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March 31, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Outfield

by Rob McQuown

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Atlanta PECOTA 2007-09 Scoresheet Short-Term PT%
Outfield Age PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG K% BB% TB/H vRH vLH Rng LF CF RF All
Melky Cabrera 25 491 11 55 54 10 .274 .340 .406 11% 7% 1.44 +2 –6 2.15 45 15 10 70
Matt Diaz 32 398 10 46 46 9 .296 .352 .449 19% 6% 1.48 –46 +96 2.08 50 50
Jason Heyward 20 483 17 64 59 6 .280 .349 .477 +24 –71 2.10 90 90
Eric Hinske 32 410 17 51 49 4 .244 .334 .448 22% 12% 1.87 +26 –91 2.06 5 25
Nate McLouth 28 569 22 84 73 19 .273 .352 .473 16% 10% 1.76 +36 –97 2.15 85 85
Heater team expert: Avg for Left Field .274 .342 .440 17% 9% 1.61 vRH = OPSvR Figures by Heater
Martin Gandy Avg for Center Field .269 .338 .424 18% 9% 1.58 vLH = OPSvL New upgrade
  Avg for Right Field .275 .348 .449 18% 9% 1.63 Rng = Range New downgrade
  Avg for All Outfield .273 .343 .438 18% 9% 1.61  
SPRING TRAINING AB H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG K/BB SB/CS
Melky Cabrera 60 17 3 1 0 .283 .348 .367 6/6 1/1
Matt Diaz 56 19 3 0 0 .339 .422 .393 11/6 3/2
Jason Heyward 49 17 4 0 1 .347 .467 .490 9/9 4/1
Eric Hinske 39 16 1 0 2 .410 .510 .590 5/6 0/0
Nate McLouth 50 6 1 0 1 .120 .207 .200 16/6 3/0 Spring Training stats per Heater

With many thanks to Kevin Goldstein, we already have an idea how good Jason Heyward will be in 2010. The player who isn't being hurt by the Heyward decision is Melky Cabrera, assuming he keeps outhitting Nate McLouth. McLouth's struggles at the dish this spring have already dropped him in the batting order (Melky has been leading off). Poor Matt Diaz went on a fitness rampage last year, and had a 13/12 season (HR/SB) in just 425 PA, while continuing his career-long .300-plus batting. But he's hit only .276/.334/.387 in his career vs. righty pitchers (that's -46 in Scoresheet, due to his annihilation of lefties), limiting him to platoon duty. Expect Bobby Cox to keep using him in situations where he can thrive, at least, so his rate stats should again be excellent. This makes him a nice player to have in sim games such as Scoresheet or Strat-O-Matic, but frustrating for fantasy owners.

St. Louis PECOTA 2007-09 Scoresheet Short-Term PT%
Outfield Age PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG K% BB% TB/H vRH vLH Rng LF CF RF All
Allen Craig 25 505 21 62 64 2 .267 .323 .456 –16 +40 2.10 10 15 30
Jon Jay 25 442 8 48 41 10 .267 .319 .386 +24 –71 2.10
Joe Mather 27 333 11 34 35 3 .223 .288 .388 –10 +22 2.10 15 15
Skip Schumaker 30 549 7 67 44 4 .299 .361 .405 11% 8% 1.33 +48 –158 2.10 75
Heater team expert: Avg for Left Field .274 .342 .440 17% 9% 1.61 vRH = OPSvR Figures by Heater
Erik Manning Avg for Center Field .269 .338 .424 18% 9% 1.58 vLH = OPSvL New upgrade
  Avg for Right Field .275 .348 .449 18% 9% 1.63 Rng = Range New downgrade
  Avg for All Outfield .273 .343 .438 18% 9% 1.61    
SPRING TRAINING AB H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG K/BB SB/CS
Allen Craig 55 17 8 1 2 .309 .377 .600 13/4 0/0
Matt Holliday 26 8 4 0 2 .308 .455 .692 5/6 0/0
Ryan Ludwick 58 19 6 0 5 .328 .369 .690 4/4 1/0
Joe Mather 58 13 5 0 1 .224 .318 .362 9/7 0/1
Colby Rasmus 47 18 2 1 4 .383 .517 .723 14/13 2/1 Spring Training stats per Heater

This is the way Tony LaRussa likes it. A bunch of guys nobody expects anything from are competing for playing time after the three primary outfielders – Holliday, Rasmus, and Ludwick. And they will play; LaRussa still keeps his note cards with matchups and percentages on them, and is almost a sure thing to lead the league in different lineups used. In the past, guys like Ludwick and Duncan surprised. In 2009, Joe Thurston, Brian Barden, and Nick Stavinoha got significant playing time. This year, LaRussa has confirmed that one of Mather, Craig, or Stavinoha won't make the team. If Mather doesn't make it, expect to see Ludwick playing some center field again this year. Craig has the most prospect value of the three, and has rapped out 11 extra-base hits in spring training, for a .600 slugging. Meanwhile, Stavinoha has hit .373, and is making a case for a roster spot as well. For fantasy purposes, the important things are that Jon Jay isn't making the team, Schumaker is unlikely to pick up extra playing time in the outfield this year despite the addition of Felipe Lopez, and Allen Craig appears poised to make the team, and just might have enough bat to push his way into more of LaRussa's infinite lineups. None of Mather, Jay, or Stavinoha are likely to produce any fantasy value, except in ultra-deep leagues as a handcuff to one of the starting three, as none has any of power, speed, or batting average of note.

