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Nov 19

Free Agent Fun with Comps: Center & Right

Nick Markakis

This is part 7 of an ongoing series featuring a breakdown of the current free agent players at each position. Positions completed so far: catchers, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, and left field.

As mentioned in my earlier posts, I’m assessing the current free agent players seeking their respective paydays by comparing each player with his historical comp. Then, after painstakingly looking over the numbers, I determine if I’d bet on the current free agent to perform better over the next few years or go with the comp.

It’s that simple.

All comparisons are pulled using the Similarity Score by age from Baseball-Reference and all free agents were borrowed from the listing at MLB Trade Rumors.

Today, I discuss the remaining outfielders.

OUTFIELD

Chris Young has already re-signed with the Yankees at a reasonable 2.5 million dollar one-year deal, which is more in line with what he probably should be making than the 7.25 million he received last offseason with the Mets. In fact, when the NY Post’s headline announces the deal as “Yankees re-sign Mets bust,” you have to figure last season in Flushing didn’t go as Sandy Alderson had hoped. Young played well in pinstripes, hitting three home runs in 23 games and playing solid defensively in left, but his time with the Mets produced a regrettable four months that by advanced metrics came out as the worst outfielder on the team. That includes a then 39-year old Bobby Abreau who was signed to a minor-league contract and whose appearance on the team I first thought was a joke.

Abreau played well, considering he was 39 years old and had been out of professional baseball for over a year.

So, the Chris Young era didn’t exactly leave fond memories.

Abreau announced his retirement in September, but another former NY outfielder isn’t ready to do the same. Ichiro Suzuki plans on returning to baseball at the age of 41, and if he were to somehow find a way to play in 140 games again next season he would be the first 41-year old player to do so since Craig Biggio in 2007. Biggio was unplayable at that age, producing a -2.1 bWAR, and considering Ichiro has been hovering around sub level the last two seasons, temper your expectations for 2015.

Other than that, in this group we have the perpetual promise of Colby Rasmus (I’ll discuss him in detail below), the peculiarly affordable Nick Markakis, and the superhuman power of Yasmani Tomas. Oh, boy. This group will be fun.

All players listed below are sorted by career bWAR

Current Player Age Closest Comp Favorite Comp Pick
Ichiro Suzuki 41 Kenny Lofton Lofton Suzuki
Torii Hunter 39 Dave Parker Joe Carter Parker
Alex Rios 34 Amos Otis Andy Van Slyke Rios
Nick Markakis 31 Gregg Jefferies Edgardo Alfonzo Markakis
Chris Young 31 Mike Cameron Cameron Cameron
Colby Rasmus 28 Chris B. Young Ron Gant Rasmus
Nori Aoki 33 Algie McBride McBride Aoki
Nate Schierholtz 31 Darrin Jackson Rob Mackowiak Jackson
Tony Campana 29
Yasmani Tomas 24

Outfielders by Comps

1.  Ichiro Suzuki – We’re four years removed from the last time Ichiro made the All Star team, but the future Hall of Famer is still a capable player entering his 40s. He swiped 15 bases last year, which is pretty shocking considering most people his age pull a muscle stepping out of the bathtub. It’s well known that he doesn’t walk, a skill that hasn’t improved with the wisdom of years. His 5.5% walk rate placed him in the bottom 20% of all players with 350+ at-bats, and his ISO of .056 was next to last. He can still play outfield, and the strong arm remains. He had four outfield assists last season.

Kenny Lofton was out of baseball by 41, but he was still good at 40. I miss Kenny Lofton. I remember fondly how he seemed to hit laser beams in that ’95 World Series in every AB. I haven’t looked at the stats, but his line drive % must have been 110. Don’t tell me if it’s not true. I have my beliefs. For this, Ichiro tops him, but he should probably think about retirement soon.

Torii Hunter2.  Torii Hunter – At 38, Hunter hit .286/.319/.446. His 111 OPS+ ranked 24th for all outfielders, and he was three years older than the next oldest player ahead of him. His bat still plays. Unfortunately, the Torii Hunter defense (the kind that ruins baseball) the world has grown accustomed to over the years has been in steady decline over the past couple of years and his -18.3 UZR in 2014 was the third worst for any qualified outfielder.

Any drop off with Hunter’s bat means his value is rock bottom, and while it doesn’t appear like he’s in decline—he hit double digit home runs for a 14th straight season—one of these days it’s going to happen.

Dave Parker was worth 1.1 bWAR at 39 then was sub-replacement after that. I like Hunter, but I don’t think he outpaces Parker.

