MLB Top 5: Boston Red Sox Outfielders and DHs

This is the fourth article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Boston Red Sox. In this installment, outfielders and designated hitters. 

Whoever first used the term “Star Power” must have been looking at the list of Red Sox outfielders and designated hitters. The group includes six Hall of Famers, including three in left field, and is led by arguably the greatest pure hitter in baseball history.

The Best Outfielders and Designated Hitters in Boston Red Sox History

Left Fielders

Honorable Mention – George “Duffy” Lewis won three titles during his eight-year tenure in Boston (1910-17). His best season was the first of the championship campaigns in 1912, when he hit .284 and set career highs with 85 runs scored, 165 hits, and 109 runs batted in. Overall, he had a .289 average with 1,248 hits and 629 RBIs in 1,184 games.

5. Mike Greenwell -He spent 12 seasons in front of the Green Monster (1985-96), with eight as a solid offensive producer. Greenwell was a reserve his first two years (including during the 1986 World Series) then took over the starting spot from Jim Rice in 1987. “Gator” went on to drive in 70 runs seven times, score 70 runs six times, and hit at least .300, reaching 160 hits and 30 doubles five times apiece. Greenwell’s best season was 1988 when he earned his first of back-to-back All-Star selections and won a silver slugger. He hit .325 with 86 runs and set career highs with 192 hits, 22 home runs, and 119 runs batted in.

Greenwell hit a homer and drove in three runs during the 1988 ALCS (a loss to Oakland) and played in 17 career postseason games with Boston. After getting fed up with general manager Dan Duquette, Greenwell left Boston for Japan and the Hanshin Tigers. Just seven games into the 1997 season, he fouled a ball off his foot and broke it, and he retired soon after.

4. Manny Ramirez – He and another player coming up in the article were the offensive centerpieces of the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox championship teams. After spending eight years with Cleveland at the start of his career, Ramirez signed with Boston in 2000 and rattled off six straight seasons with at least 80 runs 150 hits, 30 doubles, 30 home runs, and 100 RBIs. He was an eight-time All-Star and six-time silver slugger with Boston and he led the league with a .349 average in 2002 and 43 home runs in 2004. In 1,083 games over eight seasons, Ramirez hit .312 with 743 runs, 1,232 hits, 274 home runs (sixth in franchise history), and 868 RBIs (seventh).

Ramirez was even better in the postseason, hitting 11 homers and driving in 38 runs in 43 playoff games with the Red Sox. When Boston finally broke through and won their first championship in 86 years in 2004, Ramirez was the MVP of the series, hitting .412 (7-for-17) with a home run and four RBIs. He was traded to the Dodgers in a three-team deal during the 2008 season. While Ramirez was an outstanding player during his 19-year career, he also had a downside. He had multiple PED suspensions and was known for some quirks on and off the field, with incidents being filed into the “Manny being Manny” category.

3. Jim Rice – A quiet leader throughout his 16-year tenure in Boston (1974-89). Rice’s first full season was in 1975, and he finished second on the Rooke of the Year voting and third on the MVP ballot after hitting .309 with 92 runs, 174 hits, 22 home runs, and 102 runs batted in. Three years later, he earned the MVP award, posting a .315 average and 121 runs while also leading the league with 213 hits, 46 homers, 139 RBIs, and 15 triples. Rice reached 20 home runs and 80 RBIs 11 times apiece, and 80 runs and 150 hits 10 times each. He ranks third in team history in hits (2,452) and total bases (4,129, including a team-record 406 in 1978), fourth in games (2,089), runs scored (1,249), home runs (382) and runs batted in (1,451), sixth in triples (79) and eighth in doubles (373). Rice was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.

2. Carl Yastrzemski – Although he spent five years at first base, he spent a large majority of his 23-year career as a great defensive left fielder. Yastrzemski took over for a legend in Ted Williams and forged his own path, leading the league in batting average, runs scored and doubles three times each, and hits and walks twice. His best year was 1967 when he won the Triple Crown and MVP award (something Williams never did in the same season). “Yaz” led the league with a .326 average, 44 home runs, and 121 RBIs (as well as 112 runs and 189 hits) and was stellar down the stretch as the Red Sox won the pennant. In the World Series, he hit .400 (10-for-25) with three homers and five RBIs, but the Cardinals prevailed in seven games.

