Organizational droughts: Right field

Kevork Djansezian

Who was the last outstanding right fielder your team developed? Let's take a look ...

Welcome to the final installment of organizational droughts, in which we look for the last star player developed by each team at each position. You can find the rest of the series here. We define "star player" as someone who has been worth four wins or more, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Here's a team of the worst stars so far:

C - Rick Wilkins, Cubs
1B - Dave Magadan, Mets
2B - Darwin Barney, Cubs
SS - Ed Brinkman, Rangers
3B - Garrett Atkins, Rockies
LF - Ken Henderson, Giants
CF - Luis Matos, Orioles
RF - ??????

Stars! All of them. If you question WAR, your computer will crash and your credit will be ruined, and you'll have no idea why. Don't question WAR. It's a statistic with powerful, vindictive friends.

And, oh, that mystery of the right-field spot. Let's see who the latest, greatest in-house right fielders were.

* * *

Still with the team

Orioles - Nick Markakis (7.5 wins above replacement, 2008)
Brewers - Corey Hart (4.1, 2010)
Reds - Jay Bruce (4.8, 2010)
Braves - Jason Heyward (5.8, 2012)
Marlins - Giancarlo Stanton (5.5, 2012)

Markakis has been with the Orioles for eight seasons, he's still under 30, and he's never had an OPS+ below the league average. Why is it that I subconsciously lump him in with Ben Grieve when dividing potential by production? That's almost certainly not right, and he's hitting pretty well for the Orioles again this year.

I'm just glad he got to see a good Orioles team. Some lifers don't get that luxury. They come up as the first-round pick, have all sorts of expectations, and leave when the team is in the same place as they found it. That has to be a little discouraging, even if individual players know they can do only so much.

For what it's worth, Markakis has the 61st-best WAR for right fielders in history, he's the 21st most valuable Oriole ever, and he's the fourth-most valuable #7 pick in history, behind Frank Thomas, Troy Tulowitzki, and Clayton Kershaw. So I'll scrub the Ben Grieve from my head. Sorry.

* * *

Recent past

Blue Jays - Alex Rios (5.9, 2008)
Twins - Denard Span (4.4, 2008)
Astros - Hunter Pence (4.0, 2009)
Mariners - Ichiro (4.7, 2009)
Diamondbacks - Justin Upton (5.1, 2011)

I'm tempted to expunge Span from the record because he played right field only in his rookie season, and he tallied just 93 games there. If you're wondering if that WAR total is heavily influenced by defense and baserunning, it is. But those things are kinda sorta important, so that's not the real problem. The real problem is I think of "Denard Span, right fielder" like I think of "Carlos Delgado, catcher." If this won't do and you want a replacement, the next in line is Tony Oliva in 1970.

When it comes to the Mariners, they were the most bereft of the non-'90s-expansion teams. They had six qualifying seasons from Ichiro and one from Leon Roberts, who was drafted by the Tigers. That's it. And it's not like they grew Ichiro from a tiny little seed, either; he arrived fully formed, for the most part.

* * *

Not-so-recent past

Indians - Manny Ramirez (4.8, 2000)
Cardinals - J.D. Drew (5.5, 2001)
Angels - Tim Salmon (4.0, 2002)
Expos/Nationals - Vladimir Guerrero (7.0, 2002)
Red Sox - Trot Nixon (5.1, 2003)
White Sox - Magglio Ordoñez (5.6, 2003)
Rays - Aubrey Huff (4.0, 2003)

I'm glad to see Huff sneak on there, as he was a sabermetric darling before he was exchanged for Ben Zobrist before he was a key cog in a championship team before he was a this-guy-can't-hit punchline. As far as the Rays are concerned, he's one of their great player-development success stories.

And with this final entry, I finally get to express how weird it is to lump the Nationals in with the Expos, while the Rays, Diamondbacks, Marlins, and Rockies have to fight for the scraps. The Nationals are not the Expos. The Expos never morphed into the Nationals. Here's proof. Or, more proof. If you search Google Images for something ironic, you can't even find anything. There are no Vlad Guerrero Nationals jerseys in the wild.

That's because they aren't the same franchise. No one would think of such a thing, not even as a goof.

And if you're wondering where Salmon ranks among players who were never on an All-Star roster, here you go:

Rk Player WAR/pos
1 Tony Phillips 50.9
2 Tim Salmon 40.8
3 Kirk Gibson 38.4
4 Eric Chavez 37.5
5 Garry Maddox 36.7
6 Ken McMullen 34.2
7 Dwayne Murphy 33.1
8 Bill Doran 32.8
9 Earl Torgeson 32.8
10 Richie Hebner 32.8

Three prominent A's. East Coast bias, you're killin' me.

* * *

Distant past

Phillies - Del Ennis (5.0, 1950)
Yankees - Hank Bauer (5.3, 1955)
Cubs - Billy Williams (4.5, 1966)
Royals - Al Cowens (5.3, 1977)
Tigers - Kirk Gibson (5.3, 1985)
Giants - Chili Davis (4.1, 1986)
Pirates - Bobby Bonilla (4.0, 1990)
Mets - Darryl Strawberry (6.3, 1990)
Athletics - Jose Canseco (5.2, 1991)
Padres - Tony Gwynn (4.3, 1997)
Dodgers - Raul Mondesi (5.7, 1997)
Rangers - Juan Gonzalez (4.9, 1998)

First, let's talk about the Yankees' amazing legacy of pilfered right fielders. It started with Babe Ruth, moved to Tommy Henrich, then to Roger Maris and Bobby Bonds, then to Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield -- two of the best free-agent signings ever -- then to Jesse Barfield, Danny Tartabull, Paul O'Neill, and Gary Sheffield. All of those players had at least one four-win season with the Yankees. The lesson: don't draft and develop right fielders. Buy them, or hoodwink other teams out of them.

The Royals' entry is especially interesting because they just traded Wil Myers, who is already worth 123 wins. They've had an especially hard time developing a star right fielder for some reason. In that Cowens season up there, he finished second in the MVP voting. It was clearly his best offensive season. He also won a Gold Glove. I wonder if there's a correlation ...

And one of my secret fascinations is with players who left as free agents during the '70s and '80s. Didn't their teams see the value? What in tarnation? After Chili Davis had that season, the Giants let him go and replaced him with Candy Maldonado, who had a crucial defensive brain-lock in the 1987 NLCS. Why would the Giants just let Davis go? He was 27 and fit perfectly with the "You're Gonna Like These Kids" theme. But he had only 11 more productive seasons left, so I guess the joke's on him ....

He signed with the Angels for three years and $3 million. That's bake-sale money. Not that I'm bitter.

* * *

Nope

Rockies

The Rockies had Larry Walker give them a four-win season seven times, but they haven't developed a star right fielder on their own. Though nabbing Walker from the Expos is a pretty nice consolation prize.

Okay, maybe I'll squeeze a few more posts out of this somehow. The all-homegrown team! The all-horrible-homegrown team! There are probably a couple more Play Index bastardizations to be had. Thanks for humoring me to this point. It's almost certainly the most fun I've ever had with a recurring series.

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