- Rating: 2.57
- Age: 29
- 2022 Stats: 83 G, 234 PA, .176/.274/.361 = .634 OPS (79 OPS+), 11 HR, 28 RBI, 0.1 bWAR
- 2022 Earnings: $1,400,000 (per Spotrac)
- 2023 Status: UFA
When Mike Hazen shipped minor leaguer Ronny Simon to the Tampa Bay Rays for Jordan Luplow in November of 2021, it seemed to fill a pretty obvious gap as a platoon bat and/or utility player. Additionally, he could provide some *insert valuable veteran leadership cliche* here for a squad that was primed to be substantially younger and inexperienced in 2022 as MLB’s fourth-ranked farm system in the preseason started paying dividends. While we’ll never fully know the impact Luplow had on the youngsters, the on-field results were certainly disappointing - even accounting for relatively modest expectations for the eight-year veteran.
First drafted back in 2014 out of Fresno State University by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the third-round, Luplow profiled as a middling outfield prospect who might have some potential with further tweaking of his batting approach. For the curious-minded reader, the D-Backs selected Matt Railey in that third round, who never made it above low-A ball before moving on from professional baseball. He followed the selection by posting solid if unspectacular seasons in 2015 and 2016 before taking his offense to another level in 2017 including batting a .325/.401/.513 slash line at AAA Indianapolis across nearly 200 PA. That’s a surefire way to get promoted!
Unfortunately for him, Luplow scuffled to a .205/.276/.385 slash line once he reached the majors and bounced between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis in 2017 and 2018. But as John Sickels noted in this mid-season update from 2017, there was a case to be made that he could improve and while he was not a stellar defender, he made the necessary plays. Unfortunately, that same update noted that Luplow’s injury history had hurt his draft stock coming out of college and sadly became a consistent refrain for him as a major leaguer and in his brief stint as a D-Back. His transactions page is littered with time on the IL/DL for everything from the oblique strain that kept him off the Opening Day roster in 2022 to a nagging ankle sprain that ailed him through the entire 2021 campaign.
Despite those injury issues, Luplow was able to establish himself as a legitimate platoon bat in 2019 with Cleveland as he mashed lefties to the tune of a .320/.439./742 slash line compared to a .217/.274/.299 line against righties. He was unable to maintain that momentum however, but continued to carve himself out a niche as a solid outfielder with decent arm strength and middling splits. This profile was evidently enough for Tampa Bay to pick him up for their stretch run in 2021 including a dramatic four-run home run in Game 2 of the ALDS against Boston.
All of this brings us to the 2022 season where Hazen and the front office’s expectations had clearly fallen from his previous highs, but where Luplow could still provide value in some form to the team. I suspect, however, that not even their lowest expectations included Luplow failing to even hit his own weight (.176 BA compared to 195 pounds) for the year and being demoted to AAA Reno for a two-week stint. While I certainly don’t mean to disparage, Luplow failed to find any purchase against any of the pitches he faced - including a measly .197 BA against fastballs being the highest mark he posted of the three pitch types tracked by Statcast. This complete lack of offensive production buttressed by the promotions of Alek Thomas, Stone Garret, and Corbin Carroll later in the year, made Luplow’s playing time increasingly endangered.
He certainly was not without complete value as he continued to provide solid fielding across the entire outfield and graded out as one of the best outfield arms across the majors with a 96th percentile Arm Strength from Statcast. And one need look no further than this topsy turvy game against San Diego wherein Luplow hit an inside-the-park homer, a defensive miscue, and an excellent outfield assist to encapsulate the 2022 Jordan Luplow experience.
Ultimately, Luplow was one of the more predictable casualties of the necessary roster moves to protect some of the valuable prospects still awaiting their turn in the minors from the Rule 5 draft scheduled for next month. Even though his tenure with the D-Backs was relatively brief, I wish him the best in his future endeavors and would not be shocked to see him signed by a club looking for depth, veteran leadership, a platoon bat, or a little bit of all the above.