Do the Padres really have “elite outfielders” like A.J. Preller recently indicated? Let’s take a look at the numbers and see for ourselves.
“Other clubs know we have some elite-caliber outfielders,” San Diego Padres’ general manager A.J. Preller told Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune at FanFest. Apparently, this assessment has been one of the obstacles to filling a huge void at third base or adding a veteran starting pitcher. Even more disconcerting, the claim that the Padres actually have elite outfielders does not stand up to examination.
The definition for elite, according to dictionary.com, means “the choice or best of anything considered collectively, as of a group or class of persons.” A quick check of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference indicates that none of the Padres’ players who roamed the outfield either most or parts of 2018 (Wil Myers, Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes, Travis Jankowski, Franchy Cordero) would be objectively considered elite.
None of them come close to Mookie Betts or Mike Trout, who are almost exclusively considered the top outfielders in the sport. According to FanGraphs, Betts had a WAR of 10.4, and Mike Trout a WAR of 9.8 WAR last year. By that measurement, Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe led the Padres at 1.6 WAR, followed by Franmil Reyes 1.2, Travis Jankowski and Franchy Cordero 1.0, and Manuel Margot 0.6. Three pitchers (Craig Stammen 2.3, Robbie Erlin 1.8, Kirby Yates 1.8) actually led the Padres.
According to Baseball Reference, Betts (10.9 WAR 186 OPS+) and Trout (10.2 WAR OPS+199) also led the pack. How does that compare with Padres outfielders? With an OPS+ of 100 considered average, both Margot (1.5 WAR 86 OPS+) and Jankowski (1.1 WAR 90 OPS+) would be considered below average. Renfroe 2.4 WAR OPS+119, Reyes 1.6 WAR 130 OPS+, Myers 2.4 WAR, OPS+109 Cordero 0.5 WAR 105 OPS+ (139 plate appearances) would be considered somewhat above average, but hardly approaching an elite level.
In Rotoworld’s 2019 Outfielder Rankings, Matthew Pouliot chooses Trout, then Betts, to again lead baseball, followed by players like Aaron Judge, Charlie Blackmon, and Giancarlo Stanton. Padre outfield candidates rank in this order: 24th Wil Myers, 26th Margot, 70th Cordero, 96th Renfroe, 113th Jankowski, 146th Reyes.
Defensively, three of the Padres’ possible outfielders (Myers, Margot, and Jankowski) perform well, although not at a Mookie Betts level. As judged by FanGraphs, Betts is worth 20 DRS (defensive runs saved) and 21 UZR/150.
Myers (in left field) at 4 DRS, 15.6 UZR/150, Margot 9 DRS 1.5 UZR/150, and Jankowski 2 DRS 5.9 UZR/150 compare somewhat favorably to Trout’s 8 DRS 5.6 UZR/150. Also, according to Statcast catch probability OAA (outs above average), Margot ranked 6th and Jankowski 17th. However, Reyes, a very large human, had poor defensive stats of -1 DRS -11.7, as did Cordero -6 DRS -17.3 UZR/150, and Renfroe 2 DRS -0.9 UZR/150.
Hanging on to all these not-so-elite outfielders simply does not make sense. Reyes’s size and poor defensive showing make him an obvious candidate for an American League team in need of a designated hitter. His ability to make adjustments makes him even more attractive. Yes, Reyes has become a fan favorite. However, improving the overall quality of the team on the field and its ability to compete will please fans far more. Renfroe has proven to be a two-tool player thanks to his power and his strong (but not always accurate throwing arm) and could also be more useful in the AL.
Of course, the trade market has been stone cold for the second year in a row, at least in part because of the uncertainty over the ultimate destinations of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Still, the Padres have appeared regularly in trade rumors regarding one or more of the outfielders on the roster, but San Diego has passed on any possible deals. If Preller and the Padres actually do consider this outfielder corps to be elite and worth hoarding, they’re frankly fooling themselves.