What’s up party people. Throughout the season I’ll be bringing you my, you guessed it, Top 75 outfielders rankings for the 2020 season; or as I sometimes refer to them, the Top 75 glorified ball-shaggers (yes I was an infielder, why you ask?). Like my other compadres, I will be updating these throughout the season and pointing out the risers (the ins), fallers (the outs), and others that have me thinking at the moment warranting attention (the what-have-yous). We all have opinions, and I have plenty to share with all of you (aren’t you lucky?). You can share yours with me in the comments below (shameless plug). Baseball is back.
Outfield, the final frontier (for failed infielders with plus bats that managers are trying to hide in the field). Sure you have your superstars with arm-canons and so on, but one thing is often overlooked. Some of these players, while they have above-average offensive potential, are liabilities in the field and essentially are trying to swing their way into the everyday lineup. Their future, as a function of playing time, is tied to their production at the plate. Domingo Santana is a prime example. Last year in Seattle he contributed a solid -1.9 dWAR, a career-low. Obviously, he’s not a golfer. This brings me to my next point, the DH, allows some “outfielders” on AL teams to get many more ABs than NL part-timers including big bats like Soler, Alvarez, and Reyes.
This year we also have a lot of young guns getting their shot at full-time gigs across a full season and more set to make an appearance as the season goes on. Rookies like Luis Robert and Jo Adell are set to make their debut in The Show. Second-year guys like Cavan Biggio and Oscar Mercado aim for Opening Day jobs and a full season of ABs. This offseason I was hyped to see Kyle Tucker and his 30/30 skills unleashed this season but then Bang-gate happened; Hinch was fired; and the death-of-all-young-position-players, the Toothpick, Dusty Baker was hired. Hopes and dreams squashed. Sure he might eventually come around, but I’m not holding my breath (yet).
Some initials thoughts as we begin Spring Training:
Mike Trout – I know, I know, stop yelling. Hear me out here. I said stop yelling! I’m seeing ‘perts, including our fearless leader Grey, that have him ranked 3rd overall or whatever. You know who has an 8-year average of 110/35/92/24/.308/.422? Trout that’s who. Over the last 3 years, avg HR/SB has been 37/17. What does that amount to? Consistency and reliability. This last year he just had a career-high in ISO, SLG, and HR. Also a career-low in BABIP of .298 (.348 career avg) flanked by career-highs in xBA (.311) and xSLG (.669) and now he will likely have Rendon hitting behind him. So this season could be even better.
Giancarlo Stanton – I know Greylo is on thin ice right now. I, however, just can’t quit him. A healthy (fingers crossed) Giancarlo in the Yankees lineup with a juiced ball is just too tempting to pass up. If he A) looks good in camp, and B) proceeds to blast a HR in the first week of the season, it will be hard not to vault him up to the 8th spot in short order. And that’s, just like, my opinion, man.
Jorge Soler – My boy, DJ Solerflare! Take it homey, it’s yours. What if I told you in 2019 he was top 5% in the league in Barrel%, ExitVelo, xSLG, xwOBA, xwOBAcon, and HardHit%… would you be impressed? Well, he was. Be impressed! His second half was all-world as he went 52/25/58/3/.299/.411/.665 and likely led many teams to the promised land.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. – He has flown under the radar as Grey pointed out due to his limited time in the Bigs last year with only 314 ABs. After some initial struggles, he bounced back in big way when he returned from AAA. I covered what he fixed last year, here. And it changed in a big way! 2018-2019 vs breaking balls he went from AVG .232 to .278 and SLG .329 to .620! When you add his 2 short seasons together you get 563 ABs (a full season) and a stat line of 82/31/85/7/.279/.320 with nearly all of those bags in 2019. You can only imagine what he’ll do this year; he fixes the cable.
Michael Brantley – I’ve never been a fan of Brantley. He’s always epitomized (word of the day) the very picture of “Boring” for me. Well, guess what, now he’s going to turn 33 this season. The single 20/20 season came and went and over the last 3 years his steals have been 11, 12, 3. Houston, we have a problem. And an asterisk. Without trashcans and a full head of hair, I could see his average beginning to dip this year. Why pay for an aging Brantley when you could get the new-and-improved version much later who goes by the name Bryan Reynolds.
Whit Merrifield – Does anyone else think he has a hobbit name? Whit is a better option than Brantley but still overpriced. He’s a year younger at 31, soon to be 32, and his K-rate reached a 3-year high of 17.1% last year. Also, his steals dropped as well to a 3-year low of 20… with 10 CS. That’s now down to a 66% success rate when in years past it was 34/8 and 45/10… It’s dangerous business, Whit, going out your door… there’s no knowing where you might be swept off.
Kyle Tucker – As I said a few blurbs ago, I was all hyped and ready to see his 30/30 talents on the Houston roster now that Marisnik was out of the way. Then Dusty Baker rode into town. Dusty Baker is just the guy to give Josh Reddick another 500 ABs for no apparent reason and completely prosblock Tucker from meaningful playing time. I’m going to watch and see if Reddick struggles; and maybe, possibly, Dusty turns over a new leaf… but I don’t have much hope save an injury once the dust settles. So instead I have my eye on…
Luis Robert – Robert or Adell was the choice here; fending off my homerism, it’s Robert via “guaranteed roster spot.” Last year in the minors (across all levels) Robert went for 32/36 with an AVG north of 300. Yum! He didn’t walk much so it will be interesting to see how aggressive he is with the big boys. In case you haven’t heard, the White Sox already signed him to a 6-year $50M contract extension before he even reported to camp. Needless to say, he’ll likely be on the Opening Day roster and manning CF, pending he doesn’t look outmatched in Spring Training. Out of the gate he’ll bring some swing and miss with him that could stunt his AVG but there’s certainly reason to climb aboard the hype train.
George Springer – So he just had a career-high in HRs, ISO, HardHit%, AVG, and OBP. Did Bang-gate help with some of that? Possibly. Looking at his HRs by pitch count, a lion’s share of them came off of the first 2 pitches. Hmmm. I then look at the breakdown by pitch type: all but 1 of his HR gains from last year came off of fastballs (12 to 27), yet he hit the worst vs offspeed since his rookie year (.279 to .149). Looks like he was trying to zero in on fastballs early and missing the change etc more. Make of that what you like. Oh, I will. This will be interesting to watch this year… and also see if that OBP raises to .400 ;)
Cavan Biggio – There’s a lot to diggio into here. Let’s start with the 16.5% BB-rate, which was good for top 2% of the league (hello OBP format). The caveat for Cavan being a 28.6% K-rate. Okay, so what did he have trouble with? Breaking balls and offspeed were both under the Mendoza line. Surely he chased a lot of garbaggio outside the zone, right? No! 13.5% Chase rate, 82% ZoneCon rate, 18.3% FirstPitchSw rate, and 35.9% TotSw rate. He’s as patient as a saint! And when he swings in the zone, he has high contact. Hmmm… My concerns are his xBA/xSLG of .240/.426, he wasn’t really cheated out of anything. You mean like how the Astr*s cheated baseball? No RIV, I mean unlucky. Oh, unlucky like Manfred’s slap on their wrist? Sure. Anyway, he might be a little too patient. If he could get a little more aggressive on identifying fastballs to drive etc, he could take a big step forward this year and make a bang. Or bang bang.