After moving to left field, how does Lourdes measure up against other left fielders in the AL East
We, at JFtC, continue our mini-series examining pitching and defensive positions of the Blue Jays – and how they rank and compare with all their AL East division competitors. In this edition, we cover the LF position. I identified each team’s starting LF as per Roster Resource, and this is how I ranked them:
- Rays – Austin Meadows
- Red Sox – Andrew Benintendi
- Blue Jays – Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
- Yankees – Clint Frazier *not the Roster Resource pick, see explanation below
- Orioles – Anthony Santander
To rank and differentiate this pool of strong candidates, I based my decisions on the combination of various factors:
- Career fWAR
- Age (whether they’re approaching their peak or closure to regression)
- Contractual situation – the length and cost of a players control influences their value
- Steamer fWAR Projections for 2020 – what is their anticipated production
- Offense – what is their track record
- Defense – what is their track record
#1 Rays – Austin Meadows
|Contractual Situation||5 seasons control (2020-21 Pre-Arbitration; Arbitration Eligible 2022-2024)|
|2020 Steamer fWAR Projection||2.8|
Austin Meadows, the one half of the great-Archer-train-robbery. The player Tampa Bay fans (all 12 of them) still can’t believe was included in the haul for (a now) declining Chris Archer, and the player Pirates fans are still lamenting over losing. A previous gem of the Pirates farm system, Austin had a respectable debut in 2018 – but really broke out in his 2019 season with the Rays (4.0 fWAR).
In his 2019 campaign, Austin Meadows racked up a whopping 142 wRC+, which was good for 7th in the league of the 53 qualified outfielders. Over his first 197 career games, he’s come off smoking with a .290/ .354/ .534 slash line and .888 OPS. Time will tell what Meadows offensive ceiling and floor will be, but there is a lot of potential we have seen already.
His defensive abilities – still to be decided. In an incredibly small 288 inning sample size in 2019, Austin has a 2 DRS in LF (between average and above average). However, in a season where he saw his playing time spread between the 3 outfield positions – his overall grading was an undesirable -6 DRS (Below average to poor).
Although his time in the MLB has been short – what we’ve seen thus far has not worn off his mega-prospect lustre. Although it’s been a small sample size with room for improvement defensively – his youth, 5 seasons of team control, and projected ceiling make him an enviable piece in a contending team’s lineup.
#2 Boston Red Sox – Andrew Benintendi
|Contractual Situation||3 seasons control ($10 million over 2020-2021; Arbitration Eligible 2022|
|2020 Steamer fWAR Projection||2.6|
Fresh off signing a 2 year $10 million contract within the past week (avoiding arbitration in 2020 and 2021), Andrew Benintendi will be a familiar portion of a changed Red Sox outfield in 2020.
Since his debut in 2016, he’s had a respectable slash line of .277/.354/.442 with an .796 OPS and an overall offensive production 9% better than league average (wRC+ of 109). However, of his three full seasons, he’s only had one offensive year that has been substantially better than league average(2017 wRC+ 102; 2018 wRC+ 122; 2019 wRC+ 100).
Defensively, Andrew came off a rough season in 2019 with a -3 DRS (approaching below average). However, for his career, he has averaged a little over 3 DRS per season (between average and above average). He has some fluctuation between seasons, but ultimately a very serviceable glove that won’t hurt a team in LF.
In my mind Benintendi has been an interesting player since his graduation from the Sox farm system as a heralded prospect. Although his production to this point in his career isn’t horrible – with the exception of 2018 (4.4 fWAR) he hasn’t exactly lived up to the mega prospect status. That being said, he ranks here on my list as there is still a lot of talent to dream on – at still a young age and with 3+ years team control (very affordable 2 yr/ $10 million plus a third year of arbitration). Even if this is his ceiling, and he never breaks through to his previous farm system rankings, he’s still a very production and valuable player to have in the field and lineup of any team.
#3 Toronto Blue Jays – Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
|Contractual Situation||4 seasons control (~$17.6 million over 2020-23)|
|2020 Steamer fWAR Projection||1.4|
Since his debut in 2018, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has shown flashes of electric talent. From his streaks of multi-hit games to his incredible (and ever changing) hair – this player has been fun to watch. But, since his debut, the question of where to put him defensively has always lingered. It seems that the Jays may have found their answer in 2019, after a AAA demotion they debuted him in LF and kept him there the remainder of the season.
Lourdes has been nothing but solid offensively as a Toronto Blue Jay. An OPS of .819, slash line of .279/.320/.499, and a wRC+ of 115. If Lourdes can stay healthy and contribute (65 and 84 games respectively in 2018/ 2019), the Blue Jays would be thrilled with his type of production carried out over a full season. As has been well covered, Lourdes had an absolute monster of a year from his call up in May to the end of the season – ranking 33rd in the league with a 137 wRC+ (of 231 players with min. 250 plate appearances).
Being realistic – he’s not (*likely) going to win a Gold Glove in LF. Although moving from the infield to LF has satisfied many through the eye-test, it’s potentially too early to say there’s a measurable improvement in defensive production. His -2 DRS in 2019 (approaching below average) isn’t far off from his career at 2nd base (an accumulated -4 DRS over two seasons). However, he’s shown he can at least be serviceable in LF, and at the very least, his move created room for incumbent 2B Cavan Biggio.
