Thanks to the recent shift toward appreciating defense, especially in the outfield, guys like Franklin Gutierrez and Nyjer Morgan have seen their stock rise. Fly-catchers are now in demand, as we return to an era where it is acceptable to have a corner outfielder who can’t hit, as long as he catches everything between the foul poles. But while everyone will focus on the finest fielders, what about the guys on the other end of the spectrum? There are some outfielders, in fact, who are so bad with the leather that they practically eliminate their entire offensive value.
As the transition toward defense-first outfielders takes place, we’re still left with remnants of the last decade, the softball players who can mash a baseball but can't track one down. Even as teams more aggressively move these players to first base or DH, there is still a group of guys who make things interesting every time the ball is hit in the air. Here are the five worst outfielders in baseball from 2007-2009, and their UZR per 150 games.
Yes, that's right, over the course of 150 games, Hawpe is 33 runs worse than the average rightfielder.
This fraternity of all-bat/no-glove outfielders has thinned out a bit with the move of Adam Dunn to first base and Jermaine Dye’s inability to find an employer, but these five still fly the banner for hulking sluggers in the outfield. Hawpe, Ramirez and Bay certainly hit well enough to still have value despite their misadventures in the field, but Young has actually performed below replacement-level the last few seasons, meaning his negative performance on defense has actually outweighed his offensive contributions, which have also been minimal.
Young seems to have gotten the message, dropping 30 pounds over the winter and reporting to camp in the proverbial “best shape of his life”. It will be interesting to see if it’s enough to keep the Twins pitching staff from cringing, however, as teammate Cuddyer is almost as bad. Perhaps that’s why Minnesota locked up centerfielder Denard Span to a long-term deal last week. Considering he's flanked by Young and Cuddyer, he's going to have to catch practically everything opponents hit to the outfield in 2010.
Dave Cameron is a writer for FanGraphs.