After what feels like a year-long winter without baseball, inside dining, and building social capital, it’s finally back. No more concealing it, it’s finally time to open up the gates… this last week pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training, and the smell of baseball is in the air. I can’t tell you how much that gets me hyped. It’s been years since I played baseball competitively. Yet with the promise of spring around the corner, I still get that same joy from deep in my soul. It happens every year like clockwork, and it’s always magical. The chance at a new player breaking into the bigs, a hitter making an adjustment to finally hit sliders, and a pitcher… oh, the pitchers… finding that new grip that opens the door to new possibilities. How can you not be romantic about baseball?

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Welcome back for another season of Coolwhip in the Outfield. This preview edition is meant to be a review of what has happened. There’s a lot of players, especially outfielders where their past track record has been forgotten in lieu of what happened in just the 60 games during a pandemic. Let’s not be too hasty here… A lot of things happened that spoiled the sample, and a lot of things didn’t happen that would have been beneficial. So as it tends to be my theme, let’s look at the context.

What we will look at today is the top 100 outfielders based on the last 162 games scheduled. There are zero projections in this post. Again, ZERO projections, no preseason rankings (yet), I want us to focus on the track record first and take note. Specifically, here we will look at the value provided based on the last “season” played. My rankings here are ultimately who gave the most value on a per-game basis from mid-2019 through the short season of 2020. To you early drafters, hopefully, this aids your choice of late-round picks mining for potential value (*cough* RazzSlam *cough*).

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*Read with a French accent* One common thing I have seen in early drafts has been players who had a rough 2020 season, despite consistent track records prior, are being heavily undervalued. In this sea of deep discounts, one can find bats that the world of drafters has forgotten and left behind. One bat, perhaps forgotten the most is Joc Pederson. Pederson is a known quantity, a 30-HR power hitter from the left side that thrives on the offerings of unsuspecting righty pitchers. Though same-handed pitchers have always given him trouble, he has been quite dangerous to righties. Come with me as we dive down into the underlying numbers and statistics to see what happened to Joc last year, and what we can expect for him this year.

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Far away in the land of Narnia, or in this, Tampa Bay, there lies a team still with unreleased potential. Be it a case of service clock or mathematic formula, the new regime of statistics rules these lands with an icy cold grip. It has served its purpose in recent years, and yet, also failed its master in his hour of most need this last October. Some players cannot be so easily quantified. Their measure of quality stretches beyond reason and ‘rithmetic. The new magic of formula does not always explain the world as it is. Enter one, Ryan Yarbrough. Ryan is a pitcher of unique talents for this modern era; but nothing quite new, as they are skills of the past, the old magic. Pitching with command and deception.

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This is a piece I have been saving to write all winter long. The kind of short season that Wil Myers had, that the Padres had, was the stuff of legend. And equally so, that they fell short of the finish line getting knocked out by the Dodgers after the top of their rotation was unavailable like a plot right out of a Brad Pitt movie. We all saw the storyline of Slam Diego unfold, and Myers was at the center of it. The story of Slam Diego is not simply about a team getting hot and going on an incredible run (only to be cut down in the playoffs). It’s about a change in team philosophy and identity. And none perhaps in that lineup more evident than Myers.

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The Cubs are cleaning house even though they are a big market team. The Reds are seemingly red-tagging the store after going all-in for half a season. The Brewers have made zero moves to improve their lineup around Yelich. The Cardinals, too, have also done absolutely nothing. And now the Pirates have jumped on board with the neighborhood garage sale to boot, after offloading Josh Bell. In a year when the entire NL Central feels like sellers or doing nothing, of course, the Pirates go into full teardown mode again… after, well… never emerging from the last full teardown or the one before that. Does anyone want to win this thing?

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My dear readers, we all know what happened in 2020 and I indeed shared what I saw. Some of you have asked me if I told you everything there is to know about Mitch Garver’s season (or lack thereof). And while I can honestly say I’ve told you the truth, I may not have told you all of it. Now that my schedule has loosened up after the holidays, I think it’s time for you to know the whole story.

It began long ago (in the before times) when Manfred juiced balls and the Twins were making a playoff run the likes of which you had never seen. It began… well it began as you might expect. In a box, there stood a catcher. Not a dirty cardboard box left in the attic; or a box belonging to Christie. This was a batter’s box. And that means offensive production, not always premium production from a catcher, and yet when it shows up tapping you on the nose you can’t help but notice.

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So I was talking with the boss man and found out there wasn’t going to be no buy/sell today. Of course, since there are all of 3 days left in the season, and possibly some of you are already done or knocked out (condolences). Though, take heed, I am here for you all that are playing for the championships and top 3 finishes. Fight on to victory! This is a shoutout for one final Buy of the season. And dare I say, a sneak peek sleeper pick for 2021 and possibly a dynasty hold to boot. That pick, my friends, is Justus Sheffield. So why is he a good buy for these final days and beyond?

Sheffield is top 5 in the league in lowest Barrel/BBE% among starting pitchers. Barrells is a term you hear us throw around here a lot. And I’m realizing that there might be some of you with no idea what I’m talking about. Via statcast a “barrel” is:

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October 2019, the A’s had just been eliminated in the wildcard game by the Tampa – Billy Beane sits in his office *click* as turns off the TV with a sigh… he then stares out the window for a good minute as he draws a calm and quiet, deep breath. “It’s been a helluva run,” he thinks to himself, reflecting back on the nearly 20 years since the team had their 20-game win streak on the back of Scott Hatteberg (disregarding that Tejada won the MVP; but, I digress) and the hollow shell of David Justice.

They had changed the game. And in those 18 years with a small market budget, they’ve had a winning record 11 times and won the AL West 5 times with 3 wildcard berths. Billy and Peter Brand had found the formula to stay competitive in the brutal business of sport, where, money doesn’t guarantee success but it punches tickets; and, it certainly can patch quite a few mistakes like a soldering iron. They had found a way to be nimble with the data apart from the extra cash. Getting on base is what mattered, not just the hit. Walking was the same as singles. If the slugging and hard hit-rates were there, OBP was just as good as average—just get on base…

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Welcome back gang, we are making our way to the home stretch of this short season and you gotta make some tough decisions. This, as always, is a continuation of my Top 75 Outfielders for 2020: Midseason Edition and hopefully, we can steer you in the right direction. Don’t be afraid to drop a slumping power bat if you need some steals to leap up the rankings, likewise for the reverse. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Here’s what I’ve been seeing around the league:

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