The Rays are the third major league team to employ Jaff Decker since the Padres drafted him in the first round in 2008. He was available in the fall because his second team, the Pirates, released him in 2015. The Rays signed him as a free agent for a $510,000, partly for organizational filler, but partly because they thought they saw something worth investigating.
Decker turned 26 this year, and we all know he’s on the roster because the Rays three starting outfielders, Guyer, Kiermaier, and Souza, Jr., and minor league call-up Mahtook, are on the DL. He hasn’t hit well so far. At this writing, Jaff Decker has a .138 AVG and .219 OBP over 32 plate appearances through ten games.
That’s not great! But that’s still 1) a small sample size, and 2) his OBP is nearly 100 points over his batting average. It’s too early to write him off. Decker has the potential to contribute and seemingly through his ability to get on base.
When the Rays called Decker up to the big club, he was leading Durham in OBP with .351 despite a batting average of only .233. In limited duty with the Pirates in 2015, his batting average was a lowly .214 (still higher than some Rays’ regulars this year) but his OBP was .371. The Rays took a long look at Decker during spring training. He hit .367 in 15 games, with a .387 OBP. Decker’s ability to get on base may still prove valuable to the Rays.
And beyond that, Decker has wheels, fitting into the Rays mold of plus defenders.
Decker must know where he stands on the team’s depth chart. The Rays are without any of their first choices in the outfield, and have even acquired another in Oswaldo Arcia. Decker also must know that his only chance to stay in the majors is to make something happen. It’s tough to perform at your best under that sort of performance pressure. With time, the hope is that Decker will settle into who he can be: a guy who gets on base in front of power hitters.
Given the Rays injury report Decker will get some more chances throughout the season. Decker has the right offensive skill set to help the team, if he can relax and perform more like he has in the past.