San Francisco Giants: Is Mike Yastrzemski the real deal?
By Joel Reuter
The San Francisco Giants have received solid production from rookie outfielder Mike Yastrzemski of late. Is it a fluke, or is he the real deal?
When the San Francisco Giants acquired Mike Yastrzemski from the Baltimore Orioles this past March in exchange for minor league pitcher Tyler Herb, there’s a good chance they didn’t anticipate him playing a pivotal role in a playoff push.
The 28-year-old hit a modest .250/.339/.414 with 28 doubles and 10 home runs in 491 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A last year, and five years after he was drafted out of Vanderbilt he was still awaiting his MLB debut.
After hitting .316/.414/.676 with 11 doubles and 12 home runs in 40 games at Triple-A Sacramento to open the year, that debut finally came on May 25.
Two months later, he’s one of the hottest hitters in baseball.
With a walk-off home run in the 12th inning of Sunday’s win over the New York Mets, he capped off a torrid week at the plate that saw him go 13-for-34 with three doubles, one triple and four home runs.
All told, he’s hitting .265/.307/.500 for a 111 OPS+, meaning he’s producing 11 percent above a league-average rate offensively. He has 19 extra-base hits in 180 plate appearances, and he’s tallied 28 RBI and 29 runs scored.
He’s also graded out well defensively with 6 DRS and 4.5 UZR/150 in 372 innings of outfield action, which is a major bonus given the cavernous outfield territory at Oracle Park.
So is he the real deal?
His 41.2 percent hard-hit rate ranks 123rd out of 405 qualified hitters on the Baseball Savant leaderboard, which is more than respectable, and his .315 BABIP doesn’t speak to any unsustainable luck.
The biggest red flag would seem to be his 5.6 percent walk rate, which has been the biggest culprit in his less-than-stellar on-base percentage. However, he walked at an 11.0 percent clip last season, so the approach is there, it might just be a matter of getting comfortable at the big league level.
He might also have a hard time maintaining an 18.0 percent HR/FB ratio, especially playing half of his games at Oracle Park. The league average generally hovers around 10 percent, and Yastrzemski doesn’t have elite raw power by any means, so he might have a hard time maintaining his home run pace over a full season.
What does all of that mean?
At the very least, Yastrzemski looks like a solid fourth outfielder going forward. He has shown the ability to make consistent hard contact and he’s been a pleasant surprise defensively.
Assuming he’s going to lock down a corner outfield spot for the foreseeable future might be asking too much, but there’s no reason he can’t be a piece of the long-term puzzle.
Given the low acquisition cost and remaining club control, that should be chalked up as a win for the San Francisco Giants front office.