3.  Alex Rios – Even Alex Rios couldn’t escape the wicked voodoo that was going on in Arlington last season as by early September his right thumb got infected and he ended up missing the remainder of the season. Seeing how Ron Washington just so happened to resign the same day (unrelated most likely, but who knows?) no one seemed to really care all that much for Rios’ departure. No, the no one caring probably had more to do with the Rangers being 53-87 at the time and Rios having a fairly tepid season.

Rios isn’t the most consistent of players. He oscillates between All Star worthy with seasons of sub-replacement value. By that measure, since last year was barely above replacement level he’s due. He’ll be 34, but he still has the legs to steal some bases and hold his own in the field. Will he be an All Star again?

That ship has probably sailed.

Once turning 34 Amos Otis was still a legitimate offensive weapon for the Royals, but the power he showed in peak years was largely gone. Even discounting Otis’ last quarter season in Pittsburgh, I think Rios surpasses him.

Barely.

4.  Nick Markakis – Orioles fans have been in denial about Markakis for the past four years or so. He’s a good player, a fine defender in right with the ability to hit and work the count (a near impossibility on a team of such free swingers), but the player that jacked 20+ home runs in his early 20s is never coming back.

I like Markakis. He’s a two-time Gold Glove winner and will consistently find ways to bring value to the team. Reportedly, he’s likely to re-sign with the Orioles in the 10-12 million dollar range, and that sounds about right.

Gregg Jefferies. Where do I even begin? As a kid, I bought into the great Mets hype machine that said Jefferies was going to be one of the best. He replaced one of the Mets beloved players in Wally Backman and was compared to Mickey Mantle. His 1989 Topps rookie card (scroll to the bottom) was one of my favorite cards. It was basically like every photo I had of me growing up in Little League only this time it was this guaranteed HOF player in my team’s uniform. 1988 the Mets destroyed the NL and ended up catching Orel Hershiser at the wrong time. With Jefferies now on the squad, 1989 was going to be the year the Doc, Sid, and Strawberry added that second World Series title.

Well. It didn’t really end up like that.

Jefferies played okay as a Met, but he never fulfilled the crazy expectations heaped upon him and a lot of the blame for the Mets falling short of winning the East was tossed his way. Things got so bad that he eventually composed a nine-paragraph letter that addressed the constant criticism and was read on WFAN. In it, Jefferies states, “I have never claimed to be the future of the Mets; this was a label that was put on me.” Ugh. That didn’t go over too well. He was sent to the Royals in December of 1991.

For this exercise, Markakis comes out on top.

5.  Chris Young – When Young was with the Diamondbacks, his walk rate sat around 11-12% and his OBP around .330-.340. Coupled with the 20 or so homers he would hit, he was an All Star level (he made the game in 2010) outfielder. Now? Since leaving the desert, he’s been worth less than a win in two seasons and hit 23 home runs total (less than what he hit in his All Star year).

My poor eyeballs grew tired of watching him strikeout seemingly every time there was a runner in scoring position, and by his splits, that’s not far from the truth. 1 Let’s just say, I don’t recall too many moments like this last season with the Mets. With RISP, he hit .222/.320/.420 with 17 strikeouts in 81 at-bats, around 21% of the time. That’s consistent with what he did throughout the year, so there’s that.

Hooray for consistency!

He’s still a good outfielder, can make plays, and he did perform extremely well with the Yankees in limited action.

Mike Cameron came to the Mets at the age of 31 at hit 30 home runs while swiping 20 bases. After the team signed Carlos Beltran in January of 2005, Cameron unhappily moved to right and then later that season the collision happened. He never played another game for the Mets and was traded to the Padres in November.

In eight seasons after passing 30, Cameron accumulated 16.7 bWAR. I don’t think Young comes close.

Colby Rasmus6.  Colby Rasmus – Here’s Rasmus’ profile from 2009 prior to him being called up by the Cardinals. Five tools. Elite center fielder. Can do it all. Doesn’t it seem like we’re still waiting for that player to arrive?

Rasmus was drafted by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft and was basically their top prospect until being called up. After a solid, if not spectacular inaugural season at the age of 22, he hit 23 homers and hit .276/.361/.498 in his sophomore year. The sky was the limit. The feud with Rasmus and Tony La Russa got so bad the Cardinals traded him to Toronto in 2011 for peanuts. The story got worse once Rasmus’ dad ripped La Russa after the trade, and Rasmus essentially had one All Star quality year in 2013 and struggled offensively in ’14.

On top of all that, last season Rasmus missed 33 games to a hamstring strain, the second season in a row where he’s missed 30+ games with another 24 games lost in 2011 to a wrist sprain, and by this September he was benched to give management the opportunity to see younger players. By mid-September Rasmus gave a 21 minute long interview where he opened up about his childhood and current mindset.

