The Milwaukee Brewers are celebrating their 50th year of baseball in Milwaukee this year. Even though it is unknown as to when the season will start, this is something worth highlighting and celebrating. Over the next few weeks, OTH Wisconsin will highlight the top players at each position throughout the Brewers’ 50 year history. Here, we take a look at the best left fielders in the history the Milwaukee Brewers.
Note: It was a difficult call to keep Carlos Lee off this list, as he was an All-Star and won the Silver Slugger with the Brewers. However, he only played in Milwaukee for one full season. All other players on this list played three or more seasons with the Brewers.
#5- Khris Davis
The current Oakland A’s slugging DH started his career as the left fielder for the Milwaukee Brewers. Even though his defense was never an asset to him, his bat was good enough for the Brewers to move Ryan Braun to right field for the two and a half seasons that Davis played for the Brewers.
Khris Davis was originally drafted by the Washington Nationals in 2006, but did not sign. The Brewers drafted Davis in the seventh road of the 2009 draft, but he was never a highly ranked prospect. He was brought up amid the suspension that cost Ryan Braun a large portion of the 2013 season. In 56 games in 2013, Davis hit .279/.353/.596 with 10 home runs and 27 RBI’s. Such production in a short a mount of time led the Brewers to make him the everyday left fielder for the next two seasons.
In those two seasons, Davis averaged .245/.311/.481 with 24 home runs and 67 RBI’s per season. Following the 2015 season, Davis was traded to the Oakland Athletics for Jacob Nottingham. In four seasons with the A’s, Davis has established himself as one of the best home run hitters in the game today. While he does not hit for a high average and strikes out a lot, from 2016-2018 Davis averaged 44 home runs. He also won the Edgar Martinez Award for the American League’s best DH in 2018.
#4- Greg Vaughn
Greg Vaughn and Vaughn’s Valley were some bright memories from a time in Brewers’ history that was marred with losing seasons. Vaughn was actually drafted by the Brewers twice before he signed a contract: the fourth round in 1984 June secondary draft and the first round (fourth overall pick) in the 1986 draft.
In seven combined seasons with the Brewers, Vaughn hit .246/.333/.459 with 169 home runs and 566 RBI’s. His home run total is good for eighth in franchise history and his RBI’s rank tenth. His best full season as a Brewer came in 1993 when he made his first All-Star team. That season, Vaughn hit .267/.369/.482 with 30 home runs and 97 RBI’s. In 1996, Vaughn made his second All-Star team with the Brewers. However, sensing that Vaughn would not resign with the club, they traded him to the Padres. Vaughn ended the ’96 season hitting .260/.365/.539 with 41 home runs and 117 RBI’s.
Greg Vaughn had a pretty good career after leaving Milwaukee. He made two more All-Star teams, won a Silver Slugger, and finished fourth in MVP votes twice. In 1998, the summer that Roger Maris’s single-season home run record was shattered, Vaughn hit .272/.363/.597 with 50 home runs and 119 RBI’s. He hit 45 homers the following season while playing for the Cincinnati Reds. Vaughn retired after the 2003 season and a dismal performance with the Rockies.
#3- Ben Oglivie
This may be an unpopular spot for Oglivie among Brewers’ fans, many of whom might rank him first or second on this list. However, Oglivie has a career WAR just a shade under Geoff Jenkins, whose other numbers both defensively and offensively are slightly better than Oglivie’s. Nevertheless, Ben Oglivie is one of the best Brewers in franchise history and a fan-favorite for a reason.
Oglivie started his career with the Boston Red Sox, where he played for three seasons. He then spent four seasons in Detroit before the Brewers acquired him for Jim Slaton and Rich Folkers. It is with Milwaukee that Oglivie had the best seasons of his career.
In a Brewers’ career that spanned nine seasons (1978-1986), Oglivie hit .277/.345/.461 with 176 home runs and 685 RBI’s. His 176 home runs are seventh in club history, and his 685 RBI’s are sixth. Oglivie’s best season came in 1980, when he hit .304/.362/.563 with 41 home runs and 118 RBI’s. His 41 home runs led the American League that year. He made the first of three career All-Star Teams and won his lone Silver Slugger Award. In 1982, the World Series year, Oglivie hit .244/.326/.453 with 34 home runs and 102 RBI’s. He retired from baseball following the 1986 season.
#2- Geoff Jenkins
Brett Favre… I mean, Geoff Jenkins was drafted with the ninth overall pick in the 1995 amateur draft by the Brewers. He made his Major League debut in 1998 and spent ten seasons with the Brewers. He hit 20 or more home runs in seven of those ten seasons, providing fans with something to cheer for while the team was mired in a long rebuild.
In his career as a Brewer, Jenkins hit .277/.347/.496 with 212 home runs and 704 RBI’s. His 22.1 career WAR is just slightly ahead of Oglivie’s 21.5 (they rank ninth and tenth in team history). Jenkins’s 212 home runs are fourth in team history and his 704 RBI’s rank fifth. In addition to his bat, Jenkins was a great defensive left fielder. He finished in the top ten among National League left fielders in put outs three times, leading the league in 2004. In addition, he finished in the top ten in left field assists five times, leading the league in 2000 and 2003. In 2003, his lone All-Star season, Jenkins finished with a fielding percentage of 1.000, which, of course, led the league. He also hit .296/.375/.538 with 28 home runs and 95 RBI’s.
Despite his great 2003 season, Jenkins’s best season happened in 2000, when he hit .303/.360/.588 with 34 home runs and 94 RBI’s. Ever the team player, Jenkins moved to right field to make room for Carlos Lee. He moved back to left in 2007, but was not brought back to the Brewers because Ryan Braun moved to left following a dismal defensive showing at third base. Jenkins won a World Series ring with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008 and retired following that season.
#1- Ryan Braun
Ryan Braun was well on his way to being the most beloved Brewer since Robin Yount before a PED scandal blackened his career. However, scandals aside, Braun has been the best left fielder in Brewers history. After winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award as a defensive liability at third base, Braun was shifted to left field where he would have a career rivaled by no other left fielder in team history.
From 2008-2012, Ryan Braun made five All-Star Teams and won five Silver Sluggers as a left fielder. In addition, he finished in the top three of MVP voting three times, winning the award in 2011. During his MVP campaign, Braun hit .332/.397/.597 with 33 home runs and 111 RBI’s. In 2012, Braun led the NL with 41 home runs and almost won his second straight MVP.
Following his suspension in 2013, Braun has struggled to regain his perennial All-Star form of play. He has shown glimpses, though, of the player he once was. In 2015, Braun returned to the All-Star Game as a right fielder in a season in which he hit .285/.356/.498 with 25 home runs 84 RBI’s. In 2016, he once again hit over .300 with a slash line of .305/.365/.538 with 30 home runs and 91 RBI’s.
If baseball is played this season, the longest tenured Brewer is expected to play first base as 2018 MVP Christian Yelich will be returning to the position at which he won a Gold Glove as a member of the Marlins. Braun’s contract is up following the 2020 season, and what his future holds in Milwaukee beyond that is far from certain. However, he will forever be remembered for his loyalty to Milwaukee and his willingness to make amends following 2013. His 344 career home runs going into 2020 are the most in team history.
More Brewers’ Greats
For more in our series on the five best players at each position, follow the links below:
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