Tuesday, November 11, 2014

WOW's Offseason Look at: The Outfield

Let's finish up, shall we?

Who we got?... Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, Joey Terdoslavich, Jose Constanza (I guess), Zoilo Almonte (?), Evan Gattis (sigh)
Who's getting Arby?... Nobody (yay!)
Who might be going?... Ryan Doumit, Emilio Bonifacio
Who might be coming?... Todd Cunningham, Kyle Wren

There is an outside shot the Braves could field an entirely new outfield in 2015, but that's probably not going to happen. What seems fairly possible is at least one player will be moved and that the "Dream Outfield" will be broken up before a third year.

In the case of J-Hey, we are seeing a real disconnect between the more traditional crowd and the sabermetric one. J-Hey's offense is hardly stand-out. Like too many Braves last year, his power was MIA and his isolated slugging was .113. He's only a career .262/.351/.429 hitter. He stole 20 bases for the second time in three years, though between those years was a two-steal year. Hardly what the phenom was supposed to be capable of when he first came on the scene back in 2010. Yet, a nerd would go to fangraphs and other websites and tell you that J-Hey is a great ball player. He's been nearly worth 15 fWAR the last three seasons, plays extraordinary defense (32 DRS last year was the 2nd most since the stat began in 2002), and his baserunning is well above average (one of 35 players to post at least 10 BRS the last three years). What's really interesting is where this disconnect lands Heyward contractually. Without the traditional numbers, will he able to attract the kind of money many of us foresee guys with 5 and 6 fWAR seasons in the bank? Heyward, who is a free agent after 2015, will either be overpaid or underpaid depending on what you value.

J-Up will also hit free agency next winter and the guy who was not gritty enough to be a Diamondback has been worth 7 fWAR the last two seasons while hitting 56 homers. He's a more established hitter than Heyward, but not as complete of a player. This is where I think things could get intriguing. Which one gets the bigger deal? I can see teams that value statistical analysis aiming for Heyward while more traditional front offices wanting Upton (if they don't buy the D'Backs BS).

In center is Justin's older brother, B.J.  Let's get this out of the way: Upton was better in 2014 than he was in 2013. That's to say that he only had his second worst season of his career, not the worst. Earlier, I mentioned that over the last two seasons, only one player has made less contact than B.J. when he swings. Put it this way...slightly more than 30% of the time B.J. swings, he makes no contact. That's roughly 10% more than the average. The average swinging strike% is 9.5%. Basically, how many times did you swing and miss out of total swings. B.J. has been above 15% both of the last two years. Only five other players have done that. The weird thing is that B.J., unlike many of those guys, doesn't swing all that much at pitches outside the strike zone. He actually is above average and doesn't offer too often at the crap. He simply doesn't make contact. Weirdest thing. If the Braves can't fix that, they will be on the hook for $45M to a guy who might not give them more than 2 wins above replacement over the lifetime of the contract (sitting at -0.2 right now).

Behind them is the recently signed Zoilo Almonte. Like Ramiro Pena before him, the Braves thought enough of the Yankees trash to offer a major league deal. He's got pretty good pop and can switch-hit, but I don't see much to get excited about. Terdo can back up at the corner outfield spots and might develop into a useful bench bat. Constanza licks bats. I feel like that's all I should mention.

Doumit was woeful in his new role as pinch-hitter deluxe while Bonifacio could be brought back to be the 25th guy. He's not a particularly good outfielder, but he's not particularly good at anything which is why he's only suited to be a backup. At Gwinnett is the uber-ready Cunningham and Mr. Wren. Cunningham certainly deserves a shot that the Braves don't seem to think he's capable of doing much with. He won't hit for much pop, but does other things fairly well and dammit, he's home grown. Give him a shot. As for Wren, he has potential, but might need more time.

And yeah, there's Gattis. I want to believe Atlanta's not dumb enough to use him in left, but then Fredi says something like Gattis "could be versatile, can catch, play LF" and I want to scream. This should not happen. THIS SHOULD NOT HAPPEN!!!!!

It's probably going to happen.

Depth Chart
RF: Heyward
CF: B.J. Upton
LF: J. Upton
1. Almonte
2. Constanza
3. Cunningham
4. Terdoslavich

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