Is Josh Reddick Really a Fourth Outfielder?

When the Athletics sent Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney to the Red Sox for Josh Reddick and prospects, many scratched their heads in digital print. Why would the Athletics send their closer out the door for a swap in fourth outfielders? Didn’t the Red Sox just pull a theft using their fourth outfielder?

Like the ‘tweener forward’ label in basketball, nothing can sting a player and wreck his future like the ‘fourth outfielder’ moniker. Does Reddick deserve the title?

It’s tempting to make this a discussion about defense. Coming up in the minor leagues, Reddick played a lot of center, and scouts were often divided about his ability to continue playing center going forward. Nobody doubted his arm, which is a plus tool for him, but his range was in question. He’s only played 873+ innings in the outfield so far in the majors, but UZR/150 loves his defense so far. Then again, the Red Sox chose to play him in right field more often than center, even in 2010 when Jacoby Ellsbury was injured all year.

Maybe he’s a right fielder. Does that matter?

The Athletics need all sorts of outfielders, but the ‘fourth outfielder’ label isn’t always about specific teams. David DeJesus has gotten the label before, and he was the Athletics’ third outfielder last year. David Murphy is a fourth outfielder if there ever has been one, but because of a time-share in center, he got the third-most plate appearances in the Rangers’ outfield last year.

These names should help us define a fourth outfielder, though. Defense does matter — a fourth outfielder, like the tweener forward who isn’t big enough to rebound at power forward or quick enough to guard small forwards, doesn’t have the glove for center or the bat for the corners. Either that, or he has poor platoon splits that aren’t likely to improve.

Josh Reddick doesn’t have the bat for the corner? His career .248/.290/.416 seems to suggest he doesn’t, but that’s only 403 plate appearances of evidence… and it really isn’t that far from the average line for right fielders in the American League last year either (.267/.337/.431).

But Reddick’s minor league stats suggest that there’s more on the way. Since Reddick hit High-A ball, he’s had an ISO over .200, with a high of .277 in Triple-A last year. That’s much better power than the .168 ISO he’s shown so far in the Major Leagues, and it jives with his scouting reports, which have always lauded his uppercut swing and power. Add in a little power, and Reddick’s projection starts to look exactly like the average corner outfielder. And don’t penalize Reddick too much for his new digs — the park factor for home runs by lefties in Oakland is a reasonable 89, and wOBA by lefties is only penalized five percent.

Does he have a bad platoon split that will keep him from achieving that average line? So far, in 55 PAs against southpaws, his strikeout rate has jumped to 27.3%, which looks like a problem. But his walk rate is also higher (7.3% vs 5.2%), and his ISO is about the same (.160 vs .169). And that’s a tiny sample. Open it up to his minor league numbers, and you’ll see that there’s no real discernible pattern to his platoon splits. Maybe he has more patience and makes less contact against lefties… maybe. It doesn’t look like something that should kill his playing time or make him a bench bat.

Now that it looks like he has at least an average bat and average-ish platoon issues, we can add that defense back in. With a plus arm, and more range than your typical corner outfielder, it looks like Reddick will be an above-average corner outfielder once that defense is considered. And we got here without faithcasting him into center field, without giving him a good batting average despite his good power and contact rates, and without giving him any of those plus walk rates he’s shown before in the minors.

Sounds like a decent third outfielder, doesn’t it?

Print This Post

Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

35 Responses to “Is Josh Reddick Really a Fourth Outfielder?”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Baltar says:

    Third outfielder, fourth outfielder, who cares? That depends on what team he is on anyway.
    Even though your thesis is pro-Reddick, to call him average seems optimistic.
    Whether the A’s made a good trade or not really depends on how well the prospects turn out, unless Reddick surprises everyone on the plus side.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nik says:

      Even if Reddick is just an average every-day outfielder, the As will have gotten their money’s worth and then some.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • BX says:

        This. People are seriously overestimating how much an injury prone arb-eligible closer is worth.

        This is the Bailey of now, not the Bailey that won the ROY.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Baltar says:

        This would be a surprise on the plus side. Actually read a comment before you reply.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. doctorogres says:

    He’s probably an average corner outfielder on a second tier team. The biggest issue is plate discipline. There was a stretch last year where it looked like he figured it out, but the league changed how they approached him and he failed to adjust. He still could, though, there’s definitely some upside.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Josh says:

    I think you entered this topic with your mind made up, and let that bias your article. There’s a lot of monkey math and fudging numbers and you’re basically saying that if you squint hard enough, his offensive numbers kinda sorta might one day resemble an average OF. maybe I missed it but I don’t think you wrote anything about him being a black hole when it comes to making outs. maybe the power and defense can make up for it, but without that admission I just have a hard time believing that you’re not just skewing everything to prove a pre-determined point.

    that’s all meant to be constructive because you’re one of the writers whose articles I always make a point to read. I just happened to have this issue with this one in particular.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Eno Sarris says:

      And I thought I showed restraint! You’re right that I like Reddick more than most, but I really did try to find the problems that people are focusing on. I don’t see a platoon problem, and I think he’s got a plus glove in right. So already he’s got pluses ….

