MLB Top 5: Cleveland Guardians Outfielders

This is the fourth article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Cleveland Indians/Guardians franchise. In this installment are the outfielders.

The Cleveland Guardians feature solid depth among their outfielders, with talented but troubled starts leading the corner spots and a wealth of star power in center. The group includes three Hall of Famers plus a playoff star who patrolled the deepest part of the outfield in League Park, Municipal Stadium and Jacobs/Progressive Field.

The Best Outfielders in Cleveland Guardians History

Left Fielders

Honorable Mentions – Jack Graney spent his entire 14-year career with Cleveland (1908 and 10-22) and had three at-bats in the 1920 World Series. He led the league in walks twice, topped the A. L. with 41 doubles in 1916 and had his best season in 1913, when he hit .267 and set career highs with 68 runs batted in and 27 stolen bases. Graney ranks seventh in franchise history with 79 triples, and he also had 706 runs, 1,178 hits, 420 RBIs in 148 steals in 1,402 games.

Dale Mitchell won three fielding titles and was a two-time All-Star in his 11 seasons with the Indians (1946-56). He hit .317 with 56 RBIs in 1949 while leading the league with 203 hits and 23 triples. Mitchell batted .312 with 552 runs, 1,237 hits, 61 triples and 402 RBIs in 1,108 games. He also played in two World Series, amassing four hits, four runs scored and a home run. Mitchell was traded to Brooklyn in 1956, played 19 games with the Dodgers and promptly retired at the end of the season.

Before Joe Carter was hitting game-winning home runs in the World Series, he was a versatile performer with the Indians, starting games at all three outfield positions plus first base during his six-year tenure (1984-89). His best season was 1986, when he hit .302 with 29 home runs, career highs with 108 runs and 200 hits and a league-best 121 runs batted in. Overall, Carter had 456 runs, 876 hits, 151 homers, 530 RBIs and 126 steals in 839 games.

5. Joe Vosmik – He won three fielding titles during his seven seasons in Cleveland (1930-36). Vosmik earned his only All-Star selection in 1935 when he scored 93 runs, set career highs with a .348 average, 10 home runs and 110 RBIs and lead the league with 216 hits, 47 doubles and 20 triples. He also led the league with 201 hits in 1938 and hit .300 or better six times. Overall, Vosmik batted .313 and had 480 runs, 1,003 hits, 205 doubles, 65 triples and 556 RBIs in 824 games.

4. Michael Brantley – Before he won a title with the Astros (although he was not officially on the World Series roster), he was a three-time All-Star during his 10-year runs with the Indians (2009-18). Brantley had his best season in 2014, when he won a silver slugger after hitting 20 home runs and setting career highs with 94 runs, 200 hits, 45 doubles and 97 runs batted in. He also led the league with 45 doubles the following year. Brantley batted .295 with 543 runs, 1,185 hits, 248 doubles, 87 homers, 528 RBIs and 118 stolen bases in 1,051 games.

3. Jeff Heath – He was a two-time All-Star who led the league in triples twice during his 10 seasons with Cleveland (1936-45). In 1938, he hit .353 with 104 runs, 21 homer and 112 runs batted in. Three years later, he hit .340 and posted career highs with 199 hits, 20 triples, 24 homers and 123 RBIs. Heath ranks fifth in franchise history with 83 triples, and he also batted .298 with 546 runs, 1,040 hits, 122 home runs and 619 RBIs in 957 games.

After stints with the Senators and Browns, Heath went to the Braves and was getting ready to face his original team in the 1948 World Series. However, four days before the end of the season, he broke his ankle sliding into home plate. Heath played 36 games the following year before retiring.

2. Charlie Jamieson – He was a speedy star who was also a talented pool player. He won back-to-back fielding titles and was one of Cleveland’s best hitters in the period right after the Deadball Era ended. Jamieson’s best season was 1923, when he drove in 51 runs, lead the American League with 222 hits and set career highs with a .345 average, 130 runs, 36 doubles and 12 triples.

