My tour across the diamond continues with a look at the men who patrol left field. Nineteen players at the position slugged 20 or more home runs and 12 of them drove in 90 or more runs. Surprisingly, just six players hit better than .300 last season and five stole 20 or more bases.
I'll start with the AL East, then end with the man who currently defines the position.
Larry Bigbie, Bal
Bigbie established himself as a legitimate Major League hitter in 2004, smashing 15 homers with 68 RBIs and a .280 batting average. This marked a career-high in power production, including his minor league tenure. In 59 second-half games, Bigbie's batting average jumped 46 points higher than his first-half clip.
Manny Ramirez, Bos
The RBI machine topped the century mark, blasted more than 30 homers and hit above .300 for the ninth time in 10 years. And, of course, the Red Sox won the World Series. For his career, Ramirez holds a batting average better than .300 in every month save June (.295). The only downside to his 2004 campaign was the .264 average after the All-Star break.
Hideki Matsui, NYY
Matsui had a strong rookie season in 03, but I believe his 2004 totals were more in line with what Yankee fans and fantasy owners expected when "Godzilla" came over from Japan. He boosted his batting average by 11 points, scored 27 more runs and slammed 15 more homers than 03. Though his power production was solid at home, Matsui's batting average was 56 points higher on the road.
Danny Bautista, TB
After a solid full season in Arizona, Bautista signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay. He tied a career-high with 11 home runs and posted a new career-best 65 RBIs. However, he petered out after the All-Star break, hitting .248 with one HR and 17 RBIs. Bautista hit a feeble .218 in 22 September games.
Frank Catalanotto, Tor
After a strong 2003 season in which the versatile Catalanotto posted career-highs in HR, RBI and runs, he missed the bulk of 04 with a groin injury. He struggled mightily at the SkyDome, hitting .246, as opposed to a robust .339 road clip.
Aaron Rowand, CHW
The White Sox rewarded Rowand for his stellar 2004 season with a two-year contract and a potential third year (player and club option). He had a career year in all offensive categories, slugging 24 home runs with 69 RBIs and 17 steals. Not bad for a guy who went undrafted in most fantasy leagues last year.
Coco Crisp, Cle
This member of the "All-Name" team became a legitimate fantasy threat with a big 2004 season. Owners expected him to boost their speed totals (20 thefts), but the addition of 15 home runs, 71 RBIs and a .297 batting average were welcome surprises. A look into the numbers yields one curious note: Crisp drove in 14 runs against Cincinnati in just six outings.
Rondell White, Det
White joined his fifth team in four seasons when he headed to Detroit. He produced 19 homers and 67 RBIs for the resurgent Tigers, but didn't exactly dominate for the home crowd, with 14 of his 19 home runs hit on the road – where he also enjoyed a batting average 76 points higher than at home.
Aaron Guiel, KC
Expectations were through the roof for Guiel after his 15-HR, 52 RBI production in 99 games in 2003. But he got off to a .173 start with four home runs and 10 RBIs before being sent back to the minors. Guiel was no better upon his August recall, hitting .133 in 60 at-bats. However, he lit it up for Omaha in the Pacific Coast League, banging 10 homers with 30 RBIs in 30 games.
Shannon Stewart, Min
Despite missing two months to injury, Stewart was a valuable component of the Twins' AL Central championship run. "Get em on, get em over, get em in" seems to be the motto in Minnesota. Stewart hit .359 in 92 at-bats with runners in scoring position, recording 38 RBIs.
Garret Anderson, LAA
With a career .299 batting average, Anderson battled through injuries to appear in 112 games last year. In the prior five seasons, he'd averaged 28 homers and 111 RBIs. His home and road totals are remarkably consistent through his career (.299 at home and .300 on the road). The only thing missing from his resume are stolen bases.
Eric Byrnes, Oak
This past week, Byrnes has been mentioned in trade rumors involving the New York Mets. The 28-year old outfielder matured as a hitter in 2004, slamming 20 homers, driving in 73 runs and stealing 17 bases. Byrnes was remarkably consistent throughout the season, with only small differences in stats between his first and second-half performances.
Randy Winn, Sea
Fantasy owners were counting on Winn to take the next step in his power production last season, but he topped out at 14 HR and 81 RBIs. With a .292 batting average in the past three seasons, his stolen base production (an average of 23) stands as the most intriguing portion of his game.
Kevin Mench, Tex
Here's a man after my own heart. I believe Mench is the only Major Leaguer who wears a bigger hat than I do (he's at a size 8, I'm holding strong at 7 5/8). He fit it nicely with the young core in Texas, slamming 26 homers and driving in 71 runs. Mench enjoyed hitting at The Ballpark in Arlington, where his batting average finished 44 points higher than his road totals.
Ryan Langerhans, Atl
Langerhans has the upper-hand on Atlanta's vacant left field post. Newly signed Raul Mondesi will occupy right. At Richmond last season, Langerhans produced solid totals in four of the five standard rotisserie categories. He crushed 57 extra-base hits, drove in 72 runs, scored 103 runs and hit .298. However, he was successful on only five of 14 stolen base attempts.
