The American League's best left fielder?

A position-by-position OPS breakdown

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A.k.a.: American League left fielders really stink this year.

Earlier this month, I looked at what positions were producing worst on a team-by-team basis (here’s the AL and the NL).  This time, I’m going through the positions for each league as a whole and breaking them down by OPS:

NL RF: .796
AL 1B: .786
AL RF: .783
NL LF: .769
NL 1B: .768
AL DH: .744
AL CF: .733
NL CF: .730
NL C: .725
AL SS: .702
NL 3B: .691
NL 2B: .689
AL 2B: .681
NL SS: .677
AL 3B: .676
AL C: .670
AL LF: .648
NL P: .337

What really stands out is just how terrible American League left fielders have been. The Royals, using Alex Gordon, are the only AL team getting even a .750 OPS out of their left fielders. They’re at .817. The Yankees, with Brett Gardner, are second at .747. The A’s, with Josh Willingham, are third at .713. After that, it drops all of the way to Baltimore at .668. The Twins, with Delmon Young, are getting a .503 OPS. The Mariners are at .570. The Red Sox were down there too until Carl Crawford suddenly got hot last week.

Last year, AL left fielders had a .768 OPS.

Some other points of interest:

– AL shortstop had largely been a black hole of late, but it’s actually besting the NL with Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes and Stephen Drew right now. The Indians and Asdrubal Cabrera lead the way there with an .897 OPS, but the Angels, Tigers and Blue Jays are also getting fine performances.

– The shortstops are also beating the second basemen and third basemen in the AL. AL third basemen are getting dragged down by horrible performances from the Mariners (.483) and Blue Jays (.495).

– When I did the aforementioned NL team-by-position list earlier this month, I noted that NL catchers had matched first basemen almost exactly for five weeks. There’s a significant split now, but it’s still not nearly what one would expect. That’s because there are still four NL teams out there getting sub-.650 OPSs from first basemen: the Nationals, Padres, Giants and Dodgers.

Of course, it should increase further as time goes on, especially with Buster Posey down. One would always expect catcher OPS to decrease as the season progresses, given that catchers deal with more injuries than other positions and tend to wear down anyway.

– One more oddity: AL pinch-hitters are actually hitting better than the league as a whole, coming in with a .730 OPS. Last year, they had a .631 OPS, and in 2009, it was .622. NL pinch-hitters have a .572 OPS this year, down from .641 last year.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.