According to Zach Sanders’ analysis, Josh Reddick was the fantasy replacement level outfielder of 2013. He was worth 41 cents. Dayan Viciedo was technically closer to zero with a negative 37 cent performance, but I find Reddick’s well-rounded brand of mediocrity to be more elegant. Hence, I am naming him Mr. Replacement.
After enjoying a breakout campaign in 2012 that included 32 home runs, Reddick plummeted back to earth in 2013. We can attribute much of Reddick’s poor play to the sprained wrist that he played through for part of the season. He has undergone successful surgery and is expected to be ready by spring training.
The injury makes it hard to determine how we should value Reddick in 2014. After his banner 2012, many analysts expected his power to decline by some amount. So how do we differentiate between regression and injury? What do we make of other changes in his game that may or may not carry over to 2014?
In this case, we have the player’s own candid words to help in our analysis. Reddick spoke with Eno Sarris earlier in the year and revealed himself to be quite conversant in the kinds of statistical jibber-jabber that we bandy about here at RotoGraphs. Reddick himself recognizes that he’s a fly ball hitter and that will lead to a low BABIP. So while it’s natural to look at his .255 BABIP and expect regression towards league average, you should probably limit those expectations. In other words, a low batting average is part of the package with Reddick.
Reddick’s plate discipline has improved steadily since 2011. Last season, he posted a walk rate over 10 percent for the first time in his big league career. It’s possible that part of the uptick in walk rate is related to the sprained wrist – it seems intuitive that a hitter with a wrist injury would be more careful about swinging. However, Eno’s interview revealed that Reddick has become better at recognizing bad pitches and when to go on the attack. And more importantly, Reddick is aware of these improvements and is nurturing them.
Of course, while Reddick’s average and plate discipline are of concern to fantasy owners, most people are looking his way for his 40 home run plus steals upside. The speed component remained steady in 2013 and he’s a good bet to swipe around 10 to 15 bases over a full season. Various metrics that grade baserunning ability show Reddick to be above average.
The power component is the area I’ve been dancing around and it’s the most important for Reddick’s 2014 value. His year-to-year ISO fell from .221 in 2012 to .153 in 2013. Wrist injuries are known to sap power and it can take more than a year in some cases for a player to fully recover their power. The start of the season will coincide with the six month mark in his recovery from surgery, so it’s unclear if his power will be at 100 percent on April 1.
One confusing observation is that his fly ball distance did not change in 2013. This is actually a big reason why many analysts expected his home run totals to naturally decline in 2013, even before the wrist injury. His average fly ball distance in 2012 was 278 feet, which ranked 175th in baseball and was comparable to Derek Jeter, Desmond Jennings, and Justin Morneau. They posted home run totals of 15, 13, and 19 respectively. In 2013, he once again averaged 278 feet which sandwiched him between Matt Wieters and Vernon Wells.
However, we also previously noted that Reddick hits a lot of fly balls, so perhaps increased volume can help account for his 32 home run total. Eyeballing the HR/FB ratio of players with similar fly ball distances reveals that Reddick’s 2012 rate smells a bit elevated, but not substantially so. Furthermore, we could be seeing his high rate of infield flies affect his average fly ball distance more than other players. Perhaps his outfield fly balls are hit for more power than the players I arbitrarily listed as his comparables.
We’re left with trying to determine which rate is the better signal – the 14 percent HR/FB ratio that he posted in his breakout 2012 or his 8.9 percent rate from 2013. For what it’s worth, his career rate is 10.8 percent and that seems like a good place to rest your expectations.
The left-handed Reddick hits nearly all of his home runs to right field. As revealed in the previously referenced interview, Reddick focuses on finding a pitch to pull early in the count and then worries about going with the pitch once he falls behind. This should work as a mixed blessing. Reddick knows how to play to his strengths, but by now every pitcher also knows his approach.
Reddick’s overall numbers have not shown a platoon split, but one may exist. He converts fewer hits on balls in play against left-handed pitchers, and his plate discipline is slightly worse. It may be worthwhile to sit him against particularly tough left-handed pitchers, but that’s true of most hitters.
It will be interesting to track Reddick’s draft position heading into 2014. I suspect that this is a player whose market will be strongly affected by opinionated fantasy gurus. If the general consensus is dismissive, Reddick may be a nice, cheap value play. If some analysts pick up on the wrist injury and begin to hype him, he may become overpriced. We’ll just have to wait and see.