At the 2021 trade deadline, the Houston Astros traded CF Myles Straw to Cleveland essentially for a mediocre reliever in Phil Maton. Once in Cleveland, Straw was merely average offensively, albeit with an unorthodox skillset that led his OBP and SLG to be within 15 points of each other (.362 and .377 respectively). Straw’s real value in his first two months as a member of Cleveland’s baseball team came defensively, as his 6 OAA in just sixty games would’ve ranked him in the top 20 outfield defenders in baseball across a full season, putting him in truly elite company.
This season, Straw’s offense has gone from decent to atrocious, as his .547 OPS on the season puts 2022 Myles Straw in the ‘elite’ company of 2018 Chris Davis and 2010 Cesar Izturis as the worst full offensive seasons of the Wild Card Era by OPS. Davis and Izturis never played a full season again after those seasons, given that by most metrics they dipped or plummeted below replacement level as a result. Straw, on the other hand, likely has several more full MLB seasons in his future, in spite of his historically bad offense.
Since the start of 2021, Myles Straw Ultimate Zone Rating is 18.0. 2021 Gold Glove winners Michael Taylor and Harrison Bader have accumulated just 15.4 and 15.2 so far respectively. Perennial Platinum Glove candidates Nolan Arenado and Matt Chapman are even further away, at 14.2 and 9.2 UZR respectively. Even defensive specialists like Kevin Kiermaier haven’t even cracked half of Straw’s total. In fact, there’s not a player in baseball with a higher UZR in the past two seasons than Myles Straw, and his lead over second is the same as the gap between second and sixth.
In addition to the more sabermetric defensive metrics, Straw also passes the eye test with flying colors, he started off 2021 with this web gem against the A’s. Once he got to Cleveland, he almost immediately got to work with this sliding catch to rob Teoscar Hernandez of extra bases. More recently, he made this sensational leaping grab to rob Alejandro Kirk of extra bases as well as prevent a run from coming in. Needless to say, every single possible metric that it’s possible to grade Myles Straw’s defense with spits out the same result, elite level production and then some.
In spite of his elite defense and speed, the vast majority of Major League teams would utilize Straw as a fourth outfielder if they decided to use him at the Major League level at all. Thankfully, Cleveland’s emphasis on defense has created a path for Myles Straw to shine somewhere, even if he is having a historically awful offensive campaign. Myles Straw’s skillset is the antithesis of modern baseball, and even if his offense never progresses to the mean, he’ll have his place in the league for years to come.
Main photo credit: @CleGuardians on Twitter