40 in 40: Boston Red Sox Player Profiles- Ryan Sweeney
Moving on to the outfield, we look at one of the new members of the Boston Red Sox, right fielder Ryan Sweeney. Sweeney was acquired from the Oakland Athletic in the trade that netted reliever Andrew Bailey for last season’s primary right fielder, Josh Reddick, and two low minor league prospects. While many fans are sorry to see Josh Reddick go, if Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney both remain healthy, that deal could look like an absolute steal by the end of the season. Sweeney is currently battling a minor strain in his quad, but he is still expect to be ready close to open day and see significant playing time in right field this year.
In fact, as the only lefty among the three options for right, Sweeney is likely to see the most playing time at that position. As a defender, he is capable of playing anywhere in the outfield but his tools are particularly well suited for Fenway’s spacious right field. Should anything happen to Jacoby Ellsbury, Sweeney would the logical choice to back up center field, as he has the most experience there as well as the best range among the available options. If all were to go as planned, Ryan Sweeney would be a platoon player, splitting time in right with right-handers Cody Ross and Darnell McDonald.
The first thing anyone is going to notice when looking at Ryan Sweeney’s batting line is his lack of power. Sweeney has a career slugging percentage of just .378 and an ISO of .084. He has a distinct opposite field approach which doesn’t lend itself to many extra base hits and this has been compounded by the fact that he has been playing his home games in one of the more spacious ball parks in the game to this point in his career. Transitioning from the Oakland Coliseum to Fenway Park could make a huge impact in Sweeney’s game, with the Green Monster helping to boost his batting average and add some much needed doubles power to his slugging.
The one thing that Sweeney has going for him already though is his discipline at the plate. He has walked in 8.4% of his turns at the plate in his career and this has help give him a very solid .342 OBP. Like many of his new teammates, Sweeney likes to see a lot of pitches per plate appearance, averaging 4.34 p/pa last season, a number that is comparable to guys like Youkilis and Pedroia, who both absolutely wear out opposing pitchers. So while Sweeney may not hit many extra base hits, he will be on bases for others to drive in.
Sweeney’s offense will look even better if he is given limited exposure to left-handed hitters. Sweeney’s career line against righties is .297/.352/.402. And though that is still not much power, it is a pretty great line for a guy who will hit seventh or lower in the order. Against righties, Sweeney far less likely to strikeout out (12.8% K’s vs 18.2% against lefties) and his contact is much better, with a career .332 BABIP against righties vs just .287 against lefties. With Cody Ross on the roster, the Red Sox have two players who compliment each other very well to make a right field platoon effective.
One of the biggest advantages the Red Sox should get from a platoon of Sweeney and Ross is on the defensive side of the ball. Ryan Sweeney has been used all over the outfield in his career and he has generally been a good defender every the A’s put him. Thus far in career, right field has been his best position, both UZR and Total Zone love his glove there. UZR sees him saving 16.0 runs over a full season on average as a right fielder and Total Zone credits him with 16 runs saved in just under 2000 innings. He has an above average arm that will help the Red Sox improve on a terrible 2011 season that saw right fielders get just one base running kill. His biggest asset, however, is his range. While he can play center, as a centerfielder Sweeney has very average range. However, shifting over to right, he becomes one of the more rangy right fielders in the league and with Fenway’s deep right field corner that range is going to save quite a few runs.
Sweeney is interesting acquisition for the Red Sox. For a team that has long been thought of as full of flat-footed sluggers, he is something new. He runs well, plays great defense and has almost no power to speak of. His best tools are his glove and his ability to get on base and both will play very well for the Red Sox. If a firm platoon situation is used, he could be even better. While Sweeney might not be want Red Sox fans are used to, it is a good bet that he will quickly endear himself to the fan base with his hard nose play on defense and his grinding plate approach.