What level of offensive does he need to produce in order to be our starting CF? I am a huge fan.
To which Matty sez,
I'd say 95 OPS+ with better baserunning. Heredia would be a better weapon if he learned how to run the bases...with his speed, he still manages to be horrible at base-stealing and mediocre at baserunning advances on balls in play. He fixes that and hits .280 with decent walks and low Ks, and he's a starter.
Heredia sank back to 0.0 WAR as a center fielder on Fangraphs -- "a man who can play major league baseball" as Fangraphs put it -- on the basis of:
- An 80 OPS+, .249/.315 with a feeble .337 SLG mostly due to the injured shoulder, we presume
- -3.3 runs defensively
- -1.3 runs on the bases
- About 15 runs' worth of position and replacement value
Q. What would it take for Heredia to post 2.0 WAR?
A. The Mariners swear up-and-down that Heredia is a phenomenally gifted fielder, and the Mainframe has nothing to say to contradict that. It didn't show in one partial season's worth of numbahs, but Dr. D is more than willing to take Dipoto's word on it ... particularly since Dipoto gave that word about thirteen different times.
Supposing that Heredia could get you 5-10 runs defensively as a center fielder:
Byron Buxton 2017 just hit .253/.314/.413 for a 90 OPS+ and posted 3.5 WAR; you've got to remember Matty's point that 1.1 of those WAR came when he was tooling around the bases. But you could think of this as the .400 SLG route to being a quality center fielder in Heredia's mold.
Juan Lagares had a feeble OPS of 77, like Heredia's injured performance, and got to an easy 1.5 WAR simply by delivering on the defense. Also Jarrod Dyson was in this mold, an 80 OPS+ but +9 runs with the mitt and +6 on the bases for 2.1 WAR.
If you want to scan down Fangraphs' WAR leaders at the CF position, there are any number of 80-95 hitters who are quality starters with moderately plus gloves. Lot of roads lead to Rome.
In terms of shooting for the moon, there's a lot of A.J. Pollock in there to look for if you love Heredia. Here's a Sullivan article on "baseball's most underrated player," an oft-injured player who bats .280 with a good EYE and gap PWR, who does everything well.
But Heredia doesn't have to have everything break right to be a quality starter. If he really plays plus defense and his shoulder gets healthy, there ain't many guys who can run down balls in the gaps and who can contribute at the plate. Our travails with King Leonydas remind us of that :- )