MLB Network Top 10 Right Now Recap & Analysis: Right Field

Throughout January and February, MLB Network will rank the top 10 players right now ahead of the 2019 season. Here at M-SABR, we are specifically interested in MLB Network’s most statistically-influenced list, compiled by “the Shredder.” In this series, we will react to the Shredder’s list and offer our own, based on our own statistical analysis. Check back every Monday and Wednesday for our recaps of the lists, which release at 9:00 PM Eastern every Saturday on MLB Network. Today, we are looking at the Shredder’s top 10 right fielders.

MLB Network’s Top 10 Right Fielders Right Now

  1. Aaron Judge [2018: 1]
  2. Mookie Betts [2018: 3]
  3. Christian Yelich [2018: NR]
  4. Mitch Haniger [2018: 9]
  5. Bryce Harper [2018: 4]
  6. Brandon Nimmo [2018: NR]
  7. Yasiel Puig [2018: NR]
  8. Andrew McCutchen [2018: NR]
  9. Nick Castellanos [2018: NR]
  10. Stephen Piscotty [2018: NR]

Reaction to the Shredder

Overall, I think this is a relatively accurate list, barring one major change. Surprisingly, Aaron Judge sits atop the list over the two MVPs of 2018. In his injury-shortened sophomore season, Judge posted 5.0 fWAR and a 149 wRC+ over 112 games. While Judge had a superstar caliber year, his numbers do not compare to Betts, who posted 10.4 fWAR and a 185 wRC+. Over the last two years, their numbers are more comparable with Judge having 13.3 fWAR and 162 wRC+ to Betts’ 15.7 fWAR and 143 wRC+. Judge is more likely to perform better on offense in 2019 and that is probably why the Shredder’s list put him in first.

Christian Yelich, the NL MVP, comes in third on the Shredder’s list. This makes sense seeing how 2018 was Yelich’s breakout year. Comparing his numbers over the past two, he does not stand up to Judge or Betts. His 141 wRC+ and 12.2 fWAR is very good, but still below both Judge and Betts. Yelich definitely has a chance to break out even more this year and maybe crack the top two in this list next year.

The next three are Mitch Haniger, Bryce Harper, and Brandon Nimmo. Haniger and Nimmo are coming off breakout years in 2018, posting 4.6 and 4.5 fWAR respectively. Harper has a lot more experience than the other two, but is coming off a disappointing season where he posted 3.5 fWAR due mainly to his terrible defense where he posted a -26 DRS. I could see this area changing a lot depending on where Harper signs and how that team deals with his defense. 

Some notable players who just missed this list include Nick Markakis and Gregory Polanco. Brian Kenny included minor league prospect Eloy Jimenez at number six even though he is never played a game in the majors.

M-SABR’s Top 10 Right Fielders Right Now

  1. Mookie Betts
  2. Aaron Judge
  3. Christian Yelich
  4. Bryce Harper
  5. Mitch Haniger
  6. Brandon Nimmo
  7. Nick Castellanos
  8. Yasiel Puig
  9. Andrew McCutchen
  10.  Gregory Polanco

Our list is very similar to the Shredders with a couple of guys moved around and the only addition to the list comes in the last spot. We replaced Stephen Piscotty with Gregory Polanco. Both players have very similar numbers. Polanco had a DRC+ of 114 and an fWAR of 2.5 compared to Piscotty’s 113 DRC+ and 3.0 fWAR. Piscotty’s performance in 2018 stands out from the rest of his career and we feel that he is less likely to repeat his performance compared to Polanco, who has performed more consistently over the past couple years.

Moving up the list, we shifted Nick Castellanos up two spots past Yasiel Puig and Andrew McCutchen. Castellanos has been on an upward trend in recent years, posting career highs in fWAR and wRC+, 3.0 and 130 respectively, in 2018. He is just entering his prime and seems ready to improve his play to the next level for the mediocre Tigers. Puig, on the other hand, is coming off a meager 1.8 fWAR year in 2018. He is still in his prime and will be playing in the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark. McCutchen is entering his age 32 season and signed a three-year deal with the Phillies.  Though he still has production left in him, he will be playing with his third team in two years and it seems unlikely for him to outperform either Castellanos or Puig. 

After that, we switched Bryce Harper and Mitch Haniger. As mentioned earlier, Haniger outperformed Harper in fWAR during the 2018 season. DRC+, a stat released recently by Baseball Prospectus, is meant to be an indicator of performance and predictive of future production. Using this stat, Harper outperformed Haniger significantly, 135 for Harper to 120 for Haniger. This placement also heavily depends on where Harper signs for the upcoming season. If he signs with a team that plays in a hitter-friendly park and his problems on defense are fixed, Harper could have a monster season. Overall, Harper has a higher ceiling than Haniger and could easily outperform Haniger in his second full season.

Finally, we switched Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge. As mentioned earlier, Betts had an outstanding 2018 and even beyond just last year, Betts has been an exceptional player. His numbers on offense are not as great as Judge’s, but his top tier defense and baserunning push him ahead of Judge on our list.

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