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Brandon Guyer: The Best 4th Outfielder in Baseball?

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With a strong 2015 performance he assures himself playing time in 2016

Guyer mashes lefties and brings strong defense and base running to the game.
Guyer mashes lefties and brings strong defense and base running to the game.
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Guyer had the best year of his career last season, taking the opportunity presented by Desmond Jennings' injuries, and running with it.

Now that he has established himself as a bonafide major league baseball player, will we see continued improvement in 2016?

Career Path Thus Far

Guyer was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 5th round of the 2007 draft, signing almost immediately and splitting time between Rookie-level and short season ball, not exactly lighting the world on fire. His sophomore professional season was a break-out year, as he displayed some solid pop to accompany his speed.

In 2009 his power disappeared but his contact rate increased phenomenally,  as he dropped his strikeout rate by six points, and raised his on-base percentage by seventy points. It was even better in 2010, as he regained his power stroke, catching the attention of Baseball America as they ranked him 10th in the Cubs system.

He must have also caught the attention of the Tampa Bay Rays as they snagged him from the Cubs in the Matt Garza mega prospect deal that also landed Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, and Sam Fuld -- Andrew Friedman at his best.

Guyer would make his MLB debut in 2011 with the Rays, memorably hitting a home run in his first major league at-bat in Camden Yards (which led to his naming his son Camden), but unfortunately struggling at the plate during his remaining MLB appearances that year.  He did, however, excel with Durham.  He seemed primed to spend more time in the majors in 2012, but he suffered a season ending should injury that derailed his possible promotion. Injuries limited him again in 2013.

Brandon Guyer finally caught his break in 2014. He was out of options and the Rays didn't want to lose their scrappy outfielder so they kept him as a platoon bat, as he put up a stellar first full year in the majors during which he accrued 1.8 fWAR over just 97 games.  He was especially fearsome against southpaws, with  a 124 wRC+ over the course of 127 plate appearances.

He pushed the envelope even further during the 2015 season, dominating opposite hand-throwing pitchers, maintaining a 141 wRC+ against them and displaying an impressive ability to get on base, whether it be by walk, or by getting hit by a pitch.  His ability to avoid flinching in the batter's box led to his setting a team HBP record, with 24.

vs LHP AVG OBP SLG wOBA HR wRC+ K% BB% PA
2014 .297 .366 .396 .343 1 124 18.1% 4.7% 127
2015 .271 .387 .457 .372 7 141 17.3% 7.5% 159

Guyer mashes lefties to the point that he has to be forced into the lineup somewhere whenever an opposing southpaw takes the mound.

Thankfully, Guyer is a versatile outfielder, capable of displaying above average defense in all three positions.

Projections

SYSTEM AVG OBP SLG HR wRC+ BB% K% fWAR
ZiPS .257 .333 .370 5 101 5.7% 16.8% 1.0
STEAMER .259 .326 .384 6 101 6.2% 17.5% 1.1

Pretty much every system projects Guyer's playing time and production to significantly diminish as they all expect him to put up the worst year of his career.

These systems still think he'll perform better than replacement level and he'll continue to excel against left-handed pitching considering the 101 wRC+ that both Steamer and ZiPS project him to have.

Pecota actually projects him very well, but just over 38 plate appearances.

AVG OBP SLG TAV HR VORP WARP PA
PECOTA .264 .330 .406 .271 3 6.3 0.7 89

Conclusion

Brandon Guyer is currently in the unenviable position of playing on a team with too much depth, relegating him back to a platoon status.

This is the best position for Guyer to succeed, as he'll continue to get plate appearances against left-handed pitching, but with there being significantly more right-handers in the game, he'll see his stock plummet.

Right now on the depth chart, he's behind the injury-prone Desmond Jennings, and will get the occasional start to allow DJ to get the day off, but can be expected to receive the least amount of playing time of any Rays outfielder, barring injuries.

Whatever the case, if Brandon Guyer is the Rays' fourth outfielder, or even the starting left fielder, they're very well positioned for the 2016 season.