We continue our tour around the diamond, trying to determine your favourite player for each position. Today is the final of the starting 8 positions, right field. It’s a field crowded with some of the most memorable and best players in franchise history, so your decision might be a tough one.
Otto Velez (1977-1982)
The Blue Jays took Velez from the Yankees as the 53rd pick in the 1976 expansion draft, the fourth to last pick for the Blue Jays in the draft. While he wasn’t a full time outfielder (or player for that matter) Velez starts off our list here because he was fairly potent with the bat. In 1843 career PA with the Jays, he has the second highest wRC+ among right fielders with at least 500 plate appearances, checking in with a very respectable 127 mark.
Otto the Swatto began his career with the Blue Jays on opening day in 1977 as the DH and bating cleanup, going 2-4 and getting a good start on his way to winning the American League Player of the Month award for the for April. He hit a very impressive .442 with 5 HR and 18 RBI in 21 games.
Velez holds the distinction of being the first Blue Jay to ever hit 3 home runs in a game. He accomplished that feat on May 4, 1980 against Cleveland. He hit a grand slam in the bottom of the 1st, a two run home run in the bottom of the 8th, and then a walk off home run in the bottom of the 10th.
Jesse Barfield (1981-1989)
Barfield was a 9th round draft pick by the Blue Jays in 1977 out of high school, quickly making his way to the Majors by 1981 and firmly taking hold of the starting right field spot by 1982. Arguably one of the best defensive right fielders ever, Barfield coupled his great defense and amazing arm with a very good bat as well. In just over 1000 games with Toronto, Barfield hit .265/.334/.483, good enough for a 118 wRC+. All combined, he gave the Jays 29.6 WAR over parts of 9 season, and was a huge piece of the first run through relevancy of the Jays.
Barfield’s trophy case is criminally underfilled, having only picked up a pair of gold glove awards and one silver slugger, with just one trip to the All Star Game as well. He would have been much more appreciated in today’s game, somewhere along the lines of Jason Heyward pre-2016.
Joe Carter (1991-1997)
Carter came over to the Blue Jays as a 30 year old coming off the worst season of his career, in the blockbuster trade that sent Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff to San Diego, and also brought back future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar. You all know the story there, so there’s not much to dig into with the trade.
Carter played 8 seasons with the Blue Jays, earning high marks for his consistent ability to drive in runs and hit home runs. He eclipsed 20 home runs every season, and had over 100 RBI every year except for the strike shortened 1995 season. Judged by today’s numbers, he wasn’t as amazing as he seemed back then. His RBI totals benefited from hitting in the middle of some stacked lineups, but he still managed to drive in the runs.
And of course, he drove in the biggest runs in Blue Jays’ history.
Shawn Green (1993-1999)
Green’s arrival coincided nicely with another powerful lefty of the Jays, and both Green and Carlos Delgado were supposed to help carry the Blue Jays high expectations from the championship seasons. While Delgado and Green did their parts, the rest of the team failed to compete with the powerhouse Yankees.
Green’s time in Toronto came to an abrupt and controversial end when he was traded in November of 1999. Gare Joyce has a nice article about that over on Sportsnet. But it was Green’s time in Toronto, particularly his last two seasons, that really made him a star.
In his age 25 season in 1998, Green became the first (and still only) Blue Jay to eclipse the 30 homer - 30 steal mark, getting 35 of each. He also chipped in 33 doubles, while scoring and driving in over 100 runs. In 1999, he increased the power numbers, climbing to 42 home runs and 45 doubles. He scored a club record 134 runs that season.
Green churned out a few more great seasons in the National League after he left the Jays, making it to the playoffs a couple times with the Dodgers and later the Mets. The most notable part of his post-Jays career likely came on May 23, 2002, when Green put up a 6-6 day, hitting 4 home runs, a double and a single, while setting the Major League record for most total bases in a day at 19.
Alex Rios (2004-2009)
Part of the return of the Green trade to Los Angeles was Raul Mondesi. Mondesi spent a couple years in Toronto, but did not live up to the high expectations placed upon him. Following Mondesi’s time in Toronto, the Jays moved on to their first round draft pick from the 1999 draft, Alex Rios. Rios took hold of the starting right field job in 2004, playing well enough to grab a few Rookie of the Year votes.
His career really took off in 2006, when his bat came around and started to catch up to his defense. He was an All Star in 2006 and 2007, and had a great 2008 too. In those 3 seasons, he had a 118 wRC+, which led to him signing a 6 year, $65m extension at the start of the 2008 season. Halfway through the 2009 season, that extension was already starting to feel heavy on the Jays, and when the White Sox put an August waiver claim on Rios, the Blue Jays let them have him, eliminating the Jays’ obligations of paying the remaining $59m owed.
While the end of the road for Rios was unfortunate, the peak years of his production were quite fun. The 2006 Jays with Reed Johnson, Vernon Wells and Alex Rios across the outfield was the closest the Jays have gotten to the amazing 80s outfield, and gave the Jays some hope for the future. If we could transport that outfield to couple with today’s infield, the Jays would have an amazing group of position players.
Jose Bautista (2008-2017)
While this competition has a few good candidates, I expect Bautista to take this pretty handily. Bautista is the franchise leader in WAR for position players, racking up 36.1 over his 10 seasons in Toronto.
If you don’t know the story of Jose Bautista, I invite you to really dive deep into it. He came over to Toronto in an August 2008 trade from the Pirates for Robinzon Diaz. He played a lot of games at third base initially, and also saw a little bit of time at 1B and 2B (!). In 2009, he played a lot more outfield, but his bat never really came around. By late August, the Jays were starting to look at a real possibility of non-tendering him in the offseason. But then September came, Bautista launched 10 home runs over the final month, and secured a roster spot for the next season.
Good thing he did, because he then went on to smash a club record 54 home runs in 2010, earning himself a 5 year, $64m extension. His 2011 was even better overall, putting up 8.1 WAR and a club record 181 wRC+. He battled injuries in 2012 and 2013, before coming back strong in 2014 and 2015, helping lead the Jays back to the playoffs. His 2016 season started strong, but didn’t finish nearly as strong as previous seasons. After an offseason of wondering if he would get a big payday, he came back to the Jays on a one year deal for 2017, and unfortunately was a shell of his former self.
But his glory years with the team were amazing.
Favourite Right Fielder in Blue Jays’ History
This poll is closed
Obligatory Bat Flip only video too, because who doesn’t love this?