Washington PECOTA 2007-09 Scoresheet Short-Term PT%
Outfield Age PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG K% BB% TB/H vRH vLH Rng LF CF RF All
Roger Bernadina 26 304 5 33 23 13 .243 .311 .347 24% 11% 1.24 +20 -60 2.10
Willie Harris 32 453 10 57 41 14 .267 .357 .418 16% 12% 1.59 +18 -62 2.14 15 45 75
Justin Maxwell 26 403 12 50 39 19 .219 .307 .379 31% 10% 1.83 -11 +25 2.13
Mike Morse 28 369 10 37 45 2 .261 .315 .409 28% 6% 1.65 -13 +31 2.10 30 40
Willy Taveras 28 457 3 57 27 32 .272 .318 .346 14% 5% 1.19 -11 +28 2.17 10 25 35
Josh Willingham 31 516 22 66 65 5 .265 .352 .479 20% 11% 1.83 -17 +47 2.07 85 85
Heater team expert: Avg for Left Field .274 .342 .440 17% 9% 1.61 vRH = OPSvR Figures by Heater
Paul Bugala Avg for Center Field .269 .338 .424 18% 9% 1.58 vLH = OPSvL New upgrade
  Avg for Right Field .275 .348 .449 18% 9% 1.63 Rng = Range New downgrade
  Avg for All Outfield .273 .343 .438 18% 9% 1.61    
SPRING TRAINING AB H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG K/BB SB/CS
Roger Bernadina 44 12 0 0 0 .273 .360 .273 9/5 4/0
Ian Desmond 58 18 5 1 1 .310 .375 .483 9/6 5/2
Willie Harris 35 12 2 2 1 .343 .500 .600 6/10 2/1
Justin Maxwell 49 5 1 0 1 .102 .237 .184 20/9 4/1
Nyjer Morgan 34 8 1 0 0 .235 .278 .265 5/2 6/0
Mike Morse 52 15 3 0 2 .288 .315 .462 12/2 2/0
Josh Willingham 39 13 3 0 4 .333 .381 .718 5/3 0/0 Spring Training stats per Heater

Last year, during spring training, there was a graphic circulating on the Internet showing outfielders playing all 8 positions for the Washington Nationals. That was how deep they were. After cutting Elijah Dukes, however, the Nationals now have enough of a shortage in the outfield that the Heater expert had Ian Desmond wearing an outfield glove to get playing time as recently as last Friday. It appears that sense has broken out with regard to the infield decisions, however, and Desmond should play almost every day at shortstop. Guzman, who is nominally a switch-hitter, hits lefties much harder (.307/.323/.425 and .354/.380/.525 vsL the past two years – resulting in a Scoresheet platoon rating of +51 vs. Southpaws), and makes a nice – albeit expensive – platoon-mate for Adam Kennedy (-86 Scoresheet platoon rating vs. lefties). Now the team is so overloaded with infielders that Alberto Gonzalez – an excellent backup middle infielder – will rot on the bench, and Willie Harris and Mike Morse rate to see most of their playing time in the outfield.

Paul Bugala is the Heater Nationals expert; he'll have more updates in Friday's edition, and the situation is DC is so complicated and fast-changing that it would be a good idea to pick that up. For a snapshot after the Tuesday game, it appears that Willy Taveras is going to make the team and push Bernadina back to AAA. He's a “true” centerfielder, still able to cover lots of ground on defense and has a deceptively strong and accurate throwing arm, belying his wiry frame (he's racked up +15 UZR runs with his arm alone in his career, backing up the scouting reports). Taveras has also been a fantasy beast in the past, with his 50%+ ground-ball percentage and great wheels leading to high averages and lots of steals. The problem, however, is that those days of “high averages” appear to be history, and his below-career BABIPs the past two years (.296 and .277, vs. a career norm of .324) aren't flukes, according to Matt Schwartz, whose E-BABIP projects a .287 BABIP for Taveras in 2010. What that boils down to is that Taveras will take playing time in both CF (his righty bat backing up the lopsided lefty Morgan), and in right field; though usually only if Harris or Morse is backing up at an infield corner. Expect the amount of playing time he gets to be tempered by the fact that he's not a good offensive player.

Willie Harris is an adequate “tofu” player who may get undervalued in many leagues, for lack of a standout skill. Josh “Hammer” Willingham should see an increase in playing time, and every at-bat Mike Morse gets in the outfield is one more admission that the outfield plans which Jim Bowden set in place have failed. He's replacement-level fodder, and will give up his roster spot if (when) Washington finds someone to supplant Harris/Taveras in right field on a full-time basis.

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rob's other articles. You can contact Rob by clicking here

Related Content:  Outfield,  Mike Morse,  Nate McLouth

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Premium Article Expanded Horizons: AL ... (03/30)
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