FanGraphs this January called Jonny DeLuca a “modern fifth outfielder.” Is that all he can be, a utility bat, pinch runner, occasional starter against a lefty?
- Born: July 10, 1998
- B/T: Right/Right
- 6’0″, 200-lbs
- Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft from University of Oregon
His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:
The first thing we see is that he is steadily moving up levels. Each season he repeats last year’s finish, then moves to the next level. While he showed good OBP ability from the start, and the power is all that and then some, he has improved his OBP this year into Excellent territory.
He seemingly cannot strike out often. No matter the year, no matter the level, no matter the split, this is a batter who refuses, absolutely turns up his nose at a strikeout rate of 20% or higher (other than the month of April, see below, but even there it just barely cleared that mark). So while he only walks about 10% of the time, he puts the ball in play the rest of the time.
Then when he gets on base, he knows how to steal another base.
Did I mention he has great power? Notice how his wRC+ increases every year?
In 2023 DeLuca spent April again in Double-A, and then in the first half of May he was so absurdly productive, they bumped him up to Triple-A.
Once again his strikeout rate doesn’t care where he is. He could strike out fewer than 20% of the time wearing a space suit on the Moon.
Handedness K% and BB%
AA (vs RH): 19%K and 9%BB. (vs LH): 15%K and 15%BB.
AAA (vs RH): 14%K and 8%BB. (vs LH): 19%K and 4%BB.
See? Righty/lefty, doesn’t strike out too much, could take more walks, but man, look at those OPS numbers!
- Rotowire: #56 on their Top 400
- Fantrax: #198 on their Top 400
- Toolshed Fantasy ($): #214 on Top 500
- PARSlist ($): 76.6 (MLB regular)
- PLIVE+: 125 (100 is replacement level)
The reason FanGraphs seems down on DeLuca is his defense they feel is only adequate in center, pushing him to Right where the production demand from that position is greater.
Greater than what?
- A wRC+ of 143?
- On pace for a 35-40 HR season?
- On pace for a 30+ SB season?
What do they demand of Right Field nowadays anyway?!
Oh sure, you are saying, he’s in the Pacific Coast League, so knock down those AAA numbers, right? Sure, that’s a good point, but in which parks has he played in so far?
No Albuquerque, no Las Vegas, Reno at home in Oklahoma. So yeah, the PCL, but he hasn’t been playing in the worst parks yet.
Does this look like a fifth outfielder to you?
The Dodgers are playing James Outman who is hitting .235/.322/.464 as I write this. Think DeLuca can’t match that batting line? He sure wouldn’t be striking out 3.5 times as often as he walks the way Outman does.
If I were Outman, I’d be looking over my shoulder. A fifth outfielder is coming who doesn’t play like a fifth outfielder.