Left field used to be the place where you hid a bat. Before the DH came into the picture–and even after–it was where you put the hitter with slow feet, a weak arm, bad knees, or routes to the ball that make Moses look like the perfect pathfinder. Left remains an offensive position, but the reputation for its being a position stocked with fragile players becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy; by placing players with physical limitations in a position where they sprint, throw, and dive in close proximity to walls and a speeding center invites disaster. If not disaster, then at least a bad groin. You’ll see a lot of red here, but these are more about the player than the position. Rondell White came up as a center fielder, as did Brad Wilkerson, Ryan Church, Hideki Matsui, and Moises Alou. Consider these the pre-existing conditions of the baseball world; blaming left field is wrong.
Normal risk is , elevated risk is , and high risk is . For more on the system, please check out the introduction.
Manny Ramirez : For all the talk about his knee last season, you wouldn’t know it by looking at his numbers. If his name wasn’t Manny–if it was Ugueth or Osvaldo or Joe–would he get the same amount of flack for his attitude?
Hideki Matsui : Matsui remains green despite last year’s broken wrist. Most traumatic fractures are flukish, and Matsui was previously the Japanese Ripken. All the good in his track record wasn’t erased by one really bad accident.
Scott Podsednik : Podsednik injured his groin (the notorious “sports hernia”) last season, and required off-season surgery. It takes a while to get back up to speed, literally, though new techniques involving smaller incisions and steel mesh are making the process as routine and consistent as can be expected.
Rondell White : You know what you’re getting into when Rondell White is your left fielder. I know it, you know it, and Terry Ryan knows it. Let’s not make more out of this than it really is.
Bobby Kielty : He crushes lefties when he’s healthy, but his hand, shoulder, and oblique have made him more known for his costumes than his bat. With hair color Ronald McDonald might envy, it’s only right that he’s red anyway.
Brad Wilkerson : One of the biggest disappointments of last season, Wilkerson finally had shoulder surgery, and hopes to get the Rangers fans to remember him as something besides the guy they shouldn’t have traded Alfonso Soriano for. Wilkerson’s cleaned up shoulder should be weak at the start of the season, so he might be a steal if you can trade for him in May.
Garrett Anderson : Anderson profiles very strangely, since we still really don’t know what went on with his arthritic condition a few years back. His legs aren’t nearly what they used to be, and he’s a hamstring or quad strain away from being a full-time DH.
Moises Alou : You have to love a guy who’s so committed to staying healthy that he’s switched to light beer. I’m not sure that’s going to help much, but let’s not bury the idea before we give it a chance. Whatever else, because of this new lifestyle choice, there are now people in Milwaukee and St. Louis that are rooting for him.
Ryan Church : At 28, Church has never been productive and healthy at the same time. The Nats will give him another chance to do both, but there’s enough depth that when he doesn’t, they have options. If Church is lucky, Manny Acta’s book of stats will show him that he shouldn’t be a full-time player.
Cliff Floyd : Floyd is red based on history, but paired with Matt Murton, he’s a relatively good risk. Of course, a good risk is still a risk, and Floyd’s Achilles is hanging by the literal last thread.
Kevin Mench : Mench played like he was hurt after coming over to Milwaukee. His power is still tantalizing, but he’s yet to put it all together. Maybe he should try light beer … err, Lite beer, given his current address.
Carlos Lee : Speaking of light beer, Lee hasn’t been drinking it. His big contract has people worried that he’ll get even bigger over its course. One of the smartest players in the league, Lee’s business interests in Panama are such that if he can’t play at the top level, he’ll walk away. He’s not nearly there yet.
Eric Byrnes : I already used my quota of “seeing people in Bristol” stories, so I’ll just focus on the adjustment Byrnes will make moving to LF. It’s not necessarily easier and there’s more walls to deal with. Byrnes has never found a wall he couldn’t run into, so at least the stadiums of the NL West are well padded.
Barry Bonds : Get over it.
Luis Gonzalez : The old stathead tenet that doubles turn into homers might have a mirror image. Gonzalez’s arm and shoulder injuries have sapped his power, turning his homers into doubles. The decline is likely to continue.