At FanGraphs, Eno Sarris did some digging and found that in 2016, for the first time since 1925, Major League Baseball saw only league-average production from its outfielders. He derived that by using wRC+, or adjusted Weighted Runs Created, a statistic that individually weights a player’s various offensive contributions, then adjusts for league and park effects. The offensive decline, Sarris finds, has a lot to do specifically with a decline in power, which is coupled with outfielders getting smaller and faster.
While we do have the stereotypical outfielder build in Mike Trout (6’1″, 235 lbs.) and Bryce Harper (6’2″, 230), we’re seeing lots of young players who defy that mold: Mookie Betts (5’9″, 156), Adam Eaton (5’9″, 180), Jackie Bradley, Jr. (5’10”, 195), Ender Inciarte (5’11”, 165), and Billy Hamilton (6’1″, 160), for example.
Sarris also compares current fourth outfielder types to those 30 years ago and finds that, indeed, clubs have eschewed power in favor of speed and defense. He suggests that this could lead to a market inefficiency in which these speedy, defensive types are overvalued and the slower, power-hitting types (like Brandon Moss) are undervalued.
Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Reds “have emerged as the frontrunner” to sign free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. Morosi says the Reds and Castellanos “have made progress over the past several days.”
The Reds were going to have a lot of outfielders already when they hit Goodyear, Arizona in a couple of weeks, with newcomer Shogo Akiyama, Jesse Winkler, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Travis Jankowski, Scott Schebler, and Rule 5 draftee Mark Payton. Senzel was an infielder before last year, of course, so he could move back to the dirt, perhaps. And, of course, the Reds could trade from their outfield surplus if, indeed, they end up with an outfield surplus.
Without question, however, Castellanos would be the big dog, at least offensively, in that setup. He had a breakout year at the plate in 2019, hitting .289/.337/.525 overall (OPS+ 121), but slugging at a blistering .321/.356/.646 pace (OPS+ 151) after being traded from the Tigers to the Cubs. In Chicago — rescued from cavernous Comerica Park — his big doubles power turned into big homer power. If he were to sign to play half his season in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark one can only imagine the damage he’d do.