Unbeknownst to many baseball fans, for the past three seasons, the Boston Red Sox have had a secret weapon roaming their outfield and anchoring their lineup. Quietly, since donning the white and red and being treated to Neil Diamond on a regular basis, this particular player has produced with both his glove and his bat, to the tune of 10.4 WAR, the eighth best total for an outfielder in the American League since 2007. Yet, many are quick to ignore and neglect J.D. Drew, the silent yet productive player I speak of, in favor of discussing a David Ortiz or a Jason Bay. Yankee fans do this too, often underestimating the abilities Drew brings to the table, which is why I write this post.
Though I have already cited the value numbers at large, Drew would probably be considered a top five outfielder in the American League, WAR-wise, if it weren’t for his “poor” debut with Boston three years ago. In his first season in Beantown, Drew hit .270/.373/.423 and was worth just 1.4 WAR, as his defense was somewhat questionable – he posted an UZR of -3.1 – and his power never really materialized (he hit only 11 home runs). At the end of the year, because of his disappointing performance and a checkered health history, many wondered whether or not he was actually worth the five-year, $70M contract that the golden child, Theo Epstein, has provided him the winter prior.
However, in 2008, J.D. Drew demonstrated that he was no Nancy, rebounding to hit .280/.408/.519, with an UZR of 6.4 in right field and 19 home runs to boot. The quiet outfielder was valued at 4.2 WAR and would have had the highest wOBA in the American League that year at .400 if it had not been for some dude named Carlos Quentin and his .414 mark. In 2009, Drew further cemented his well-rounded, run saving and run producing ways, as he batted a robust .279/.392/.522, swatting 24 home runs, while making it look easy out in right field with an UZR of 10.5. It is difficult for me to say this being a Yankee fan and all, but the man can flat-out play and is worthy of his big deal. For whatever reason though, despite his talents, Drew is generally part of the Boston backdrop. Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia are more valuable to the team, hence they receive and deserve more fanfare, however, Drew’s name should be mentioned in the same breathe as those two. Without him, the Sawx lineup would be significantly weaker.
As a Yankee fan, unless CC Sabathia is on the mound, I generally worry a great deal when Drew steps to the plate. I also worry when a Yankee hits a ball to right field, for I know that he can probably catch it if he can just get near it. As we reflect briefly on Drew’s tenure in Boston, it is clear that such concern is warranted and valid. His numbers over the past three years – well, his stats over the past two years in particular – indicate just how good he is (one of the best in the American League, in fact). When he is on the field, I worry for good reason and, to be honest, you should too.
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