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Jays Listed – Top 10 Left Fielders

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The Jays Listed positional roundup reaches left field this week. I thought about just lumping all outfielders into one category, but changed my mind after listing former and current Blue Jays that have manned the outfield in Toronto. Trying to pick only 10 from every player that has played one of the three outfield spots would mean leaving out a lot of players that deserve their due. So, instead we’re starting with left field today and will continue with center and right field later on.

Left field has been an interesting position for the Blue Jays through the years. Many times the Jays have employed a speedster to rack up steals in left. Just a few that come to mind include Dave Collins, Rickey Henderson and current starting left fielder Rajai Davis. They’ve also had plenty of pop in left as well. No. 1 on the list fits that bill perfectly. You can probably guess who I’m talking about.

The same rules that applied to previous Jays Listed positional rankings also applies to outfielders. For example, Joe Carter played both right and left field during his time in Toronto, but he was more often found in right, with 440 games played there compared to 389 games in left. That’s why you won’t Joltin’ Joe on this list. Here’s who you will find on the list.

10. Barry Bonnell – 1980-1983

The Blue Jays acquired Bonnell in a five-player trade with the Braves following the 1979 season. Toronto also picked up Joey McLaughlin and Pat Rockett while Chris Chambliss and Luis Gomez went the other way.

In his first season with the Jays Bonnell started 130 games, hitting .268 with a .322 OBP, 13 home runs, 56 RBI and a 98 OPS+. His best season with Toronto also turned out to be his last in 1983. That year Bonnell played in 121 games and set a number of career highs at the plate including hitting .318 with a .369 OBP and a .838 OPS. He also posted a 124 OPS+ and a 2.1 WAR. Following the season  the Blue Jays traded Bonnell to the Mariners for Bryan Clark.

9. Rajai Davis – 2011-present

The Blue Jays traded for Davis after the 2010 season, shipping Danny Farquhar and Trystan Magnuson to Oakland. In his first season with Toronto Davis added some much-needed speed on the bases, swiping 34 bags in 45 attempts in 95 games. Davis likely would have added more to that total, but his season ended early in August after he tore his hamstring and finished the year on the DL. In those 95 games Davis also hit .238 with a .273 OBP and 44 runs scored.

Davis began the 2012 season as the fourth outfielder, but thanks to a poor season from Eric Thames and a fast start at the plate he took over the starting job in left field. So far this season Davis is hitting .245 with 24 steals in 31 attempts.

8. Rickey Henderson – 1993

Henderson’s tenure with the Jays was extremely short. In 1993 Henderson was traded to Toronto on July 31 for Steve Karsay and Jose Herrera. The future Hall of Famer played in 44 regular season games with the Jays hitting only .215 with a .356 OBP. H did have some success on the base paths though with 22 steals in 24 attempts.

In the postseason Henderson continued to scuffle at the plate in the ALCS against the White Sox, hitting .120 with three hits in 25 at bats. He finally started showing some life in the World Series, batting .227, with a .393 OBP and six runs scored. Henderson was on base when Carter hit the Series-winning home run after drawing a lead-off walk off Mitch Williams.

7. Alvis Woods – 1977-1982

Woods was taken with the 15th pick in the 1976 Expansion Draft. He pinch-hit and played right field on opening day 1977, but would end up seeing more time in left field during his six seasons in Toronto.

Woods’ best year with the Jays came during the strike-shortened 1980 season. That season Woods hit a career-high .300 with a .364 OBP and a .844 OPS. Woods also cracked 15 home runs and posted a 125 OPS+ and a 2.3 WAR.

In his six seasons with Toronto Woods posted a slash line of .270/.325/.385. He was traded to Oakland for Cliff Johnson following the 1982 season.

6. Dave Collins – 1983-1984

The Blue Jays acquired Collins in a December trade with the Yankees in 1982 that also landed them Fred McGriff and Mike Morgan for Tom Dodd and Dale Murray.

In his first season in Toronto Collins appeared in 118 games and was a legitimate threat on the base paths, stealing 31 bases in 28 attempts. He also hit .271 with a .343 OBP and a .671 OPS. His OPS+ that season was quite low, at 82.

The following season Collins put together a career season. He  hit a career-best .308 with a .366 OBP and a .811 OPS. His OPS+ sky rocketed that season to 120 and his WAR was 2.9. Collins also stole 60 bases in 74 attempts, which is still a team record and he also had 15 triples.

