We’ve seen great catches from center fielders like Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Jim Edmonds. We’ve seen great throws from outfielders like Ichiro Suzuki and Vladimir Guerrero. However, we haven’t necessarily seen both until Ramón Laureano started roaming in center field of the Oakland Coliseum. According to Baseball Reference, he currently ranks 2nd in the majors in outfield assists (5) behind Leury Garcia, but his are by far the most spectacular.
Ramón Laureano has 11 assists in 55 career outfield games …— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) April 3, 2019
He’s the fastest OF to 11 assists since @JeffFrancoeur (45 gms) in 2005. h/t: @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/X3OcbxdF9g
And so are his catches.
Ramon Laureano is insane!— Baseball Bros (@BaseballBros) April 21, 2019
This is one of the greatest double plays you’ll ever see pic.twitter.com/b8VIaRl7QO
Drafted in the 16th round by the Houston Astros in 2014, Laureano impressed former Scouting Director, Mike Elias during his showcase at Minute Maid Park by making diving catches and displaying home run power.
When he was in Double-A, Laureano struggled and was eventually traded to the A’s for Brandon Bailey. Once the A’s optioned their current CF Dustin Fowler to Triple-A, Laureano finally saw consistent playing time. Manager Bob Melvin really liked his aggressive play in center field and he’s been there ever since.
According to the Washington Post, Laureano was well-known for his arm strength while he was in the A’s minor league system. When he made his MLB debut in August of 2018, Oakland knew the weapon they had on defense and couldn’t wait for opposing teams to test it. His unique ability isn’t a fluke. Laureano works hard on his defense every day during batting practice.
Other than Blake Treinen, Laureano might have the best arm on the team as Statcast has recorded his outfield throws at 96 mph. While he’s not quite a household name (yet), and he’s not necessarily a superstar, he’s arguably one of the most exciting players to watch in baseball.
This throw was a straight LASER from CF.— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 2, 2019
Ramón Laureano did this AND homered tonight. (via @Athletics) pic.twitter.com/EJu1qixu3I
According to Fangraphs, he has a +7 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) from 2018 to today, which puts him at the top of the list of the best defensive outfielders in MLB like Jason Heyward and Harrison Bader. He’s also accomplished this feat in a shorter amount of time than his counterparts. He already has five assists in 2019 and a total of 14 assists in just 74 games in his MLB career. According to a Forbes piece, Laureano’s arm might be worth more than several players’ bats. During a game against the Red Sox on 4/2/2019, Laureano made two incredible throws on outfield assists that accounted for over two-fifths of a win. At that point in the season, only 17 hitters in MLB had created the same amount of win probability with their bats.
And yet, base runners continue to test Laureano in center field, which does not make sense. Coaches have seen his highlights and should be aware of his range and arm strength. Thinking logically, his opportunities for outfield assists should’ve decreased considering his experience in gunning down runners. According to an ESPN piece, the last player with 20 outfield assists was Alex Gordon in 2011. With the current rate of strikeouts and home runs, there have been fewer opportunities for outfield assists, yet Laureano is somehow accumulating them at a record pace.
We'll keep saying it if we have to ...— MLB (@MLB) April 10, 2019
DON'T RUN ON LAUREANO. pic.twitter.com/c6DIu7uplU
From a fan perspective, I hope third base coaches continue to wave in their runners. Baseball is better this way.
John LaLoggia writes about baseball at Beyond the Box Score, Banished to the Pen and Foul Territory Baseball. Please follow him on Twitter @JohnLaLoggia, email him at email@example.com.