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Will Tyler O'Neill Hit a TON in Beantown? Fantasy Baseball Outlook

tyler o'neill fantasy baseball rankings draft sleeper MLB injury news

While the world waited to see where Shohei Ohtani would sign, a handful of teams concentrated on smaller moves. One of the best examples is the Boston Red Sox, who swapped minor-league pitchers Nick Robertson and Victor Santos to the St. Louis Cardinals for 28-year-old outfielder Tyler O'Neill on December 8.

Tyler O'Neill enjoyed a huge year in 2021, slashing .286/.352/.560 with 34 HR and 15 SB. Sadly, he hasn't approached that production since. Last year, O'Neill slashed .231/.312/.403 with nine homers and five steals across 266 PAs.

Will the trade to Boston provide O'Neill with the change of scenery he needs to get back on the fantasy radar? Let's find out!

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Tyler O'Neill Was a Buy Low For Boston

O'Neill hasn't had the best surface-level stats recently, but his peripherals suggest he's played better than his line would indicate. For instance, O'Neill was unfortunate last season if his Baseball Savant expected stats are any indication. His .249 xBA would look much better than his .231 batting average, while his xSLG of .447 was 44 points higher than his actual mark.

Similarly, O'Neill has improved his plate discipline metrics each year since that magical 2021 campaign. Back in 2021, he struck out at a 31.3% clip while walking 7.1% of the time. Last year, he struck out 25.2% of the time with a 10.5 BB%. The change was supported by substantial improvements in both O-Swing% (28.5 vs. 32.1 in 2021) and SwStr% (11.2 vs. 16.2). Boston might be expecting a lower K% in 2024 based on 2023's peripherals.

O'Neill's contact quality took a little hit as he tried to make more contact, but he still hit the ball hard. Last season, he averaged 94.3 mph of exit velocity on his airborne batted balls, posted a max exit velocity of 111.4 mph, and put up a 12.3% ratio of Brls/BBE. If anything, the Red Sox are expecting a HR/FB spike from the 13.8% mark he posted last year.

O'Neill's Statcast Sprint Speed of 28.5 ft./sec was much lower than his 2021 mark of 29.7 ft./sec, but injuries likely have a lot to do with that. O'Neill landed on the IL with a back injury in early May, dealt with knee discomfort off and on through August, and landed back on the IL with a sprained right foot in September. O'Neill tried to play through all three, and all three would compromise his speed.

The Red Sox reviewed O'Neill's medicals and approved the trade, so hopefully these issues are behind him. O'Neill is also working with a new trainer who emphasizes range of motion rather than raw strength to stay healthier.

 

How Does Tyler O'Neill Fit in Boston?

The Cardinals didn't get a ton of production out of their outfielders in 2023, and the team mixed and matched O'Neill, Alec Burleson, Tommy Edman, Jordan Walker, Lars Nootbaar, and others throughout the year. The constant shuffling may have prevented O'Neill from finding his groove. That won't be an issue in Boston, where O'Neill is expected to receive everyday playing time. The team lacks outfield depth, especially if Masataka Yoshida is relegated to DH duties. O'Neill should get a long leash even if he gets off to a slow start.

The park switch should also benefit O'Neill. Per Statcast's three-year park factors, Fenway Park boosts hits for RHB with a 109 factor while playing perfectly neutral for HR. In contrast, Busch Stadium inflates hits less with a 101 park factor while suppressing home runs with a 94 factor.

Likewise, Boston boasts the more potent lineup. The Red Sox ranked 11th in the league with 772 runs scored in 2023, while the Cards were 19th with 719. O'Neill may be able to steal more bases as well since Boston stole 112 bags (17th) to St. Louis' 101 (20th), though neither club is predicated on speed.

All told, O'Neill has the physical gifts to succeed, and Boston should give him every opportunity to do so. Currently an afterthought in drafts, a late selection of O'Neill could pay huge dividends in fantasy.



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