Tommy Holmes was an outfielder for the Boston Braves in the 1940s and early 1950s. He batted left-handed, and he had a little power and a little speed and a little patience. He played good defense and had a great arm, and would be involved in more double plays than errors in his career. Still, no one skill stood out for Holmes. He got by on the strength of his all-around game.*
*That statement needs to be modified by one small note: Holmes was one of the best batters ever at making contact with the ball. He played in an era where few guys struck out 100 times, but he whiffed only nine times–nine!–during his best year, 1945. He walked 70 times that season. For that and a half-dozen other reasons, he probably should have won the MVP that year.
Today, Tommy Holmes is David DeJesus. DeJesus, whom I have always liked for his quiet consistency, was traded by the Kansas City Royals–to whom he gave all of his first eight big-league seasons–to the Oakland Athletics yesterday. That got me to thinking about DeJesus and Holmes, and what the latter’s career path might tell us about the former’s future.
2010 stats: 394 PA, .318/.384/.443, 5 HR, 34 BB, 47 SO, 2.9 WAR
Career (age 30): .289/.360/.427, 61 HR, 47/90 SB, 21.7 WAR
Aside from telling us that David DeJesus really needs to stop trying to steal bases, these numbers point out a few things about DeJesus. First of all, DeJesus is a great outfielder. In fact, he plays both left and center field about as well as anyone not named Crawford or Gutierrez in the game today. Unfortunately, his all-out style cost him the final two months of last season after he injured his thumb on a catch at the wall.
Offensively, DeJesus defines the term “gap power.” He has 187 doubles and 45 triples for his career, making scarcely more than a fifth of his career extra-base hits homers. Part of the reason has been Kauffman Stadium, which swallows up home runs. So does the Coliseum in Oakland, though, so DeJesus can’t expect too much help there. He makes good contact and draws his share of walks, so he always projects well.
1947 stats: 676 PA, .309/.360/.416, 9 HR, 44 BB, 16 SO, 3.0 WAR
Career (though age 30): .305/.370/.437, 65 HR, 38 SB, 25.8 WAR
You have probably figured it out by now: Tommy Holmes was a slightly better hitter and slightly worse fielder than is David DeJesus. It isn’t entirely that simple, but that’s the gist.
Holmes’ shining 1945 season aside, he was much the same hitter as DeJesus in terms of power profile. That year, he hit 28 home runs and led the league in slugging. Removing that season from consideration, though, he had 167 doubles, 28 triples and 37 long balls at age 30.
Since the two batters are so similar, let’s look at what Holmes did in 1948, at the age of 31:
.325/.375/.439, 35 2B, 7 3B, 6 HR, 3.3 WAR
That’s a substantial improvement on his 1947 year. It would be fair to expect something similar of DeJesus, who enters a good situation with an Oakland team that will wait out his slumps in deference to his defense. He also stands to merit a pretty good spot in the otherwise modest Oakland batting order. Here are my projections for DeJesus in 2011.
548 PA, .292/.367/.450, 11 HR, 3.6 WAR
Given his value to Oakland as a defensive outfielder, those numbers make DeJesus more than worth the team’s expencitures (pitchers Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks, plus DeJesus’ $6-million salary for 2011) to acquire him.