After the 1984 season Collins was package with Alfredo Griffin and traded to Oakland for Bill Caudill

5. Candy Maldonado – 1991-1992, 1995

Maldonado arrived in Toronto via a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers in August, 1991. Going the other way in the deal were Rob Wishnevski and William Suero. During the rest of the 1991 season (52 games) Malonado hit .277 with a .375 OBP, seven home runs, 28 RBI and an 123 OPS+. He also posted a 1.3 WAR.

Maldonado was the Blue Jays starting left fielder during the 1992 championship season. In 137 games that season he batted .272 with a .357 OBP and a .819 OPS. He launched 20 home runs, had 66 RBI with a 125 OPS+ and a 2.2 WAR. He is probably best remembered for his at bat against Atlanta reliever Jeff Reardon in the 1992 World Series. In the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and one out Maldonado crushed a 0-2 pitch from Reardon to deep center to drive in Roberto Alomar for the winning run.

After the 1992 season Maldonado signed with the Chicago Cubs as a free agent. He would return to Toronto later in his career as a free agent in the 1995 season. He played sparingly in 61 games, hitting .269 with seven homers and 25 RBI before being traded to Texas in August. His career slash line with Toronto in 250 games was .272/.363/.462.

4. Reed Johnson – 2003-2007

The Blue Jays drafted Johnson in the 17th round of the 1999 amateur draft. Also taken by the Jays in that year’s draft were Alex Rios and Brandon Lyon.

Johnson made his Toronto debut in 2003, appearing in 114 games and hitting .294 with a .353 OBP and a .780 OPS. He also hit 10 home runs, had 52 RBI, a 1.2 WAR and a 102 OPS+. Johnson continued to receive plenty of playing time over the next three season, appearing in 141 games in 2004, 142 games the following season and 134 games in 2006. The 2006 season was his best in Toronto, when he hit .319 with a .390 OBP and a .869 OPS. He also clubbed 12 home runs, had 49 RBI and posted a 124 OPS+ and a career-best 4.8 WAR.

Johnson was unable to build on his big 2006 season after hurting his back in 2007.  He required surgery on his back and ended up appearing in only 79 games that year. The back injury also curtailed his numbers at the plate, as Johnson hit only .236 with a .305 OBP.

Heading into the 2008 season Toronto made a boneheaded move. With David Eckstein signed to play shortstop and bat lead-off and Matt Stairs set see some time in left field, Johnson appeared to be headed to a platoon role once again. Toronto also signed Shannon Stewart in the offseason which would mean the end of Johnson’s time in Toronto. During spring training the Jays decided to go with Stewart and released Johnson. Stewart, 34 years old and on the decline would eventually be released in August. Johnson would sign with the Cubs and post a slash line of .303/.358/.420 that season.

3. Frank Catalanotto – 2003-2006

Catalanotto was signed as a free agent following the 2002 season. He appeared in 133 games in his first season with the Jays, including 64 in left field due to injuries to Shannon Stewart. That season Catalanotto hit .299 with a .351 OBP and a solid .823 OPS. Not known for his power Catalanotto still hit 13 home runs, had 59 RBI with a 112 OPS+ and a 1.9 WAR.

Injuries limited Catalanotto to only 75 games in 2004, but he bounced back quickly the following season when he hit .301 with a .367 OBP and a .818 OPS. Catalanotto also raised his OPS+ to 115 and posted the best WAR of his career with the Jays at 2.2.

Catalanotto continued to be a reliable hitter in his final season with the Jays in 2006 when he hit .300 with a .376 OBP and a .816 OPS. He drove in 56 runs, posted a 111 OPS+ and a 1.5 WAR. Following the 2006 season Catalanotto returned to the Rangers and finished off his career with stints in Milwaukee and with the Mets.

Catalanotto’s most memorable moment with Toronto came during the 2004 season when he became the first Toronto player to collect six hits in a game. On May 1 against the Chicago White Sox Catalanotto went 6-6 with five singles and a double. Catalanotto also had two RBI and scored a pair of runs in a 10-6 Blue Jays win.

2. Shannon Stewart – 1995-2003, 2008

Stewart was Toronto’s first round pick in the 1992 amateur draft, going 19th overall. He debuted for Toronto in 1995, but only for a short 12-game cup of coffee. He continued to spend more time in the minors over the next two seasons with a seven-game stint in 1995 and 44 games with the big club in 1997.