I (like many Blue Jay enthusiasts) find a lot to be excited about with Lourdes. As a young player he still has potential for his ceiling to grow, he’s under team control for 4 more seasons (at an incredible low sum), and is serviceable in LF. But, most importantly he’s an offensively-dynamic-bat who not only provides production – but helps lengthen this young lineup.
#4 New York Yankees – Clint Frazier
|Contractual Situation||5 seasons control (2020 Pre-Arbitration; Arbitration Eligible 2021-24)|
|2020 Steamer fWAR Projection||0.1 (projected to play only 21 games)|
It seems ages that Clint Frazier has been waiting in the wings of the Yankee’s farm system, to finally have an opportunity to get a consistent opportunity to prove himself as part of the Yankee’s future. However, since being part of the (*massive*) haul the Yankees received in the 2016 Andrew Miller trade – it just seems the Yankees have kept Frazier down in the minors – leading many fans at various times to label Clint as trade bait in a crowded Yankees outfield. However, I’m going against what Roster Resource thinks (Mike Tauchman), and making the bold prediction that Frazier will finally be the Yankees LF. (Of note, I chose not to go with Stanton in LF, as even in a healthy 2018 he only played about 1/5 of his season in LF).
Offensively, I think Frazier will fit right in that Yankee pinstripe lineup. Not even based on talent or past performance, but specifically with the team he would join. He doesn’t need to be their #3 hitter as a star-studded bat (Judge, Torres, et al have that covered). He just needs to be ‘a guy’ who doesn’t hurt the team on either side of his game. However, in his limited MLB career, Clint has produced an exactly league average 100 wRC+ and has a .771 OPS. If given more consistent playing time (played 39,15, and 69 MLB games in 2017/2018/2019), I feel Frazier may produce closer to his historic minor league offensive production (123 & 170 wRC+ in AAA in 2017/2018).
Defense is anyone’s guess at this point, as advanced fielding metrics aren’t tracked in the minors. His -8 DRS in 2019 is from far too small a sample size of 395 innings in the outfield (still his largest sample size). As per Fangraphs, Frazier’s scouting report indicates him to be a league average fielder with an above average throwing arm. If that is the case, that should be sufficient to balance what he can bring in other areas.
For the number of trade deadlines and off seasons Clint Frazier has been dangled as trade bait, I think it is time for the Yankees to roll the dice on their aging prospect. At still a young 25 with an ample 5 years of team control, there is so much time for Frazier to break out and create an absolute monster surplus value. Because of his sheer lack of MLB exposure (and therefore production) he ranks here on my list. However, he would be my dark horse candidate to not only rise in ranking by next year, but could have a chance to top this list.
#5 Baltimore Orioles– Anthony Santander
|Contractual Situation||4 seasons control (2020 Pre-Arbitration; Arbitration Eligible 2021-23)|
|2020 Steamer fWAR Projection||1.1|
Well, the going trend in some of these rankings is the O’s in last. This trend continues. Is Anthony Santander better than I could ever hope to be at the sport of baseball? Yes. Is he anywhere near a contending team’s outfield? Good heavens no.
In a 97 game stint in 2019, Anthony achieved his closest to a league-adjusted offensive output (97 wRC+). However, collectively in his 3 partial seasons, he’s amassed an underwhelming 85 wRC+ and a .249/.285/.434 slash line.
Defensively, he’s been alright with a -1 DRS collectively in the outfield in 2019 (between average and below average).
From what he’s shown, there is a chance he is what he is – a below average player who has ample opportunity due to being on a (*very*) poor team.
With the Blue Jays LF situation, although Lourdes doesn’t top this list, I’m more than content with him being fixed in the position. His defensive ability in a Major League outfield is still to be determined due to limited sample, but he brings enough exciting and tantalizing aspects to balance that out. In a young team growing towards the point of contention, it’s nice to have one solid bat in the lineup and one less defensive position to worry about filling in the long term. He is still young enough to dream on growth and improvement on both sides of the ball, and his 4 years of dirt cheap team control allows for financial flexibility (in filling other positional needs). If he can be one of (hopefully) many productive bats in this lineup, a continuation of what he’s shown is more than sufficient for a future contending Blue Jays team. Also, I’ll say it again, THE HAIR!!
In the AL East, the LF position is mostly represented by young and coming players – many who were once highly touted prospects. Regardless, some are still awaiting a true breakthrough, some have shown signs of a bright future, and some have yet to get adequate MLB opportunity. Regardless of your agreement with my ranking of this list, this position in the AL East should be solid in both 2020 and the seasons to follow.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Pete is an avid baseball fan – primarily focusing on the Toronto Blue Jays. Once a timid fan in his adolescence, a 54 home run season won his heart over. He could be heard screaming triumphantly one October evening after an infamous bat flip. Approximately 12 months later, he reacted similarly to the Donaldson Dash. He eagerly awaits the next chapter of October jubilation for his team.