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Outfielders with great D, and a chance to shine offensively

There is a phrase thrown around a lot when scouting young players and prospects, that a guy is less than the sum of his parts. This (loosely) describes the value of certain players when considering their real life value versus fantasy. Some guy might be a great fielder, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot to “Betancen with Wolves” or “Twist and Trout” on the scoresheet. That wall-scaling, homer saving grab saves a run (at least) in the game, but doesn’t do a whole lot for you.

Except in a way, it does. Let’s be honest, Kevin Kiermaier and Kevin Pillar aren’t getting starts because of their power; it’s the Superman-esque dives that drive their playing time. But because they’re so dominant with the leather, they earn themselves an everyday spot in the lineup, and with more plate appearances comes more chances to drive up fantasy value.

I’m sure you get the point, so let’s start getting into what players are going to get their plate appearances thanks to the glove, but who also have a chance for offensive prowess:

Toronto Blue Jays LogoKevin Pillar

Already mentioned a bit here, but Pillar is exactly the kind of guy to target in this category. Off the bat he’s got what we want; speed and athleticism on the bases, a star-studded lineup around him, a hitter’s paradise for 81 games, and 600+ plate appearances on lock.

Looking deeper, his offense is brighter than imagined. Last season he cut his strikeout rate from 23.0% to just 13.5%, showing a mastery of the zone (whiff rates dropped almost 4% as well). His 25 stolen bases show his great skills on the base paths, and by putting more balls in play he’s going to turn those into more hits. Something of note is his BABIP of .306 last year. While this is average and not worrisome by any means, Pillar is a speedy guy who hits lots of grounders; essentially the prototype for someone to beat regression consistently and live in the .330s or so.

As long as Pillar has been given playing time, he’s turned it into success. This season we should expect a higher average, more hits, and overall a more productive campaign.

Washington Nationals LogoMichael Taylor

A somewhat special case, Taylor’s bat was touted throughout his minor league career, but has translated poorly so far. His 30.9% strikeout rate and just 69 wRC+ are pretty horrid, but Taylor oozes talent if he can handle it. His defense was top 10 in the majors last year, by UZR/150, and some measures have him even higher. The Nationals may have him slated as more of a fourth outfielder by acquiring Ben Revere, although he certainly offers less upside (and much poorer defense).

Taylor’s issue has always been strikeouts, but as he spent additional time at a level in the past, he has leveled them out. With more time, we could start seeing his plus power start playing more consistently (he managed to still hit 14 bombs in 2015). Looking at his batted ball splits, he’s still hitting 46.0% grounders, which doesn’t fit his natural power profile. He cut it down from an extreme 54.7% in his short 2014 season, exemplifying his career long pattern of adjusting with more time. As he continues to not only put wood on the ball, but do so effectively to fit his swing, Taylor could start pummeling some pitching before too long.

MinnesotaTwins LogoEddie Rosario

Thanks to a lack of depth and stellar defense, Rosario was able to rack up almost 500 plate appearances for the Twins in 2015. As they expect to be more competitive, more depth might push him out of a starting role if he doesn’t start to swing the bat with a little more authority (2% below average). But fortunately, Rosario has some intriguing scouting reports as well as natural talent that makes him a breakout candidate.

Rosario’s 24.9% strikeout rate is way above what we’re used to seeing from him in the minors, where he usually stayed around the mid-teens. Right away this appears an outlier, because even thought strikeouts will rise as the competition increases, this kind of jump is rarely seen. He also has flashed average to plus power more than a few times, shown by a .192 isolated slugging mark in 2015. His 13 dingers and 11 stolen bases flirt at a power/speed combo from him.

Rosario just turned 24, where power begins to shine through. Although he plays in a pitcher friendly park, his high fly ball rates mean he can still be racking up doubles as he adds more strength. Creating power from hitters is more of an adjustment that improves through real life reps, something he’s getting thanks to excellent defense. His biggest hindrance last season was being worth -6.0 runs above average on the fastball, actually costing his team runs on a pitch that power hitters feast on. As he keeps playing and seeing that pitch, he will inevitably start to crush it more. Rosario isn’t just a prospect with average upside; he has legitimate power and speed.

 

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James Krueger
James lives in Tampa, Florida and is often one of the 10,000 people you can see at Rays' home games. He's a huge fan of prospects, loves analyzing swing mechanics, and will eat a "Top 100" list for breakfast. Dynasty leagues are his forte, especially rebuilding teams; building a farm system is the best part.
James Krueger

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2 comments on “Outfielders with great D, and a chance to shine offensively

  1. How could you leave out Kevin Keirmaier? As good or better than Pillar in the OF and a much better arm. He is slowly getting better at the plate and should get 550 at bats in 2016.

    • I can’t speak for James, but Kiermaier was probably not mentioned due to the fact that he has already displayed what he can do and is expected to take a step forward offensively On the other hand, people don’t expect much more from Pillar than what we saw last year. It’s not a knock on Kiermaier, it more of an endorsement to his underrated teammate.

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