FanPost

The outfield pile (is good enough)

I'm writing to expound on the idea that the M's are currently building an outfield pile, as they've done with relievers, and as was suggested by Drew_D and sofa-king (see comments). I think this is exactly what the M's are doing, that it's a great idea, and that the M's don't need to add Nelson Cruz or anyone else to have a 10 WAR outfield.

The M's currently have about six players who should see time in the outfield in 2014, including Dustin Ackley, Abraham Almonte, Franklin Gutierrez, Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, and Michael Saunders (I'm omitting Willie Bloomquist because I don't feel like writing about him). Hart and Morrison will also see time at first and DH. Ackley will back-up at second. They all fit on the roster.

On first blush, the M's outfield as a whole projects to be about half as good as Mike Trout (worth 4.5 WAR, collectively). I'm confident that they will outperform that projection, and here's why-- projection systems are designed to straddle a range of outcomes, anticipating that some players will crash and that others will break out. For younger players who have flashed certain skills if not a complete package, there's a better chance of breaking out and performing at or above their 75 percentile projections. This is particularly true for position players entering the age range where they typically peak, which is true of Ackley, Morrison, and Saunders.

The theory behind the pile is that you don't average all the outcomes from everyone in the pile-- you figure out who's good and distribute at-bats accordingly. This works well with bullpens, particularly because of variance in pitcher performance and freely available talent. This strategy is seldom used with position players, I believe, because teams typically don't stockpile six guys with 1-3 WAR talent and then sort them out. But when the players are strong breakout candidates (Ackley, Almonte, Morrison, or Saunders), or legitimate bounce-back candidates (Gutierrez and Hart), all you have to do is figure out which three are good, plug them in, and enjoy league-average performance without Nelson Cruz prices.

I think the M's have a coherent strategy and that it's got a reasonable chance of success. I'm tempted to provide reasons why each of the players named here could beat his projection, but you know the reasons. Hart and Gutierrez have been excellent previously; Ackley, Morrison, and Saunders have flashed plus skills; Abraham Almonte may have been chosen by God. If I were a betting man, I'd bet that at least two of these guys will hit the 75th percentile of his projection, another will be league average, and the M's will get 10 WAR out of the outfield.

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