Jamieson ranks fourth in franchise history in runs (942), fifth in hits (1,753), eighth in doubles (296), tenth in total bases (2,251) and tied for tenth in triples (74). He also hit .303 with 490 RBIs in 1,483 games over 14 seasons (1919-32). Jamieson went 5-for-15 with two runs and an RBI in the win over Brooklyn in the 1920 World Series.

1. Albert Belle – He was one of the most productive stars of the 1990s but was also one of the decade’s most polarizing players for the wrong reasons. He started his career as Joey Belle for his first two years before going by Albert starting in 1991 (as a “fresh start” coming out of rehab). Belle earned four All-Star selections and four silver sluggers, and he was in the top three of the MVP voting in three straight years. In 1994, he finished third after leading the league with 294 total bases and hitting a career-high .357 with 36 home runs and 101 runs batted in.

The following year, he was runner-up after hitting .317 and topping the circuit with 121 runs, 52 doubles, 50 homers (the second-most in franchise history), 126 RBIs, 377 total bases and a .690 slugging percentage. Despite winning the MLB Player of the Year Award after being the first player ever with 50 home runs and 50 doubles in the same season, his surly attitude kept the writers from voting for him and instead choosing Boston’s Mo Vaughn for MVP.

Belle finished third again in 1996 after hitting .311 with 48 homers and a league-best 148 RBIs in what turned out to be his final season in Cleveland. He had 14 hits, 10 runs, six home runs and 14 RBIs in 18 career postseason games, and he led the Indians to their first World Series in 41 years, hitting two homers and driving in four runs in a losing effort against the Braves in 1995.

However, Belle’s temper and transgressions tarnished his image. He spent most of the 1990 undergoing alcohol rehabilitation, received a seven-game suspension for hitting a fan in the chest with a ball and threw a ball at a photographer. Belle despised the press, and his actions toward them included berating a female reporter, refusing to talk to reports for most of his career, and when he did, it usually devolved into some sort of obscenity-laced tirade. He also wasn’t done with alcohol-related issues and had run-ins with police.

Belle’s attitude toward the writers ultimately has kept him out of the Hall of Fame, since they are the ones responsible for the voting. Despite his attitude, his numbers are fantastic. He ranks second in franchise history in home runs (242) and tenth in RBIs (751). He has also batted .295 with 592 runs, 1,014 hits and 223 doubles in 913 games over eight seasons (1989-96). Belle signed for a record $11 million per season with the White Sox in 1997, but he opted out and went to the Orioles after just two years. Belle eventually tied Babe Ruth with eight straight seasons hitting 30 homers and driving in 100 runs before a degenerative hip condition forced him to retire after the 2000 season.

Center Fielders

Honorable Mentions – Harry Bay won two fielding titles during his seven seasons with the Bronchos and Naps (1902-08). His best season was 1903 when he hit .292 with 45 stolen bases, his first of two straight years leading the league. Bay ranks eighth in franchise history with 165 steals, and he also batted .277 with 385 runs, 683 hits and 137 RBIs in 682 games. Rick Manning spent nine seasons with the Indians (1975-83), winning a gold glove in 1976 while also posting career highs with 73 runs and 161 hits. He totaled 500 runs, 1,053 hits, 336 RBIs and 142 stolen bases in 1,063 games.

5. Grady Sizemore – He was a very talented player whose career was derailed by injury. Sizemore spent eight seasons in Cleveland (2004-11), earning three All-Star selections, two gold gloves and a silver slugger. In each of his first four years, he had at least 100 runs, 170 hits, 20 home runs and 75 runs batted in. Sizemore’s best season was 2006, when he led the league with 134 runs and 53 doubles and set career highs with 190 hits and a .290 average. Two years later, he posted personal bests with 33 homers, 90 RBIs and 38 stolen bases.

Overall, the 2003 MLB Futures Game participant batted .269 with 601 runs, 948 hits, 216 doubles, 139 home runs, 458 RBIs and 134 steals in 892 games. However, the problems began during the 2010 season, starting with a groin injury. From there, Sizemore would have surgeries on his left elbow, abdomen and back, as well as microfracture surgeries on both knees. After two seasons away, Sizemore returned, but he was nothing like the player he was before. He played with the Red Sox, Phillies and Rays over the next two years before retiring in 2015.

