Commenting on Oakland’s projected outfield alignment of Rajai Davis in left, Coco Crisp in center and Ryan Sweeney in right, A’s left-hander Gio Gonzalez told the San Francisco Chronicle, “anything hit in the air is going to be caught.”
Gio’s got a point. Following Crisp’s one-year, $5.25 million free agent deal and the four-player trade that shipped Scott Hairston and Aaron Cunningham to San Diego, the A’s have three center field-worthy fly catchers penciled into the lineup.
Davis, a former Pirates prospect claimed off waivers from the Giants, has a career +12 UZR/150 in 1,700+ innings in center field. Crisp checks in with a +5.8 UZR/150 in 5,000+ frames in center, with a +23.5 UZR/150 in 1,800+ innings in left field. Sweeney has a +3 UZR/150 in 800+ innings in center, with a +25.6 UZR/150 in more than 1,300 innings in the corner outfield. These guys can cover the gaps.
How will a Davis/Crisp/Sweeney outfield produce in 2010? We can get an idea from Jeff Zimmerman’s 2010 projected UZR totals. Zimmerman took four years of UZR data, did a 5/4/3/2 yearly weighting regressed to 125 games, and then applied a -0.7 UZR aging factor (more details here).
Davis has rarely played the outfield corners during his big league career, but he has a projected +6 UZR/150 in center field. Center fielders playing the outfield corners generally perform between 8 to 10 runs better in the corners than in center, so Davis’ UZR/150 could be something in the neighborhood of +14 in left field. Covelli projects to be a +4 UZR/150 defender in center, while Sweeney has a +14 UZR/150 forecast in right.
But this trio won’t hit enough, right? Davis and Sweeney aren’t exactly your archetypal corner outfielders, and Crisp doesn’t pack a whole lot of punch, either. It’s true, Davis, Crisp and Sweeney aren’t likely to be huge assets at the plate:
CHONE: .319 wOBA
Bill James: .323 wOBA
The Fans: .324 wOBA
CHONE: .319 wOBA
The Fans: .323 wOBA
Bill James: .330 wOBA
Bill James: .332 wOBA
CHONE: .335 wOBA
The Fans: .337 wOBA
For the sake of argument, let’s say each gets 600 plate appearances. That’s obviously a stretch, considering Davis has Michael Taylor breathing down his neck and Crisp is coming off of a season-ending shoulder injury, but let’s go with it for the moment. Davis projects to be about three runs below average with the bat. Crisp is about two runs below average, and Sweeney roughly +4 runs.
There’s nothing special about those totals. But, when you consider how many runs these guys will save with the leather, the alignment doesn’t look all that bad. Davis would be worth about 1.9 Wins Above Replacement, with Crisp at 2.1 WAR and Sweeney compiling 2.5 WAR. So, Davis and Crisp figure to be average players, while Sweeney comes in a little north of that range.
Davis and Sweeney don’t fit the cookie-cutter image of lumbering, slugging corner outfielders. Neither figures to be a liability in 2010, though. The shape of their production is atypical, but plus defense helps compensate for a paucity of power. Oakland’s outfielders won’t blow up the scoreboard, but they should save enough runs defensively to be viable everyday players. Smile, Gio.