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June 16, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Oakland Outfield Roulette

by Craig Brown

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The A’s have started eight different players in left field this year, but they appear to have ended the revolving door with the acquisition of Conor Jackson.  Jackson has struggled to bounce back from his lost 2009 season where he missed time with Valley Fever and pneumonia.    Toss in a hamstring injury and Jackson has struggled mightily with a .241 TAv and a -0.3 WARP.

When healthy, Jackson’s calling card is his ability to get on base.  From 2006 through 2008, he had a .371 OBP powered by a 10% walk rate and a .292 batting average.  This year he’s struggling to reach, posting a meager .324 OBP despite walking a career high 11.6% of the time.  That’s a number that should rise given he’s raking line drives at a 25% clip, yet owns a .261 BABIP.  Since he is making the move from the desert and a ballpark that favors hitters to the spacious yard in Oakland, Jackson rated a yellow in the latest Hot Spot.  He's been slow to recover his power - he owns a .092 ISO - which is also a concern.

So if Jackson gets the time in left, who loses playing time?  It looks as though Eric Patterson and his .254 TAv will come out on the short end.  Until now, he was Oakland’s most frequent left fielder, starting 22 contests.  He’s six for six for steals, but is but owns a miserable .262 OBP and only puts the ball in play in 60% of his plate appearances.  He’s walking just 6.5% of the time, so you can imagine in strikeout rate is astronomical.  It is… 28.7%.  He wasn’t a fantasy play to start, so his loss of time shouldn’t effect your league or your team.  Same goes for Gabe Gross, who started 14 games of Oakland in left and currently possesses a .243 TAv and a -0.6 WARP.

It figures to become much more interesting when Coco Crisp returns from the disabled list.  Currently sidelined with a strained right intercostal muscle (code for sore ribs) he’s appeared in only two games for Oakland between stints on the DL.  He’s currently on a minor league rehab assignment and won’t be activated until at least June 26.  Once he returns, it’s possible Rajai Davis will be the odd man out.  Possessing a .258 TAv, if you have him on your roster it’s for one reason - the steals.  He’s off and running on 36.8% of his steal opportunities and his 24 steals rank second in the AL.  His secondary fantasy strength is scoring runs.  He’s crossed home two out of every five times he reaches base.  Unfortunately, he’s not reaching base enough (.310 OBP) and that may be enough to move him from the lineup.

It’s possible the A’s could choose to take playing time away from right fielder Ryan Sweeney.  However, with his line of .308/.358/.405 and his .277 TAv that seems unlikely.  Plus, Sweeney has the edge over Davis in WARP - 1.4 for Sweeney and 0.4 for Davis.

Crisp is still at least 10 days away from returning, so for now the A’s outfield alignment will be Jackson-Davis-Sweeney.  The A’s have been shuffling their outfield (left field in particular) all season, so it’s conceivable all four will be in some sort of rotation - especially if they ease Crisp back into the everyday role in center.  Still, if Davis sees any reduction in playing time he’ll be losing value.  If you own Davis you need to be proactive.  It won’t be easy to replace those steals.  

With Jackson moving away from Arizona, the full-time left fielder job falls to Gerardo Parra.  Parra has appeared in 44 games for the Diamondbacks this year and owns a .235 TAv.  He’s struggled against LHP in his brief big league career, with a line of .216/.245/.216 against southpaws compared to .297/.335/.441 against right-handers.  Parra has only collected 45 plate appearances since returning from a brief stint in Triple-A and has hit .256 with four extra base hits with six walks and just five strikeouts.  He makes decent contact, but is primarily a ground ball hitter with a 53.2% career GB rate and lacks power.  He stole a few bases in the lower minors early in his career, but hasn’t run much in the majors.  Plus, he just wasn’t that successful when he did run last year, swiping just five bags in 12 attempts.  He’s yet to attempt a steal in 33 opportunities this year.  If you are desperate for at bats from an outfielder, he’s worth a look.  Aside from that, I don’t see the immediate dividends here.

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

Related Content:  Conor Jackson

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