Jays From the Couch continue our comparison of Toronto Blue Jays position players to their AL East counterparts
I would have bet the farm Randel Grichuk would be in right-field on Opening Day. I even went to so far as to argue with one of Jays From the Couch’s regular readers who comment on a regular basis that management said on the Fan590 Randal Grichuk had seen the last of center-field. Unfortunately, I’ve unable to find said interview and now it appears Grich has not seen the last of CF and will be used exclusively in CF. This is me enjoying a healthy service of crow.
With that out of the way. Like in our other Blue Jays vs the ALE comps, I will be using Roster Resource on Fangraphs to run through the other American League East RF options. There are a couple of players RR has in RF which I don’t completely agree with, so let’s start there.
Not on Board (Yet)
- Toronto: Derek Fisher at RF and Teoscar Hernandez at DH. First off, Fisher needs to prove he can hit and get on base enough to hold the RF. While I believe Teo might end up getting the lions share of DH at-bats, it is possible he finds himself in the field more than expected if Fisher and Anthony Alford are underwhelming. Therefore, I will be penciling Teo in RF for this discussion
- Tampa Bay: RR has Hunter Renfroe in RF over Austin Meadows. While it is possible Renfroe gets some reps in RF, I think LF and DH will be where he spends more of his time. We will roll with Hunter in RF.
- Boston: Ex-Blue Jays CF Kevin Pillar is the likely candidate to play RF for the Red Sox on Opening. Alex Verdugo still recovering from back issues and should start the year on the IL. The timeline for the former Dodger to return isn’t expected to be a lengthy one but back injuries have a history of lingering. This injury cost Verdugo close to two months in 2019. Therefore, I graded Pillar as the club’s RF.
Although there are multitudes of interpretive rankings for this position, this is the order I saw them in:
- Yankees- Aaron Judge
- O’s- Trey Mancini
- Rays- Hunter Renfroe
- Red Sox- Kevin Pillar
- Blue Jays- Teoscar Hernandez
To rank and differentiate this pool of strong candidates, I based my decisions on the combination of various factors:
- Career WAR
- Age (whether they’re approaching their peak or closure to regression)
- Contractual situation – the length and cost of players control influences their value
- Steamer WAR Projections for 2020 – what is their anticipated production
- Offense – what is their track record
- Defense – what is their track record
#1 New York Yankees – Judge
|Career WAR||18.6 (BR) and 17.8 (Fangraphs).|
|Contractual Situation||1-yr deal @ 8.5M. Arb eligible in 2021. Free Agent in 2023|
|2020 Steamer WAR Projection||5.2|
Judge is a beast. Since making his MLB debut at 24-yrs-old, Aaron Judge has hit 110 home runs in and batted .273 with 246RBI in 396 games. The 6-foot-7 outfielder has shown some durability issues the past two seasons, playing just 102 games in 2019 and 112 games in 2018. If he loses more time in 2020 due to injury, the Yankees may be less inclined to fork over a long-term deal in the next year or two.
In 2019, Aaron Judge posted a .272BA with .382wOBA (top 9% of the league), and 141wRC+. He mashed 27HR with a .267ISO. Baseball Savant has Judge in the top percentile (100th) in exit velocity (95.9mph), Barrel% (20.2%), and hard-hit% (57.1%). Judge does strike out a lot, 31.5K% which is in the bottom 3% of the league. He offsets this with an outstanding Top 5% of the league 14.3BB%. For a big man, Aaron Judge runs surprisingly well with a 79th percentile sprint speed (28.2Ft/s).
Judge made 90 starts in RF, collecting 7 outfield assists. He finished with an amazing 19DRS, he’s up to 41DRS for his career. Fangraphs rates his arm at 4.0 with a 7.6RngR while posting a 12.7UZR.
When healthy, Judge is scary. He is expected to hit 2nd in a stacked Yankees lineup which adds a tonne value to an already pretty valuable player. Many projects have Judge hitting close to 40HR and driving in over 100RBI.
