2023 Outfield

LogansDad

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We have threads for the pitching (that have tapered off with the gloominess of the Main Bo... late December and January), so why not start talking about the rest of the team. Cot's currently shows them at ~$204M without Justin Turner's contract on the books, which would put them around $213M, leaving them about $20M under the first tax threshold for 2023. I think (and this is just me spitballing, so I could be completely wrong) the team wants to maintain financial flexibility this season, and to be able to buy a player if it looks like they can compete, or to take on contracts to buy prospects if it looks like they won't, and thus I think the roster is pretty close to set.

The Starters (B-Ref Projections)

CF Enrique Hernandez (.235/.307/.391/.698):
If, like me, you think that Enrique's defense is incredibly important to this team, you are probably excited to see him hopefully healthy for the 2023 season. If you think defense is overrated, you are probably not all that exited about the extension he signed near the end of 2022. I don't think using Hernandez as a top of the order bat is what I would prefer, and it seemed like Cora agreed with that assessment for most of the second half of the season. But really, his defense is the reason he got that $10M to be the holdover until someone we talk about a bit later is ready. Many times, when a backup has to replace a starter for an extended time, the defensive difference is noticeable, but not extreme. That was decidedly not the case when Jarren Duran took over for Hernandez last season. Even while missing almost two months, Hernandez put up the third best OAA on the team (behind Story and Bogaerts), and was 2nd on the team in B-Ref's DRS. Duran, well, was not. I like Hernandez in the 7/8 slot in the lineup, as he provides some power in the lower half of the order without otherwise being a complete black hole. Assuming health, I think a full season of him is a pretty significant upgrade over what we saw in 2022.

RF Alex Verdugo (.282/.338/.416/.754): It's hard not to be at least a little disappointed with Verdugo's progression over the last two seasons. At times he looks like he is about to surge into being the above average hitter we wanted in return for Mookie (see June and August 2022), and at other times he looks decidedly meh. After putting up a solid .351 OBP in 2021, he ended up with an overall .328 OBP and .732 SLG in 2022, not exactly awesome, but not exactly terrible, either. his batting average was 6th and his OBP was good for 12th among qualified RF's but his SLG was only good for 24th. I don't think he was really expected to ever hit for a ton of power, but when you get traded for one of the best, if not the best, position player a team has developed in their history, the hope is probably that you can provide a little more than a bunch of singles. Add to that the fact that he isn't exactly a great baserunner (and that Jeter Downs flamed out and is no longer in the organization), and it really feels like the pressure is on Verdugo to take a step forward in 2023. Defensively, while my initial thought was that he is not good, it is more like his defense is exactly like his offense. That is to say, meh. I am hopeful that playing the full season in RF will help him to get a little bit better out there, especially since he has shown flashes in the past of being a capable defender. I will say that he has exceelent bat to ball skills, rating in the 92nd percentile of the league in xBA, K%, and Whiff%.... but it 's all singles.

LF Masataka Yoshida (no projection, .335/.447/.561/.1.008 in Japan in 2022): Whether fair or unfair, much of Chaim Bloom's grade for the 2022/2023 offseason will be based off of what happens with Yoshida. I think a lot of Red Sox fans are concerned about the contract given to Yoshida after watching Seiya Suzuki have an up and down season in 2022, but I think that Suzuki was hurt by the fact that he strikes out quite a bit and more of his value was based on power than Yoshida's, and the 2022 baseball was as inconsistent as Wily Mo Pena. A LHB, Yoshida will put the ball in play a lot (less than a 10% K rate in Japan), and I think Bloom is banking on the shift limitations making him be more valuable than he looks on paper, which is already pretty valuable. Defensively, reports I have seen rate him somewhere from "Will probably catch most of the balls hit at him" to "Please slot as a DH", so we will see how that works out, and having Hernandez in CF will hopefully keep him from being too much of a disaster in LF. I expect we will see him batting 2nd in the lineup, even though Bloom has stated he likes him at leadoff. I think the fact that he doesn't run combined with how much he puts the ball in play makes him much more valuable there than in the leadoff spot.

The Bench

Rob Refsnyder (.260/.333/.394/.727):
A perfectly cromulent backup OF, Refsnyder put up career numbers that he likely won't match again last year, is an okay baserunner and stands in the right spot defensively most of the time. I he plays more than 60 games the team is probably not in a good spot, but he's not going to kill them if he is keeping the starters fresh.

