Myles Straw had a good month of April.
Fresh off signing a five-year, $25 million contract extension with the Cleveland Guardians, Straw slashed .291/.387/.380, posted a career-high 14% walk rate, and produced 125 wRC+ in the first month of the season, all while providing Gold Glove-level defense in center field.
Unfortunately, the calendar turned to May.
Over the next four months, Straw was one of the worst hitters in all of Major League Baseball, carrying a .178/.245/.221 slash line with 35 wRC+ in 384 plate appearances. It was brutal. To perfectly illustrate his decline, Straw went from batting leadoff on Opening Day to batting dead last in the lineup in the final game of the regular season.
It’s difficult to determine the root cause of his struggles, and I won’t pretend to have the answer, either. Guardians hitting coach Chris Valaika is much more qualified to troubleshoot the issue, and I imagine he and Straw will spend this offseason evaluating his swing and plate approach. September did offer a glimmer of hope, as Straw slashed .308/.364/.364 with 112 wRC+ in his final 119 plate appearances of the regular season.
The question that dogged Straw throughout that miserable four-month stretch of the season was how much his defensive value offset his negative value at the plate. Because Straw provides a lot of defensive value.
This season, he finished third in outs above average among all qualified center fielders according to Baseball Savant. FanGraphs ranked Straw first among all qualified center fielders in defensive runs saved (17), outfield arm runs (7.8), ultimate zone rating (13.2), and FanGraphs defense (16.3). He was rewarded for his efforts with a Gold Glove.
But you need look no further than FanGraphs to see the debate over his value. Straw’s FanGraphs defense this season was 16.3, compared to -16.4 for his FanGraphs offense. So does his defensive value make up for his lack of offensive value, or do they cancel each other out? FanGraphs’ offensive and defensive valuations would seem to lean towards the latter, but he was also worth 2 WAR, which I have to imagine was driven entirely by his defense.
Cleveland is likely betting that the Straw we saw at the plate between May and August is not the real Myles Straw. He may not be the Straw we saw in April and September either, but if he is able to settle in somewhere in the middle, merely average production at the plate moving forward would more than justify his place in the lineup.
I mean, this is a man who was prepared to go to war with Yankees fans. You don’t cut bait on an elite defensive center fielder willing to scale the wall at Yankee Stadium to defend Steven Kwan.
Myles Straw’s 2022 Stats
We’re reviewing (almost) all the Guardians players from 2022 now through November, starting with the top-10 MVPs as voted on by eight Covering the Corner staff members. Players were awarded points based on their one through 10 individual rankings and were ranked as such. You can find all the Year in Review posts here.