The Best Fourth Outfielder in Baseball

 Gregor Blancocatches a fly ballThe Giants’ Gregor Blanco has been described as the best fourth outfielder in baseball. He has filled in admirably the last four years for the Giants when the inevitable outfielder injury occurs. He has averaged 2.4 WAR over those four years despite never being considered a starter. He has only made one opening day lineup for the Giants, and only then because of a Hunter Pence injury in Spring Training in 2015.

I wanted to find out how he really ranks among outfield super-subs. I looked at the 2015 outfield WAR leaders with at least 350 plate appearances and compared them to the 2016 opening day starters for all thirty teams. Here is where Blanco ranks among outfielders who didn’t start the first game of 2016:

2015 WAR 2016 Team
Chris Coghlan 3.3 Athletics
Brett Gardner 2.6 Yankees
Brandon Guyer 2.4 Cubs
Gregor Blanco 2.3 Giants

Blanco didn’t top the list but clearly he is a valuable asset, and he would start on many teams. Blanco had at least as high a 2015 WAR as fifty-four of the ninety 2016 opening day outfield starters across major league baseball. That includes all three starters in the Giants outfield:

2015 WAR
Denard Span 1.4
Hunter Pence 1.6
Angel Pagan -.5

I’m not arguing that Blanco should start over his teammates in the outfield, although the case could certainly be made for Pagan. He also wouldn’t start over the majority of the fifty-one starters on other teams with an equal or lower 2015 WAR. Those players include exciting young players with limited or no playing time in the majors in 2015, and proven stars that missed playing time due to injury in 2015. It’s clear though that the Giants are lucky to have Blanco around, and I’m confident he will continue to prove himself valuable this season.

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