Yastrzemski was a 19-time All-Star (won the game MVP in 1970) and earned seven gold gloves. He reached 150 hits 15 times, and both scored and drove in 80 runs scoring 11 times each. Thanks to his longevity, “Captain Carl” is the team’s all-time leader in games (3,308), runs scored (1,867), hits (3,419), total bases (5,539), doubles (646), and RBIs (1,844). He also ranks third in home runs (452) and fourth in stolen bases (168). Yastrzemski is one of only nine players in Major League history with 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.

1. Ted Williams – Not only was he arguably the best pure hitter in baseball history, but some call him the “greatest hitter who ever lived,” a quote Williams uses in his autobiography and the name PBS gave their documentary about his life. He attracted attention as a high school player in San Diego and he joined the Red Sox in 1939 at age 20. In each of his first four seasons, Williams hit well over .300, tallied at least 130 runs scored, 180 hits, 30 doubles, 20 home runs, and 110 runs batted in.

In that time, he led the league in runs three times and home runs, RBI average twice each. He became the last player in baseball history to have a .400 batting average in a season when he hit .406 in 1941. He also led the league with 135 runs, 37 homers, and 147 walks and added 185 hits and 120 RBIs. Amazingly, he did not win MVP, with Joe DiMaggio (and his 56-game hitting streak) taking the award instead. The bigger travesty was the following year. Williams won the Triple Crown, leading the league with a .356 average, 36 home runs, and 137 RBIs (as well as 141 runs and 145 walks), but somehow voters gave the award to Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon.

Williams missed the next three years due to World War II, when he was a Marine Corps aviator. Over the next six seasons, he had at least 100 runs, 160 hits, and 110 RBIs five times each and hit at least 30 home runs four times. Williams finally got his MVP in 1946, and he won another one in 1949 when he hit .343 with league-leading totals of 150 runs (also a single-season franchise record), 43 home runs, and 159 RBIs (which tied for the team lead and the second-best single-season total in team history with Vern Stephens).

He won his second Triple Crown in 1947, posting a .343-32-114 stat line, but he was stopped in his bid for the MVP award (with it going to DiMaggio once again). Williams did all of this despite missing about half of the 1950 season after he fractured his elbow when he was hit by a pitch during the All-Star Game. He played just 43 games over the 1952-53 seasons because he had been selected to serve as a pilot during the Korean War (in the same squadron as future NASA astronaut John Glenn).

Williams returned and hit .340 over his final eight seasons, but he did not reach the otherworldly levels he had before the Korean conflict. He did win two more batting titles, including 1957 when he hit .388 with 38 home runs and 87 RBIs and finished second in the MVP voting for a fourth time (with Mickey Mantle winning the award).

Overall, Williams was a 19-time All-Star, a six-time batting champion, and he also led the league in walks eight times, runs scored six times, homers and RBIs four times each, and doubles twice. He is Boston’s all-time franchise leader with a .344 average and 521 home runs, ranks second in runs score (1,798), hits (2,654), total bases (4,884), doubles (525), and RBIs (1,839), third in games (2,292) and ninth in triples (71).

Williams is also known for being the all-time major league leader with a .482 on-base percentage (think about that for a second, he got on base nearly half of the time he stepped into the batter’s box), and he hit a home run in the final at-bat of his career in 1960. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966 and managed the Texas Rangers from 1969-72. Williams passed away in 2002, sparking a controversy between his children about whether or not he wanted his body to be cryogenically frozen.

Center Fielders

Honorable Mentions – Charles “Chick” Stahl was the team’s original starter at the position and spot he held for six years. The two-time pennant-winner played 781 games with Boston, hitting .290 with 464 runs, 871 hits, 339 RBIs, and 105 stolen bases. Stahl had 10 hits, scored six runs, and drove in three in the 1903 World Series victory over Pittsburgh.

Jackie Bradley Jr. spent nine years with Boston in two stints (2013-2020 and 2022), amassing 749 hits, 101 home runs, and 405 RBIs in 964 games. He earned his only All-Star selection to date in 2016 when he set career highs with 94 runs scored, 149 hits, 26 homers and 87 runs batted in. “JBJ” won a gold glove in 2018, then helped the Red Sox win the World Series. He was especially good in the ALCS, when he hit two home runs and drove in nine runs against the Astros to win series MVP honors.

