Major League Baseball has a bevy of star outfielders, yet many go under the radar. Here are four outfielders to watch throughout the season as they make a stake for themselves as a key part of their team. Some are young players looking to break out or unheralded contributors on contending teams.
Under the Radar Outfielders to Watch in 2023
As the Angels look to finally make the postseason, Ward will be a key part of the lineup. According to Sam Blum of The Athletic, the Angels are leaning toward a batting order with Ward hitting leadoff for Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
Last season was Ward’s first full season and he showcased great all-around talent. He had 564 plate appearances in 2022 after only having 237 in 2021. He had a 135 OPS+ and led the team with a .285 batting average. He tallied a noteworthy 23 home runs as well. If he continues from last season, he will be a notable part of any Angels playoff push.
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The hype around Nootbaar has exploded in recent months. Last season, he hit .228/.340/.788 for an OPS+ of 126. That is an impressive line, but what really sticks out about Nootbaar is the variety of underlying metrics where he ranks among the best in the league.
According to BaseballSavant, he ranks in at least the 90th percentile of players in chase rate and walk rate, signifying his plate discipline. When he does connect with the ball, he hits it hard, too. He finished in the 85th percentile in barrel percentage and 90th percentile in average exit velocity.
The Cardinals outfield is full of young, talented outfielders. As other players battle for their spot in the lineup, though, Nootbaar looks like he will get his first taste of starting a full season as the Cardinals attempt to win the NL Central.
The Yankees did not make many additions to their lineup, so Bader’s arrival in a trade last season represents one of their most recent pickups. The former Gold Glover is meant to be a defense-first player, yet he impressed with a fantastic postseason. Will that short sample be enough to become a significant offensive contributor?
The Yankees showed enough trust in Bader to trade for him even while he was injured, yet he has not had significantly more than 400 plate appearances since 2018. In a lineup featuring many injury-prone players or aging veterans, it is important for Bader to become a reliable, consistent part of this Yankees team.
He had the lowest barrel percentage of his career and posted an 87 OPS+ after back-to-back seasons of 114 OPS+. His defense should be there, will his offense rebound?
Hernández joins an outfield already featuring Julio Rodríguez to add a major power boost to the lineup. Hernández, a two-time Silver Slugger, has had at least 25 home runs in each of the past three full seasons. That makes sense when you look at his metrics, too. According to BaseballSavant, he was in the 98th percentile for hard hit percentage and 94th percentile in max exit velocity. That’s a lot of dinged-up baseballs!
However, there are several areas of concern for Hernández. He strikes out a lot and rarely walks. Not a great combination, but does it matter when you are launching every other pitch into the stands? He has so consistently demonstrated this elite power that he should make for a fantastic piece of the Mariners lineup as they make a run for consecutive playoff appearances.
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