Alejandro De Aza, OF
DOB – April 11, 1984 (31 on Opening Day)
Contract Status: One-year, $5.75 million with $2M incentives
Alejandro De Aza had his best season at the plate since 2012, posting a .262/.333/.422 line (104 wRC+) between three teams last year. The outfielder had a weak first month with the Orioles, hitting just .214/.277/.359 in 30 games, but had success in both Boston and San Francisco.
As a left-handed hitter, De Aza has had continued success against right-handed pitching throughout his career, and 2015 was no exception. De Aza hit .278/.351/.448 with seven homers in 314 plate appearances against right-handed pitching last year. That .799 OPS against righties was well above the league average of .723.
De Aza had a so-so year defensively, posting a -4 DRS and -1.1 UZR. Overall, he was worth about 1.2 Wins Above Replacement according to Fangraphs and 0.9 according to Baseball-Reference.
Marcel – 435 PAs, .256/.319/.399, 9 HR
Steamer – 413 PAs, .241/.304/.364, 7 HR
ZiPS – 479 PAs, .257/.319/.401, 9 HR, 103 OPS+
The Mets signed Alejandro De Aza purely to face right-handed pitching which should immediately boost his numbers. I think you’ll see Juan Lagares get significant at-bats against right-handed pitching simply to have his glove on the field.
That being said, De Aza has been effective at what the Mets signed him for. Over his career, he has a .274/.338/.418 line against right-handed pitching, which is slightly above average.
In terms of indicators, there is nothing to point to that says De Aza’s 2015 season was a fluke. His BABIP was right around his career average, his line drive rate didn’t change very much, nor did his hard hit ball rate. And keep in mind he is still 31 years old, so he’s not old either.
The real question with De Aza is not how well he is going to hit right-handed pitching, because he is well-established as above average against them. The real question is whether or not he can handle center field. He hasn’t played much center field of late because he’s simply been on rosters with some great center fielders like Jackie Bradley, Adam Jones, and Adam Eaton.
However, the defensive stats are a bit strange for De Aza. UZR pegs him as a tick above average over his career in center while Defensive Runs Saved has him at -18 runs. Still, that DRS number was fueled by just one season. While he certainly isn’t an above average defender De Aza’s awful season in center a few years ago could have very well been a fluke or a flaw with the DRS statistic.
This is certainly not a Yoenis Cespedes situation where all the defensive metrics say the defense is bad. This is just an example of a situation where a defensive metric may not work perfectly for certain players. We’ll have to see how De Aza handles center field this year to know for sure.
If De Aza sticks around and actually gets significant playing time against righties, we can expect a slightly above average hitter (his career slash line against righties is .274/.338/.418). De Aza is by no means a flashy player, but he will do the job. Having Cespedes in center certainly makes the signing more palatable, no matter your opinion of him.
NOTE: This was written before the Cespedes signing, with slight modifications made.