Finally, Jacoby Ellsbury won two championships and hit .297 in seven years with the Red Sox (2007-13). He led the league in stolen bases three times and added a league-best 10 triples (to go along with a franchise-record 70 steals) in 2009. However, his best season was 2011, when he posted career highs with a .321 average, 119 runs, 212 hits, 32 home runs, and 105 RBIs while earning his lone All-Star, gold glove, and silver slugger selections and finishing second in the MVP voting. Ellsbury had 865 hits, 314 RBIs, and 241 stolen bases in 715 games. He also drove in 17 runs in 38 playoff games with the Red Sox.

5. Doc Cramer – Roger Cramer got his nickname because he forged a friendship with a local doctor as a youth and even accompanied him on house calls. He went on to earn four All-Star selections in five seasons with the Red Sox. Cramer amassed at least 90 runs scored and 170 hits in all five campaigns, and he hit .300 and drove in at least 50 runs four times each. He led the league with 200 hits in 1940, but his best season in Boston came two years prior. In 1938, Cramer batted .301 with 198 hits, 36 doubles, 71 RBIs, and a career-best 116 runs. With the Red Sox, he hit .302 with 509 runs, 940 hits, and 270 RBIs in 722 games.

4. Reggie Smith – He was a two-time All-Star who helped the Red Sox achieve success in the 1960s and 1970s. Smith finished second to future Hall of Famer Rod Carew in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1967 after hitting 15 home runs and driving in 61 runs. In the World Series that year, he hit two home runs and drove in three runs, but the Red Sox lost to the Cardinals in seven games. Over the rest of his eight-year tenure (1966-73) in Boston, Smith reached the 20-home run mark five times, scored at least 80 runs and had at least 160 hits three times each, and drove in at least 80 runs twice. He hit .281 with Boston and amassed 1,064 hits, 149 home runs, and 536 RBIs in 1,014 games.

3. Fred Lynn – He played seven seasons in Boston, but he was most impressive as a rookie. After a late-season call-up in 1974, Lynn showed his potential the following year, hitting .331 with 175 hits, 21 home runs, 105 RBIs and league-leading totals of 103 runs scored and 47 doubles. He became the first player in Major League history to win the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season (beating out teammate Jim Rice for both), and he also earned an All-Star selection and a gold glove award. Lynn hit a home run and drove in eight runs during the 1975 playoffs, but the Red Sox fell to the Reds in the World Series.

Although he was a six-time All-Star and a three-time gold glove winner with Boston, he had just one more stellar season. In 1979, Lynn led the league with a .330 average to go along with career highs totals of 116 runs, 177 hits, 39 home runs, and 122 runs batted in. He finished his Red Sox career hitting .308 with 523 runs, 944 hits, 124 homers, and 521 RBIs in 828 games.

2. Dom DiMaggio – The youngest and smallest of three baseball-playing brothers, Dom proved he could hang with the best during his 11-year career spent entirely with Boston. Despite missing three years due to military service, DiMaggio was a seven-time All-Star who had 160 hits and 30 doubles seven times each, scored more than 100 runs six times and drove in at least 70 runs five times.

Nicknamed the “Little Professor,” the bespectacled star was a great fielder with a strong arm. He also led the league in runs scored twice and topped the American League in both triples and stolen bases in 1950. The year before, he had a 34-game hitting streak that was stopped in August after his brother, Joe, made a diving catch on his low line drive. DiMaggio hit .298 with 87 home runs, 618 RBIs, and 100 steals in 1,399 games. On the all-time franchise list, he ranks eighth in runs (1,046), tied for eighth in doubles (308), ninth in total bases (2,363), and tenth in hits (1,618).

1.Tris Speaker – After two subpar late-season showings, he stayed with Boston for good beginning in 1909. Speaker hit over .300 with at least 160 hits in each of his seven full seasons with the Red Sox, and he scored at least 80 runs and drove in at least 70 six times each. His best year was Boston’s 1912 title season, when he earned the MVP award after hitting .383 with 136 runs, 222 hits (the second-highest single-season total in team history), 12 triples, 92 RBIs, and 52 stolen bases to go along with league-leading totals of 53 doubles and 10 home runs.

