2017 MLB Player Rankings for RF: Mookie Betts or Bryce Harper the best in baseball?

Spring Training is only one week away. Pitchers and catchers begin reporting to camp in just a few days, and in less than three weeks, Grapefruit League and Cactus League games will begin. We’re almost home.

So, with the offseason coming to an end, it’s time to look ahead to the upcoming season. And to do that, we’re going to break down the top 10 players at each position over the next several days. Some things to keep in mind:

  1. The players are ranked according to who we’d want for 2017 only. Contracts and salaries don’t matter. Simply put, if you are trying to win the World Series this year, whom do you want at the position?
  2. These rankings are the result of voting by your four CBSSports.com baseball writers: R.J. Anderson, Mike Axisa, Dayn Perry, and Matt Snyder. We ranked the players individually and averaged them all together.
  3. These are not fantasy baseball rankings. You can find those here. It’s not just about offense. All-around play matters, especially at an up-the-middle position.

Now let’s get cracking on our right fielder rankings headed into the 2017 season ...

2017 MLB PLAYER RANKINGS: RIGHT FIELD
1
Mookie Betts Boston Red Sox RF
Betts is just 24 years of age, and he’s coming off a 2016 season in which he finished second in the AL MVP balloting. He’s got power that belies his small frame, and he’s an excellent defender in right. Betts is also a pronounced asset on the bases. Given his youth, don’t be surprised if he sustains or even improves upon this level of performance in the near-term.
2
Bryce Harper Washington Nationals RF
Harper of course barged to the 2015 NL MVP on the strength of a legendary season, but last season he regressed significantly. There’s heavy speculation -- informed speculation -- that Harper battled injuries in 2016, and that no doubt had a negative impact on his performance. He’s still very young, and he’s still very gifted. We’ll hedge a bit and drop him to No. 2, but he obviously has the potential to be one of the best players in all of baseball, which is what he was just two seasons ago.
3
Giancarlo Stanton Miami Marlins RF
You know all about Stanton’s jaw-dropping power -- he’s averaged 41 homer per 162 games played for his career. Stanton’s also a deceptively good fielder in right. Mostly, though, it’s his tremendous power upside that places him so prominently on this list. When he’s healthy, he’s a candidate for the top spot among right fielders, but injuries have been a concern throughout his career.
4
Andrew McCutchen Pittsburgh Pirates RF
‘Cutch is of course a former center fielder who’s been pushed to a corner for his decline phase. This ranking suggests that we have a good bit of faith in an offensive rebound in 2017. Last season, McCutchen put up the worst offensive numbers of his career (although he still wasn’t terrible at the plate). Bear in mind, though, that’s not that far removed from his 2012-15 peak that saw him bat .313/.404/.523 across those four seasons. His MVP days are likely over, but it says here that he improves upon his 2016 bestowals in the season to come.
5
Jose Bautista Toronto Blue Jays RF
Here we have a pretty significant drop-off in the rankings. Bautista’s coming off a 2016 campaign in which he posted his lowest OPS since 2009, which was just before jose bautista became JOSE BAUTISTA. Joey Bats still draws walks and does damage on contact, but he’s high on strikeouts and low on batting average these days. Never a standout defender, Bautista’s even more of a liability in the field going into his age-36 campaign. All that said, he can still get on base and hit for power.
6
Hunter Pence San Francisco Giants RF
Pence soon turns 34, and he’s shown a recent penchant for nagging injuries. That’s not likely to get better as he moves deeper into his decline phase. Pence remains a very solid contributor when healthy (he put up a 115 OPS+ in 442 plate appearances last season), but declining range in the field will drain some of his value. At this point, it’s worth asking whether Pence is capable of playing 145-150 games in a season ever again.
7
J.D. Martinez Detroit Tigers RF
I’m higher on Martinez than the CBS MLB collective is. After all, he’s been a tremendous power source since rebuilding his swing on Detroit’s watch (.540 SLG since 2014). On the downside, Martinez gives back a lot of runs with his glove and on the bases, and he’s also now 29, which for most players is a post-prime age.
8
Carlos Gonzalez Colorado Rockies RF
CarGo’s going into his age-30 season, but he’s tallied 65 homers since 2015. He figures to remain a strong power threat in the upcoming season. On the downside, Gonzalez’s fielding is in decline, and his offensive numbers are “merely” good once you adjust for the Coors Field effect.
9
Stephen Piscotty St. Louis Cardinals RF
Piscotty changed his swing in the high minors in order to increase his power outputs, and that was evident in his first full season in the majors. Across parts of two major-league seasons, the 26-year-old owns an OPS+ of 117 with capable glove-work in right.
10
Jason Heyward Chicago Cubs RF
At age 27, Heyward remains perhaps the best defensive corner outfielder in all of baseball, and he’s also a quality base-runner. His hitting of course reached new depths in 2016, but he’s spent the offseason retooling his swing. He’s still the guy who owned a career 114 OPS+ coming into last year. Yes, we’re expecting a rebound at the plate in 2017.

Also receiving votes: Kole Calhoun

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