Over the past few weeks, we have begun our look at the best at each position in Major League Baseball. After looks at the best infielders and closers, we have now reached the outfielders. We’ll be compiling lists of the best at each of the three outfield positions, and our first will focus on the right fielders. So, who are our top five right fielders entering the 2023 MLB campaign? Let’s take a look, starting with a World Series champion from this past season.
5. Kyle Tucker
We start off with Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker. It’s hard to say that Tucker is underrated, but it’s somewhat easy to overlook the 25-year-old given the steep list of talented outfielders in the league. A 2022 World Series champion, Tucker finished this past regular season sixth in OPS (.808 – min. 450 PA) and third among primary right fielders in extra base hits (59). The Florida native has cemented his place as among the best hitters in the league, thanks in large part to back-to-back 30 home run campaigns in 2021 & 2022. Defensively, Tucker recorded an above-average +5 Outs Above Average last season
The #5 spot was a toss-up between Tucker and Padres outfielder Juan Soto. Soto is one of the game’s elite hitters, but a rough offensive campaign in 2022 and a below-average defensive profile gives the edge to the 25-year-old Tucker.
4. Ronald Acuña Jr.
Not many players in MLB can match the explosiveness of Ronald Acuña Jr.. The Braves outfielder quickly emerged as an elite threat at the plate, after a rookie 2018 campaign that saw Acuña smash 26 home runs. The three-time All-Star’s 2021 season was a sight to behold; prior to his season-ending injury in July, Acuña was among the top ten in home runs, extra base hits, and OPS. Unfortunately for Atlanta, Acuña failed to replicate those results from 2021 after his return. Despite good batted ball metrics, Acuña posted just a .751 OPS last season.
There’s no question that Acuña Jr. is among the game’s most talented ballplayers. Very few in the league have the power and speed that the former NL Rookie of the Year can boast on the field. For 2023, Atlanta will look to see if Acuña can return to his 2021 form.
3. Bryce Harper
The Philadelphia Phillies would not have claimed its first World Series birth since 2009 without outfielder Bryce Harper. Harper posted strong 2020 & 2021 campaigns, the latter of which ended with a second NL MVP award. Between those two seasons, Harper smacked 102 extra base hits and recorded a gaudy 1.021 OPS. The seven-time All-Star missed a good chunk of time this past year, but came back with a vengeance late in the regular season and in the 2022 MLB Playoffs. Harper batted .349/.414/.746 for the NL champions in the postseason, with six home runs and 13 RBIs. One of those six turned out to be the winning home run for Philadelphia in Game 5 of the NLCS.
While Harper makes this list, don’t expect to see the outfielder out on the field throughout the first half of 2023. The star outfielder underwent Tommy John surgery after the playoffs, and will keep Harper out until the summer.
2. Mookie Betts
A two-time World Series champion, Mookie Betts can change games in an instant. The 2018 AL MVP is among the game’s best all-around outfielders. Last season, Betts hit .269/.340/.533 and smashed 35 home runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the latter of which was good for a tie for eighth among all hitters.
On the defensive side, the 30-year-old is just as reliable with the glove as he is with a bat. Betts has recorded a +60 Outs Above Average (OAA) score since 2016, including a +4 OAA this past season. The Tennessee native won his sixth Gold Glove after the 2022 campaign.
1. Aaron Judge
Our top right fielder shouldn’t be a shock to many. Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge had a historic season in 2022, as the 30-year-old led baseball last season in virtually every statistical category. Judge belted a career-high 62 home runs, en route to breaking Roger Maris‘ record for most home runs in a season by an American League player, and the 2022 AL MVP award. After the season, the four-time All-Star signed a massive contract extension to remain in The Bronx.
Arguably the game’s best power hitter, Judge returns to a Yankees club that has high expectations this season. If the Yankees want to win a World Series for the first time since 2009, New York will need Judge to be at his best.