by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Cleveland Indians always appear to be short on outfielders, and with Michael Brantley set to leave via free agency things got that much thinner. As of today the team’s starting trio appears to be Tyler Naquin, Leonys Martin and Greg Allen, though Jason Kipnis (a trade candidate) has experience out there and Bradley Zimmer and Oscar Mercado are waiting at Triple-A and could make an impact…
None of those options would get anyone overly excited, despite there being some upside, so seeing Cleveland add multiple pieces to the mix is a given this offseason. They made their first strike earlier this week, though the addition of Jordan Luplow could been seen as “just another piece” and it’s easy to lose him in the shuffle.
Luplow has been buried among Pittsburgh’s depth in the outfield and when he’s gotten an opportunity the results have been less than stellar:
.194 (33-170), 6 HR, 18 RBI, 22 R, 2 SB
The 25-year old spent the bulk of his time at Triple-A (314 AB) and the results were far better, hitting .287 with 8 HR and 7 SB. He also added 25 doubles and 3 triples showing that there’s power potential in his bat, something that he’s shown before. Just look at the HR/FB over the past two seasons in the minors:
- 2017 – 18.1%
- 2018 – 7.3%
That’s a key, especially as he showed a solid approach at both of the levels he played in ’18. At Triple-A he posted a 9.8% SwStr%, a number he nearly matched in the Majors (9.6% SwStr%) while also staying inside the strike zone (26.1% O-Swing%, 26.0% over his Major League career).
Suddenly we are looking at a player with a strong approach and power that could develop. That was the type of player that has always been expected of him, as MLB.com described him by saying the following prior to 2017:
Luplow is starting to show the bat the Pirates liked coming out of that 2014 Draft. He has the chance to hit for a decent average, and he continues to work on his on-base ability and plate discipline as an asset. There’s some gap power there, with some home run pop still developing, and has shown that he can be a run producer.
That’s not to say that there aren’t questions, as you can argue that there’s the risk of a suppressed BABIP due to a pull heavy approach (51.6% Pull% at Triple-A) making him susceptible to shifts. That’s a fair concern, though not one that’s crippling. As of today the upside is there to profile as a .270ish hitter with 20-25 HR, and considering the alternatives that has value.
While Luplow isn’t guaranteed a starting role, the potential is there and if he gets the shot he easily could surprise. Those in shallower leagues aren’t going to need to make a move, just monitor him closely, but in deeper formats he’s an ideal sleeper to target.
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com
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