Over/Under Previewing the Blue Jays Outfield using ZiPS projections

Photo credit:AP Photo/Nick Wass
Paul Berthelot
3 years ago
In part two of previewing the Blue Jays season we are looking at the outfielders and their ZiPS projections. You can find part one of this series on the infielders here.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

Gurriel Jr.’s offensive profile is that of a boom or bust. He’s a free swinger, who always ranks near the top of the league in chase rate. This approach works for him because he has the bat control to hit those pitches and drive them. This gives Gurriel Jr. a high BABIP which helps him make up for relatively few walks. Gurriel to his credit has improved his walk rate. Gurriel crushes off-speed pitches but what’s concerning is his struggles with fastballs. Over the past two seasons against all fastballs, Gurriel Jr. has a .329 wOBA, per Baseball Savant. That ranks 237th out of 291 hitters who saw at least 1500 pitches. Against hard fastballs it was even worse. Gurriel Jr. had just a .189 wOBA against fastballs thrown 95 mph or harder over the past two seasons which was the fifth lowest in the league. I am going to take the under on his projections, as I think pitchers will challenge him with velocity outside of the strike zone.       

George Springer 

Everything I just said about Gurriel Jr. you can say the opposite for Springer. Springer feasts on fastballs. Per Baseball Savant, of Springer’s 53 homes hit over the past two seasons 36 have come on fastballs. That’s tied for the third most in the league. Velocity doesn’t bother Springer either, his .445 wOBA against fastballs 95 mph or harder, ranks 15th in the league. Springer is selective at the plate, he lays off pitches outside of the zone, and waits to get a fastball he can drive. This will really help the Blue Jays as some of the hardest throwing starters are in the division, with Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow and Nathan Eovaldi. Springer is going to lead off and we can argue about whether he should hit second or third, but he is clearly comfortable leading off and has had success there. I will take the over on his projections, I expect Springer to have a fantastic season.  

Teoscar Hernández

This is the easiest over pick of them all. Teoscar put up 1.5 WAR in just 50 games last season. The projections don’t appear to account for the fact that Teoscar broke out in 2019 and just continued raking in 2020. Since June 5 2019, when Teoscar returned to the Blue Jays from a stint in Buffalo, he’s hit .265/.331/.560 with 39 home runs in 136 games. His 132 wRC+ places him just outside the top 30 among qualified hitters. He hits the ball incredibly hard, he’s had the hardest hit ball this Spring for the Blue Jays with an exit velocity of 113.3 mph. He still strikes outs over 30% of the time which is partly why his projections are low. It’s very difficult to be a successful hitter when you strike out that often. However I believe in the strides he’s made with two strikes. I think he will cut his strikeout rate down this season and blow past these projections.           

Randal Grichuk 

Grichuk had a solid 2020 season. He dropped his strikeout to a career low, raised his average and OBP to the highest they have been since 2015. This would be encouraging but it looks like this was just a short season anomaly. Grichuk’s 2020 success came from a significant increase in contact outside of the zone. Grichuk increased his o-contact rate by 12.8%, per FanGraphs. That was the second biggest improvement in the league among players who qualified in both 2019 and 2020. As mentioned in part 1 with Rowdy Tellez, it’s really tough to be successful when your success is determined by hitting pitches outside the strike zone. Over a full season I think Grichuk will revert back to the hitter he has been his entire career. A low OBP hitter with power. I will take the under on his projections.  

Jonathan Davis 

It remains to be seen if Jonathan Davis is going to make the team, but if he does he is the typical fourth outfielder. He plays great defence and can handle all three outfield positions and brings speed off the bench. His hitting is improving and he has been hitting the ball hard in Spring Training. He’s hit six balls this Spring over 100 mph (and another at 99.9). Over his three seasons in the Majors he’s only done that 12 times. I’ll take the over on his projections because he only has to hit a little bit to be a valuable bench piece.

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