Potential Backups- Clint Frazier
#2 Baltimore Orioles – Trey Mancini
|Career WAR||5.9 (BR) and 5.2 (Fangraphs)|
|Age||28-yrs-old on March 18th|
|Contractual Situation||1-year deal @ 4.75M. Abr in 2021 and 2022. FA in 2023|
|2020 Steamer WAR Projection||1.9|
There is a lot to cheer for if you are an O’s fan but Trey Mancini is definitely one reason. Since joining the O’s in 2017 (Debuted in 2016) at 25-yrs-old, Trey has provided Baltimore with a power bat who bats .290-ish and posts .800+OPS. He suffered from the sophomore jinx in 2018 with a .242BA and .299OBP but bounced nicely in 2019, setting career highs with 35HR, 97HR, 38 doubles, and increased his BB% and lowered his K%.
We can expect the dreadful O’s to capitalize on Mancini’s two years of control by trading him in 2020.
Mancini’s 90.3mph exit velocity finished in the 72nd percentile with his 42.7hard-hit% in the 74th percentile. He finished with an impressive .364xwOBA and .511xSLG, both in the mid-80’s percentile. Trey does a good job of limiting his strikeouts (21.1%) while hitting for power (.244ISO) and walking 9.3%.
Defensively, Trey Mancini should not be in RF. It negatively impacts his overall value but they have to play him somewhere when you are paying a boatload of cash to a declining (I’m being nice) Chris Davis to play 1st base. Mancini did make 51 starts at 1st base for the O’s, 5 starts in LF, and 78 starts in RF. In RF he collected 3 OF assists but cost his team 8 defensive runs with a -8DRS and -5.5UZR.
ZiPS 3 year projections show a perennial .270-ish hitter with 28 to 31 home run power. It will be interesting to see how these projections and his role changes if the O’s ship him off to a competitive team with some protection.
#3 Tampa Bay Rays – Hunter Renfroe
|Career WAR||6.2 (BR) and 4.2 (Fangraphs)|
|Contractual Situation||1-yr @ 3.3M. Arbitration through 2023. FA in 2024.|
|2020 Steamer WAR Projection||0.9|
When the Tampa Bay Rays traded Tommy Pham and a prospect to the San Diego Padres for Hunter Renfroe and a prospect, the Rays acquired an outfielder with a tonne of power. They also saved about $5M plus replaced free agent Avisail Garcia. Renfroe also has one more year of team control than Pham.
As a prospect, Hunter Renfroe was expected to hit for power with a graded 70 RawPower and 60 GamePower. He wasn’t expected to bat for much of an average while proving solid defense for which every team he is on. That’s been pretty much his M.O. over the past three seasons with the Friers. Baseball-Reference has his 162 Game Average at .235BA, .788OPS, 37HR, 29 2B, 85RBI, 43BB, and 169K.
In 2019, Renfroe batting .216 with 33HR, 19 doubles, 64RBI, and a career-high 5SB. His .218xBA landed him in the bottom 2% of the league, something the Rays are hoping he will improve in the hitter-friendly American League East. Hunter saw his Barrel% dip from 12.4% (Top 9% in League) in 2018 to 12.0%. The Rays will need to accept a large number of strikeouts since his 31.2K% ranked in the bottom 4% of the league. Renfroe did a good job of getting on base despite a .289OBP. He walked 9.3%; therefore, a modest bump in his BA will push his OPB over .300 which isn’t too bad for a potential 30+HR bat.
Defensively, Hunter Renfroe played 67 games in LF and 86 games in RF. I must point out that he started 65 games in LF and only 45 in RF. In 157 games in San Diego’s outfield, Hunter Renfroe collected 13 outfield assists. He collected 7DRS in LF, 14DRS in RF, and 2DRS in CF (4 games) for a grand total of 23DRS. The Rays would be over the moon if he could replicate those DRS numbers at the Trop. His combined 10.1UZR in the OF suggests that Renfroe is a solid fielder; however, previous years paint a different picture. Renfroe posted negative UZR’s during the first two seasons in the league. Stay tuned.