      As for the average triple-slash line, it’s just a question of how much you think he has left to improve. Last year he hit .280/.327/.457. If he didn’t improve one bit, he’d be average (or better!) with the bat and plus with the glove and absolutely enough of a third outfielder to play for the Athletics, though.

      I don’t get where you see he was giving away outs. A 6.8% walk rate isn’t great, but an 18% strikeout rate is above-average. And I think he has more power coming.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Michael says:

        Agreed, Eno! Why does everyone want to completely write off a 25 year old who only 400 major league PA’s? Sure, Mr. ReDdick won’t be star, but few will. The point is he’s still got potential. Wouldn’t be shocking if he’s got a few 3-4 WAR seasons in him.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        I don;t think [people completely write him off, I think people completely underestimate how valuable a 2-3 WAR player is.

        A buddy and I talk about this type of thing quite a bit. The analogy we use is to refer to when we were in high schoo and if it wasn’t Metallica, it was “crap”.

        It seems to be the same way with players, if they aren’t 5 WAR players, then they’re crap.

        A 2 WAR RF is a pretty darn good player.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Yirmiyahu says:

        I don’t think anyone’s ever doubted his raw power. And I think concerns about him being a defensive “tweener” have been put aside; he can hold his own in CF, or give you excellent defense in RF.

        But isn’t Jeff Franceour still a “4th outfielder,” even if teams keep giving him playing time?

        The issue is his discipline, pure and simple. Since leaving the comfort of the California League, he hasn’t hit all that well. Over his last 1790 PA’s of professional baseball, Josh Reddick has hit just .242/.300/.441/.740. That includes AA/AAA/MLB/AFL/DWL.

        As for last year, he may have ended up with a decent slash line, but that consisted of about a month of hitting for over a 1.000 OPS, and then having the league adjust to him and hitting for a sub-.700 OPS for his last 200+ PA’s.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Socrates says:

        CircleChange11 makes the right point.

        I think that when you compare Reddick to Bailey it isnt close. Bailey not only will cost multiples more over the next 3 years but it is a virtual lock that Reddick out WAR’s Bailey over that time.

        A friend of mine told me that the Bailey acquisition was good for Boston because it means that they now don’t have to pay $10M for a closer. Of course relative to that it is an improvement, but of course Boston already had Melancon and Bard on the roster who are both much cheaper than $10M who could have been closing.

        Bailey is 1) not demonstrably better than either of them, 2) costs more, and 3) is MUCH more likely to suffer an injury. … IE: he is less valuable.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Josh says:

        CircleChange, I understand your point, my point is basically that I think he needs a significant power spike to be a 2-3 win player. I don’t know whether he can sustain the increased walk-rate, and his MLB numbers look to be buoyed by a BABIP higher than his track record would indicate is sustainable for him.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • BSally says:

        Seeing as he was a 1.9 win player last year in only 87 games, a power spike doesn’t seem to be necessary for him to reach 2-3 WAR consistently if given playing time.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Josh says:

      thanks for the reply. I just mean in MLB and AAA, his OBPs have been hovering around .300. even his AA OBP in 2009 his .349 OBP was about average for his league and he was 22 that year. it’ll be interesting to see if the gains he made in walk rate last year stick but it looks like his 2011 BABIP is high compared to his MiLB BABIPs which appear much lower than average at first glance.

      I’m not saying he can’t improve or change his approach but if he is a .300-.310 OBP player right now, then he is fighting a significant uphill battle.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Brad Johnson says:

    I think we can make a finer distinction than fourth outfielder for Reddick’s label. He seems to be viewed as a second division starter, which is some mystical talent level between third outfielder and fourth outfielder.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Mr Punch says:

    Reddick is a 25-year-old (in Feb.) who has considerable ability but is not developing as the Sox hoped. He’s a pretty good fielder and hits some, but clearly they decided he was not their RF of the future — so for them he was certainly a “fourth outfielder,” as Murphy was. But could he turn out to be a respectable MLB starter? Sure, and it wouldn’t even be much of a surprise if he did. This is not true of Sweeney, however; I think the false assumption in the “trade of two fourth outfielders” story is that all fourth outfielders are equal.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Andrew oloughlin says:

    A .290 career obp isn’t that far off from an average everyday corner outfielder? Are you serious? That is atrocious.

    +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Eminor3rd says:

      I thought the same thing. .290 is WAY off .337

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Joe says:

      The OPS aren’t close either…

      Saying a 706 OPS isn’t that far from .768 OPS is almost the same as saying a guy posting an .830OPS is not that far from average either.