Christian Arroyo (.266/.319/.417/.736, but might be starting at 2B, or might be hurt, who knows): "Good when healthy" is, sadly, the best way to describe Arroyo. 300 PA's with a .786 OPS last year is nice, but he is also probably better suited defensively to the infield.


"Depth"

Jarren Duran (.234/.292/.380/.672):
It was an improvement over 2921, I guess? He's 26, so I am not sure how much he will grow, but he is a case study (along with Franchy) for just how much different the talent level is between AAA and MLB. A.300 point OPS difference in 2021 and a 200 point difference in 2022 is alarming. The tools are there, at least offensively, and it's hard not to hope he puts it all together. Maybe he can reduce his K rate a bit (23.7% in AAA, 28.3% in MLB) and his profile seems like one that might actually benefit a lot from the shift restrictions that will be put into place (54% GB rate 70+ straight or pull). If he can somehow find a way to get his OBP in the .310 range, he would be a pretty valuable player, in my opinion.

The Wild Card

Ceddanne Rafaela (no projections, expected to start in Portland as far as I can tell):
There's no way he's this good, right? Rafaela shot up prospect lists last year, and ended the year as one of three Red Sox on MLB's top 100 list. After destroying the SAL to the tune of .330/.368/.594/.962, he spent the second half of the season laying waste to AA as well. He did this at 21 years old, with defense that already grades as MLB ready. I don't think there's any chance we see him in 2023, especially since his chase and walk rates are very ungood, but hopefully he is ready to go in 2024 and we can watch the next Gold Glove winning CF playing in Fenway 81 times a year.
 

LogansDad

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I think that, much like the rest of the areas of the team, the OF is basically league average. I get that this isn't what we want out of the Red Sox, but barring signing Judge there just wasn't a lot out there this offseason that screamed major upgrade, especially without adding warts. I am excited to get to watch Yoshida play, and am legitimately curious how much the shift will help a player like Duran (it really seems like the rule updates were designed specifically for him).

Obviously they are a step down from the Yankees (Bader and Judge set them apart, Stanton still hits the ball hard sometimes), and they don't really match up well with the other teams in the AL East.

Toronto has Springer, obviously, but Kiermaier is coming off of hip surgery (and seems like kind of an ass), though I think getting Varsho was a coup for them, and he should be a solid player not having to worry about catching at all. Okay, maybe they don't match up well with Toronto.

Tampa is better defensively and Arozarena would probably be our best outfielder, but they aren't terribly deep. The Orioles with Mullins/Hays/Santander and Terrin Vavra (who looks like he could be really good) are also probably better than the Sox.

I do think that playing two less series against each of these teams will help the Sox, and I also believe that a healthy trio of Verdugo/Hernandez/Yoshida is enough to help them stay in the race for the Wild Card. Health is incredibly important to this team (not just in the OF, obviously), though, and it's really hard to predict how well they will hold up.
 

BaseballJones

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It's not at all unreasonable to project numbers of these kinds for those three primary OF:

Verdugo (age 27 season): 15 hr, .800 ops, 115ish ops+
Hernandez (age 31 season): 10 hr, .730 ops, 105ish ops+
Yoshida (age 29 season): 15 hr, .850 ops, 125ish ops+

Those wouldn't be career highs for any of those guys, but they represent what a "good" season from them would be. Obviously Yoshida has only played in Japan so there's more guesswork on what he could do in MLB, but his best season in Japan, he hit 21 homers and had a 1.007 ops. Thinking he could reasonably have an ops of .850 doesn't feel outlandish.

If they did this, that would be an excellent outfield, offensively anyway. While Verdugo and Yoshida would be average at best defensively, Hernandez is a premier defensive centerfielder, which would mean the overall outfield defense would likely be about average or slightly above average.

And all THAT would mean that the OF on the whole would actually be pretty good.

Of course.....it may not work out that way at all, but the above doesn't at all seem unreasonable.
 

Max Power

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Just 8 players in the AL had a .850 OPS last year.
People kind of forget how much offense has dropped in the last few years. An .850 OPS in the AL last year was good for a 140 OPS+. A 125 puts you in the .800 range, which seems possible for Yoshida.
 

8slim

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Then even if you bump Yoshida down to an .800 or even .775 ops, my point is the same - it would be an above average outfield.
It'd be fine. The challenge would be to find production at other spots. In 2021 our OF had OPS of 107, 108 and 114. But of course we got 129, 134 and 128 from X, Devers and JD. We'd definitely need Story to get into the 125+ range, and need Cassas to get there as well, or else the O would likely be a problem.
 

