We now move from the dirt to the grass as we continue our trip around the diamond by covering the three most overrated left fielders. There is a ton of offensive talent that resides in the defensive 7-hole on the diamond, but there is also a ton of guys that get more praise than is due. Today, we right that wrong.
We have already covered catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, and shortstops. Just like those entries, the criteria for making this list are as follows: national recognition, contract, injury history, and being held to a standard set previously when that level of production no longer exists. Without further ado, the most overrated left fielders in the game today.
3 Most Overrated Left Fielders
Mark Canha, New York Mets
We begin today’s list of most overrated left fielders with a man that’s praise has mostly come from this season. Mark Canha signed a two-year deal with the New York Mets this past off-season worth $26.5 million which also includes a team option for 2024 worth another $11.5 million if they pick it up, or a $2 million buy-out if they do not pick it up. Did I mention he is in his age-33 season?
This has been Canha’s second full season (of his now eight seasons in the majors) as an everyday player. The first seven seasons of his career were spent with the Oakland Athletics where they used him more as a bench piece/utility player. His numbers have been solid this year for a guy of his caliber, but his surface numbers hide the truth. The truth about Mark Canha lies within his peripherals.
So far this year, Canha has hit .274/.373/.409 with 10 home runs and a 123 OPS+. His batting average is at an all-time high for his career due to the fact that he has been a bit lucky in terms of his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls Put In Play). His BABIP for the year currently sits at .319 compared to his career mark of .291 and his BABIP over the last three years has been .292. A .028 increase is a pretty big jump when the majority of the balls he hits do stay in the field of play.
If you look further into the analytics, projections over the next two seasons have Canha coming back down to where you would expect an outfielder of his caliber to be. 2023 sees him hitting a paltry .234/.348/.402 and 2024 is even worse than that. But if you were to listen to the national media and the praise they have heaped upon him this season, you would think he was perennially in the running for the MVP. The A’s had something right, for once, and that was using Canha in the proper role for his skill set. And that is what lands Mark Canha on our list of most overrated left fielders.
Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves
There was once a time long long ago when there was a wide majority of the baseball landscape that believed Marcell Ozuna would be the best outfielder to come out of that outstanding class of young outfielders the Miami Marlins of the early 2010s produced. Fast-forward to today and two of the three have won MVP awards (more on one of those two later), and Ozuna has won a pair of silver bracelets twice.
From 2016 through the shortened 2020 season, Ozuna was a force to be reckoned with at the plate. Over that time, he hit .282/.348/.493 with 130 home runs and a 125 OPS+. In 2020 he led baseball in plate appearances (267) and led the National League in home runs (18), RBI (56), and total bases (145). He was on a one-year, $18 million deal in that season, and the Atlanta Braves awarded him with a four-year, $65 million deal with a club option for 2025 worth another $16 million or a $1 million buy-out.
Since signing that deal with the Braves, Ozuna has only played in 156 games and has hit .213/.271/.380 with 27 home runs and a 75 OPS+. If you want to include WAR, his bWAR over that time has been -1.5. Each win in WAR equates to roughly $8 million worth of salary a player is worth to a team, so he has played so badly that per WAR, he should be paying the Braves to let him play!
Not only has Ozuna completely fallen off the map offensively, but he has also always been one of the worst defensive left-fielders in the game. From bad reads to awful misplays, he hurts the Braves offensively and defensively. He was still viewed as a big contributor to the Braves World Series win last year despite all of that, and that is what makes him one of the most overrated left fielders in the game.
Missed it by that much. pic.twitter.com/yQs026Axee
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) April 10, 2019
Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
From one former Marlins outfielder to another, we now turn our attention northward to Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers. Yelich debuted for the Marlins in 2013 and at that time he was a guy that was good at putting the ball in play and getting on base. In his five years in Miami, he hit .290/.369/.432 with a 121 OPS+ and a well-above-league-average walk rate of 10.7%. He developed some gap power during his time there as from 2014-2017 he had 30 or more doubles in each of those four years.
In the off-season between the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the Marlins traded Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers for a package of prospects. Yelich was still arbitration-eligible for his first two seasons as a Brewer and he proceeded to hit .327/.415/.631 with 80 home runs and a 171 OPS+ while being regarded as the best hitter in baseball not named Mike Trout. He won the NL MVP in 2018 and finished as the runner-up in 2019 (debatable), and the Brewers awarded him with a 9-year contract worth $215 million that has a mutual option for 2029 worth another $20 million or a $6.5 million buyout. At the time, the entire world saw that as a steal for the Brewers.
In the three seasons since signing the extension with the Brewers, Yelich has played in a total of 293 games and has hit .242/.358/.386 with 30 home runs and a 106 OPS+. He has lost most, if not all, of his power, and he isn’t even driving the ball into the gap as often anymore as evidenced by his 45 doubles in that time frame. He has been dealing with a number of injuries, which could very well be the cause of his massive decline, but the Brewers continue to run him out there so the injuries can’t be that bad.
Despite his power outage of late, Yelich does still provide solid defense in left field and he still has some of the best plate discipline in the league. His career walk rate currently sits at 12% while his walk rate has been even better in these down years as it sits at 14.8%. The league average walk rate throughout his career is 8.2%.
Everyone keeps asking when he will turn things around and get back to the player of old. You never see anyone looking at this Christian Yelich as the Christian Yelich that we now have for the rest of his career, which very well could be the case. And that is what places him atop our list of the most overrated left fielders in the game.