Two years later, he hit .338 and topped the American League with 193 hits and 46 doubles. The “Grey Eagle” sits second in team history in triples (106, including a team-record 22 in 1913) and stolen bases (267) and third with a .337 average. The superb fielder and two-time title-winner was insulted when the team tried to cut his salary after the 1915 season, so he held out and was eventually traded to Cleveland. Speaker was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in its second class of 1937.

Right Fielders

Honorable Mention – Christopher “Trot” Nixon played sparingly until he was called up from the minors for good in 1999. He was a solid starter through the 2006 season, amassing 912 hits, 133 home runs, and 523 runs batted in over 982 games. Nixon worked through back and hamstring injuries in the 2004 season but came back to drive in three runs during Boston’s four-game sweep of St. Louis in the World Series. Overall, he had five home runs and 22 RBIs in 38 postseason games with the Red Sox.

5. Markus “Mookie” Betts was a four-time All-Star who won four gold gloves and three silver sluggers in his six years with the Red Sox. He put in five straight seasons with at least 90 runs, 160 hits, and 40 doubles, and he had 20 home runs and 80 RBIs in four straight years. He finished second to Mike Trout in the 2016 MVP voting but won the award over Trout two years later when he posted a league-leading .346 average and 129 runs to go along with 180 hits, 47 doubles, 32 homers, 80 runs batted in, and 30 stolen bases. With Boston, he hit .301 with 613 runs, 965 hits, 139 home runs, 470 RBIs, and 126 steals in 794 games. Betts added 20 hits, one homer, and four RBIs in 21 postseason games. He was traded to the Dodgers in a blockbuster deal before the 2020 season.

4. Jackie Jensen – He came to the Red Sox after stints with the Yankees and Senators and became one of the best run-producers in the league. Jensen hit 20 home runs in each of his seven seasons with Boston and drove in 100 or more runs five times (in three of those years he led the American League). In 1958, he won the MVP award after hitting .286 with 35 homers and a league-high 122 RBIs.

The two-time All-Star and 1959 gold glove winner had a .286 average, 1,089 hits, 170 home runs, and 733 RBIs in 1,039 games with the Red Sox. Despite all of his talent, Jensen had one major flaw, a fear of flying that caused him to retire for a season in 1960. He was not the same after he returned, even after working through his fear with the help of a hypnotist. The “Golden Boy” married Olympic springboard diver Zoe Ann Olsen in 1949, but his travel schedule and flying phobia strained the marriage, and they divorced after 14 years. Jensen suffered a heart attack and died in 1982.

3. Tony Conigliaro – He had so much potential before tragedy struck quite literally. Conigliaro hit at least 20 home runs in each of his first six seasons, including a league-high 32 in 1965. He made the All-Star team in 1967, but in a mid-August game, he was struck in the face by a pitch, which resulted in a cracked cheekbone, a dislocated jaw, and most importantly for his baseball career, a damaged retina.

After missing all of the 1968 season, Conigliaro returned to hit 20 homers the following year, then put together his best season in 1970, hitting .266 with 36 home runs and 116 RBIs. He was traded to the Angels but spent just one season in California before eye issues forced him to retire. He tried a comeback in 1975, but that lasted just 21 games when he retired for good after finding out his blind spot from the injury grew. With Boston, he had 790 hits, 162 home runs, and 501 RBIs in 802 games.

After his playing career, Conigliaro bounced around as a broadcaster for different teams and stations. He got a job as a color commentator with the Red Sox in 1982 but suffered a heart attack two days later. He suffered irreversible brain damage and lived in the care of his family until he passed away in 1990.

2. Harry Hooper – He was an ideal leadoff hitter, a solid fielder with a great arm and an early labor negotiator. Hooper played 12 seasons with the Red Sox and, although he never led the league in any statistical category, he was a steady performer, hitting .281 with a .362 on-base percentage. He is Boston’s all-time franchise leader in triples (130) and stolen bases (300), and he ranks seventh in games (1,647) and ninth in both runs scored (988) and hits (1,707).