E5 Yaz

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People kind of forget how much offense has dropped in the last few years. An .850 OPS in the AL last year was good for a 140 OPS+. A 125 puts you in the .800 range, which seems possible for Yoshida.
And it will be interesting to track how OPS totals change without the shift
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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Hernandez career OPS+ is 97 and Verdugo is 107. So even if we get around a 100-105 OPS+ from the OF (which isn’t great for those positions), what do we get out of SS, C, and god forbid- backups if there are significant injuries?
 

BaseballJones

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On that point of Yoshida, a couple of comps....

Ohtani's last two seasons in Japan, and first two seasons in MLB:
2016: 323 ab, 22 hr (14.7 ab/hr), 1.004 ops
2017: 202 ab, 8 hr (25.3 ab/hr), .942 ops
- - -
2018: 326 ab, 22 hr (14.8 ab/hr), .925 ops
2019: 384 ab, 18 hr (21.3 ab/hr), .848 ops

Matsui's last two seasons in Japan, and first two seasons in MLB:
2001: 481 ab, 36 hr (13.4 ab/hr), 1.081 ops
2002: 500 ab, 50 hr (10.0 ab/hr), 1.153 ops
- - -
2003: 623 ab, 16 hr (38.9 ab/hr), .788 ops
2004: 584 ab, 31 hr (18.8 ab/hr), .912 ops

Yoshida's last two seasons in Japan:
2021: 393 ab, 21 hr (18.7 ab/hr), .983 ops
2022: 417 ab, 21 hr (19.9 ab/hr), 1.007 ops

So I would expect a drop-off in ops obviously, and in power, but since he wasn't much of a hr hitter in Japan, I think believing he could hit 15 homers isn't crazy. Even drop it down to 10-12 seems right. And I don't think it's crazy to think he could have a .775 or .800 ops next year. Maybe .850 is unreasonable but the drop-off from Japan to the majors seems to be about a couple hundred points of ops. Given that he hit 1.007 last year, about .800 seems ballpark as far as guesses go. (and let's be honest, we are all guessing here)
 

BaseballJones

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It'd be fine. The challenge would be to find production at other spots. In 2021 our OF had OPS of 107, 108 and 114. But of course we got 129, 134 and 128 from X, Devers and JD. We'd definitely need Story to get into the 125+ range, and need Cassas to get there as well, or else the O would likely be a problem.
Agreed. But this thread is about the OF so that's what I'm discussing here.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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While I think defense is overrated, I don't think it's fine to have an OF full of Franchy, Duran and Arroyo... at all. But the difference between a peak JBJ in CF, Betts and Beni in the corners and the current OF (Yoshida in LF, Kike in CF, Dugie in RF) is going to make or break a team by any means.... that said, I'd like to see another above average bat with better defense than what apparently Yoshida can bring out there in late innings and rotating through the OF.... a true starter quality that will see plenty of plate appearances with Yoshida at DH more often.

Otherwise I'm expecting Verdugo to rebound- 17HRs, .785 OPS. Kike to be about what BBJ has him at .740 OPS and I'm bullish on Yoshida at above an .800OPS heavy OBP. Hoping that Refsnyder has finally figured out his potential and Bloom will look good with him. .750 OPS 10 HR's.

Duran has got to go and I'm expecting him dealt before ST (possibly with Houck... ) to address the 4th OF'er or SS situation.
 

8slim

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Agreed. But this thread is about the OF so that's what I'm discussing here.
Fair. I'm not as optimistic about Kike's and Verdugo's offensive performance as you are. Kike has only had one 100+ OPS season in the past 4 years, and we all know how pedestrian Verdugo has been (which stinks because I really, really like the guy). I have no clue what to expect from Yoshida. I feel like we need a better bat than those 3, especially if Yoshida may be more DH than LFer.
 

jon abbey

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Maybe .850 is unreasonable but the drop-off from Japan to the majors seems to be about a couple hundred points of ops. Given that he hit 1.007 last year, about .800 seems ballpark as far as guesses go. (and let's be honest, we are all guessing here)
Suzuki seems like the most relevant comp as that is the closest to now, he dropped from 1.073 (2021) to .770.
 

jon abbey

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Ok. What do YOU think Yoshida will do this year?
Absolutely no idea.

If I were a Sox fan, I'd be psyched that Bloom was aggressive for once, but petrified at how much more BOS likes him than everyone else. I think the sample size of players coming over from Japan is so tiny that it's hard to draw much of an equivalent, you're talking about the successes there but there are also guys who just can't hack it at all. I doubt Yoshida will be one of those, but I wouldn't bet either way honestly.
 