He finally cracked the starting lineup for good in 1998 when he played in 144 games, hitting .279 with a .377 OBP, 12 home runs, 55 RBI and 51 steals. Stewart would never come close to stealing 50-plus bases again, but the rest of stats continued to improve steadily.

Arguably his best season in Toronto came in 2000. That season he batted .319 with a .363 OBP and a solid .882 OPS. He hit a career-high 21 home runs, had 69 RBI and also stole 20 bases in 25 attempts. Stewart also posted a 118 OPS+ that season and a career-best 4.8 WAR. Oddly enough, most of those numbers dropped at least slightly the next season when Stewart received his first-ever MVP votes, finishing 25th in voting.

In 2003 Stewart was traded to Minnesota in mid-July for Bobby Kielty. He would go on to help propel the Twins to an AL Central division title and finish fourth in MVP voting after a sizzling 2.5 months at the plate.

After three more seasons in Minnesota and a short stop in Oakland Stewart returned to Toronto in 2008 as a free agent. He wasn’t the same player that left five years earlier. After 52 games, hitting .240 with only one home runs and a lackluster 71 OPS+ Stewart was released in August.

1. George Bell – 1981, 1983-1990

Bell easily tops this list after nine stellar seasons in Toronto that included the only MVP award in franchise history and an eventual well deserved spot in the Level of Excellence.

If not for the Rule 5 Draft Bell could have been a star in the National League during the 80′s. Bell was originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1978. The Jays stole him away by selecting him in the 1980 Rule 5 Draft. He ended up playing in 60 games in the 1981 season, and finished 8th in Rookie of the Year voting.

He spent the entire 1982 season at AAA and received a short 39-game stint in Toronto in 1983 before finally breaking through in 1984. That season Bell played in 159 games, hitting .292 with a .326 OBP and a .824 OPS. He clubbed 26 home runs, had 87 RBI, while posting a 121 OPS+ and a 2.9 WAR.

The following season in 1985 Bell won the first of three consecutive Silver Sluggers Awards after hitting 28 home runs and driving in 95 runs. He also caught the final out on the day the Blue Jays clinched their first AL East division title. Bell making that catch and dropping to his knees in celebration became one the most memorable moments in Blue Jays history.

In 1986 Bell’s power number continued to climb as he hit 31 home runs and topped to 100 RBI mark for the first time with 108 RBI. In 1987 he surpassed both totals again and was an All-Star for the first time. That season Bell took home AL MVP honors and set a new franchise record for home runs with 47 after hitting .308 with a .352 OBP. He also had 134 RBI, posted a .957 OPS a 146 OPS+ and a 4.6 WAR.

Bell was never able to match the power numbers he put up in 1987 again, but he remained a feared hitter in a dangerous Blue Jays lineup. In 1988 his average slumped to .269 and his OBP was only .304. He still hit 24 home runs and had 97 RBI with a 108 OPS+. In 1989 Bell saw a huge drop in his home run total, as he went yard only 18 times. However, his average rebounded to .297 an he drove in 104 runs. His OPS+ also improved to 126 and he finished fourth in AL MVP voting.

In 1990 Bell was named an All-Star for the second time, but he once again declined at the plate, hitting .265 with a .303 OBP and a .724 OPS. The power was still there of course, as he hit 21 home runs and had 86 RBI. He also posted the first OPS+ under 100 in his career as a starter at 96.

Following the season Bell left Toronto as a free agent and signed on with the Cubs. He returned to Toronto for the All-Star game and finished the season batting .285 with 25 home runs and 86 RBI.

Bell headed to the other side of town the next season after the Cubs traded him to the White Sox in the offseason. Heading the other way in the deal were Ken Patterson and a young outfielder named Sammy Sosa. Bell played two seasons with Chicago before being released and retiring

Bell is also remembered for being a bit a of a hot head, with a fiery personality that hated to loss. He was known to blow his top on more than a few occasions, including in June, 1985 when he karate kicked Boston pitcher Bruce Kison after getting hit by a pitch. Bell also delivered his famous “they can kiss my purple butt” retort to the fans after getting booed for an error. Bell may have been ornery at times, but his teammates loved him and he was always a fan favorite who played the game hard and was one of the first big stars for a young Blue Jays squad.

Blue Jays left fielders that didn’t make the cut:
Mike Huff
Travis Snider
Eric Thames
Derek Bell
Darrin Jackson
Fred Lewis
Marty Cordova
Gabe Gross
Juan Rivera

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