6 DRS and -9 OAA in 2023, but the positives far outweigh the negatives here.

In center field, we have a near-perfect analog of Yordan with superstar Aaron Judge. Judge, much like Álvarez, is a ridiculous offensive powerhouse that had unfortunate injury luck in 2023 after his right big toe had a disagreement with the Dodgers’ outfield wall. Still in 106 games, Judge had 37 home runs, putting him on a 162-game pace of 57, just behind his record-setting pace in 2022. Judge also isn’t the world’s best defender, but his height has allowed him to collect a few highlights over the years. Judge has plenty of experience in center field and should play the position just fine when asked.

In left field, we have another offseason addition in Alex Verdugo, who adds a much-needed defensive upside to the Yankees outfield. Verdugo was a Gold Glove finalist in 2023, leading AL right fielders with nine DRS (a paltry 20 behind Fernando Tatis Jr. in the NL), but figures to be the primary left fielder for the Bronx Bombers this season, a position he spent 102 games at for Boston in 2022. Verdugo is very middle-of-the-road offensively but is a solid enough third member to give the Yankees a share of the top spot for these rankings.


3. Atlanta Braves


Projected Outfield:

Oh, hey, it’s you again. Why do you keep showing up here? Well, I guess when you’re the World Series favorites and had one of the best offenses of the past decade in 2023, you’re bound to be a rock-solid team from top to bottom. Ronald Acuña Jr. is coming off a unanimous MVP finish with 41 home runs and 73 stolen bags, so what else is there for him to do? The two main goals for Acuña in 2024 are to, first and foremost, stay healthy (please), and second, work on improving that defense. With -2 DRS and -8 OAA, Acuña has plenty of room to grow as a fielder. Just don’t hurt yourself going for a miraculous diving play, please.

In center field, Michael Harris II is an interesting case. He had a classic sophomore slump, batting .174 with just 2 home runs through May, but then lit the league on fire the rest of the way with a .326 average and 16 homers. Harris isn’t quite the top-tier speed and power threat that Acuña is, but a second straight near 20/20 season with solid ratios is a great player nonetheless. Harris is also a great defensive center fielder, finishing with 2 DRS and 7 OAA in 2023 as a Gold Glove finalist.

After a couple of extremely disappointing major league stints, Jarred Kelenic finally found his groove in 2023 with some solid ratios and 11 home runs in 105 games. There’s still work to be done to reach the lofty expectations set by his draft capital and minor league performance, but if there’s anywhere he can reach that potential, it’s surrounded by great hitters in Atlanta.


4. Toronto Blue Jays


Projected Outfield:

Defense is the name of the game for the Blue Jays outfield, as all three players in this group finished as plus defenders in 2023. George Springer was the weakest of this group defensively but still finished with two DRS in right field. In center field, Kevin Kiermaier won the fourth Gold Glove of his career thanks to a whopping 18 DRS and 13 OAA and may be the best defensive outfielder in the game right now. Daulton Varsho lost the Gold Glove to Cleveland’s Steven Kwan, but he still had eye-popping defensive numbers as well with 11 OAA and a league-leading (at all positions!) 29 DRS.

Where this team excels defensively, it does unfortunately underwhelm from an offensive standpoint. Springer had the worst offensive year of his career by far in 2023, with numbers down across the board in every category but steals (thanks, huge bags). He can rebound this season, but ol’ Father Time might be catching up to him. Kiermaier was essentially a league-average hitter by OPS+, contributing just 8 home runs alongside acceptable ratios. Varsho might be the biggest fantasy casualty of the group, as his loss of catcher viability makes him a below-average offensive outfielder in a time where so many options exist. He does still provide decent speed and power, but at the cost of ratios (.220/.285/.389) and other counting stats. Taken as a whole, this is an extremely average offensive outfield, but the stellar defense is enough to place them in the top five.


5. Seattle Mariners


Projected Outfield:

Easily the group that’s carried the most by one individual player, the Mariners enjoy the luxury of having Julio Rodríguez as their everyday starting center fielder. Julio saw a slight dip in his ratios compared to his exceptional rookie season, but still launched 32 home runs and swiped 37 bags en route to a fourth-place MVP finish. Thankfully, Julio’s sophomore slump only appeared to last the first half of 2023, as he was back to his old ways from July on, hitting .308 with 19 of his 32 home runs coming in the second half. Advanced metrics have him as a mixed bag in terms of defense (-5 DRS but 12 OAA), but let’s not forget he’s only 23 years old at this point. The fact that Julio might not have reached his full potential yet is a terrifying, yet exciting, possibility.

Manning the corner outfield spots we have two players acquired via trade in Luke Raley Jr. and Mitch Haniger, the latter of which is beginning his second stint with the Mariners. Haniger struggled mightily in his only year with the Giants, largely thanks to a myriad of injuries suffered during the season. Haniger has struggled with his health in years past, and staying on the field will be the first (and biggest) hurdle to clear as he looks to regain the form he had during his best years in Seattle. Raley, meanwhile, had a breakthrough in his age-28 season with the Rays, slashing .249/.333/.490 with 19 home runs and 14 steals in 118 games. The Rays always seem to find a way to get the most out of their players, so hopefully, his success will translate to his new home in left field at T-Mobile Park.

Taken together, this is an outfield group with one of the game’s biggest stars, a recent breakout, and a familiar face looking to get back in a groove. It’s not as strong as the outfield groups above, but it’s certainly an interesting one with a lot of upside, earning it the last spot on this list.


Just Missed the Cut


The Texas Rangers were very close to making this list but just missed out for a few reasons. Yes, they have Adolis García as a Gold Glove winner and offensive powerhouse in right, and extreme prospect hype trains in Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford likely rounding out the rest of the group, but their lack of major league experience means I couldn’t put them in the top five just yet. If Carter and Langford reach even a portion of their hype, this group should be a lock for the top five next year.

The Baltimore Orioles also have a solid outfield across the board yet lack a truly elite option, keeping them outside of our top 5 this week. Anthony SantanderCedric Mullins, and Austin Hays project as the Opening Day starters, but Colton Cowser is another name to keep an eye on in the Orioles’ seemingly bottomless farm system as he fights for a roster spot.

Finally, the Cubs and Dodgers both missed this list based on a technicality as we outlined above–Bellinger and Betts were already covered as starting infielders. However, with Pete Crow-Armstrong set to start the season in AAA, we may see more of Bellinger in the outfield at the start of the season than expected. An outfield of Ian Happ-Bellinger-Seiya Suzuki certainly has the firepower to be in the top five. Mookie Betts, meanwhile, probably won’t see any outfield time this season, but the Dodgers’ primary group containing Teoscar Hernández and James Outman’s bats alongside Jason Heyward’s stellar defense is pretty great, as well.



Photos by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire, Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire, Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire

Design by Jackson Wallace

Christian Otteman

Christian Otteman is a hopelessly optimistic Cubs fan living in Milwaukee just looking to share his love of this beautiful game with others. He is especially a fan of the wild and weird things that only a game like baseball can produce. While he's not watching baseball, Christian is playing golf, hosting trivia, and working on his Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Marquette University.

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