Rovin Romine

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I think overall your take on the OF is quite fair and probably accurate.

Health (and the consistency it can provide) is going to be one of the main drivers of the OF's success.

it really feels like the pressure is on Verdugo to take a step forward in 2023.
I thought I'd highlight the above. I agree Verdugo probably has untapped potential, and I'd certainly like to see him be more productive. But how he was acquired really has no bearing on what our reasonable expectations for him should be. He can be a bit of an air-head out there at times, but he seems to be a team-player who wants to energize his teammates and to win.

OTOH, I think Durran, despite being poised to likely be more valuable via the rule changes, has pretty much worn out his welcome among the fans. A hot call-up changes all that, but unless he's been karmicly smacked upside the head, there's a non-zero chance he flubs plays and has another meltdown. I think Verdugo leading him away from a fan-argument in KC last year kind of visually sums the contrast of these two players for me.
 

BaseballJones

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Absolutely no idea.

If I were a Sox fan, I'd be psyched that Bloom was aggressive for once, but petrified at how much more BOS likes him than everyone else. I think the sample size of players coming over from Japan is so tiny that it's hard to draw much of an equivalent, you're talking about the successes there but there are also guys who just can't hack it at all. I doubt Yoshida will be one of those, but I wouldn't bet either way honestly.
Agreed. But I also don't think it's unreasonable to think that Yoshida is capable of giving them a .775-.800 ops, given how well he contacts the ball and hits it all over.
 

Max Power

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Suzuki seems like the most relevant comp as that is the closest to now, he dropped from 1.073 (2021) to .770.
Suzuki had double the strikeout rate of Yoshida in Japan. I think the idea is that contact translates better than power from league to league and he should see less of a drop-off. But that's all just conjecture from the scouts until it happens.
 

simplicio

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Suzuki also played in the Central League in Japan, which is considered easier than the Pacific League Yoshida was in.
 

jwbasham84

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Additionally, Suzuki hurt his left ring finger and was out over a month. He ended up only appearing in 111 games in 2022. Who knows if he was fully healthy when he returned to playing, during his rehab stint he hit well (4-9 with a homer and two doubles so power seems there), but he could have had lingering issues which affected his batting. I get he's a comp, but if we can get close to a full season from Yoshida I think we will see better production.
 

LogansDad

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The Yoshida contract really does seem to me to be Bloom buying in hard on the shift changes causing a major shift in LHH BABIP. I agree that it is going to change things, but I am still uncertain how much it actually will. Reports I saw before 2022 from AA leagues that put the rules in place in 2021 showed that line drives had a major increase in BABIP, but that ground balls ended up essentially the same, which makes me less high on an improvement from Duran than I otherwise would be, since his GB rate is so high. I think it likely helps out Verdugo and Yoshida more than him, which I am okay with.

I agree that trying to project Yoshida is difficult, but I also don't think that a comp with Suzuki will tell us too much since they are such different profiles, but I don't think an OPS around .800 is anywhere near out of the question with his skill set. I wouldn't call it "likely", but also wouldn't put it in the 99th percentile of outcomes, either.

There isn't a lot of depth in this group. Rafaela likely won't be ready this season, and the only other outfielder on the 40 man who I didn't bring up is Wilyer Abreu (who I kind of get the feeling the team is higher on than we think they should be, for whatever reason), who also hasn't played above AA and wasn't exactly good in Arizona. One injury leaves them with a lot of playing time for Arroyo/Duran, and that probably isn't a great thing.

Still, I am cautiously optimistic that the OF overall will give them something reasonably within league average production, and I could see it actually being pretty good if things break (or don't, in the case of bones) right.
 

jon abbey

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The Yoshida contract really does seem to me to be Bloom buying in hard on the shift changes causing a major shift in LHH BABIP. I agree that it is going to change things, but I am still uncertain how much it actually will.
Mike Petriello is the recent master of this kind of investigation, he has been exploring based on past numbers and is going to publish pieces on it soon.

View: https://twitter.com/mike_petriello/status/1610355843203059717?s=20&t=_smiina0IbXY1ZwU7yywwg
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Mike Petriello is the recent master of this kind of investigation, he has been exploring based on past numbers and is going to publish pieces on it soon.

View: https://twitter.com/mike_petriello/status/1610355843203059717?s=20&t=_smiina0IbXY1ZwU7yywwg
I’m curious who those other guys will be!
Line drive hitters with high exit velocity seem like they’ll definitely benefit the most…. But I actually think fast running contact hitters with high GB rates will likely see a high BA improvement.