4. Larry Doby – The franchise has had so many good center fielders that a Hall of Famer is in this lower spot. After spending five seasons in the Negro Leagues, Doby was the first African-American player in the American League, joining the Indians a few months after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier with the Dodgers. Doby endured the same racism Robinson had but with fanfare, but it didn’t stop him from excelling on the field. His accomplishments including hitting a home run of the Braves’ Johnny Sain to win Game 4 of the 1948 World Series.

Doby was a seven-time All-Star and won two fielding titles with Cleveland. He led the league with 104 runs and 32 home runs in 1952, but he had his best season statistically two years later. In 1954, Doby hit .272 and led the American League with 32 homers and 126 runs batted in to finish second in MVP voting.

Doby hit 20 or more home runs for seven straight years, and he drove in 100 or more runs four times and scored more than 100 in three seasons. He ranks seventh in franchise history in homers (215), ninth in RBIs (776) and tenth in runs (808) while also batting .286 with 1,234 hits in 1,235 games. Doby had nine hits, a home run and two RBIs in 10 World Series games and helped the Indians win the title in 1948. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1998.

3. Kenny Lofton – His first love was actually basketball, and he was a teammate of future Bulls guard and Warriors coach Steve Kerr on an Arizona team that went to the Final Four in 1988. Instead, Lofton turned to baseball and played for 11 teams in a 17-year career, but the only one he spent more than a year with was Cleveland. Lofton spent a total of 10 seasons with the Indians in three stints (1992-96, 98-01 and 07) and earned five All-Star selections and four gold gloves.

He was a threat in the lineup right from the beginning, finishing second in the 1992 Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .285 with 42 RBIs and a league-leading 66 stolen bases. Lofton led the league in steals five straight years, and he also topped the junior circuit with 160 hits in 1994 and 13 triples the following year.

Not surprisingly, Lofton is the all-time franchise leader in stolen bases with 452. He stole more than 50 bases six times, all of which are in the top seven single-season marks in club history, and his 75 in 1996 are a team record. Lofton ranks third on the team list in runs (975) and ninth in hits (1,513), and he batted .300 with 244 doubles, 60 triples, 87 home runs and 518 RBIs in 1,276 games.

He was a star in the 1995 World Series, amassing five hits, six runs scored and six steals in the loss to the Braves. Lofton joined Atlanta for one season (missing Cleveland’s run to the World Series in 1997) before retuning for four more years. Overall, he had 48 hits, 32 runs five home runs, 22 runs batted in and 23 stolen bases in 50 playoff games. After bouncing around to eight teams in six years, Lofton returned for one final stint in 2007, helping the Indians reach the ALCS before retiring after the loss to the Red Sox.

2. Earl Averill – He terrorized opposing pitchers and gave fans in Cleveland a reason to come to games, despite a nearly three-decade playoff drought. Averill played 11 seasons with the Indians (1929-39), earning six straight All-Star selections, starting with the first game in Chicago in 1933. Two years before that, he set a team record with 140 runs scored to go along with a .333 average, 209 hits and career highs with 32 home runs and 143 RBIs. In 1936, he finished third in the MVP voting after leading the league with 232 hits (second-most in team history) and 15 triples, setting a career-high with a .378 average and totaling 28 homers and 126 runs batted in.

Over his decade-plus of dominance, “The Rock” became the all-time franchise leader in runs (1,154), triples (121), RBIs (1,084) and total bases (3,020), and he ranks third in both hits (1,903) and doubles (377), fourth in home runs (226) and eighth in batting average (.322) in 1,510 games.

A congenital spinal issue forced Averill to change his swing and his power pretty much disappeared. He spent two seasons with the Tigers and one with the Braves before retiring in 1941. Despite his run of excellence, Averill needed a vote from the Veteran’s Committee in 1975 to get elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1. Tris Speaker – One of the all-time greats, he began his career in Boston before spending 11 seasons in Cleveland (1916-26). Speaker continued what he started with the Red Sox, getting on base at an alarming rate. The four-time fielding champion hit .300 or better in 10 of those seasons, led the league in doubles six times and topped 200 hits three times. Speaker’s best season with the Indians was his first in 1916, when he led the league with a .386 average, 211 hits and 46 doubles to go along with 101 runs, 79 RBIs and 35 stolen bases. In 1923, he topped the A. L. and set career highs with 59 doubles and 130 runs batted in while hitting .380.