I bring all this up because that interview is both insightful and troubling. This is a kid who had absolutely zero joy for baseball. Listen to him discuss his childhood and he’s as emotionless as discussing what kind of bread he wants with his sub. His childhood was “work.” He didn’t remember it fondly. He thought it was “worth it,” big difference. When asked what the perfect end to a season would be, Rasmus said, “. . . play baseball and enjoy it with my teammates and be a part of the team . . . and just in a good place.”

Take into account that Rasmus had been benched for two weeks, so he was likely upset, but those aren’t the words of someone ready to play professional ball. He needed a hug, not people criticizing his routes to balls in the outfield. His childhood story, as recounted in the interview, reminded me of the baseball equivalent to Todd Marinovich and his father, where Rasmus’ dad essentially drove his sons to athletic dominance with the psychic consequences be damned. When the hell has baseball been fun for him? I don’t know what happened in St. Louis with La Russa or a vet dominant team that added to Colby’s misery, but baseball certainly wasn’t a release from all of his despondency.

I’m rooting for Colby Rasmus. If baseball isn’t the answer, then I hope he finds what is. He stated that “so many people are always just poking and prodding at me. I felt at times like a, like an animal at the zoo. You know, you just keep poking at them until one day they bite back at you.”

Everyone has his limit.

Rasmus’ closest comp is his list mate Chris Young. At 28, Young left Arizona to enter into his recent down years. I don’t care if Rasmus ever plays another inning. If so, I’ll go with Rasmus. I hope he finally finds the right situation.

7.  Nori Aoki – After being traded to Kansas City from Milwaukee for Will Smith, Aoki put up his typical solid season with the bat, working the counts and reaching base at a .350 clip. His home runs went down, moving from Miller Park to Kauffman Stadium will do that sort of thing, and his limited range in right was exposed. In the World Series, manager Ned Yost removed Aoki from right, shifting Lorenzo Cain there for games in San Francisco.

I don’t see this improving with Aoki turning 33.

Algie McBride started playing professional ball in the 19th century. He apparently could hit pretty well. He also wore a malformed hunk of leather on his hand and attempted to shag flies so who knows about his defense. If you’re wondering why I don’t just pick someone else, all of Aoki’s comps are from the 30s and 40s. Talk about old school.

I’ll take Aoki.

8.  Nate Schierholtz – Schierholtz has always hovered around replacement since entering the Majors at 23, but last season with the Cubs, he bottomed out. A career .264 hitter, Schierholtz hit .192/.240/.300 with the Cubs before being released. He was then picked up by the Nationals after Nate McLouth was lost for the season. With the Nats, he did do this once, which was his only homer with the team.

Will his bat come back? He’ll never be mistaken for an offensive force, but he was above average prior to 2013. He can also play pretty good defense, a must since he’s likely to earn a minor league contract and become a reserve.

Darrin Jackson put in his best season at 30, then was just above replacement after. Then one is probably a push, but I’ll pick Jackson.

9.  Tony Campagna – He’s spent the past four years bouncing between Triple A and the Majors, hitting ok (until the collective stink that was in Arizona this year caught up with him too) but without a bit of power.

Thor10.  Yasmani Tomas – When your agent says that you have “way more” power than Jose Abreau that’s saying something. Agents would never lie about these things. It’s like the Internet. Everything said is the truth.

Tomas appears ready to sign somewhere, but who knows what will come from Cuba’s next star. He’ll be playing at 24 next season, and he’s 6’4 and 230 pounds of muscle. Please, let the Mets open up the vault for this guy.

Hey, look, down in the suitors, the Mets are listed!

Others covered in previous posts:

Covered with second basemen: Emilio Bonifacio

Covered with left fielders: Endy Chavez, Nyjer Morgan, Tyler Colvin, Nelson Cruz, Chris Denorfia, and Scott Hairston

Running count of players appearing most in similarity lists:

Player Count Position
Mike Macfarlane 3 Catchers
Scott Servais 3 Catchers
Ben Oglivie 3 1B
Robby Thompson 2 2B
Johnny Berardino 2 SS
All unique 1 3B
Josh Willingham 3 LF
Jim Lemon 3 LF
8 players 2 OF

Similar Players by Count

 

Next I look at the designated hitters.

Nick Markakis and Torii Hunter photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

Colby Rasmus photo credit: james_in_to via photopin cc

Thor (photo altered) photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

  1. Because I like to confirm what these stupid eyeballs are telling me

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