The four-time champion was at his best in big games. Trailing 1-0 in Game 7 of the 1912 World Series, Hooper made a leaping bare-handed catch over the wall at Fenway Park, and the Red Sox came back to win the game and the series in 10 innings. In 1915, he hit two home runs in the deciding game against the Phillies. Three years later, American League President Ban Johnson and the National Commission decided to cut player shares in the gate receipts before the World Series. Hooper was Boston’s player representative to speak with the Commission and he led the refusal to take the field after the members refused to speak with the players.

The Commission caved, but the winning Red Sox players would not get their emblems (they got lapel pins instead of rings back then). Hooper was shipped to the White Sox after 1920, the latest in a long line of Red Sox stars who were moved to bring in cash for owner Harry Frazee’s theater. Hooper was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.

1. Dwight Evans – While Hooper set the standard for winning championships, Evans did his best to try and bring the title back to Boston. Despite being overshadowed by Yastrzemski, Lynn, Rice in the outfield, Evans was a superb fielder with a cannon-like arm. He won eight gold gloves in a ten-year span and also was a three-time All-Star and a two-time silver slugger recipient. “Dewey” had 20 or more home runs 11 times, including a league-high 22 in the strike-shortened 1981 season. He posted 30 or more doubles seven times, had at least 160 hits five times, and tallied at least 100 runs and 100 RBIs four times each (with his 121 runs scored in 1984 leading the league).

In 19 seasons with the Red Sox, Evans ranks second in games played (2,505), third in runs (1,435), fourth in hits (2,373), doubles (474), and total bases (4,128), fifth in home runs (379) and RBIs (1,346) and eighth in triples (72). The numbers make a strong case for the Hall of Fame, but Evans has not gotten the call yet. However, he is in the hall of fathers (if that’s not a real thing, it should be). His two sons both have neurofibromatosis, a disorder that causes soft tumors and disfiguring, and they both have undergone many surgeries through the years.

Designated Hitters

2. J.D. Martinez – He was a solid power hitter during his five seasons in Boston. Martinez came to the Red Sox in 2018 after stints with the Astros, Tigers, and Diamondbacks and had an impressive season. He hit 43 home runs and set career highs with a .330 average, 111 runs, 188 hits and a league-leading 130 runs batted in, which earned him an All-Star selection and two silver slugger awards (one for DH and one in the outfield). The four-time All-Star totaled 399 runs, 717 hits, 130 homers, 423 RBIs, and a .292 average in 637 games with Boston. Martinez joined Ramirez, Betts, Smith, and many others who played for both the Red Sox and Dodgers when he signed with Los Angeles before the 2023 season.

1. David Ortiz – Not much surprise with this selection here. Ortiz signed with the Red Sox in 2003 after a steady but unspectacular six years with the Twins, and he immediately found his offensive stride. All he did was hit 20 or more home runs in each of his 14 seasons in Boston, including a franchise-record 54 in 2006. The 10-time All-Star and seven-time silver slugger also had 100 or more RBIs in 10 seasons and led the league three times, including 127 in his final season as a 40-year-old in 2016. Although he never won the MVP award, he was a top-five finalist for five straight years.

His best season was in 2005 when he hit .300 with 119 runs, 180 hits, 47 homers, and a league-high 148 RBIs and finished in second place behind Alex Rodriguez in the MVP voting. “Big Papi” ranks second in franchise history in home runs (483), third in RBIs (1,530) and doubles (524), fifth in games played (1,953), runs scored (1,204) and total bases (4,084), and sixth in hits (2,079).

Ortiz was a three-time champion who was the MVP of both the 2004 American League Championship Series (12 hits, three home runs, and 11 RBIs in the seven-game win over the Yankees) and the 2013 World Series (11-for-16 with seven runs, two homers, and six RBIs). In 76 postseason games with the Red Sox, he hit 17 home runs and drove in 57 runs. Although he was a major performer in both the regular season and the playoffs, he faced allegations of using performance-enhancing drugs, even testing positive in 2003. However, that did not stop voters from electing him to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2022.

Upcoming Stories

Boston Red Sox Catchers and Managers
Boston Red Sox First and Third Basemen
Boston Red Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Boston Red Sox Pitchers – coming soon

Previous Series

A look back at the Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers

A look back at the Atlanta Braves

Catchers and Managers
First and Third Basemen
Second Basemen and Shortstops

A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks

Catchers and Managers
First and Third Basemen
Second Basemen and Shortstops

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