With only three positions remaining in this series, today we turn our attention to the most overrated right fielders in baseball. Some of the best hitters today spend the majority of their time in right field, while other right fielders are considered to be great or among the best when they are, at best, just good. We highlight three such guys today.
Just like when we have covered catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, shortstops, left fielders, and center fielders, the qualifications for 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 or it was for one season thus making it an outlier. With housekeeping out of the way, let’s get started.
3 Most Overrated Right Fielders
3. Mike Yastrzemski, San Francisco Giants
Grandson of Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski, Mike Yastrzemski has had a Hall of Fame-sized shadow looming over him throughout his career. Debuting for the San Francisco Giants at the age of 28 on May 25th, 2019, he has since become a fan favorite in the Bay Area and one of the leaders in their clubhouse. It definitely helped his cause when he put up a massive outlier season in 2020.
The majority of things done by any player in 2020, should not be taken at face value. Players can get hot for a 20 or 30-game stretch and in a 60-game season, that would massively inflate their numbers. Yaz is one of the prime examples of this happening.
Over his career, Yaz has hit .242/.329/.463 with 68 home runs and a 114 OPS+. In 2020 alone he hit .297/400/.568 with 10 home runs and a 164 OPS+, easily his best season to date. Most of which came from an elevated BABIP of .370 when his career BABIP, even with the .370 included, currently sits at .289. This alone indicates that Yastrzemski was hitting into a massive amount of good luck.
The good news for the Giants, in this case, is that they haven’t signed Yaz to an exorbitant contract based on his 2020 season. He is arbitration eligible after this season, and most likely will not garner more than a 7-figure contract at the age of 32. Everyone still praises him, however, as one of the premier hitters in the sport, when he is no more than a role player on his own team and would be a bench bat on any legitimate contender. And that lands Mike Yastrzemski on today’s list of the most overrated right fielders.
2. Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros
I will preface this by saying that this man does still have a chance to turn things around as it is still early in his career. However, at this point, Kyle Tucker is not as good as the national media makes him out to be.
Upon debuting for the Houston Astros on July 7th, 2018, Kyle Tucker was their top prospect. Since his debut, he has gone on to hit .270/.338/.503 with 67 home runs and a 130 OPS+, most of which coming off of a strong 2021 that saw him hit .294/.359/.557 with 30 home runs and a 147 OPS+. At this point in his career, however, 2021 seems to be an outlier.
In 2021, Tucker’s home run rate was up at 5.3% which is .7% higher than his career rate of 4.6%. That may not seem like much, but over 600 plate appearances, that’s an increase of 4.2 home runs. He added to that with an elevated exit velocity of 91.2 mph (90.6 mph career average), and an elevated hard hit rate of 47.5% (45% career average). This led Tucker to his first 30-home run season.
As I stated above, Tucker could definitely turn it around and last year could very well be who Kyle Tucker really is. But to this point, it has been an outlier. He has improved his plate discipline every year with this year carrying a walk rate of 10.3% and a strike-out rate of 15.4% so he is improving his game in one of the most important facets of baseball. This year, he is on the list, but this time next year, I may no longer consider him one of the most overrated right fielders in baseball.
1. Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers
We now move from a man whose inclusion on this list may be a one-time affair to the most consistently inconsistent man in baseball, Mookie Betts.
— Dodger Blue (@DodgerBlue1958) September 4, 2022
Debuting for the Boston Red Sox on June 29th, 2014, Betts, now a Los Angeles Dodger holds a career line of .294/.370/.523 with 211 home runs and a 135 OPS+. Very good career numbers on the surface, but when you take a closer look, things get weird.
Whether or not Mookie is an MVP candidate or just a middle-of-the-pack producer has depended on if the year ends in an odd number or an even number. It has been that way for the entirety of his career, so at this point, it is more than just an odd coincidence. In odd-numbered seasons, Mookie has hit .279/.354/.425 with 94 home runs and an average OPS+ of 121.25 (I know that isn’t how OPS+ works, but stay with me). In even-numbered seasons, Mookie has hit .311/.371/.500 with 117 home runs and an average OPS+ of 147.4.
From 2014 through today, Mookie’s OPS+ numbers are as follows: 126, 117, 133, 108, 186, 134, 147, 126, 145. In odd-numbered years, he has never been more than 34% better than league average while in even-numbered full seasons, he has never been less than 33% better than league average. I have been following this statistical anomaly known as Mookie Betts for the majority of his career and there’s no other way to describe him than as the most consistently inconsistent player in the game of baseball.
There is no doubt that Mookie Betts will end up in the Hall of Fame when all is said and done. But to call him a year-in and year-out great would be incorrect. It’s just during the even-numbered years that he is great. In the odd-numbered years, he is just another player on the field. And that is why he tops this list of the most overrated right fielders in baseball.