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Bay, Venable: Injuries in the NL Outfield

A couple players are possibly going in different directions in the National League outfield, but each has implications for deeper leagues.

Jason Bay (14% owned)
Bay is back in Willets Bay and supposedly will get his starting job back, but there are plenty of reasons to worry about his security. It’s possible some powerful box-score results are hiding some iffy batter peripherals, and no matter how hopeful you are about him, the fact remains that the 33-year-old has been declining forcefully in his early thirties.

Buried within my attempt to put a narrative on Bay’s career are some batted ball graphs that don’t speak well for Jason Bay:

Basically, the one on the left says that, other than a blip in 2009, Bay has been about the same hitter with respect to his batted ball angle: a slight pull hitter. And his batted ball distance — on the right — has just declined. He’s just plain not hitting it as far. Another wrinkle lies in his batted ball mix. Bay had never hit more ground balls than fly balls in his career before landing in Citi Field. He’s done it twice since and this year’s ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio (1.31 GB/FB) is the worst of his career (0.86 GB/FB) from the perspective of a power hitter.

Of course, in 2009, Bay had his best power year as a pull hitter. And since he’s gone grounder-heavy, his power has gone out the door. This year’s sample is so small — he could still return to the Bay he once was. He has a 186 wRC+ to the pull field, 179 to center, and 105 to right, and those numbers have held steady his whole career. Fewer grounders and more pulled fly balls, and Bay should be able to hold off quick riser “Captain” Kirk Nieuwenhuis, whose glove is short of Andres Torres‘ in center, and whose bat versus lefties keeps him from a daily role on a contending team. Since Bay is a righty, if he doesn’t improve his approach any, he’s likely to fit into a straight platoon with Nieuwenhuis, which would cost him 3/4 of his playing time.

Will Venable (4% owned)
Last year’s toolsy man-crush object, Venable has been better than his ownership levels suggest. The second-best power of his career, the best strikeout rate (supported by his best swinging strike rate), and the best BABIP of his career have made him a valuable deep league player. The BABIP (.333) is high, but not abnormally so for a guy with speed and a ground-ball heavy batted ball mix. The only real red flag with Venable is that after years of being excellent on the basepaths, he’s been caught five out the twelve times he’s tried to pilfer a bag this year. And his speed score is inevitably down from last year’s peak. Still, he’s center-eligible outfielder with double-digit home run power and the ability to steal 25+ bags. Maybe four percent is low.

No matter. Now Venable has a strained oblique. There’s no word of the severity, but with Carlos Quentin back, Jesus Guzman still on the team, and Alexi Amarista playing second base, there might not be a clear player to pick up. Chris Denorfia might get a few extra at-bats, but he has less power and less speed and without an extreme BABIP, isn’t in line to help in batting average either. Better just hope Venable is fine, and wonder who sits when that entire outfield is in one piece at one time. (Probably Guzman.)