The “Grey Eagle” is the all-time Major League leader with 792 doubles, including a franchise-best 486 with Cleveland. He holds the club record with a .440 on-base percentage, and he ranks second in batting average (.354), runs (1,079), hits (1,965), triples (108) and total bases (2,886) and fifth in RBIs (866) in 1,519 games. Speaker helped the Indians win the title in 1920, totaling eight hits, six runs and an RBI in the seven-game series.

He was also the manager at the time, and he amassed a 617-520 record in eight seasons (1919-26). As manager, Speaker helped his team deal with the loss of Ray Chapman, who died during a game, and was on the bench for the only unassisted triple play in World Series history (Bill Wambsganss against Brooklyn in Game 5 in 1920).

After one season with the Senators and another with the Athletics, Speaker retired in 1928. He went on to be a broadcaster in Kansas City and a coach in Cleveland, and he is credited with molding Larry Doby into one of a star. Speaker was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937 and was officially inducted when the museum opened two years later.

Right Fielders

Honorable Mention – Shin-Soo Choo was a three-time MLB Futures Game participant who spent seven seasons in Cleveland (2006-12). Choo came over from Seattle and had three uneventful seasons before producing back-to-back years with an even .300 average and totals of at least 20 home runs, 80 runs batted in and 20 stolen bases. Overall, he batted .292 with 389 runs, 736 hits, 83 homers and 372 RBIs in 685 games.

5. Elmer Smith – Although he was initially blocked by another player on this list, he paired with Speaker and Graney to create a formidable outfielder during baseball’s Deadball Era. Smith spent seven years in Cleveland in two stints (1914-16 and 17-21), with an unsuccessful time in Washington in between. He also missed the 1918 season due to military service during World War I, although he did rise to the rank of Army Sergeant.

On the field, Smith had his best season in 1920, when he won the fielding title and set career highs with a .316 average, 144 hits, 37 doubles and 103 runs batted in. He also had one of the memorable moments of that year’s World Series, hitting a first-inning grand slam during Cleveland’s victory over Brooklyn in Game 5. Overall, Smith batted .281 with 615 hits and 379 RBIs in 672 games.

4. Rocky Colavito – He was a four-time All-Star in eight seasons with the Indians in two stints (1955-59 and 65-67). Colavito was the runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1956 and two years later, he had become one of the most feared power hitters in the league. In 1956, he hit .303 with 41 home runs and 113 runs batted in. His average dropped to .257 the following year, but the power remained, with him driving in 111 runs and leading the A. L. with 42 homers to finish in third place in the MVP race. In 1958, he hit .303 with 41 home runs and 113 runs batted in. He also led the league with 301 total bases in 1959, his final season in his first stint with the Indians.

After a run with the Tigers and Kansas City Athletics, Colavito returned to Cleveland and hit .287 with 26 home runs, a career-high 170 hits and league-leading totals of 93 walks and 108 RBIs. He was traded to the White Sox midway through the 1967 season and, after brief stints with the Dodgers and Yankees, he retired in 1968. Colavito batted .267 with 851 hits, 190 homers and 574 RBIs in 913 games with the Indians.

3. Elmer Flick – Like Nap Lajoie, he jumped from the Phillies to the Athletics and was involved in a legal dispute between leagues that resulted in him joining Lajoie in a move to Cleveland early in the 1902 season. Flick went on to lead the league in triples three times, stolen bases twice and runs once. In 1905 he won the batting title with a .308 average, a mark that would stand as the lowest for a batting champion for more than 60 years.

The following year, he hit .311 with 194 hits, 62 runs batted in and league-leading totals of 98 runs, 22 triples and 39 steals. Flick was valued so highly by Cleveland that, when Detroit offered a young but troubled Ty Cobb in a trade for him in 1907, the Naps refused. Flick led the league in triples with 18 that year, but his production dropped off over his final three seasons and he retired in 1910.