      Another minor nit… I think the slash lines were down again last year so comparing Reddick’s career slash line to last years average is not quite right (though the bulk of his AB’s were last year so the impact is probably negligible)

      I think the author should have stuck with the small sample size argument only and not tried to argue the #’s as well.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Bob Zaffrann says:

    I think the difficulty with the article is the “Tebow factor.” While it optimistically relies on Reddick improving offensively in years to come, it overlooks the fact that his 2011 numbers were skewed by the fact that the league hadn’t yet had a chance to adjust to his lack of selectiveness. Once they did, his numbers were abysmal.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Socrates says:

      Yeah… because baseball players usually don’t show improvement after 24 years old. Instead, they debut and then regress.

      Come on people. This guy is has 400 PAs in the majors at 23 and 24 years old. His minor league numbers clearly show a guy with good power and good defense and middling on base ability. As a 22 year old in AA he posted a 135 wRC+ as a 24 year old in AAA he posted a 126 wRC+. It is not to hard to assume he can develop into a 110 – 120 wRC+ over the course of Oakland’s control. Add his plus D and you have a quality player that will probably out WAR Bailey every season at a fraction of the cost.

      +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Aunt Baby says:

    It’s not his power that limits him in his future profile, it’s the fact that he has a long uppercut swing (how he gets his power) and the fact that he isn’t particularly patient. This adds up to his .290 career OBP, and while that should improve going forward, if he OBPs ~.310 in his prime, he won’t be worth a ton.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Jim Lahey says:

    Everyone citing his .290 OBP and failing to mention SSS, shame shame.

    Season: 2009, Age: 23, At Bats: 62 Triple Slash: .169/.210/.339
    Season: 2010, Age: 24, At Bats: 63 Triple Slash: .194/.206/.323
    Season: 2011, Age: 25, At Bats: 278 Triple Slash: .280/.327/.457

    You’re worried about him being a black hole on offense giving away outs? He’s a young guy learning the league, improving with more and more playing time like most players. He sure doesn’t look like a black hole to me – I was happier when he was starting than JD Drew last year.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Josh says:

      2010 481 PAs, .305 OBP at AAA as a 23 year old.
      2009 287 PAs, .352 OBP at AA as a 22 year old. that was league average and that represents a high point for him in the high minors.

      just saying, it’s been his entire career in the high minors and MLB. he had a passable BB-rate in MLB last year. maybe he can sustain that.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Pat says:

    Hopefully he’ll be better than Brandon Moss, I believe that at least.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. walt526 says:

    Given the well-above average defense, it seems to me that for 2012 he projects to offer comparable overall value to Ryan Sweeney, except in slightly different form: his expected slash is something like 30-50 fewer points in OBP and 60-100 points more in SLG. And he’s cheaper and younger, so there’s reason to believe that he’s maybe closer to the difference of -30OBP/+100SLG (which would represent a modest improvement) rather than -50/+60 (which would represent a clear downgrade) as compared to Sweeney. And he’s closer to the -30/+100 version of Sweeney, then projects to a considerably better value beyond 2012 as compared to what Sweeney will make. He’ll likely never be an All Star, but there’s a good chance that he’ll be at least a solid left-handside of a RF platoon and possibly a solid everyday player.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Mac says:

    Something not touched on is the injury factor. Sweeney is coming off knee surgery. Total unknown how he responds this season, but there’s every chance he’ll go down again or lose a few steps. Reddick is much less risky in that regard.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. pft says:

    Reddick looked great last year in LF and at the plate when Crawford was hurt. What I noticed about him was he looked like he gained about 20 lbs of muscle from the previous year. However, as the season progressed and he switched to RF, he lost that weight and looked like a skinny kid again, and with it his plate discipline.

    I think as he physically matures, which most players do by 25-28, and learns to keep that weight on for the entire season, he could be an All Star. Time will tell.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Tim says:

      When I think early/mid 20s AL OF that hasn’t hit his peak but could be an All Star someday, Josh Reddick is WAYYYYY down the list…like 15 down….

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Tom says:

    “and without giving him any of those plus walk rates he’s shown before in the minors”

    is this a typo?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Eno Sarris says:

      Maybe not plus, but he walked 9.8% of the time in the minors in 2009 and 14.3% of the time in Triple-A this year. I think he can manage an average major league walk rate.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Tragedyofthecommons says:

    Anybody notice how he puts up consistently worse numbers every time they send him back to the minors? Granted the PA’s are also uniformly smaller, but it is still may be an indicator that he is easy to make adjustments against. Perhaps they only sent him back to the minors when he was slumping. Come to think of it, that happened quite a bit for him last year, with a huge slump through all of August and September. Could this also be explained by a lack of ability to make adjustments when other teams were beginning to figure him out?

    Either way, as of now I feel that Beane settled for too little when he gave Bailey up, but if Miles Head or Reddick can develop into a 3-4 WAR player I will be very satisfied with the trade. Anyone know anything about Raul Alcantara? Just looking at numbers he doesn’t look great, but it is extremely early to judge.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. teo says:

    He’s not a fourth outfielder now…. with those 14 HR through two months…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>