Cleveland Indians

Is Jordan Luplow the Indians Full-time Solution in Right Field?

In 2019, Jordan Luplow was flat out one of the best platoon advantaged players in Major League Baseball. Indeed, among those with 100+ plate appearances against left-handed pitching, Luplow was amongst the best in baseball at leveraging up the handedness advantage.

Top 6 in wRC+ against LHP minimum 100 PA:

  1. J.D. Martinez: 242 wRC+
  2. Alex Bregman: 205 wRC+
  3. Jordan Luplow: 198 wRC+
  4. Mitch Garver: 198 wRC+
  5. Nelson Cruz: 195 wRC+
  6. Aaron Judge: 193 wRC+

This above dominance is why Luplow was able to generate 2.2 WAR despite appearing in just 85 games. Yet, one of the questions one is pressed into considering is whether there is more in Luplow than simply an executioner of left-handed pitching.

On the surface, the answer looks like a hard no, Luplow posted just a 48 wRC+ in a confined 106 plate appearance sample against right-handed pitching.

First, Luplow is an average or better defender with 80th percentile spring speed, 4 career defensive runs saved, a positive UZR, and a strong arm. With this in mind Luplow does not necessarily need to run an above average wRC+ against right-handed pitching but simply a competent rate.

Now for pedigree against right-handed pitching, minor league numbers are not binding but they can be informative. Against RHP:

2018: .759 OPS

2017: .837 OPS

2016: .817 OPS

Luplow had excellent minor-league success against RHP, at least suggesting that his 2019 .573 OPS against RHP is probably positioned for some positive regression. Of course, his success against LHP will regress to some extent as well.

In identifying what is different, Luplow’s spray chart is fairly surprising. Against LHP Luplow is able to get out in front and hit the ball hard to the pull field.

Courtesy of Baseball Savant

Whereas, against right-handed pitching, Luplow appears to use the middle of the field too-frequently sapping what contact authority he may have by hitting it to the larger part of the ballpark.

Courtesy of Baseball Savant

Of course, in both splits the sample-size is what one might say is uncomfortably small. Yet, with Luplow’s minor league success, defensive competency, and increasing comfort at the big league level, the Indians would be wise to provide Luplow the opportunity to prove himself against right-handed pitching. Merely running a 88-95 wRC+ against right-handed pitching and 120+ wRC+ against left-handed pitching would place Luplow and his defense in 3 WAR starting outfielder territory.

Luplow is already a dynamite piece with significant value both during the regular season and as a matchup tool in the postseason but the door is open in 2020 for Luplow to prove he is more than a murderer of left-handing pitching and defensive substitute.

1 reply »

  1. Thanks for putting the facts out there to combat the fallacy that I regularly saw on twitter last season: “Luplow should never face a RHP.” Luplow had an impressive record in both college and the minors and performed at an MVP level in AA and AAA for the Pirates organization. Although his initial callups didn’t go well, they showed the signs of being overly anxious at the plate since his BB% rate was significantly below what he had done throughout his minor league career. Last year he regularly put up good at bats and the BB% rate improved throughout the year and ended at a very solid 12.6%. I was high on both he and Jake Bauers when they were acquired by the Indians. I always found it an interesting contrast that Bauers was penciled in every day and allowed a long stretch to figure things out while Luplow, a far superior OF, was considered only a platoon option. When the two were initially acquired I, like the Indians, was initially higher on Bauers but I had never seen either player live. After watching them both live this season, I had a different vibe as I was surprised at how athletic Luplow was and how long Bauers’ swing was. Luplow generally showed good at bats throughout the year and having a BB% above 10% throughout his minor league career gives you an indicator that he has a good batting eye and the results against RHP at the major league level may improve given extended at bats. Let’s hope the manager can somehow overcome his phobia of young right handed hitters and allow him to regularly face RHP to prove if he deserves to play everyday.

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