Flick played nine seasons with the Bronchos and Naps (1902-10), and he ranks third in franchise history with 106 triples and sixth with 201 stolen bases. He batted .299 with 535 runs, 1,058 hits and 376 RBIs in 935 games. Flick was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1963.

2. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson – Before he got involved in the “Black Sox” scandal, he was making a Hall of Fame case with the Naps in the early part of the 20th century. After two years with the Athletics (in which he “ran away” back to the South several times), Jackson went to Cleveland, where he played from 1910-15. He eventually got over his homesickness with the help of his wife, Katie, who was just 15 when he married her in 1908.

Jackson hit well over .300 in each of his six seasons with the Naps, including a team-record .405 in 1911, when he also set a franchise mark with 233 hits and nabbed a career-best 41 stolen bases. The following year, he hit .395 with 35 steals, a career-high 90 RBIs, and league-leading totals of 226 hits, 331 total bases and 26 triples, with the latter setting a franchise record. In 1913, Jackson batted .373 and topped the junior circuit with 197 hits and 39 doubles to finish second in the MVP voting.

He finished his Cleveland career as the All-time franchise leader with a .375 average, and he ranks fourth with 89 triples. Jackson also totaled 474 runs, 937 hits, 353 RBIs and 138 stolen bases in 674 games. was sent to the White Sox in 1915 for #31,500 in cash and three players to try and help ease the debt of Indians owner Harry Somers.

1. Manny Ramirez – Like Jackson, he was a star in Cleveland before going on to greater team success elsewhere. A first-round pick in the 1991 amateur draft, Ramirez spent his first eight seasons with the Indians (1993-2000), earning four All-Star selections and three silver sluggers while leading the league in slugging percentage twice. He hit better than .300 and topped the 30-homer and 100-RBI marks five times apiece with Cleveland. Ramirez finished as the Rookie of the Year runner-up in 1994 after posting a .265-21-65 stat line.

He had his best season with the Indians in 1999, when he won the Hank Aaron Award and finished tied for third in the MVP voting after hitting .333 with 174 hits, 44 home runs, a career-high 131 runs and 165 runs batted in, which both led the league and set a team record. He also set career bests with a .351 average and a .697 slugging percentage in hie final season with Cleveland in 2000.

Ramirez is the all-time franchise leader in slugging percentage (.592), and he ranks third in home runs (236) and eighth in runs batted in (804). He also batted .313 with 665 runs, 1,086 hits and 237 doubles in 967 games. Ramirez helped the Indians reach the World Series twice during his tenure, totaling 42 hits, 26 runs, 13 homers and 26 RBIs in 52 games.

He went on to win two World Series titles during his eight years with the Red Sox, and he also played for the Dodgers, White Sox and Rays before retiring in 2011. Ramirez has been on the Hall of Fame ballot for seven years, but his antics and steroid allegations have kept his voting totals low (he was on just 33.2 percent of ballots in 2023). He was honored with a spot in the Guardians Hall of Fame on August 19, 2023.

Upcoming Stories

Cleveland Guardians Catchers and Managers
Cleveland Guardians First and Basemen and Designated Hitters
Cleveland Guardians Second Basemen and Shortstops
Cleveland Guardians Pitchers – coming soon

Previous Series

A look back at the Cincinnati Reds

A look back at the Chicago White Sox

Chicago Cubs Catchers and Managers
Chicago Cubs First and Third Basemen
Chicago Cubs Second Basemen and Shortstops
Chicago Cubs Outfielders
Chicago Cubs Pitchers

A look back at the Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox Catchers and Managers
Boston Red Sox First and Third Basemen
Boston Red Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Boston Red Sox Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Boston Red Sox Pitchers

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

Atlanta Braves Catchers and Managers
Atlanta Braves First and Third Basemen
Atlanta Braves Second Basemen and Shortstops
Atlanta Braves Outfielders
Atlanta Braves Pitchers

A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks Catchers and Managers
Arizona Diamondbacks First and Third Basemen
Arizona Diamondbacks Second Basemen and Shortstops
Arizona Diamondbacks Outfielders
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers

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