Is Ryan Cordell a Legitimate Diamond in the Rough or a Rebuild Mirage?
One thing I knew was Ryan Cordell has played extremely solidly in his short stint with the White Sox, especially since getting called back up earlier this week, a move that should have happened weeks ago. What I didn’t realize, was how well he has played compared to the rest of the White Sox roster. Exhibit A, the White Sox bWAR “standings” for the young 2019 season:
Was not expecting to see him in 3rd this morning, but hey I guess Easter Sunday is for surprises. In only 14 plate appearances, he has added 0.5 wins above replacement, which is only behind Moncada and Anderson. Yes it’s early, but only sitting behind the two breakout stars of the team is not what I had expected from Ryan Cordell this year.
If you include pitchers in this, the only guy he sits behind is Carlos Rodon, who has 0.9 bWAR thus far. Certainly not a bad spot for a guy who has extremely limited playing time and spent a good chunk of the year in Charlotte.
So this got me to thinking – what exactly do the White Sox have in Ryan Cordell? Sure, we’ve had apparitions before in this whole rebuild of guys who we thought may be something real before showing otherwise in extended time. Think 2017 Nicky Delmonico, 2018 Daniel Palka, etc. Sample size means a whole lot in baseball, something that certainly gets thrown to the wind in the early weeks of the season.
One thing we do know – in this season, with a dearth of depth in the outfield, Palka struggling, Jon Jay injured, and Adam Engel not showing any signs of being more than an elite defensive player with extremely limited offensive skills, Ryan Cordell is going to get a chance to show something. Hell, with no significant additions and no prospects looming unless Luis Robert gets fast tracked after his torrid start in Winston-Salem, there’s no reason not to play Cordell extensively.
And so far, he’s made the most of his opportunity. Offensively, he announced his return with a bang, hitting a bomb off Tyson Ross in his first game back from Charlotte, his second of the year.
This was following the cycle he hit for shortly after getting sent down to Charlotte.
Maybe these were signs that he should have remained with the team over Palka or Engel during this stretch. Just maybe. But, no need to cry over spilled milk at this point.
Right now his numbers are video game-esque. I mean, you have the .462/.500/1.000 slash line, which is absurd and will not continue just cause common sense. Again, sample size.
Looking beyond that, there are some encouraging signs in the statcast realm. You can see for yourself here, but these are the main things I am seeing:
- Average exit velocity of 95.4 MPH and an average launch angle of 24.4. These are extremely good numbers for those of you who might not be statcast inclined. Right now, that 95.4 number has Ryan Cordell 10th in baseball, ahead of the likes of JD Martinez, Cody Bellinger, and Anthony Rendon.
- Hard Hit % of 70%. This is absolutely insane, putting Ryan at 3rd in baseball. Ahead of basically everyone, including Aaron Judge, Barry Bonds Yelich, and statcast darling Joey Gallo. OK, sure, the guys in front of him are Gordon Beckham and Alex Avila, White Sox legends in their own right, but still this is encouraging.
- 14.3% barrels per plate appearance rate, good for 12th in baseball.
So from the numbers, Ryan Cordell is hitting the ball hard, which is always a good thing. Sure, sample size is a factor here, but if he can continue to make solid contact below these cartoon rates, everyone should be happy. He may not be a star, but a 4th outfielder who can give the ball a good ride is valuable.
How about defense? Right now I’ll take what I’m seeing. He’s no Adam Engel, but still has the ability to make impressive catches.
Speaking of Engel, let’s look at the comparison between those two briefly. They are 1-2 on the Sox in defensive WAR, with Engel at 0.3 and Cordell at 0.1. They’re also 1-2 in runs saved above average, with Engel at 3 and Cordell at 1. Extrapolating defensive runs saved above average to 1,200 innings, this actually gives Ryan Cordell an edge, 44 to 42. Again, sample size, but encouraging nonetheless. Cordell may not be a gold glove player, but an above average defender to go along with a serviceable to plus bat? I’ll take that in a rebuild in a heartbeat.
To summarize, clearly it’s too early to tell what we have with Ryan Cordell so far. The numbers look good, but we as a fanbase have been fooled by sample size before. That being said, I’m liking what I’m seeing so far, there are certainly indicators we may have a legitimate player here.
Does Ryan Cordell have to be a superstar? Of course not. But if he can develop into a solid 4th outfielder on a good team who can play everyday if needed? That is something that would be extremely valuable for this franchise. Here’s to seeing what we have over the rest of 2019, he’ll certainly get his chance.