Miguel Cabrera, Fla
Cabrera gave managers a glimpse of what was to come in 2003 when he belted 12 homers and drove in 62 runs. The 21-year old Cabrera took the next step in 04, slamming 33 HR and 112 RBI. But managers that were counting on him to carry them to a title down the stretch were left wanting with his .229 average in September.
Cliff Floyd, NYM
Injuries continue to plague Floyd's promising career. Since breaking into the Major Leagues for good in 1994, the 32-year old Floyd has appeared in more than 125 games in a season just three times. In the past five seasons, he has averaged 23 HR and a shade under 81 RBIs.
Pat Burrell, Phi
After hitting an anemic .209 in 2003, Burrell rebounded to hit .257 in 2004. He provided solid numbers in his 127 appearances, slugging 24 HR with 84 RBI. No doubt Burrell would have topped 30 homers had he played a full season. In five seasons with Philadelphia, he's averaged 25 HR and 86 RBIs.
Terrmel Sledge, Was
Sledge played in 133 games across four positions in 2004, with the bulk of his time in left. He didn't disappoint, hitting .269 with 41 extra-base hits (one per every 10 at-bats). Sledge enjoyed life out of a suitcase, hitting 36 points higher on the road.
Todd Hollandsworth, ChC
With Moises Alou off to San Francisco to join his father, Hollandsworth ascends to the left field post. He played in 57 games for the Cubs last year before being lost for the season with a shin injury, hitting .318.
Rookie Jason DuBois is expected to challenge for at-bats after a 28 HR, 91 RBI season with a .312 average for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs last year. There's also speculation that former Chicago White Sox slugger Magglio Ordonez may cross over to the North side.
Adam Dunn, Cin
Dunn struck out 195 times last season, so what? An out is an out. Yes, he probably missed a few RBI opportunities, but he still plated 102 baserunners. He also hit for the highest batting average of his career (although .266 isn't lighting the world on fire). Dunn also tied Albert Pujols for the league lead with 46 home runs.
Craig Biggio, Hou
Biggio slugged a career-high 24 homers at the age of 39. He topped 100 runs for the eighth time in ten years and hit 47 doubles. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Biggio no longer retains 2B eligibility. His 63 RBIs tied him for 28th among left fielders and he managed just seven steals.
Carlos Lee, Mil
After six years in Chicago, Lee was dealt to Milwaukee this offseason. He brings a lifetime average of 25 HR and 92 RBIs to the National League. At 28, Lee has hit his stride, posting two straight 31-HR seasons, averaging a .297 average with 106 RBIs.
Matt Lawton, Pit
Lawton hit the second-most home runs of his career last season, clubbing 20 for the Indians in 150 games. He scored a career-high 109 runs and, most importantly, he stole 23 bases. Lawton's production tailed off miserably after the All-Star break, when he produced five home runs, 21 RBIs and a .239 average. For his career, Lawton's second-half batting average is 25 points lower than his first-half production.
Reggie Sanders, StL
It's pretty hard to believe that Sanders played on a different team each of the past seven years, but he has produced at each and every one of his stops. Sanders averaged 23 HR, 71 RBIs and 21 steals during this span.
Luis Gonzalez, Ari
The veteran outfielder battled through a painful elbow injury until the Diamondbacks were sufficiently buried in the NL West. Prior to his injury-shortened 2004 campaign, Gonzalez posted five straight years with 26 or more homers and 100 RBIs.
Matt Holliday, Col
Holliday joins a long list of players aided by the air in Colorado. A quick look at the splits says to play him at home and rotate him out when the Rockies jump a plane out of town. Holliday's batting average was 98 points lower on the road and 10 of his 14 homers were aided by the Mile High air.
Jayson Werth, LAD
Werth patrolled all three outfield positions for the Dodgers last season, though the bulk of his time was spent in left (65 of 85 games). He enjoyed hitting at Dodger Stadium, slamming 11 of his 16 home runs and driving in 31 of his 47 RBIs (65 percent).
Ryan Klesko, SD
Despite appearing in 127 games, Klesko posted his lowest power output since a 22-game stint with the Braves in 1993. After 10 seasons of 17 or more home runs, he put up a feeble total of nine last season. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Klesko is no longer a stolen base threat. In the past three seasons, he's averaged fewer than four steals per year.
Barry Bonds, SF
Facing the specter of BALCO, Barry Bonds delivered his fourth straight MVP season (seventh overall). He posted an absurd .609 On-Base Percentage by hitting .362 and drawing 232 walks. He pounded 40-plus homers for the eighth time in his career (five straight) and topped 100 RBIs for the 12th time. Bonds has averaged 37 HR per season in his 19-year career.
Next time I'll break down the men that dodge hills, flagpoles and the occasional wide-ranging middle infielder to track down fly balls.
Twenty-seven days, two hours and one minute until pitchers and catchers arrive at camp.