On the back end of the top 25 outfielders last year, there’s a trio of young outfielders that found success with very different approaches. Adam Duvall just hit the crap out of the ball. Gregory Polanco was a five-tooler with good patience and contact. Stephen Piscotty was somewhere in between. We all have our favorites when it comes to player types, but let’s be concrete about these things. Let’s filter the players based on a few key statistics and find historical comps that can help us better understand the futures for our three relative youngsters.
The Adam Duvall
Duvall isn’t a statue — he can play a little defense in the outfield — but he is relatively one dimensional anyway. He doesn’t walk, and he strikes out a fair amount. You want him for his power. So let’s look at players that had a season before they turned 28 in which they walked less than eight percent of the time (that’s around the traditional league average), struck out more than 23% of the time (the game used to have fewer strikeouts, so this way we include some old school sluggers), and showed an isolated slugging percentage over .200. Since he’s no Carlos Gomez, let’s limit the pool to players with fewer than 10 stolen bases.
The result is a mixed bag of sluggers that prove that Duvall is not necessarily destined to repeat his performance.
For every Mark Trumbo and Yoenis Cespedes, there’s a Craig Wilson and Cory Snyder. Wait, that’s not necessarily true. Snyder himself hit 26 homers in 1988, and had a few productive seasons, and really I named the only two that didn’t manage to have actual careers. If you look at the group as a whole, even with the active players messing up the average, you’ll see a slugger that managed 3152 plate appearances in their career, on average. Wilson and Ryan Thompson are the only non-active major leaguers that had a Duvall season and didn’t make it to 2500 plate appearances, is another way you can say it.
The average career home run rate for the group was 4.6%, while Duvall’s was 5.4% last year. While it’s not the sexiest package, it looks like Duvall has an 80% chance of at least playing another four seasons, in which he should put up 90-100 homers on average. That’s a decent floor, for a guy that has the least attractive skills package.
The Gregory Polanco
I have loved Gregory Polanco for so long, and yet have no shares, because I proclaimed my love too loudly and everyone wanted everything from me in trade talks. And now it’s too late because he’s had the season I thought he could have. He showed speed, power, and patience. Let’s look for players younger than 26 that had a walk rate higher than league average, a strikeout rate that was better than league average, an isolated slugging percentage over .180, and stole more than 15 bags in the free agency era. This should be a fun list.
It’s beautiful. 73 player seasons full of Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, David Wright and also Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr, and Barry Bonds but also Mike Schmidt, and Dale Murphy, Mike Greenwell, and Larry Walker. It’s *really* hard to find a dud.
Of the 51 players on this list, there are only three non-active players that didn’t manage to put up ten wins of production — Fernando Tatis, Gary Thomasson, and Mitchell Page. Nate McLouth barely crossed that threshold. If you want twenty wins or bust — Polanco already has five on his resume — you can count Gary Redus as a disappointment, and Leon Durham, and Matt Lawton.
The rest of the list is populated with Hall of Famers and current studs. Seriously, Polanco basically has a an 86% chance of continuing to be a star, and even the likely floor is useful for a couple years. You want to bet on this skillset.
The Stephen Piscotty
There, in between the two, is an interesting character who played some center field, showed some patience and contact and power, but wasn’t what you’d call a five-tooler. Not a Duvall, and not a Polanco, Stephen Piscotty was just sort of in between on everything. That makes it harder to set the thresholds, but let’s go with younger than 26, better than league average contact, close to league average patience, better than a .180 ISO, and better than five stolen bases but fewer than 15. That sort of defines the in between guy, I’d say.
We still end up with 363 player-seasons, so let’s limit the pool from guys with plus walk rates, so basically all guys with walk rates between seven and ten percent. Down to 68, but also featuring guys with isolated slugging percentages over .300! Let’s also trim that down to those below .210. Now we have 29 players, and a manageable and interesting list of players.
Non active players with fewer than ten wins are actually not that easy to find on Piscotty’s list: Darnell Coles didn’t work out, nor did Felipe Lopez really. Maybe Matt Joyce, Willie Upshaw, and Omar Infante don’t float your boat. They still had valuable seasons, but weren’t great fantasy forces, giving The Piscotty about an 82% chance of being useful going forward.
Here’s the problem with the list: There aren’t many stars here. While The Polanco was in a bin with Hall of Famers, we’ve got Adrian Beltre, Miguel Tejada, and Ryan Braun headlining this list. Braun and his complicated career aside, there’s a lot of defense helping the first two.
The names that pop out for me are Andre Ethier, Luis Gonzalez, and Mike Sweeney — useful players that had a couple star-level seasons among them, but were more back-end role players in a fantasy sense, at least in the normal year. Call it a high floor, low ceiling type of package, and you’ll probably evaluate him correctly going forward.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.