Of all the non-tenders, only three were right-handed batting outfielders. Here’s some analysis on each to determine whether they can caddy for Matt Joyce.
Former team: Atlanta
Age on Opening Day 2011: 33
Diaz began his career with the Rays and has roots in the area (he attended Sante Fe Catholic in Lakeland and Florida State University). Drafted by the team in the seventeenth round of the 1999 draft, Diaz only recorded 14 games with the Rays before being waived. He bounced from Baltimore to Kansas City to Atlanta before latching on, following in the footsteps of many minor league journeymen. Diaz managed to become a big league regular by latching onto the Braves since 2006.
What Diaz does is hit lefties, his career line against them is .335/.373/.533. What he doesn’t do is hit righties, at .269/.327/.382. Joyce and Diaz share little in common besides being local products. Take their walk habits. Thirteen percent of Joyce’s career plate appearances have concluded with a free pass; or 74 walks (72 unintentional) in 575 plate appearances. Diaz had 75 unintentional walks in 1,515 plate appearances with the Braves. Joyce’s career ISO is more than .100 points higher than Diaz’s. Joyce is also the better defender. That does not mean Diaz is a bad player, simply that he relies upon batting average more so than Joyce does and that his overall package is inferior.
Former team: San Diego
Age on Opening Day 2011: 29
A personal favorite from back in the day, Hairston struggled after returning to San Diego by hitting .210/.295/.346. Hairston’s career numbers versus lefties are .278/.331/.498. His poor 2010 season seems to be the result of a low batting average on balls in play, which may stem from a bad shoulder that heavily contributed to his sunken second half. He is the best baserunner and fielder of the bunch and the only one that could fake center field if necessary.
Former team: Pittsburgh
Age on Opening Day 2011: 25 (turns 26 within the week)
Like Diaz and Joyce, Milledge too has local connections – he attended Lakewood Ranch High School. Milledge doesn’t hit righties well whatsoever (.261/.313/.377 career). He does manage better against lefties (.289/.363/.453). Being the youngest of the trio gives him the most perceived upside whether he deserves that tag or not, although his draft status certainly suggests that as well (12th overall pick). Hitherto, he’s yet to show off that potential. Milledge is incapable of playing center and is not an asset with his bat or glove in a corner outfield position. That’s a bad combination and one that places him at the bottom of the list.