Outfielders account for some of the most talented hitters in the majors leagues. Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, Mookie Betts, and the Yankees very own Aaron Judge comes to mind. Some newer players, however, are hoping to one day rank among those elite outfielders. Each of these candidates had around 200 major league plate appearances before this season began and have taken full advantage of their playing time.
The early returns of the Chris Archer trade heavily favor the Rays. Not only is Meadows ranking as the fourth overall outfielder with a 179 wRC+, but the Rays also received Tyler Glasnow, who before his injury had eight starts under his belt with a 1.86 ERA. Meadows is now the leadoff hitter for a young, playoff-aspiring team that won 90 games last year. The Rays know they must do more, and Meadows is contributing by exceeding expectations since coming over.
Meadows has seen a drop in soft hit percentage resulting in a raise of his hard hit percentage by almost ten percent. According to Statcast, his average exit velocity has climbed from 88.2 mph to 91.3 mph, assisting him in reaching the 94th percentile in expected batting average. With the extra pop in his bat it makes sense his home run per fly ball percentage has also improved, but he’s not focused on hitting more fly balls. Overall, Meadows is walking more, making harder contact, and keeping the ball off the ground. For a players that was already carrying a .336 BABIP in 2018, he should keep surprising people.
After signing Jed Lowrie, trading for Robinson Cano, and promoting prospect Pete Alonso, the Mets moved McNeil over to the outfield. He performed exceptionally well in 2018, earning himself another shot to be an everyday player and hasn’t missed a beat. When injured players like Brandon Nimmo and Lowrie return, it will be extremely difficult to take him out of the leadoff role; as he’s currently producing the highest on-base percentage on the team at .415.
His ability to avoid strikeouts is a major factor for his team leading OBP, currently placing 11th in the league for the lowest strikeout percentage. McNeil hasn’t been a power threat like Meadows, but what he has done similarly is also drop his soft-contact percentage. Unlike Meadows, McNeil has decided to use his climb in exit velocity of over four miles per hour to pull the ball ten percent more than he did last season. This change hasn’t helped his isolated power, but it has allowed him to raise his expected batting average this season by more then 20 points—placing him at the 95th percentile compared to the rest of the league.
It’s no a secret that Yankees fans haven't been impressed by Frazier’s defense, but what he’s done with the bat can’t go unnoticed. McNeil and Frazier are almost complete opposites because Frazier strikes out twice as much as McNeil, while Frazier currently has isolated power twice the amount of his Mets counterpart. The strikeouts will keep coming since Frazier has a swing-and-miss tendency, which is why he doesn’t go out of the strike zone as much as the rest of the league.
The organization knew his power would one day show up, and not only did it arrive in the right moment, but it’s been consistent. He’s slugging .528, and even though Frazier’s exit velocity is similar to last season, his average launch angle has climbed. The change has helped Frazier lift his home run per fly ball and line drive percentages. If he focuses on hitting more fly balls, it could benefit him even more.