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Five Bold Outfield Predictions for 2019

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With a hefty focus on the Red Sox outfield.

MLB: World Series-Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The fresh faces of Christian Yelich and JD Martinez vaulted up the ranks last year, surpassing the likes of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout and adding some intrigue atop the outfield rankings. What is sustainable, who are the top choices? Is Mookie still No. 1? I feel that this presents a whole new set of questions coming into the 2019 season.

1 . J.D. Martinez is NOT a Top 10 outfielder this year.

Justification: Last year was fantastic, it was epic and man were the Red Sox a fun squad to watch. Last year was ALSO the first year in JD Martinez’s nine year career that these things happened:
1. He had over 100 runs,
2. He had a batting average over .305
3. He drew over 55 walks
4. He hit over 35 doubles
5. He had over 140 hits

It was the second time in his nine year career that he (note the two in bold)
1. Had 5+ stolen bases
2. Had over 450 at-bats
3. Played in over 125 games

Quite simply, he is an amazing player but he is often injured, does not typically hit for as much power or average as he did last year, and does not get the run benefits that he did last year.

2. Andrew Benintendi hits for 100+ RBIs for the first time in his career.

Justification: The tricky part to this is that he is often either the leadoff hitter or second in their lineup. His ISO increased from .154 in 2017 to .174 last year, with each of the next few years he should see some additional power to his swing as a 24-year-old. His line drive rate is constant since he entered the MLB, but his fly ball rate went down from 38% to 35%. His hard contact rate was down to 28% from an average of 33% the previous two seasons. I think all of this aligns to help him bring more on the power side this season.

3. We see a decrease of 30% in outfielders who steal at least 20 bases.

Justification: My initial gut feeling was that outfielders stole more bases last year, but I was wrong. Here is the last five years:
2014: 1,681 stolen bases among outfielders
2015: 1,431
2016: 1,401
2017: 1,388
2018: 1,333
Add to this the following players JUST BARELY got past 20 stolen bases: Andrew Benintendi (21), Christian Yelich (22), Michael Trout (24). If those three don’t make it, you are now down from nine players to six. The basic idea here: steals continue to be at a premium.

4. Bryce Harper has above a .290 average after hitting .249 last year

Justification: In the Yin and Yang that is Harper’s career, here are his batting averages from 2015-2018:
2015: .330 batting avg
2016: .243 batting avg
2017: .319 batting avg
2018: .249 batting avg.
Every other year he bats very well, and while I think his power might go down a bit, he bats for a solid average this year.

5. Austin Meadows is a Top 25 outfielder.

Justification: Consider this my bold “out in left field” pick. I was big on Meadows as a prospect and then even bigger when he entered the league with an unbelievable .409 average in the month of May. He had four home runs, nine runs and seven RBIs across those 13 games. It went downhill and injuries stepped in, as he hit a low in July with a .212 batting average and just two runs and 0 RBIs across 14 games. After his trade from Pittsburgh to Tampa, he played nine games at the end of the season, batting .250 with three runs and four RBIs across nine games. He ended the season with 59 games played, six home runs, 19 runs, 17 RBIs and five stolen bases, as well as a .287 average. If he stayed on that pace he would have had 16 home runs, 52 runs, 47 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. The runs and RBIs were not where you would want, but the homers, stolen bases, and average are all comfortably in Top 25 outfielder territory. He has a great eye at the plate, a patient approach, and just enough power to have me intrigued for what he could do not being bounced up and down all season as his rhythm comes and goes.

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images


Poll

Which prediction is most likely to occur?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    JD Martinez is not a Top 10 outfielder
    (50 votes)
  • 23%
    Benintendi hits 100+ RBIs
    (115 votes)
  • 18%
    30% fewer 20+ SB outfielders
    (91 votes)
  • 28%
    Bryce Harper hits above .290
    (137 votes)
  • 19%
    Austin Meadows a Top 25 outfielder
    (96 votes)
489 votes total Vote Now