One last point, it is very possible that Renfroe spends a bunch of time as the club’s DH in 2020.
#4 Boston Red Sox – Kevin Pillar
|Career WAR||15.6 (BR) and 11.8 (Fangraphs)|
|Age||31 yrs old|
|Contractual Situation||1-yr @4.25M.|
|2020 Steamer WAR Projection||0.7|
Pillar was a fan favorite during his time in Toronto; unfortunately over his career, Pillar has shown an inability to make adjustments at the plate. Pillar was shipped off to the San Fransico Giants at the beginning of 2019 for…..nothing. It took some time for him to find work this offseason but he eventually found his way back to the ALE.
Offensively, Pillar has never seen a pitch he didn’t think he could hit. He walked just 2.8% of the time, down from 3.3% in 2018. While he doesn’t walk much, he also doesn’t strike out too much 13.8K%. His exit velocity (86mph) was in the 10th percentile and his hard-hit% (30.1) was in the 14th percentile. Pillar still managed to hit a career-high 21 home runs. Kevin Pillar batted .259 with 21HR, 37 doubles, 3 triples, 83 runs scored, and 88RBI in 161 games. He also stole 14 bases in 19 attempts.
In the field, Pillar was once provided the Blue Jays with Gold Glove caliber defense in CF. For the Giants, Pillar played 133 games in CF but was a -6DRS. It was the 2nd consecutive season with a negative DRS in CF. He also played 14 games in LF (8DRS, small sample size) and 27 games in RF (2DRS). Pillar finished with a -0.5UZR in CF, the first time he’s posted a negative UZR in his career. He posted a 0.8UZR in RF.
Potential Backups- He will be the potential backup.
#5 Toronto Blue Jays- Teoscar Hernandez
|Career WAR||2.3 (BR) and 2.1 (Fangraphs)|
|Age||27 yrs old|
|Contractual Situation||583K. Arbitration eligible in 2021, 2022, and 2023. FA in 2024.|
|2020 Steamer fWAR Projection||0.3|
I can see why the Blue Jays continue to play Hernandez. Potential. He hits the ball far (85th percentile, 91.1mph). He hits the ball hard (71st percentile, 41.7%). He has elite sprint speed (94th percentile, 29.1Ft/s). His .219xBA and 33K% in 2019 finished in the bottom 2% of the league. After struggling to start the season, Teo rebounded after being demoted and recalled to hit 26HR and post a .242ISO in 125 games. He finished with a .326wOBA and 102wRC+.
In the field, Teo is an enigma. His speed and strong arm should play up at every OF position. Teo played a grand total of zero games in RF in 2019. He made 72 starts in CF with 2 outfield assists, -8DRS, and -7.3URZ. In LF, he made 38 starts with 7 outfield assists, -1DRS, and 2.8URZ. Here is hoping that Teo is better in RF.
If Teo struggles, has one more minor league option available so if Derek Fisher, Anthony Alford, and Billy McKinney outplay him, it is possible he finds himself back in Buffalo at some point in 2020.
Potential Backups- Derek Fisher, Anthony Alford, Billy McKinney, and Jonathan Davis.
Aaron Judge has a death grip on the best RF option in the ALE in 2020 and beyond. The next four spots could see quite a bit of movement this season.
Will Baltimore trade Trey Mancini? If so, can Anthony Santander be a superior defender and come close to replacing his potent bat?
Hunter Renfroe’s bat has a chance to explode now that he’s out of the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park and no longer plays the bulk of his road games in spacious parks such as Dodger Stadium, Oracle Park, and Chase Field. I’m sure he’ll miss Coors Field but going into Camden Yards, Rogers Centre, Yankees Stadium, and Fenway Park should comfort him.
The biggest wildcards are Teo and Verdugo. Can Verdugo meet/exceed his lofty projects and stay healthy? If he can, I expect him to slide up to #2 on next year’s list. Teo could surprise us all if he can find some consistency. Teo has the tool to hit for a decent average, come close to 30HR, and play average defense.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of JFtC Ryan Mueller
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Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.