Tyler O’Neill seems to have all but secured a bench outfielder spot on the 25-man roster.
The young Canadian has put up an impressive, if peculiar, spring thus far. Through 58 PA’s, he’s been able to OPS .813 but has done so by slashing a comical .180/.293/.520 along the way. The underlying plate discipline, meanwhile, isn’t as brutal as you’d expect given O’Neill’s debut. He’s struckout 29.3% of time while running a walk rate of 13.8% - a small sample to be sure but certainly more in line with his minor league numbers since hitting AA in 2016. Power wise, he’s ISO’d .340 by ripping 2 doubles and 5 home runs. Five home runs, but the way, ties him for second across both leagues and places him one home run shy of Aaron Judge. In the field and on the basepaths, he’s shown off the 29.5 ft/sec sprint speed that tied for 20th in the majors last year. Long story short, he’s proven himself too tooled up to be left off the Opening Day roster.
What version of Tyler O’Neill are we going to see this year? We know there will be power - but will he run unsustainable strikeout and walk rates? Or will the tutelage of Jeff Albert morph his plate discipline into something more in line with his minor league numbers? On the low end, he could be Joey Gallo at the plate with more value in the field and on the bases. On the high end, could there be an Aaron Judge-esque improvement in approach that unlocks all his raw power?
The ultimate determining factor of his value this year will be how much playing time he’s able to get. Dexter Fowler seems all but a lock to begin the season in right field, despite being a very nearly under water contract at this point. Marcell Ozuna and Harrison Bader are lock for left and center respectively, while Jose Martinez will be worked into corner outfield spots to get his bat in the lineup. O’Neill has the advantage of playing all three outfield spots, however, and will be the primary replacement for Bader. It feels like he’ll force his way into more playing time as the season progresses - but exactly how fast will the organization be to move on from Fowler or another underperforming outfielder?